Preserving Family Memories

by Tina ~ November 12th, 2014

Does thinking about de-cluttering make you anxious?

You’re not alone! Many people associate de-cluttering with getting rid of stuff – but although that’s part of it, it’s really about separating the things you use and value from those that are just taking up space.

There’s absolutely no reason that you can’t hold onto photos and other keepsakes. They’re a wonderful way to keep your memories alive, both for yourself and for future generations.

Before you go tossing those mementos in a drawer or storage box, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is this the best way to store these items so they don’t get damaged?
  2. How easy is it for me to enjoy them and share them with others?
  3. If something happens to me, will anyone know the significance of them?

Organizing them into scrapbooks can be a fun way to while away cold winter nights, and it will help to preserve your memories (both literally and figuratively) for many years to come.

If a particular item is too large to put in a scrapbook, consider taking a photograph (or a few) of it, and donate or sell the item itself to someone who can put it to good use.

Ready to start? Here are a few places to find great supplies:

  1. The Paper Place
  2. The Papery
  3. Essence du Papier
  4. Wonder Pens
  5. Hanji Handmade Paper
  6. Write Impressions
  7. Above Ground Art Supplies
  8. B&J Trading

(Source: The Best Card, Paper and Stationery Shops in Toronto, blogTO)

Once you get into scrapbooking, you’re probably going to start collecting a lot of different types of paper and other supplies. That’s okay, as long as you have a way to keep it organized so you always know what you have.

If you’ve got a spare room available, you might like to convert it to a craft room:

Contemporary Home Office

You can also fit a scrapbooking area into a smaller area:

Eclectic Home Office by Atlanta Interior Designers & Decorators Designing Homemaker

For best results, the Scrapbook Preservation Society recommends the following:

  1. Store photos and scrapbooks somewhere cool and dry.
  2. Use preservation-quality scrapbook materials.
  3. Photocopy newspaper articles and ultrasound images onto good quality white paper, and store them in polypropylene page protectors. These will last longer than the originals.
  4. Use pigment ink pens that are fade-resistant, lightfast, bleed-proof and waterproof.
  5. Never use rubber or latex adhesives.

Are you a scrapbooker? Send me a picture of your favourite scrapbook page, and I’ll post it on Spot On’s Facebook page!

How to Organize Your Closet for the Change of Season

by Tina ~ October 22nd, 2014

messy closetHas the cooler weather got you down?

Do you feel like hiding in your closet, but there’s no room?

I can’t do anything about the weather, but I’ve got some great ways to free up space in your closet!

5 Steps to an Easy Closet Switchover

1.  What’s working?  What’s not?

Someone I know had a closet with two bars, one in front of the other. This allowed her to simply move her summer clothing to the back and her winter clothing to the front every fall, reversing the process in the spring. Most of us don’t have that option, so we need to be more strategic.

Start by deciding what type of clothing you’re likely to wear over the next several months. Take everything else out and  put it in a spare room closet, cedar chest, or plastic tote that you can store under your bed.

2.  Edit

What items are essential to you?  Apply Spot On’s D.W.M.S. strategy:  Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Seasonal.

Space in your home is valuable real estate.  Make sure that what is in your closet reflects the life you are living now!  If something no longer fits you or your lifestyle, pass it on to someone else.

Refer to my list of Toronto consignment shops and community or charitable organizations accepting donations.

3.  Don’t delay!

Be realistic. If you didn’t wear something last winter, how likely is it that you’ll wear it this winter – or ever?

If you struggle with letting go of things, call Spot On. We can help you through the process, with respect and a sense of humour.

4. Design your closet space

Think about how you want to use your space.  What do you want to hang?  What can be in a drawer, open basket or lidded container on a top shelf?  Using the proper tools will make it easier to keep your closet organized. I’ve included a list of my favourite closet organizing products below.

5.  Keep at it

Once you’ve organized your closet for the coming winter, be sure to stick to your system. Whenever you buy a new article of clothing, unless it’s needed to fill a major gap in your wardrobe, get rid of an old one.

When spring comes around again – and it will, I promise! – you’ll need to repeat this process. The good news is that it gets easier every time you do it.

