Simply Put Organizing

Organizing Under the Sink

The space under your sink is one of the most challenging areas to organize. Deep dimensions and drainpipes make it difficult to find containers that fit. It is easy to use the shove and close method when storing items in these spaces. If you haven’t seen the items that are in the recesses of your under sink cabinets, read on to learn simple tricks you can use to clear the clutter and create a system that will let you keep track of what you have and make it easily accessible.
Start with a deep clean. Take everything out and clean up any spills. Discard expired products as they can become useless or even harmful as active ingredients age. Let go of unwanted items or anything that smells off or has had a change in color. If a bottle or jar is covered in dust it most likely should be thrown out.
Before buying any new containers, group like things together and take stock of what you have to determine how many and what kind of containers you will need. Small items are stored best in stackable drawers; larger bottles can be corralled in open, deep bins. Remove any bulky packaging to make storage easier.
If you can, create a shelf in your linen closet for bulk toiletry purchases. A dedicated shelf in a laundry room is great for bulk purchases of kitchen supplies. Items purchased in bulk are more easily inventoried when they are at eye level and will leave room under the sinks for the items that are actively used. If you don’t have the luxury of a dedicated ‘warehouse’, don’t worry, just think vertical when designing your storage.
Before buying any new containers group like things together and take stock of what you have. Remove bulky packaging to make storage easier.
Measure the areas around the drainpipe and the width and depth of your cabinets. You will need to purchase two types of containers. Stackable drawers or lidded containers are best used to store smaller products and deep, narrow bins to corral tall bottles of skin and hair care products. photo shoe drawer
Always label each container-this is an important step as labels help create new habits (putting things back and retrieving them from a specific place) and help you keep track of inventory to prevent overbuying.
Using containers to organize under the sink makes it easy to keep the space clean and orderly. To maintain, simply honor the container. If it’s full clear out some of the older items or resist buying new.
If you would like to see this blog post come to life, visit the video page to see the Organizing Under the Sink Sonoran Living Live segment.

Organizing your Jewelry

With all the amazing jewelry available to us these days our collections can expand faster than our ability to store them. Do you find yourself wearing the same pieces of jewelry every day, not because they are your favorites, but because it’s the only thing you can find? The problem is most likely not the amount of jewelry you have but how it is being stored. You can avoid tangled necklaces and lost earrings with a few steps and some creative ideas.
When I was a child I loved the allure of my mother’s jewelry box. It was so much fun to sift through the baubles and imagine myself all grown up with my own treasure chest of glimmering jewels. Now that I am all grown up I find myself rushing out the door I find that simple box doesn’t work for me. I want to see what I have quickly and preserve what I love safely. If your jewelry box looks like a Pirate’s chest of tangled treasures, look no further than the tips below to restore order to your to your collection and actually enjoy the fabulous pieces you have.
Eliminate the old and outdated. The first step in organizing anything is to identify what you love and want to keep and eliminate the things that are just taking up space. Gather up all your jewelry and take a good look at it identifying the things that are broken, out of date, or just plain ugly (the what was I thinking? category). Consider donating, consigning or selling the gold and set aside sentimental pieces that you want to keep but no longer wear. If you have young kids or grandkids make a treasure box of old jewelry for dress up play-they will love it.
Organize it your way. Consider how you wear your jewelry and reorganize your collection to fit your habits. You may want to separate fine jewelry from costume. You can separate things into sets or types of jewelry. If you have a lot of jewelry you may want to separate your go to items from pieces that are seldom worn.
Find the right location. This is the chance to think out of the jewelry box with a few creative storage solutions. If you are currently using jewelry box but have out grown it-consider using it for a specific purpose such as keeping all fine jewelry in the box and then organize costume pieces elsewhere. The following tips will supplement your current box or create a system from scratch.
Stacking Jewelry Trays I love these adjustable stacking jewelry trays and use them myself for all my rings and bracelets. I like stacking trays as they fit into drawers and eliminate surface clutter. If you choose to use this system remember to place seldom worn items on the bottom and your favorites in the top trays.
Hooks For long chunky necklaces I recommend hanging them in your closet or dressing area walls. This keeps them tangle free and easily seen. The inside of cabinet drawers works well for hanging jewelry as well. I use small acrylic command hooks that are easy to arrange and come off clean if they are no longer needed.
Shadow Boxes This is one of my favorite ways to organize statement pieces and beloved heirlooms. It turns jewelry into art for your dressing area. Shadow boxes of all types can be found at TJ Maxx, Home Goods and Marshall’s. When using a shadow box make sure it will mount securely on a wall and that the front will open easily for access.
Fabric Covered Bulletin Boards This is a great way to keep your jewelry organized and in plain site. Mount one behind a door or any available wall in your closet or dressing area and use push pins to hang your baubles. French bulletin boards with their ribbon lattice are great for hanging earring whether pierced or clip.
On a Budget Ice cube trays work great for earrings and rings. Use nails in a row on a wall behind a door or inside your closet to organize necklaces.

