Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guard the Castle Gates....even through the holidays.

The holidays are a wonderful time to give and receive, but don’t let your guard down. Remember to guard the castle gates, even during this wonderful time of year. Guard the gates against what and whose castle are you talking about, you ask? Your home is your castle and you must remember to guard it against unwanted clutter. Unfortunately the holidays are a time when things tend to find their way in.

Yes, gifts should be appreciated no matter what they are as we all know they come from the heart. But if it is something you really can’t use, already have or flat out don’t like, this does not mean you need to keep it. After the gifts are open, don’t hesitate to make a pile of that which you can’t use or don’t need. If you can return it or exchange it, put it right in the car so you can take care of that next time you are close to the store in question. If you can’t do that, add it to your donation pile. Doing this immediately keeps these items from finding a comfortable place in your home where you forget about it until it is part of a larger clutter problem.

Feeling bad about doing this? Consider that you are paying the gift forward. By donating the item or giving it to someone who can really use it, you are sharing the love. In these difficult economic times, donations can make a huge difference in someone else’s life. Unclutter your life while adding light to someone else’s.

Getting rid of a gift does not mean that you appreciate it any less. In fact, do not forget to write a nice thank you note even if you don’t plan to keep the gift. But don’t keep something just because your Aunt gave it to you and the guilt is overwhelming. I am sure said Aunt did not intend to add to your guilt and pile of stuff. Givers want to add joy to the recipient’s life. Clutter and stress do not equal joy. So guard your door and keep the clutter out.

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at Check out her blog at

Friday, December 2, 2011

Last minute holiday shopping tips

Are you starting to stress out about holiday shopping? Wondering how you will get it all done? Here are some tips to help you manage the process.

• Make a list of those you need to shop for. Jot down any ideas you may have for them as well.
• If your list is really long, try to pare it down. Is there anyone you can mutually agree NOT to exchange gifts with? Maybe your family can do a name draw for the adults. Or maybe you can agree to go out for a fun dinner with a friend rather than exchanging gifts.
• Map out your shopping. Start with what you can buy online. The more you can do online the better and right now, most retailers are offering free shipping!! For the stores you need to hit, make a plan of attack. Maybe you need to hit Wal Mart and there is one right by your office. Make a plan to get an early start and go there before work next week. Determine which stores you can stop by during your regular routine and then set aside time to do the rest. Plan your driving route so you aren’t running all over and wasting precious time.
• Consider gift cards. Shipping is really expensive and it requires trips to the post office. Think about who you can buy gift cards for and look for those cards at your grocery store next time you are there. All you have to deal is put them in a card and send them off. Easy! Also consider where you can email gift certificates to loved one.
• Plan better for next year. Keep your holiday shopping list with you all year. It is much easier to find the perfect gift when you aren’t desperately searching for it. Give yourself all year to find it.
Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 21, 2011

More eating, less stress!

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, it seems appropriate to discuss how you can alleviate some of your holiday stress by organizing your meal preparations. Easy solution? Go out. Just kidding. A holiday at home can be low stress and even enjoyable.

If you are reading this on Monday you have three days to go. If you haven’t shopped yet, make a list. The first list should be what you plan on serving. Based on that list, create a shopping list with all the ingredients needed. If you have a lot of guests coming, be sure and invite them to bring a dish to share. This cuts down on the work for you and makes it a meal in the true spirit of Thanksgiving. If you can, hit the grocery store early in the morning or late at night. It will be crowded this week, but if you go during off hours, you can avoid much of the crowd.

Figure out what can be made ahead of time. Things like stuffing, pies, and casseroles can usually be made at least a day ahead of time. Get it done early so you have less to do on Thursday. Personally, I think that giving things like stuffing a day to sit makes it taste better too since all the flavors have time to really combine.

Another thing you can do the night before is set the table. If you have kids, put them in charge of either the center piece or the name cards. The kids will enjoy being part of the decorating and it will be one less thing for you to do.

Make sure you know how long your turkey needs to defrost. Usually they need at least a few days in the refrigerator prior to cooking. If you forget, remember you can always soak it in cold water to expedite the defrosting process. There are lots of great websites that will walk you through this process if you aren’t familiar.

Take a minute to plan your cooking schedule. Unless you have a professional kitchen, you probably only have one oven. Plan ahead to determine when things need to go in the oven so everything can be ready around the same time. Consider alternative ways of cooking the turkey like smoking, barbequing or frying (although I don’t recommend this method due to fires and clogged arteries…).

Finally, charge your camera and video camera batteries. Make sure they are ready to capture wonderful holiday memories.

Happy Thanksgiving and I pray that your holiday is full of love, relaxation and happy memories.

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at Check out her blog at

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The many ways to use a lazy susan

Lazy susans or turntables, whatever you choose to call them, can be found at any store like Wal Mart or Target. They are inexpensive and oh-so-handy. Here are 5 uses for them:

• Spice rack
• Hair products
• Medicines
• Vitamins
• Cleaning products

I could go on all day, but you get the point. Go pick a few up now and get those cabinets organized!

