7 Tips for Staying Organized with Kids in the Summer

It’s seven days until the calendar marks the first day of summer (though summer in Nashville started in about April), and to celebrate we created a list of seven tips on how to keep your summer organized. Especially with kids!

1.     Vacation prep, part 1: create a list of things you always need to do before going on vacation (set up a lights timer for when the house is empty, back up your computer and phone in case of a technology emergency, move valuables to the safe, etc.) to help with last-minute stress.  Part 2: create a list of items you always need to pack (medication, phone chargers, etc.), to make packing for each trip easier in the future.

2.     Think about things that you should always have in your car during the summer, and take the time to go ahead and stock them.  Toys for the park, extra water bottles, sunscreen, towels for the insanely humid days when you decide to run through a sprinkler but don’t want to ruin the seats of your car…you get the idea.

3.     Clean out the garage of old gardening items or outdoor toys that didn’t get used last year.  You could approach your closet the same way.  You don’t need old, unused items cluttering your space, especially clothes that you didn’t wear over the winter.

4.     Empty out those backpacks and clear out school work, so that it’s not cluttering the house all summer.  School’s out, celebrate!  Purge whatever you don’t need, and set aside unused school supplies either for summer crafts or to use as supplies next year.

5.     Go through kids’ artwork from the past year and narrow down what to keep and what to purge.  Doing this every year not only helps keep you from getting overwhelmed, but also makes it easier to keep the art separated by year.  Online services such as Plum Print will make photo books for artwork, in case you want to remember your kids’ creations but don’t want to physically store them.

6.     Create a ‘boredom bin’ for the kids.  Fill it with crafts, activity books, games they can play on their own, books, or anything else that might help them fill the time.  If all else fails, have a ready-made list of chores that they can help out with around the house.  You may get some of the help you’d like, especially if there’s a reward incentive!

7.     If you have a teen who just graduated high school, shop early on for college dorm supplies so that you have more options.  Designate an area in the house for a ‘college pile’ that you can add items to throughout the summer.  Starting college is stressful enough without having to scramble at the last minute, and Target during college move-in week can look a little post-apocalyptic.


Happy summer days!

A Good System Shortens the Road to the Goal

It’s a common opinion that beginning a New Year’s resolution is easy, and that it’s keeping up with a resolution that’s problematic.  Here in mid-March that may feel pretty accurate, but we’d like to offer an alternative view: beginning a new habit is difficult, which actually becomes easier to maintain once the habit is routine.  The roadblock many people encounter is how to form the habit in the first place.

Setting up for success requires two components: the commitment to change, and setting up a system that gives you the ability to change.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “a good system shortens the road to the goal,” and that happens to be one of the staple principles we organize by on a daily basis.  Organizing someone’s kitchen or closet or bathroom can bring immediate gratification, but if it’s not set up with a good system, then the space will never be maintained.

We like to organize with the mentality that to get to any item, it requires the least number of steps possible.  It’s easiest to put something back in its correct home when you know exactly where it goes, and doing so doesn’t requires unnecessary effort.  Simplicity should be prioritized above all else.

For example, store your charging cords closest to where you often charge your devices, and give them a designated home.  Keep your most frequently used bathroom products in the most accessible spaces.  If you never take the time to take the mail to the home office and it instead piles on the kitchen counter, then don’t set up a drop zone in the office, set it up in the kitchen.  Be realistic, but prioritize with a good system, and it will be easier for the maintaining habits to fall into place.

The College Application Process

How to keep you head above the water during college application season

My husband and I recently became empty nesters. We have survived the college application process twice now, and just as our children are different from one another, so were their application processes.

My initial attitude about this entire process was, “if they want to go to college, they need to handle this process themselves. Back in my day, we applied for these things on our own.” That mindset soon changed. To say that the application process has changed significantly since I applied to college would be an understatement.

Technology has become a double-edged sword. The numerous deadlines, accounts to be set up with individual institutions, passwords, financial documents, reference letter requests — all done largely online — has added a layer of challenge to an already challenging process.

Our daughter was our first child to apply to college. The best action she took was to brainstorm a list of universities she was interested in, to eventually limit that list, and then to prioritize the list in order of her preference. For her, she prioritized using her own unique parameters: ranking of engineering program, distance from home, tuition, size of college, distance from beach, part of the SEC (we’re a sports family), etc. This gave all of us a starting point to get organized. For this article, we will assume the colleges your student will apply to have already been chosen.

With our daughter, options for schools were broad. She had excellent credentials, and her chosen field of engineering was available at numerous universities. Enter: lots of opportunities to apply to highly competitive engineering schools and apply for scholarships. This led to juggling numerous moving parts. For our son who has chosen to become an architect, there simply weren’t as many programs available, and even fewer with in-state tuition. This created a different process for him than for our daughter.

In order to get a handle on this process, I did what I always do when feeling overwhelmed: I organized. Using manila folders, I placed each school’s materials inside its folder (see Photo A). Already, if there were any paper duplicates, one could be recycled. Once all the schools had a folder, I began to review each one, making a checklist of tasks to be completed and their respective deadlines (see “College Folder Checklist” below).