Remember to protect your investment when it comes to fine pieces. Scan your appraisals and keep them in a safe place. Contact your homeowners insurance and make sure your fine jewelry is covered against loss. Consider using a safe that is bolted to the floor if you have a large collection of fine jewelry (stacking trays work great in safes).
Whether the value of your collection is monetary or sentimental, organizing will make it easier to enjoy what you have.

Keeping your Child’s School Memories

So your kids are back at school or soon to be back at school. One thing is certain, the school year equals a lot of stuff and less time to manage it all. Many of the papers that come home are transient and can be processed and then thrown away. But what about the papers that aren’t so disposable. Artwork and special achievements are the things that tug on our hearts and fill us with pride. While it’s impossible, or just not practical to save everything, it’s important for most of us to save the very special things our children have earned, received or created. The key is to have a system in place to receive the things that are deemed worth saving. A predetermined spot takes the phrase, where do I put this? out of your vocabulary and replaces it with the peace of mind that you can handle and preserve your most precious memories. Here are a few examples of systems that have worked for both me (I use the memory box) and my clients.
Photo books for large artwork. I wish these were around when my daughter first started bringing home her amazing creations full of beans and feathers and lots of white glue. Here is how to preserve the memory without saving the actual artwork: snap a picture of your child with their art each time they bring home a new creation. You not only capture the piece of art but also the pride on the face of your child. At the end of the school year upload your photos to Snapfish or any other service that creates photo books and you have a year of Artwork all in one space saving place. Your child will feel very special. The actual art can be displayed for awhile and then discarded without the guilt. If you already have bins full of old artwork and want to condense them into smaller books simply take the art to an office store that has a print shop, have the pieces scanned and saved digitally. You can make the books from there.
Memory boxes. This is the system that I have used for my daughter and it has worked well for us. Now that she is a teen we love to bring out the box now and then and revisit all the great things that are part of her growing up. We have expanded to two file totes as we filled up the first one at age 8. After that age the things we saved were a lot less bulky. You will need a plastic file tote the size of a banker’s box, hanging files and to make it pretty scrapbook paper. Using the plastic tabs that come with the file folders create a folder for each of the following categories (add anything that is unique to your family or omit ones that are not relevant to you)
Birth, First Year, Second Year, Third Year, Fourth Year, Preshcool, Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, 12th grade, Church, Sports, Cards, Portraits.
Take the scrapbook paper and cut it to fit the front of the box, print out your child’s name in the font of your choice and laminate. Attach it to the front of the tote with super sticky two sided tape, or, just slide it down into the tote in front of the first folder.

Memory Box

Now you have a place to organize keepsakes it’s important to create the habits to keep it going. Designate one place to keep your child’s current year school papers and anything else that might be worth saving. At the end of the year choose which are worthy of the long term memory box and pitch the rest. Some of the things that my client’s save for each school year include; report cards, school photos for that year, achievement certificates, valentines from classmates, small drawings and paintings, letters to and from Santa and anything else deemed special by you or your child.
Binders This is another way to save your child’s academic accomplishments. Simply designate a binder for each school year and use page protectors to preserve school papers, report cards and certificates.