Not sure what in the world I am talking about? Follow this link to view the product -

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at Check out her blog at

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Reason number ten million and one to process your mail daily....

You know how I always talk about how important it is process your mail daily? Usually I refer to the fact that when you don't process it each and every day it turns into an overwhelming pile that is difficult to tackle. While that is very important, I have a new and personal example to share.

Back in August I went to go pick up my mail and found a letter from Chase corporate offices. My husband and I have had an account with Chase for a while and were in excellent standing - no bounced checks, excellent credit, etc. So you can imagine my surprise when I opened the letter to find that they were closing out our accounts and kicking us out as customers.

I wont get into the gory details right here. Instead I will share the link as my husband and I went straight to the media when Chase would not give us any information. This nightmare has lasted for almost 2 months with no resolution in sight. (If you bank with Chase - GET OUT NOW!)

After you read our article, I want you to think about how much worse the consequences could have been had we failed to read that letter immediately. If this mess up with Chase could happen to us, it can happen to anyone. If you process your mail, email and phone messages each day, you can minimize damages.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Clear the Clutter!

This September, Clear the Clutter is celebrating our 5 year anniversary! 5 years of organizing has zipped right by. People often ask if I deal with hoarders. The answer is no, hoarders need special attention from someone equipped to handle all their issues. I deal with people that we can all relate to. In fact, 9 times out of 10, the majority of their home are clean and organized. They are people who have a trouble spot (or room) that needs some help. Often times, they are generally organized people who have had something change in their life: a baby, a divorce, a death, the start of a new job…you name it. Something happened in their life that got them off track.

I have truly enjoyed each client. The best moment for me is when we are done and they breathe a huge sigh of relief. Less stress, less stuff, more freedom. Thank you to all my clients for allowing me to share my passion with you. I look forward to the next 5 years and the next after that.

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at Check out her blog at

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Hire a Professional?

My windows are filthy. I have tried to clean them myself, but they always end up streaky. I’ve tried all the supposed techniques, but no matter how I try, they just don’t look good. So now I hire window washers. It isn’t very expensive and they make my windows sparkle in no time at all. Should I be embarrassed?

No way! These guys (and gals) are good at what they do. They have honed the art of cleaning windows. You may think that your windows are pretty bad, but they don’t care. Their focus is on getting your windows clean, no matter how bad they were to begin with.

The same is true with professional organizing. People always tell me that they need my services, but are embarrassed to let me see the problem. I am here to tell you that there is nothing embarrassing about hiring an expert to help you with a problem. Professional organizers are not there to pass judgment. Rather they are there to help you and share their knowledge.

Personally, I have admiration for people who seek professional assistance with things that are important to them. I always admire that my clients are willing to work so hard to make their home or office a better place. Don’t let the fear of being judged stop you from improving your life and reducing your stress. Call a professional organizer today!

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at Check out her blog at

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Check out Clear the Clutter at A great site for all things Monroe!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Time Management for Kids

Time management is a life skill that will benefit your child throughout their life time. So often, we hear adults exclaiming how tired and burned out they are. This is most likely because they never learned how to properly manage time and set boundaries. With some simple steps, you can put your child on a path to a less stressed out childhood and adult life.

Here are some skills to teach your child so they can begin to learn the process of managing their own time in an effective way:

1. Set limits and stick to them. Get out a large calendar and start filling in the activities/obligations you already have. Be sure to include necessary activities like family dinner time, homework time, church, etc. If there is overlap, it is time to prioritize. This may include making some hard decisions about which activities to keep and which to let go. Explain to your child that life is full of hard choices, but picking a few things and doing them well is more important then trying to cram it all in. Keep this calendar up in your house all the time. This will serve as a visual account of what you have to do each day/week.

2. Prioritize. Help your child to make a list of their activities and obligations in order of importance. Are the things at the bottom of the list really necessary? If not, consider resigning or limiting activity with those groups. Your kids may find that once they have less going on, they are happier and less stressed out as well.

3. Say no. Sounds simple, but somehow that two letter word can be hard to say. A nice way to say it is, “that sounds like a neat activity, but we don’t have the time right now.” Practice saying this with your child. After they have said it a few times, it will be easier when they are confronted off guard. Explain to your child that they are not doing anyone any favors by being stretched too thin.

4. Post a daily routine in your home. This will help you and your kids to stay on track. Getting everyone on a time schedule at home will help you all to keep pace in your day. The posted schedule will serve as a visual reminder until you and your kids get into a regular habit. This also teaches your kids the importance of routines and utilizing calendars.