Each school’s completed folder was placed inside a hanging file folder, inside the file bin designated for this process & this child (see Photo B). Additional files were created for testing, by grade, activities, etc. That list is included below. The file bin sat right by our computer where we could access it at any given time.

Alas, with organization came more confidence and less anxiety. We went from a tactile paper method to high-tech. We added deadlines to our phones so that all of us were aware of what needed to be done and by when. As schools fell off the potential list, those folders were set aside and recycled.

Eventually, acceptance letters and wait list letters arrived, each filed in its respective folder. And as decisions were made, the number of folders dwindled. By the final decision, it was time to then create the “college freshman binder” (see our blog titled “College Freshman Binder”).

The upside of all this is that at some point, my husband and I should have an amazingly designed and engineered dream home.

And for the record, our daughter attends Clemson University. Which is NOT in the SEC. Go Tigers! And our son attends the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, which is in the SEC. Go Vols!

And so no family members are offended: Go Big Red! Go Wildcats! Anchor Down!


Founder, Professional Organizer, & Empty Nester

Photo A

Photo A

Photo B

Photo B

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Suggested Categories for File Bin


One hanging folder per school


This held various articles we came across (e.g. Campus Visit Checklist, Junior & Senior Meeting Notes, Worksheets for Estimating Financial Contribution (EFC), State University Requirements), pretty much anything that we deemed worthwhile, went in this folder.


TN Promise — This is specific to our state, so use what makes sense to your situation.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — if you haven’t heard this term, you will. This is the application most colleges use; however, some private universities have their own. You’ll need copies of tax returns for multiple years. It’s about as much fun as applying for a mortgage.

College Financial Aid — applications by specific university.


ACT — including testing dates, username/passwords, scores, etc.

SAT — including testing dates, username/passwords, scores, etc.

Other — if your child has a learning disability that may allow for special consideration or allowances on testing, keep those documents handy.


Here we filed relevant information by grade. This included report cards, awards, certificates, records of volunteering, notes regarding specifics of extracurricular activities in which child participated. These will come in handy as it’s easy to forget what was done in 9th grade when the student is a senior. We created folders for each: Senior, Junior, Sophomore, Freshman


These were other files that were relevant to the child & the season, so we added these to the back. It kept information in one place & easily accessible. Tailor the categories to your needs: Mission Trip Information, Car & License Info, Employment, Reference Letters, Essays

Paper, Pens, and Pretty Things: three small ways to free up space in your home office

It’s not a secret: offices get cluttered.  Sure, there’s a lot sitting on the desk that you need: the notes from yesterday’s meeting, the mug of coffee, the printer, the other mug of coffee.  But there’s also likely a lot of excess items that only muddle your space.  Clear thinking is promoted by clear workspaces, so if you find yourself getting easily distracted while working, perhaps clearing a few things out of the office will help.

(Disclaimer: if your workspace is already clear and you’re getting distracted by Instagram, Tasty videos, and Jimmy Fallon’s most recent lip-sync battle, at least know that you’re not alone.  But that’s a separate conversation altogether that we’ll have to schedule for a later date.)

It’s not like organizers are immune to cluttered desks.  Even as I type this, I’m eyeing the empty wrapper from this morning’s protein bar, and the unnecessary amount of post-its taking up the space above my keyboard.  But daily cleanup set aside, there are a few things to think about that will help with clutter in the long run.  Specifically, there are three categories that, once reviewed and purged, will free up more space than you’d think.

1.     Paper Documents

Most monthly bills and statements are available online, but if you prefer paper copies, you still don’t need to keep everything.  When it comes to paperwork, many financial institutions recommend only keeping the most recent month of utility bills, one year’s worth of bank statements and pay stubs, and seven years’ worth of taxes.  If you’re unsure of how long to keep a particular category, online resources such as finra.org provide detailed lists of how long to keep a variety of documents.  It may not sound like it would make much of a difference, but you’d be surprised by how much extra space you can create in the file drawer.

2.     Writing Utensils

It may cost thirty minutes, but take the time to test every pen, marker, and highlighter shoved in the desk drawer or overflowing desktop holder.  Chances are, lots of them don’t work so great anymore, and can be thrown out.  There’s no point in aggravating yourself every time you have to dig through the writing utensils to find one that works.  Plus, don’t you have a few favorite go-to pens and pencils you always use anyway?  Keep a few spares, but don’t let the rest take up valuable space.

3.      Knick-Knacks

The handmade figurine collection from your European tour is fine, but the cheap, free giveaways from the last company conference don’t need to stay.  Keep the knick-knacks and décor that have sentimental value, the kind of items that bring a smile every time you glance at them.  If there’s no such value to an object, then get rid of it, it’s just adding physical and visual clutter.

Now you go purge some old bills, I’ll go throw away my protein bar wrapper, and then we can all get back to work.