Whether you choose one or all of the methods described here, or create one of your own, the important thing is to have a system in place before the random piles start accumulating in your pantry, closet, drawers and cupboards. If you already have the random piles, don’t worry! Simply set up one of these systems for each child, gather all of the piles, and spend a weekend making a treasure that will last for years to come.

Organized Habits

Habits are behavioral routines that occur subconsciously. One way to remove a bad habit is to eliminate it’s triggers (change your routine) or add a reminder to do things differently (a bright post it note to yourself). Most homes I work in have one thing in common. Items are placed in many different places around the home until there is a reason to clean up, (like a party). Then items are scooped up in any available container and put in any available space until….? Does this sound familiar? If it does, you have a habit of putting things down and leaving them wherever they land. Most all disorganization stems from this very thing.

Each organized person I know has developed habits that result in a clutter-free home. Here are a few to consider for yourself:
• Put things away as soon as you get home. When you bring something into your home whether it be groceries or anything else you have acquired take the items out of the bag and put them in their proper place. If an item doesn’t yet have an official home, put it in the room where it will be used. Eventually you will have organization just by developing this simple routine.
• Group like things together. Organized people have the habit of keeping likes with likes. When you do this it’s very easy to keep track of what and how much you have. Start doing this in small steps. For example: choose a place you are going to keep something and then whenever you find a like item in a different place you can start to group it in it’s new home.
• Use labels. Organized people use clearly labeled containers that are easily identified. Start organizing your home by getting rid of all the cardboard boxes and paper bags you are using as containers and replace them with clear bins. You can do this a little at a time. As you swap containers, purge any unwanted items.
• Throw away or recycle unwanted paper immediately. Pitch your junk mail before it hits a hard surface in your home. Throw away envelopes and any junk paper that come with your bills or other correspondence. Have a stapler on hand to connect anything with more than one page. Pare down to just the essential paper.
• Clear clutter on a continual basis: Organized people have the habit of letting go of excess on a continual basis. This doesn’t mean that they don’t live in abundance. It simply means that they don’t wait for one day to go through the house and decide what to donate-they have a donation receptacle handy and they do it continuously. They have a natural eye for elimination and usually don’t like the look of visual clutter.
If you incorporate these five habits you will be on your way to an organized life. If you start to group things together, put things away in the room where they are used, donate often and take the phrase ‘I’ll do it later’ out of your vocabulary you will be surprised at the change in your home this time next year.

Organized Bath


You deserve a relaxing routine to get ready each day, but if your bathroom is awash in excess products, jumbled towels and unidentified clutter lurking in the deep recesses under your sink its time to tune up your bathroom and shave precious minutes off your daily routine.

Start with a deep clean: Take everything out of your cabinets and take stock of what you have. Let go of expired products, unused bath salts, potpourri and anything else you haven’t looked at in months or years. Here are the lifespans for common bath products:
Anti-aging and acne treatments: Three months to a year. Be on the lookout for any changes in color.
Body lotion: Two to three years, particularly if it’s in a pump container.
Shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel: About three years.
Bath oil: One year.
Sunscreen: Check the package for an expiration date.
Mascara and liquid eyeliner: Three to four months.
Eye and lip pencils: Three to five years.
Lipstick and lip gloss: Two to three years.
Foundation: About two years.
Perfume: About two years.
Nail polish: One year.
Hairstyling products: Three to five years.
Bar soap: Up to three years.
Shaving cream: About two years.
Deodorant: Up to two years.

Dispose of expired medications properly: expired meds and vitamins should not be flushed as they can contaminate the groundwater. Instead, empty them into a ziplock bag filled with coffee grounds, cat litter or sawdust and then throw them away. Controlled substances should be flushed to avoid accidental ingestion. Visit or for more disposal details.

Create a warehouse for bulk purchases: a shelf on a nearby linen closet works great for this. (yes, it might be time to let go of excess linens too). If you don’t have a linen closet available consider a shelf in a spare bedroom. If this isn’t available then bulk purchases might not be a good fit for you. Unclutter your cabinets by only keeping one of each product you use in the bathroom. When you need to replenish, visit your warehouse. When the warehouse is getting low, it’s time to shop.