5 Essential Closet Organizing Products

1. Over-the-Door Shoe Storage

Using the back (and/or front) of the door will greatly maximize your storage space, and these organizers are great not just for shoes, but also for scarves, hats, purses, and other small items.

2. Under-the-Bed Storage

Although not technically for organizing your closet, these plastic totes allow you to store out-of-season or seldom-worn clothing outside of your closet so they’re not taking up prime real estate.

3. Shelf Storage

Make good use of your shelf space by using small containers that you can easily pull down for putting away or retrieving items as needed.

4. Bin Labels

Organizing items in bins, either inside or outside your closet, is a great strategy, but if you have more than one or two, it’s easy to lose track of what’s in each one. Clearly labelling each one with the contents will help you find what you need much more quickly and easily.

5. Thin Velvet Hangers

These hangers take up less room than bulky wooden hangers, and they feature an extra bar for your belt, scarf or tie, so you can keep your whole outfit together.

To learn more about what we do here at Spot on Organizing check out our website at or our profile at

Illustration © lenmdp / Depositphotos

Fall Organizing Checklist

by Tina ~ October 8th, 2014

Autumn is the perfect time to take account of what we’ve done, what we didn’t do, and what we’d like to do next year. ~Author Unknown

For many people, autumn is their favourite time of year: summer’s heat and humidity has passed, but the threat of winter storms still feels far away. It’s as if nature knows we need this transition period to wrap summer up for another year and prepare our homes for the coming winter.

I’ve created this handy checklist, inspired by P&G Everyday Outdoor Fall Organization Tips, to help you with your fall organizing.

1. Start by organizing and cleaning your garage and/or shed, so there’s room to store warm-weather items over the winter. (Read my Top Ten Tips for Organizing the Garage and Fall Organizing for Your Garden for help with this step.)

2. Clean seasonal items before storing them for the winter. This includes:

  • patio furniture and cushions
  • yard and garden equipment
  • barbecue
  • bicycles
  • camping gear

3. Clean and weatherproof your deck.

4. Inspect your roof and contact a professional if you see signs of damage.

5. Add weather-stripping around your windows and doors.

6. Disconnect and drain hoses.

7. Clean your drainpipe and gutters of leaves and other debris.

8. Start a gardening journal (more on that below).

For ready reference, print a copy of this checklist by clicking on the blue plus sign at the bottom of the post.

Creating a Gardening Journal

If you like to garden, a gardening journal will help you monitor your efforts by keeping track of planting dates, seed types, weather, and so on. Starting your gardening journal now, while you can still remember what you planted this past season, will be very helpful when it comes time to make your plans for next year.

There are lots of gardening journals on the market, including The Toronto Gardener’s Journal, but creating your own can be a fun project, and will allow you to customize it to your personal needs and tastes. Here’s all you need to get started:

  1. 3-ring binder
  2. Plastic photo sleeves to hold seed packets, photos, plant tags, and other small items – one for each garden bed or section of your yard
  3. Blank pages for writing on
  4. Permanent markers
  5. Photos of your garden
  6. Calendar

To learn more about setting up and using your journal, read Creating a Gardening Journal on About Home.

Next time on The B Spot, we’ll be moving indoors! Be sure to join our mailing list so you don’t miss out.

Photo by Vasiliisa / Crestock

Interesting facts that may increase your child’s productivity this back to school season

by Tina ~ September 24th, 2014

Increase your child’s productivity this back to school season

Not so long ago there was no way of bringing music to the library.  Nowadays students can bring their noise and music with them anywhere they go. As a parent, you may be concerned that using headphones will be a distraction.

Did you know?