You’ve moved out of your old house and into the new, and by now you’re working on emptying as many boxes as possible, so that you can actually see your new floors.  We know that you’re exhausted from the entire move process, but don’t lose steam now!  Finishing this last step will make all the difference in the world.

STEP #6: Organize!

Set up functional systems in your new house, and start forming new habits and routines in an organized way early on.  Don’t wait too long. You don’t want to get used to throwing the clothes on the bedroom floor or digging through pantry shelves to find the snack you’re looking for. It will be harder to force yourself to make changes later.  And please don’t leave storage boxes stacked in the garage.  Remember how you just went through the old garage and attic and cleaned everything out?  Don’t set up for that again.  Get the garage in order with the goal of parking your car inside. You’re starting with a clean slate! Getting organized from the beginning will help keep it that way.  Come the next spring cleaning, next move, or the next holiday decorating season, you’ll be sending a thank you card to your former self.  Just make sure it’s sent to the right address, because no one likes getting someone else’s mail.


For those of you who’ve followed along with our Less-Stressed Move series these last weeks, we hope you’ve found our move preparation steps helpful.  Our goal is always to provide our clients with the smoothest transition possible.  Getting ready for a move, and don’t want to handle it all yourself?  Already moved in and need help with the organizing?  Just give us a shout.  We won’t leave you hanging.

Prepare New Home to Receive Boxes & Vendors

If you’ve kept up with our ‘Move Monday’ posts so far, then by now you know that your old home is all set for the packers and movers to arrive.  You’ve made it across the hurdle, the end is in sight!  It’s time to get that new house ready.

Step #5: Prepare New Home to Receive Boxes & Vendors


It never hurts to double-check and confirm dates, times, and logistics with your vendors.  Check the weather & prepare accordingly.  Determine what items will need to be available the first night you stay at the new home.

Care for Movers

Are you moving in the heat of the summer?  Consider providing the movers cold water bottles and snacks.  If it’s the dead of winter, maybe some hand warmers.  A few signs of goodwill can go a long way.


As much as you try to direct the movers’ foot traffic, it’s likely you won’t be available to give directions as every box and piece of furniture comes through the front door.  Hang signs at the entrance to each room, so that movers will know where to take items.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a handwritten label on a sheet of printer paper will do.  It will help dramatically in making sure boxes are taken to the correct rooms.


When unloading and unpacking, do your best to ensure that the ‘priority spaces’ are addressed first.  Nothing helps a new house feel like home more than being able to sleep in your own bed the first night.  Since you’re proactive and you’ve prepared, you have sheets, towels, and shower curtains that you hand-carried to the new house yourself.  Now, you just need the mattresses and bed frames.

The kitchen comes next, the most essential area to have up and running for you to have a functioning household.  The personal closets and bathrooms are obviously important, but if you’ve prepared a suitcase, they won’t be necessary to unpack the first day.


Boxes = anxiety, so get rid of them.  Open and break down as many boxes as possible.  Not just opening and emptying, but breaking down the boxes makes all the difference in the world.  Designate a spot in the garage to store broken down boxes and packing paper.  Getting as many boxes out of the house, even if the contents aren’t yet put away, will make it easier to find items, and help with stress levels.  Wardrobe boxes in particular are quick to unpack, and it makes a huge difference in how a room feels once they’re out of the way.

Once everything is in the house and the moving truck is gone, you can breathe a sigh of relief.  You made it!  And each box you unpack will bring a little more relief, we promise.  Now there’s only one step left, and it’s the part that we not-so-surprisingly love the most.  Organizing!


Need the entire article asap? Contact us at info@pukaorganizing.com and put “Move Blog” in the subject line. We’ll send it all to you now.

Prepare for Packing

In last week’s "Move Monday" you sorted your belongings, reviewed each category, and purged what wasn’t going to the new house.  Now, it’s time to get ready for packing and moving day.

Step #4: Prepare for Packing


Call all vendors involved in the move and confirm dates, times, etc. Check the weather & prepare accordingly. Communicate with the movers which items will need to be unloaded first at the new house, especially items for the first night, so that these come off the back of the truck first.

‘Do not pack’

Before the packers arrive (or before you start packing yourself), create clearly labeled ‘do not pack’ bins.  Anything you may need in the transition time between packing and unpacking should go into these bins.  This includes functional items, such as clothes and toiletries, but also valuables, such as money and jewelry.  We recommend starting with a ‘do not pack’ bin in each bedroom, then consolidating all items to one location that can be blocked off from the packers.

Here’s our starter list of the most common ‘do not pack’ items:

  • suitcase of clothes
  • toiletries
  • kitchen items for a few days (utensils, dishes, etc.)
  • snacks and water
  • coffee
  • pet items
  • toilet paper
  • paper towels
  • soap
  • sheets
  • towels
  • shower curtains
  • trash bags
  • medication
  • paperwork for closing, and any other valuable documents
  • electronics chargers
  • kids’ homework and school items

Professional packers pack absolutely everything, so remember to empty the trash cans first.