Discard bulky packaging: store like things together in labeled bins

Create more horizontal surface space: Use containers that fit around the pipes under your sink to coral things like towels, bath tissue and an products that you have to store under the sink. If you can pull one container out instead of several different items it will make cleaning and storage so much easier.

Keep everyday essentials handy: when you’re standing at the sink the things you use daily should be at arms length. Move your medicines and vitamins from the medicine cabinet to the kitchen or a nightstand, (the bathrooms high humidity and heat can affect potency, especially that of antibiotics). Use the medicine cabinet for your daily products like deodorant, skincare and toothpaste.

Use drawer dividers to keep drawers neat. You can separate a lot of bathroom necessities by dividing and conquering. i like individual drawer organizers that customize the drawer to your needs. To keep them from shifting use museum gel, (found at The Container Store)

Create caddies for things that may be used elsewhere: This works well for manicure tools and nail care.

Keep daily makeup convenient: separate the makeup you use everyday from the make up you use occasionally. If you travel it’s easy just to grab the bag and go. Check out the uniipalette at Easy and Fun!

Use magnets: Attach magnets to the inside of your medicine cabinet to hold nail clippers and tweezers to the inside of the door.

Use over the door shoe bags: these are great for hair accessories like headbands, flowers, large clips. Great if you have young girls in your home.

Once you’ve defined your bathroom the key is to maintain it. The first rule, don’t overbuy!! If you do switch brands, get rid of the old brands rather than let them expire unused. Throw away expired products and medicines at least once a year.

Organized Taxes

Suze Orman stated, in an article I read, that she had a ‘surefire way to build wealth’ that won’t cost a penny. So easy, she stated, that it can be done while watching television. Her suggestion, clean up old financial paperwork that serves no purpose other than attracting dust-I couldn’t agree more!!

If you live out of piles of paper and your file drawers are full it’s time to clear out the clutter and create a simple system to take control of your financial future. Suze Orman is a firm believer that orderliness begets wealth. I’m not so sure about that (I should be a zillionaire), but I do know that you will save quite a bit in late fees and have a much better idea what is going in and out of your bank accounts if your statements and bills are in order. Organizing paper is completely overwhelming for most of us I’ve tried (along with advice from Suze Orman) to take the overwhelming feeling out and make it as simple as possible.

What you’ll need: a crosscut shredder to prevent identity theft, a garbage can to toss non financial paper and an a few boxes of hanging file folders and a table designated for sorting. If you can borrow a banquet table for this process you can work on it over a period of days without feeling like it’s in the way. If you don’t know anyone with an extra table to share then try to designate an area of your home for the purpose of this task.

Sort all your papers into six piles:

§ Monthly bills, bank statements and pay stubs

§ Investment statements

§ Tax returns and support

§ Deeds

§ Warranty and User Manuals

§ Forever Docs such as marriage licenses, wills and birth certificates

If you have a file cabinet in your home, label one drawer finances. I am a huge fan of filing bills in a twelve month system. Label one hanging file folder for each month and sort bills that you have paid into the month they were paid. The reason I like this method is that you can go back to any month and see your total expenditures. I also store my bank statement into the same file. Basically you will have a snapshot of your finances for any given month at your fingertips. At the end of the year you can pull out anything you need for tax back-up from each month and the rest can stay in the self purging system. When January 2011 comes around you shred the contents of January 2010 the same with February, March etc. You will always have a year’s worth of financial documents at hand.

The other option, and it’s not one that I recommend is to make a separate folder for each bill you pay. The caveat here is that you have to remember to empty the folders on an annual basis. If you don’t have the discipline to do this your files will soon by overflowing with paper you no longer need. For those disciplined souls this method is fine.

Edit the Piles

For all the paper you are eliminating from your piles, I highly recommend running through a crosscut shredder. The FTC estimates that up to nine million Americans a year are victims of identity theft. A good shredder will help protect your financial future.

It is important to know what to keep and for how long. Suze Orman has a great cheat sheet on her website Here are some of her suggestions for financial papers:

Bills: one year’s worth. Put tax deductable bills in an accordian file by month so they will be ready when you do your taxes.

Pay stubs: one year. When you receive your W-2 make sure that your last check stub matches then shred the stubs.