  • A recent study by Clinical Psychologist Dr. Emma Gray revealed that listening to music can put students in a better frame of mind to learn and remember new facts. (Source: Listening to music while you study makes you smarter, Scoop Media)
  • A 2012 study showed that university students scored better on tests in difficult subjects when listening to music of their choosing. (Source: Music & Studying, Bankstreet College of Education)
  • For many students, listening to music can be an effective way to block out unwanted noises. (Source: How to Block Out Noise while Studying, Residential Acoustics)
  • Background music with acoustical variations can interfere with short-term memory performance, and listening to music with lyrics while reading can hinder comprehension. (Source: Don’t Listen to Music while Studying, Spin Education)
  • A student who listens to their preferred type of music while studying is more likely to be distracted, calming music is less distracting than arousing music, and introverts are more likely than extraverts to be distracted by background music. (Source: The Impact of Listening to Music on Cognitive Performance, Student Pulse)

Since there’s no clear right-or-wrong answer, you’ll need to monitor your child’s performance before you decide to allow him or her to listen to music while studying.

Kumon Learning Centres recommend 11 ways to help your kid stay focused this season:

  1. Set expectations early.
  2. Manage distractions.
  3. Establish rules for homework time.
  4. Do “homework” at the same time as your child.
  5. Create a designated place in your home for independent study.
  6. Restrict texting and phone calls during study time to homework-related questions.
  7. Offer incentives for completing assignments on time and without complaining.
  8. Use positive reinforcement and verbal praise.
  9. Communicate homework expectations to after-school caregivers.
  10. Work with teachers and instructors to establish short- and long-term goals.
  11. Learn what work style works for your child – including whether he or she studies better with or without background music.

For more study tips, be sure to read my last post, Organizing Kids for Back-to-School.

To learn more about what we do here at Spot on Organizing check out  our website at or our profile at

Photo ©stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos

Organizing Kids for Back-to-School

by Tina ~ September 10th, 2014

Organizing Kids for Back-to-School

The back-to-school season is here in full force, and your kids are jumping back into their daily routines of school schedules and homework assignments. But how can we help our kids focus this season?

Organizing isn’t just for physical spaces  ̶  mental clutter can have a huge impact on productivity. This back-to-school season is the ideal time to start organizing your children’s mental clutter.

Encourage your kids to start with these general study tips:

Make good use of daytime hours. Physiological “freshness” of your brain means 1 hour of daytime study may be as effective as 1 ½ hours at night.

Approach studying as you would any exercise. Warm up your brain by reviewing notes and assignments just before class; you will take in more information during lecture. Reviewing your lecture notes shortly after class as a “cool down” activity helps to solidify learning.

Vary your study activities. Don’t follow reading with reading. Instead, review art history photographs, review biology terminology flashcards, practice French with a study partner, or find a physical activity to get you going.

Get enough sleep. An alert brain takes in much more information than one that is fatigued. Pulling all-nighters is useless in the long run, and will interfere with your concentration.

Learn how to organize your time. People who are involved in many activities generally make more efficient use of their time and get better grades.

Note: This list was sourced from Globe University’s Guide to Improving Concentration.

Need help learning more about the physical side to organizing your kids? Read our last year’s blog: Organizing ideas for back-to-school.

To learn more about what we do here at Spot on Organizing check out our website at or my profile at

How to Pack for March Break

by Tina ~ March 12th, 2014

With this being Toronto’s coldest winter in 20 years, you probably can’t wait to go away for March break! Be careful though, and don’t be in such a hurry to get away that you forget any essentials or take more than you really need.


: packing list for vacation
Photo ©Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos

The specific items you should pack will depend on your destination, accommodations, method of travel, and the ages of your family members, but Real Simple has travel checklists for all types of trips, including beach vacations, international trips, and travelling with a young family.

There are also SmartPhone apps for keeping and saving packing lists, which are really handy. Taking your list with you (whether on paper or on your phone) is a great way to make sure nothing gets left behind when it’s time to come home.

Once you’ve made your list, go through it with a fine-toothed comb to see how you can pare it down. This will translate to less effort carrying your luggage as well as less time spent at baggage and security checks, contributing to a more enjoyable vacation.