If packers are coming to your house, make sure each room has a clearly labeled sign instructing where the contents are to go in the new house.  If the contents of the ‘guest bedroom closet’ are going to ‘Lucy’s bedroom closet’ in the new house, then make sure the boxes are labeled as such.  If you’re not sure which items are going into which room in the new house, think through the layout and make a plan before the packers arrive.  This will be crucial for organization on the other end of the move.  It will prevent you from moving boxes to different rooms while unpacking, or digging through heaps of boxes around the house to find a specific item.

Your current home is now ready to go!  Next week, we’ll talk about how to start things off right in your new home, starting with coordination on moving day.

Need the entire article asap? Contact us at info@pukaorganizing.com and put “Move Blog” in the subject line. We’ll send it all to you now.


In last week’s "Move Monday," we addressed the necessity of preparing for a fresh start.  If you’re ready for a clean slate, it’s time to put the new plan into action.

Step #3: Execute

First, take an honest look at those extraneous items we talked about last week.  In deciding what to do with these items, you have two options:

1.     Do you really want to pay to pack, load, unload, unpack, organize and maintain these items?  If that thought alone seems absurd, then set the items aside to sell or donate.  Choose a spacious location, you may be adding more to that pile than you think.

2.     If you do need to keep some of these items, will this ‘stuff’ enhance or diminish your home in the eyes of a potential buyer?  If it’s not going to help, set it aside to pack now.

Now it’s time for what we call ‘the storm before the calm,’ because getting organized often involves making a mess first.  In other words, it's time to start sorting.

There are two ways to begin sorting: with broad categories or by room.

1.     Broad categories:  In a central location, gather categories from around the home.  Vases, décor, pictures frames, and candles are good places to start.  Reviewing one category at a time may help you realize that you don’t need eighty-three candles when you only use eight.  Also, packing like items together makes decorating easier at the new home where you can ‘shop’ from your existing décor which is already grouped together. Now is the time to let go of the items you no longer need, by donating or consigning.

2.     Room by room: Let go of any items you don’t want to take to your new home.  This doesn't just include the buried-under-the-bed items, but also everything that’s been sitting out around the house.  Do you need to keep all the books on your bookshelves if you’ve already read them?  Is there a desk drawer filled with two dozen pens that don’t work?  Are the extra sheets from your college bed ever actually going to be used again?  If not, let them go.

2.5  When you get to the pantry and medicine cabinets, don’t forget to look at expiration dates.  Reviewing and tossing expired items should be routine, but if there were ever a time to clear out stock, it’s now.

Once everything is sorted and edited, keep everything separated by category.  Like we mentioned above, packing like items together makes unpacking unbelievably easier.  Is it going to be aggravating in the meantime, living with piles lining the rooms before the packing begins?  Of course it is.  But sorting is an integral part of the organizing process, don’t undo all the work you’ve done so far.

Now’s also the time to begin setting up each space before the packing starts.  Assembling boxes, assigning designated packing areas, and creating signs that clearly state how boxes should be labeled are all small steps that go a long way.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  If moves were comfortable, we wouldn’t be writing this in the first place.  There is, however, a big difference between being uncomfortable and panicking.  And you’re getting organized first, so you don’t fall into the latter category.  Go ahead and check ‘panic’ off the list, you're good without it.

Need the entire article asap? Contact us at info@pukaorganizing.com and put “Move Blog” in the subject line. We’ll send it all to you now.

Prepare for a Fresh Start

We kicked off “Move Monday” last week with the first in our new series, The Less-Stressed Move. As a professional organizing firm, we’ve managed more moves than we can count, with more variables and unique life situations than you can imagine. With each move, we add to our repertoire of best practices, and implement new processes, products & ideas.

Last Monday we covered Step #1: Plan in Advance (scroll down to view the article). This week’s focus is Step #2: Prepare for a Fresh Start!

STEP #2: Prepare for a fresh start!

With the right mindset, moving can be the opportunity for a clean slate. This often means paring down, and can only be done by re-discovering every knick-knack, re-gifted gag gift, and souvenir sports towel tucked away in the recesses of the garage, attic, and, yes, the dreaded storage under the bed.  You may find things long since forgotten, and things you don’t remember acquiring in the first place.  In most cases, if you haven’t missed these items before, you won’t miss them in the future.  At one point, you loved your 8-track system and portable CD player, but you have a smartphone now.  And that Gandalf-style wooden staff you found while hiking last year?  It made for a cool Instagram moment, but it doesn’t need to hang out in your new garage.  We love retro music playing devices and Lord of the Rings as much as the next person, but for the sake of moving, let them go.

We're not asking you to throw out everything you own, just to stop and think about what needs to stay, and what needs to go.  But how do you transform full closets and crowded cabinets to a clean slate? Next week in Step #3, we’ll help you formulate a new plan: sort, edit, and execute.

Need the entire article asap? Contact us at info@pukaorganizing.com and put “Move Blog” in the subject line. We’ll send it all to you now.