Bank Statements: One year at least. If you are planning on applying for a mortgage or car loan it is better to keep up to two years. Again, check with your personal accountant if you have any questions.

Investment Statements: save all monthly and quarterly until you receive your end of the year summary and then shred the others. Save the documents for any trades you make during the year for three years.

Tax returns and supporting documents: The IRS has three years to challenge anything on your returns. Keep three years at all times. If the IRS suspects you haven’t reported income it can challenge returns up to six years. To learn more about IRS record keeping guidelines, see Publication 552 on their website (

Warranties: Keep only active warranties and toss the rest. I suggest tossing all user manuals you don’t actively refer to as manufacturers have downloadable versions on their sites. You can also visit or

Documents to Keep for Life: there are some documents you just can’t throw away. These include marriage Licenses, divorce decrees, wills, trusts, estate planning documents and death certificates. Suze Orman also suggests you keep a permanent record of all major loans you have paid off such as homes, cars and so on.

Tips for going Paperless

Of course, if you hate paper as much as I do, you can easily take care of almost all your financial to do’s online. If you’re worried about cyber-safety just make sure you are logged onto a secure network. That means no bill paying at wi-fi hotspots. Check out your banks website for automatic bill paying, accounts alerts and more. This should all be free, if it’s not, switch banks. You can also go online to check out things such as Social Security benefits. Toss all those green and white sheets once you have verified the current one is up to date. Go to and click on estimate your retirement benefits.
The most important thing to remember is to edit your files on a regular basis. If you really need to dig out from your piles of paper, take it a little bit each night, sit in a comfortable chair and sort. I think you’ll be surprised at how little you need.

Wishing you all skinny file folders….

Have Freedom With Less

My home was recently featured in The Arizona Republic. Click on each image to see the article. Hope you Enjoy!

How to Maximize Your Space

by Kara G. Morrison – Sept. 24, 2010 11:14 AM
The Arizona Republic

Read more:

Just as Charlotte Steill was buying a cozy condominium, the rest of the Valley seemed to be doing the opposite.

That was 2004. Homebuyers were flocking to McMansions in the suburbs; Steill was downsizing from an 1,800-square-foot Mesa house to a 1,200-square-foot space near downtown Scottsdale.

slideshow PHOTOS: Getting organized

She and her then 5-year-old daughter gave up a huge yard, a two-car garage filled with storage cabinets and a dedicated office. It’s exactly what the professional organizer wanted to do.

“I didn’t want to pay for the maintenance of a house,” explained Steill, who owns Simply Put Organizing. “I didn’t want to be tethered by all that stuff.”

Today, when many in the Valley find themselves downsizing to smaller spaces and living with less in this downturn, Steill has a message. She knows firsthand how to shrink into a comfortable, uncluttered life. And she prefers it to filling a huge house with unused stuff.

“In these economic times, I wish I had all the money I wasted on all the things I didn’t use,” she said.

More than ever, all of us are taking stock of what we have, what we need and what we can give up.

Steill’s cozy condo is a crisp oasis of calm. In the serene space with a palette of white, cream, silver and black, there is no clutter. Everything she keeps has a place, or it’s out the door.

It’s inspirational.

“There’s a freedom in not having a lot of stuff,” Steill said. “I want to be surrounded just by what I love and nothing more.”

Her 9-foot-square kitchen (including the countertop space and pantry cabinet) is spotless. Her bathroom cabinets are a model of efficiency, and her organized laundry closet (painted Restoration Hardware pale blue) could be a magazine cover, with its white baskets and boxes adorned with her custom chalkboard labels.

Although the condo sometimes seems cramped to her now 11-year-old daughter, Steill’s home feels plenty big, in part because it’s so neat. She explained it’s easy to keep things clutter-free when everything has a dedicated place.

If you need to downsize or simply “right-size” to a clutter-free life, here are 10 of Steill’s best tips for creating your own cozy retreat.