Tina’s Top Ten Tips for Travelling Light

  1. As a general rule, you can probably get by with about half the clothes you think you’ll need.
  2. Get more mileage out of your clothes by taking items that you can mix and match.
  3. Select clothing that can be easily rinsed out and left to dry overnight.
  4. Choose shoes that can be worn with more than one outfit (lightweight, if possible).
  5. Try on everything before you pack it – no point wasting space with something that doesn’t fit!
  6. Save space in your suitcase by using Pliio Clothing Filers.suitcase with Pliio Clothing Filers
  7. Ziploc isn’t just for your freezer! Their Space Bags help you fit more in your suitcase while protecting your clothing from odors, mildew, moths and bugs.Ziploc Space Bags
  8. Instead of bringing a week’s worth of shampoo and other toiletries, make use of those supplied by your hotel or resort.
  9. Don’t pack anything “just in case” if you can easily get it at your destination. Tweet this
  10. Choose your luggage carefully. If a piece feels heavy before you’ve even put anything in it, it’s time to replace it with one of the lighter styles that are now readily available.

“He who must travel happily must travel light.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

When you travel, do you typically end up taking MORE or LESS than you need?

Organizing Your Memorabilia

by Tina ~ February 26th, 2014

February is the month of love, and many kinds of love bring up many kinds of memories.  As I mentioned in my last post, here are few tips to help you organize your own memorabilia.

Iris Large Photo KeeperPhotos

It may be tempting to set photos aside until you have time to place them in albums. Don’t make this mistake!

Did you know you can get storage boxes designed specifically for organizing 4×6” photos?  Tweet this

When choosing photo storage boxes or albums, make sure they are acid-free to protect your memories for many years to come.

Children’s Art

If you have young kids, the artwork they bring home from school can mount up quickly, but here’s a way you can keep them under control.

  1. Paint a large bulletin board to match your décor.
  2. Tack your child’s artwork on the bulletin board.
  3. At the end of each month (or each week, if they’re in pre-school) take a photo, clear the bulletin board, save the treasures, and start again.  At the end of the school year, you’ll also have 10 photos of their art ‘collages!’

adjustable shadowboxShadow Boxes

Instead of tucking treasures away in a drawer or storage chest, display them in a shadow box. Lisa Woodruff of Organize365 says, “Keeping a tangible piece of a memory allowed me to let go of the larger items of my heritage.”

Take Your Time

Life is filled with periods of transition, such as the loss of a spouse or parent, a divorce, moving, having a new baby, or sending your child off to college. All of these times of transition are opportunities to sort through and pick treasures.

Going through keepsakes can be a very emotional process, especially if you’re going through the belongings of a loved one who has recently passed. As you go through keepsakes, allow yourself time to honour the memories. Divesting of a parent’s belongings all in a short time can be too much all at once.  Letting go of things slowly over time is totally understandable.

What is one keepsake you have that you can never part with?

Love and Memories

by Tina ~ February 13th, 2014

keepsakes and memoriesMany decisions around organizing and decluttering are based on what is practical and logical. Asking yourself questions like Do I need this? Do I use it? Does it still work? Do I have room for it? will help you determine whether or not to keep something and where to store it.

Organizing memorabilia is a whole different situation. Rather than basing your decisions on practical solutions, you’re more focused on the feelings associated with the items. Mementos may include letters, photos depicting holidays, birthdays, vacations, and family members going through everyday activities at various stages of their lives.  It might also include school papers, including writing samples, report cards, certificates, and so on.

One of my most cherished possessions is the finely curated collection of letters, notes, programs, and tickets that my Mom left for me and each of my siblings. It certainly wasn’t everything I ever drew, wrote or went to – but she picked out the treasures.  I don’t remember what isn’t there – but memories do rush back from the pieces she chose to keep.

A prime example is a note I wrote her when I was a teenager.  We must have had a fight – I went out, and she was asleep when I got back, so I wrote her an “I’m sorry” note on the napkins we always had on our kitchen table.  It wasn’t a big deal at the time, but 40 years later, it reminds me of the close and intimate relationship I had with her, even when I was a trouble-making teenager.

All of these items that my Mom had for us were kept in a “Naches” (Yiddish for “pride” or “joy”) file of the things that she was proud of us for.  I now keep one for my daughter. Well, my Mother L.O.V.E.D. Barbra Streisand.  I mean LOVED her!  So, there, amongst the files for me and my sister and brother, was one for Barbra.  Like she was part of the family!

I still have that file.  Why do I keep it?  Well.  Just, ‘cause.