The Less-Stressed Move

Regardless of the size of your home, how many times you’ve moved, or how many miles you’re moving, moves bring stress.  In the list of “top five major life stressors," moving is just behind death of a loved one and separation from a significant other.  That being said, moving isn’t to be taken lightly.  Even if you’re fortunate enough to have a team of packers, movers and maybe professional organizers, moving creates a complete upheaval of your life in both a physical and mental way.

As a professional organizing firm, one segment of our company is move management. One of our roles then, as professional organizers, is to coordinate moves. Often these are large-scale moves with tight time constraints and numerous people involved. Our goal is to manage the move in the most efficient, most functional and least stressful way possible.  If you don’t have a team of organizers on which to rely, we’re sharing our move preparation steps in hopes that it will help you have a smoother transition. Or, you can always call us…

For the next 6 Mondays, we will expound on each step. This week is step one.

STEP #1: Plan in advance

The adage “time is money” is never more true than during moves. Lack of preparation will only increase costs and stress. Stress is often caused by sudden or changing deadlines and the resulting sense of urgency and unexpected costs. Giving yourself as much time as possible, months even, will ensure your move will be less stressful and less costly.  We promise, when moving week arrives, you (and your budget) will be glad you did.

Here are some prompts to start that planning process:

1.     Define your goal: Upsize? Downsize? Be near a school district? Take advantage of market? Build?

2.     Determine time constraints: When do you want to be out of the current home? In a new home? Are you open to an interim rental home? Are there certain dates when you should avoid moving, like April for a CPA? How quickly is the market moving so you’re ready as it’s ready? Setting these parameters will help you work backward from the date you want to be in your new home, and help as you begin to contact potential movers, vendors, realtors, etc. The more notice you are able to give, the more likely your vendor of choice and preferred dates will be available.

3.     Determine how to move: Is this a DIY move? Hire a professional moving company? Corporate move? “Hire puka and you go to the beach” move? If so, contact the vendors now.

4.     Selling your house? Will you be contacting a realtor? For sell by owner? Need a pre-listing inspection? Repairs? Updates? Contact your realtor and get their expert advice— the sooner the better.

5.     Create a Budget: Setting a budget ahead of time will determine what tasks can be delegated versus what you will need to handle. Advance planning will allow you to compare services to price and update the budget as necessary. It may also encourage you in Step #2: Prepare for a Fresh Start, as you let things go and realize that in moving, less is less. Less stuff = less cost = less stress.

Join us next Monday for Step #2: Prepare for a Fresh Start!

Need the entire article asap? Contact us at info@pukaorganizing.com and enter “Move Blog” in the subject line. We’ll send the entire article to you this week.

Organizing a Toddler

Everyone knows that having a toddler running through the house makes it difficult to stay organized throughout the day.  There’s nothing more frustrating than continuously playing catch up and clean up, but you don’t have to do it alone.  Luckily, organizing doesn’t have an age limit, and I’ve been working with my own daughter to develop habits of cleaning up after herself.  She knows that before going to bed, leaving the house, or starting a new activity, the toys have to be cleaned up.  The Barbies have to be put away before the paints can come out, one game has to be cleaned up before another can be opened.  It’s not impossible, it just takes time, and there are a few things you can do to help your little ones along the way.

1.     Create designated spots for all her toys.  I store the Barbies near the doll house, and the arts and crafts close to the kitchen, because we do our crafts on the kitchen table.

2.     Use bins that have handles, and are small enough to carry.  This makes it easy move categories out of your living spaces when guest arrive.

3.     Labels!  I label everything.  It truly does make it easier for family members, babysitters, and even cleaners to be in the know of where things belong.  I bought my label maker on Amazon for $30, and it’s now lasted over five years.

4.     Come up with a fun way to put toys away.  Sing a song, race to see who can clean up the fastest, bribe with treats.  Whatever works.

5.     Create categories that work for your family.  Specifics can be daunting for a three year old, so I have broad categories in my home.  Dolls and Barbies go together, blocks and building toys share the same bin, all stuffed animals are together, etc.  As kids get older, it will become easier to stay organized with more detailed categories.

Forming these habits take time, but like potty training or weaning off a pacifier, helping your child to understand the ‘why’ behind cleaning up after themselves is key.  Begin by having your child watch you clean, then start having them help you clean up, then turn it into your child cleaning up while you simply helping a little.  In the end, they will eventually learn how to do it themselves.


Professional Organizer & Motherhood Magician

Form Follows Function

A year ago I was introduced to what I like to call the holy grail of planners.  For most of my life I have been a paper planner/organizer girl.  When I worked in corporate interior design, I scheduled all of my meetings and kept track of them in a paper planner.  Of course, some were also kept track of on my computer calendar as well, hello outlook meeting requests, but I liked a paper planner because that was still in the dark ages and we didn't have cell phones that were computers and could keep track of these things...we barely had cell phones. In fact, some of our employees had pagers!  So, I liked to have a paper planner that I could keep with me and always know where I was supposed to be and when.  Then iPhones and google calendar came along and I loaded on to the electronic scheduling and calendaring bandwagon.  But that honeymoon ended when I found myself scheduling more work meetings, volunteer commitments, after school activities, and let's face it, doctor appointments.  I hated having to look at the screen and I found it easier having a paper planner to jot things down in and to look ahead.  Enter Plum Paper.  This product is both seriously functional and seriously beautiful.  There are so many options! It truly is a customized planner.  I know there are a lot of pretty and functional planners out there, but it my opinion Plum Paper is the best.  In fact, so many of my church tribe girls have one that we like to refer to it as the official planner for the Christ UMC moms.