1. Edit your stuff. Steill tells a story about a fondue pot she finally gave up when space was tight. She hadn’t used it in years, and she knew she could borrow one from a friend anytime. Steill urges people to purge all they can at the front end when moving into a smaller space, rather than trying to cram too much into the new place. “If you don’t love it and you don’t use it on a regular basis, don’t keep it,” she said, adding it’s easier to let things go than to wrap, haul and unpack them just so they can sit in an attic or storage locker.

2. Choose wisely. When space is limited, even the furniture has to double as storage, so choose it judiciously. Steill’s living-room end table has a drawer for coasters and remotes. Her TV stand holds DVDs, and her entryway piece has big drawers for family games. Current magazines and books go in a silver tray on her living-room ottoman. If she had it to choose again, Steill admits she’d go for a storage ottoman to hold throws.

3. Use it or lose it. Stuff without a purpose doesn’t fit into a tiny space. Still, there are always things we want to keep. Steill didn’t want to give up her green-glass biscotti jars, even though they would overwhelm her tiny kitchen. So she repurposed them for her laundry closet where they hold laundry soap and softener sheets.

4. Get the right tools. Steill uses three organizing products consistently: Sterilite clear plastic bins, turntables and laminate shoe shelves. She often uses 32-quart shallow bins without lids as makeshift pull-out drawers. There’s nary a room in her home without a turntable inside a cabinet. Turntables give her easy access to cosmetics in her bathroom and baking necessities in the kitchen. “They make high spaces and deep cabinets usable,” Steill said. She also uses 31-inch ClosetMaid laminate shelves from Target to hold shoes and clear shoe boxes filled with all categories of household stuff.

5. Donate regularly. Clutter accumulates for everyone, but it’s easier to spot in small spaces. Steill has one or two donation bags handy at all times. She fills them with clothing that doesn’t fit or doesn’t flatter, cosmetics she has tried but didn’t like (they go to a women’s shelter) or decor she no longer needs. She urges all her clients to identify a favorite non-profit and start donating often. This also alleviates the guilt of having purchased something that didn’t work. “We have charities that we love to give to because we believe in what they’re doing,” she said. “I just envision the person receiving it, and I feel good about giving it.”

6. Start a “halfway house.” We all have a few things we don’t really need, but we also can’t seem to give up. These things go in a closet Steill dubs her “halfway house.” They’re typically seasonal decorations she’s not sure she’ll reuse. They linger here until she makes a decision to keep, sell or donate them. Any designated shelf can hold “halfway” items, but Steill recommends using one that’s removed from the main living space. “If you don’t retrieve it, you probably don’t need it,” she said.

7. Make money. A painless way to downsize is to get cash for things you can’t keep. Steill takes decor and clothing she no longer wants to a consignment shop. She sells gadgets such as old cellphones to, which offers cash for used electronics. She also sells things on and has helped clients sell books to used bookstores. All told, she said, the money from giving things up adds up.

8. Go vertical. “You have to use every vertical square inch you can,” Steill said about living well in a small space. Hence, she relies on “shelf helpers” – adjustable wire shelves that help create another level to store things. Steill uses several in her kitchen cabinets.

9. Use doors, walls. “All the walls are fair game inside a closet for storing things,” she said. Hence, her utilities closet holds assorted cleaning products and household tools. She also makes use of the inside of cabinet doors using magnetic dots called Anywheres ($7.99 at the Container Store) that turn any surface into a mini bulletin board.

10. Glam the closet. Steill thinks a person’s home should be a sanctuary that relieves stress rather than adds to it. The same is true of the closet, where clutter can quickly accumulate. Her remedy is urging clients to make their closets (especially the main clothing closet) look like a boutique. If the space is welcoming, defined and elegant, one is less likely to make it a dumping ground.

click the slide show below for inspirational pictures

Slide Show

What I’m Loving now…

I came across something today that I’m excited to share with you. They are removable vinyl chalkboards called ‘Wallies’ that you can place on almost any surface in your home. I would put one in the garage door for love notes to anyone entering the house that way. Or, imagine one on the fridge for a daily to do list. They work with the water based chalk markers that simply wipe off with a damp cloth. Genius!! My daughter is loves the idea of writing quotes and inspiration on her walls without getting in trouble. HA! Find them at

Repurpose. Replenish. Renew. Restore. Relax.