I tell my clients about this collection of treasures that my Mom left us to illustrate that you don’t need to keep it all.  In fact, you shouldn’t – all you’re doing is handing down a potential burden to your loved ones.  Instead, pick out the treasures, and be able to leave a real gift.

But that’s enough about me… Check back next time when I share with you a few tips to help you organize your own memorabilia.


Fall Organizing for Your Garden

by Tina ~ October 23rd, 2013

As cooler weather sets in, it may be tempting to retreat indoors, but it’s worth taking some time to clean your tools and organize your shed before winter sets in. Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • resin shelving unitOrganizing your garden tools now will allow easy access + a quick start come springtime. Tweet this
  • Your tools, outdoor cushions, hoses, and anything else you use in the garden will last much longer if they’re cleaned and stored properly, saving you money as well as the time it takes to go out and buy replacements.
  • While you’re organizing your shed, you can make sure your snow shovels and other winter tools are in good condition. If not, you’ll be able to avoid the rush by buying new ones before the snow falls.

To get the most out of your shed, don’t just pile everything up on the floor. Here are some innovative ideas for maximizing space in your shed:

Hooks keep hoses from getting tangled up and damaged.

Toilet paper holders are perfect for storing twine and wire.

Magnetic strips can hold hand tools and keep them accessible.

Large canvas totes make great storage containers for your outdoor cushions.

Peg boards can be hung on the wall to hold small tools and other items. Use different colours of paint to map spaces for different categories.

Wooden pallets keep potting soil and other bagged supplies off the ground, away from moisture and pets.

Resin shelves are a good choice for sheds, because they won’t rust or stain like metal, and they don’t need to be painted like wood.

Is there something in your shed that makes it hard to stay organized? What is it?

Everything but the car…

by Tina ~ October 9th, 2013

We ask a lot from our garages. Just think about everything that’s in there!

Depending on your lifestyle, your garage probably holds several of the following:

  • Gardening supplies
  • Extra tires
  • Sports equipment – balls, clubs, bikes, scooters, hockey gear, skates, skis, boards, oh my!
  • Camping gear
  • Tools and hardware, including ladders
  • Seasonal decor – like those giant inflatable lawn ornaments!
  • Paint supplies

garage organization ideas

When you have a busy family, always coming and going from one activity to the next, you need an organized system, or the kids will just leave things wherever they land. Sound familiar?

At this point, the thought of creating a system may seem overwhelming, but trust me; getting started is the biggest challenge. Once you do, a rhythm will emerge and everything will begin to fall into place – literally!

Tina’s Top Ten Tips for Organizing the Garage

  1. Clear the clutter.  Look at everything in your garage & determine whether you use it frequently, occasionally, or not at all. Tweet this
  2. Share the wealth. Don’t hang on to stuff “just in case” you need it someday. If you don’t see yourself using something anytime soon, pass it on to someone who will, or donate it to an organization who’ll ensure it goes to good use.  
  3. When in doubt, throw it out! You’d be amazed how much stuff you’ve got in your garage that you. Just. Don’t. Need.
  4. Categorize while you organize. Storing like with like is a basic organizing principle.
  5. Create zones. Plan your space efficiently, so you have easy access to the things you use most often.
  6. Out of sight, out of mind. Whenever possible, use clear storage containers so you don’t lose track of what’s in them.
  7. Label, label, label. Today you know what’s in that box, but will you remember six months from now?
  8. Use your vertical space efficiently by using one of the great garage systems on the market or creating your own with peg boards, a slat system, or simple hooks and bungees. My personal favourite is from Tailored Living. Even your bike can be stored on vertical wall hooks, like the Schulte Bike Hook available from Solutions.
  9. Don’t forget to use the ceiling! There are all kinds of racking systems available that will allow you to put bins up there – these are perfect for stuff you only need once a year. Whatever your needs, there’s a system out there for you!
  10. Don’t go it alone.  Blast the music and ask your partner, kid or a friend to help.  Or, hire a professional to make the job go quickly.

Get out there and make space for the busy seasons ahead! If there’s a specific product that helped you, I’d love to hear about it!

Photo courtesy of Eric Schmuttenmaer, used under a Creative Commons license