Function:  I love that you can add sections for so many different categories of planning...blogging, meals, fitness, sales, budget, etc.  There are also different types of page add ons that you can disperse throughout your planner.  Pages specifically for to-do lists, contacts, check lists, party planning, bill tracking, etc.  My absolute favorite thing about plum planners is that you can customize the pages so that each person or category in your life has a dedication space on the weekly layout.  It makes it so easy to glance at a day or week and see who has what when and where. I have a labeled space for each member of our household, church, work, and important dates (like birthdays and anniversaries).  

Form: They also have a couple of different sizes to choose from.  My first Plum Paper planner (say that three times fast!) was the 7 x 9 size.  I like the 7 x 9 because it fits easily in a purse or bag; however, I found myself needing more room to write (and I write tiny) so this time I ordered the 8 1/2 x 11 version and while it is larger, I think it works the best for me.  And if all these wonderful elements aren't enough...Plum Paper's planners are pretty.  There are so many cover options to choose from and you can even further customize them with your initials, names, or a mantra for your year.  While you are creating your planner you can see the options you choose and how it will look.  You can also customize the number of months in your planner and what month to start at.  I like to run mine from August to August since I really think of a planning year in terms of school year and summer, not January to January. 

If you are in the market for a new planner or wanting to go back to old school paper planners, I can't recommend Plum Paper enough! (Click on the logo image below to be taken to website.)


Professional Organizer & Planner Enthusiast 

Fall into Organization

Fall is upon us once again!  And when it comes to Fall, there are some seasonal trademarks you just can’t miss:

1.     Fashion Season

Yes, we love summer and shorts, but who doesn’t love boots?  As you transition into fall, keep those lovely leathers in shape.  Boot inserts help keep your boots molded and in top condition, and some inserts even come with hooks.  Handy, if you have extra hanging space and need the floor space for more storage.  Like for storing more boots.

As the rain picks up, don’t get angry at those beautiful boots for trekking a minor flood into the mudroom.  While you’re at The Container Store or Bed Bath & Beyond getting boot shapers, also pick up a boot tray.  Add some rocks, and you have a cute, functional drip station solution that protects your floors (and socks) from muddy puddles.

2.     Back to School Season

Speaking of the mudroom, it wouldn’t hurt to do some touch ups on the space that sees the most damage during the school year.  We all know the damage doesn’t come from actual mud as the name suggests, but from the backpacks, sweaty sports equipment, books, shoes, jackets, superhero lunchboxes and whatever additional hodge podge of items that comes off the school bus.  Really, it’s not the mudroom.  It’s the mayhem room.

A cubby system is fantastic for keeping everything organized as you swing back into the heart of the school year.  Don’t have the luxury of built-in lockers?  Bins and labels for each kiddo will be your new best friend.  Pretty baskets and clip-on tags from The Container Store are some of our favorites.

3.     Pumpkin Spice Latte Season

Coffee is a must-need for power-productive organizing sessions.  Trust us, we’re professionals.

4.     Raking Season

When the leaves start falling, the pool toys and patio furniture start coming back into the garage.  Rather than shove everything in for the winter, now is a perfect time to do some sorting.  Fall is perfect working-in-the-garage weather, and you’re already going to be outside cleaning the grill and gutters, right?  Give your garage the TLC it needs now before the holidays arrive and the cold sets in.  When spring comes around, we’ll promise you’ll be glad you did.

image via: thecontainerstore.com

image via: thecontainerstore.com

image via: marthastewart.com

image via: marthastewart.com

Happy organizing!


Professional Organizer & Boot Enthusiast 

Multi-Function Systems: Purchasing For Life

How to purchase multi-functional pieces that will shift with you throughout your life.

 There is nothing more satisfying than leaving a project with a beautiful result…every bin labeled, every item in its place, a breathtaking before and after.

And then we get a call a year later…they have outgrown the system, the labels don’t work, the items have re-located, etc.

Whatever the case may be, we have learned over the years to provide systems and products that are more flexible and that are easy to conform to changing needs. We live by the mantra “shift happens”…that’s just life!

After years of learning to focus on what works on a practical and everyday level for our clients, we are constantly looking to find systems and products that can easily shift into new homes and functions.

Here are a few multi-function pieces that we are loving!

Image via: IKEA

Image via: IKEA

In light of recent breaking news in Nashville...we are getting an IKEA! This cart is absolutely a favorite of ours, especially for small space organizing. There are so many different uses and spaces to put one or two of these throughout the home (or office!). Even better, there are so many other stores that carry a variety of rolling cart styles.

Check out this one from World Market:

Image via worldmarket.com

Image via worldmarket.com

Hello, small kitchen dream solution! These carts are extremely flexible and can be re-purposed as your organizing needs change.

Next on our must-haves: an industrial chrome/shelving unit.

Seriously-we have probably been the exclusive buyer of these since 2005. They are our favorite way of organizing garages, attics, and any other storage spaces! The shelves are adjustable and they come with rolling casters so they can be easily moved around if needed. Did we mention they can hold up to 350 lbs? They are incredibly durable and will last a very long time!

Image via: findingtop.com

Image via: findingtop.com

We love that it can be adjusted and incorporated in any part of the home!

Image via: amazon.com

Image via: amazon.com

I mean, it's amazing what some creating some vertical storage will do to your spaces!

To round up our favorite multi-function solutions, we LOVE wall solutions. Pegboard, slatwall, Elfa boards, grid wire systems...we love all of it! These systems are especially great for those of us who are incredibly visual. You can see everything you have, and everything is extremely accessible! 

Image via: Craving Some Creativity

Image via: Craving Some Creativity

Image via: The Home Depot

Image via: The Home Depot

Image via: IKEA

Image via: IKEA

So, next time you go to buy a new organizing system, make sure you buy one that will last you in the long run...make your investment count!


Happy organizing!

-the Puka ladies

The Playroom Battle: Keeping Your Organization Sanity

We love to give simple tips that are practical and easy to apply…and let’s be honest, kid’s spaces are the most challenging to keep even the least amount of organization.

We have come across just about every kid’s area you can think of: craft spaces, closets, bedrooms, playrooms, and nooks of all shapes and sizes.

Here are a few bits of wisdom that we would like to pass on:

1.     Keep it simple & broad. We like to call this “top of the funnel” organizing…this means that we focus on the general categories first.

2.     Keep it colorful! Never underestimate the power of a good color-coded system. Who can resist brightly colored labels?

3.     Keep it contained. We all have those last-minute surprise visits by friends, in-laws, neighbors…and we all have that inevitable “ten-second tidy” that ensues shortly after we welcome a surprise guest. Containers that have lids are a blessing from above. In open or visible storage, baskets or non see-through bins are the best way to keep those toys out-of-sight…at least for an hour or so!


Here are a few systems we love for playrooms:


For the high-end, Pottery Barn Kids has some beautiful baskets and storage systems like this one:

In the mid-price range, The Container Store’s Elfa® designs has really flexible and affordable (can I get a hallelujah?!) options, much like this multi-purpose solution:

On the low end of the price range, Ikea has this fun system that is also super flexible...it can grow and change as your kids move through different phases. 

image via: the homes I have made

image via: the homes I have made

Now it's time to grab some beautiful bins or baskets to finish off your playroom (and train your kids to keep everything in order)!

As far as the organization goes, we happen to know an excellent organizing company that could really help you get your playroom in order…hint hint.

For more playroom organizing inspiration, check out our Instagram feed!

Happy organizing!

-the Puka ladies

Spring Cleaning

This is the definition of spring cleaning according to Google:

spring clean·ing

noun: spring clean; plural noun: spring cleans; noun: spring cleaning; plural noun: spring cleanings

1.     a thorough cleaning of a house or room, typically undertaken in spring.

verb: spring-clean; 3rd person present: spring-cleans; past tense: spring-cleaned; past participle: spring-cleaned; gerund or present participle: spring-cleaning

1.     clean (a home or room) thoroughly.


And according to Wikipedia:

Spring cleaning is the practice of thoroughly cleaning a house in the springtime. The practice of spring cleaning is especially prevalent in climates with a cold winter.


Here in Nashville, winter doesn’t exactly always require down vests and thermal long underwear.  Heck, many of us never even bothered to take out our heavy sweaters this year.  But spring is dawning, and that means it’s time for spring cleaning.

Where did the notion of spring cleaning even come from?  One theory is that it originated from the Jewish custom of Passover, or the religious renewal many Christians experience in preparing for Easter.  Or maybe the credit goes to the Chinese, and the customary house cleaning that takes place before the Chinese New Year.

Regardless, humans are more tired in the winter.  Why is that relevant to spring cleaning?  Hormones in our bodies react to the amount of sunlight we receive, and with the shorter, cloudier days that come with winter, we’re put into a sort of extended sleepy stupor.  Longer, sunnier days bring us more energy, hence the arrival of spring cleaning frenzies.  Just look again at Wikipedia’s definition: the practice of spring cleaning is especially prevalent in climates with a cold winter.  So the math works like this:

Winter = sleepiness = laziness = letting the clutter build up.

Yep, I just gave you an excuse for being lazy all winter.

Actually, Wikipedia did.  And since it’s from Wikipedia, that means it’s completely accurate, right?

But now it’s spring, so that excuse was short-lived.  Sorry.

Along with religious rejuvenation and watching nature’s greenery re-emerge, spring can provide a restart for the soul. When we decide to scrub down every surface in our homes and clear the clutter, we are clearing away the weight of cabin fever and starting anew.

Don’t forget that besides cleaning, the de-cluttering aspect of spring cleaning is just as important.  Just as grime builds up on the inside of your oven, clutter builds up around your house.  If you take the time to actually look at it, you may realize just how much stuff built up over the dark, dreary months.  Purging unwanted items and creating clear, clean spaces brings peace to the mind and soul, and we highly recommend it.

When you’re wiping down the pantry shelves, go ahead and dig through all that food in the back and check for expiration dates.  Cleaning the bathroom drawers?  Surely there’s some make-up or old lotion in there that you tried once and decided you don’t even like.  If you’re never going to use it again, toss it out.  Maybe even take a look at some of those winter clothes you haven’t worn in over a year.

It’s not that hard, and it will help you feel a whole lot better.  I promise.  You are literally helping your house lose weight.  Just in time for swimsuit season, too.



Professional Organizer &  Organizing Enthusiast

Resolutions or Goals? To Set or Not to Set...

I stopped making New Year's resolutions several years ago because this is how it usually went... I would decide that starting January first, I would stop or start some lofty habit. By the middle of February my steam had fizzled out. I spent the rest of the month feeling lousy having disappointed myself, yet again.


I would tell myself that my failure was because "I set unrealistic goals." "I'm a serial high-achiever." "I'm an idealist." But, who was I kidding? I failed because the goals I set and the image I had of myself did not match. I failed because I didn't actually want to reach the goal or to do the resolution I made. Or perhaps I didn't really want to do the work necessary to achieve the goal.


Now, if you are one of those people who can pull off their New Year's resolutions, I salute you, and you can stop reading! But, first, please teach a class so I can attend, because I am not that person.


For the rest of us who struggle with New Year's resolutions, may I encourage us to stop making them? Additionally, can I encourage us to pause before we set any goals at any time of the year? Let's get some coffee or tea and have an honest conversation about our self image. If you're on our website and social media, it's likely because you are interested in organizing. Perhaps you want or need to get organized. Perhaps you feel stuck. If so, this article may help. 


I ask you to consider this premise: to the same degree that you feel disorganized you likely have a correlating sense of embarrassment, shame or frustration. To comfort you, I've included some pictures of my own garage and basement, right now. Yes, even organizers have areas to work on. 



Back to that self-image, as long as we see ourselves how we have always seen ourselves, we will continue to think and to act as we have always thought and acted. If we want to behave differently, we have to grow our mind. Repeat after me: I am the most dynamic and extraordinary of all of God's creation! Try this one on for size: Who I have seen myself to be has served me well, until now. This image no longer fits me, and I am growing. I AM growing.


How are we growing? Using myself as an example, my leading phrase for 2017 is "If not now, when?" I decided on this phrase, because I have a habit of feeling overwhelmed by the numerous ideas and projects that I come up with then put off out of fear. This may have served me in the past but no longer. Now, I am growing more bold. I am growing more focused. I am the most dynamic and extraordinary of all God's creations, and I am becoming a newer version of me. That is what I am saying to myself. 


What are you saying? How are you growing?


If you want to see more simplicity and organization in your life -- it doesn't necessarily start with organizing. It doesn't even start with us helping you. It starts in your mind.


OLD THOUGHT:     "I wish I wasn't so busy, I would have more time to organize, to think..." 

NEW THOUGHT:     "I am growing in knowing my own boundaries. I'm growing, and it is helpful to delegate. I have good thoughts and ideas."


OLD THOUGHT:     "I am just not an organized person."

NEW THOUGHT:     "I am growing, and I accept myself just as I am, right now. I am also growing in my skill to organize. I can learn anything."


OLD THOUGHT:     "I don't know how to organize. I don't know where to start."

NEW THOUGHT:     "I am growing. I am competent, capable and amazing. So, I am growing in my skill to organize. I can ask for help. I can do this."



"I am growing in patience with myself and others."

"I am more flexible than ever."

"I am growing in boldness."

"I am growing. I can start. I can try. I am more energized than ever."


Let us start here, seeing ourselves with the knowledge that we are growing. By March, instead of finding a resolution list taunting us with failure, we will see a new image in the mirror celebrating its confidence and beauty and tackling life's goals and challenges.


Rest assured, new challenges will come along. New goals will need to be set. Thankfully, these won't be as scary, overwhelming, or hard, because we will have cast off our old garments, our old ways, and grown to fit the new ways required to climb these mountains. Our January self learned to grow. Our January self learned that any new challenge simply requires a new wardrobe of thoughts.


I am so proud of you! It is difficult to face the inner self. It is easier to try and fix external things. But, you are growing, and now it is time. It is time because you are reading this. "If not now, when?" You have got this, so go on; give it a go. One small step. See you later this year!


"Success is a progressive realization of a worthy ideal." -- Earl Nightingale



Organizer and Lifestyle Management guru