5. Use a timer. We all tend to get side tracked – a really good show is on, a good friend calls, a fun new game on the computer….. All this is fine in moderation, but how much time do things like this really claim? Set limits on these activities for your child. When your child sits down to do any of these activities, set a timer. When it goes off, remind your child that it is time to end the activity. Point out to your child that time easily slips away when we are preoccupied. Show your child how to get that time back by watching it more closely. They may complain or resist, but in the long run, this is a very important life skill.

6. Teach by example – If time management is not your strength, it is not too late to learn. Not only should you do it for yourself, but do it for your child. We all know that we have to practice what we preach or our kids will cry foul. Utilize these methods for yourself as well as your child and, as a family, have better time management so you can all be more stress free.

Time management is a habit like eating vegetables and brushing your teeth. It may take a few tries, but once you get into the swing of it, you will find it easy to stay on top. Remember that living a stress filled life is not only hard on you, but hard on your kids.

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at Check out her blog at

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Purge and Recycle

Our plasma t.v. just died. It was 6 years old and apparently that is well within the life span of one of the earlier models. My husband is thrilled. This is an excuse to get an even larger television. But what to do with the old one?

Clients I deal with are faced with this problem all the time - what to do with old electronics. Costco and Best Buy both have buy back programs for computers, MP3s, cell phones, etc. Those programs are fabulous because not only can you easily recycle your old stuff, but these businesses will give you store credit for them as well. Win, win! Televisions, however, are not on those lists of buyable items.

Enter Earth 911 is a simple site to use. Simply plug in what item you need to dispose of and your zip code. You will get a long list of stores who will take your item and dispose of it properly. I found at least 10 local businesses who will take my television for me. Now off with my happy husband to do some television shopping....

Monday, June 27, 2011

"One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few. One moon shell is more impressive than three. There is only one moon in the sky. One double-sunrise is an event; six are a succession, like a week of school days. Gradually one discards and keeps just the perfect specimen; not necessarily a rare shell, but a perfect one of its kind." -Anne Morrow Lindbergh from Gift From the Sea.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Organizing, like dieting....

We all know how diets go. You pick a diet plan, follow it closely and lose the weight. Then after a few months, you get out of your new routine and fall back to the old. What happens then? You gain the weight back. Getting organized and losing weight are the same in that manner. Both are things that require permanent changes in your lifestyle.

If you truly want to get organized in life, it all boils down to changing your ways. Just like there is no magic diet pill, no amount of cute gear from the organizing store can magically make you organized forever. You must permanently alter the way you operate.

To get organized, reduce what you have. Once you have truly weeded out what you no longer (or never did to begin with) need, organize your stuff. If you need help, hire a professional. Come up with organizational systems and solutions that are realistic for you, but remember, you will still need to permanently change your habits.

Habit changing is difficult, but if you set realistic goals, like doing 15 minutes a day of organizing, you should have no problem doing it.

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at Check out her blog at

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Managing photos

With 15 years of marriage under our belts and a recent victory in the battle of breast cancer, my husband and I decided to renew our wedding vows. It was a lovely ceremony full of love and emotion. With the professional photographer snapping away, we re-committed ourselves to a life together.

A few days after the ceremony, we sat down to look at all the photos taken. There were so many amazing shots and we wanted them all. But after the initial glee of reliving the ceremony through photos wore off, we realized something……we pretty much never look at the photos taken 15 years ago – the first time we said “I do.”

15 years ago we spent a large chunk of our wedding budget on photography. I love pictures and that was one of my priorities. But all these years later, the photos have hardly been looked at and only a few are actually in frames on my wall.

Pictures are hard to walk away from. They are a moment captured and a memory to hold onto. But they only offer you this gift if they are looked at and remembered. A photo means little to someone who doesn’t know the story behind it or the people in it. So read on for a few tips to keep photographs under control:

When organizing pictures, first and foremost, think minimally. You attend your children’s soccer game and take 50 photos. When you download them, immediately go through them with a logical mind. Immediately delete the ones that just aren’t any good. Then delete the ones that look a lot alike. Your goal is to get down to only the ones that are absolutely the best. Your child will not want 50 photos times every soccer game they were ever in to have to manage one day.

Once you narrowed them down, make sure you put them in their own folder and label it. These photos will mean so much more to your child someday if they can remember the who, what, where, and when of it all.

While scrapbooks are a lovely way to preserve memories, keep them to a minimum. Our children’s generation knows only one thing – digital. Scrapbook only the most special occasions and leave the rest on CD’s. Also consider digital scrapbooks.

Photos are like everything else. Too many of them or not having them neatly organized can make it overwhelming instead of enjoyable.

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at Check out her blog at

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Organizing Basics Class

Interested in spending 2 hours learning all the tricks to getting really organized? Come join me on Monday, May 23 from 6:30 - 8:30 while I give away hoards of organizing tips and answer your specific questions. Class will be held at Park Place Middle School in Monroe, WA. Registration fee is $15. To register, call 360-804-2570. Come join us!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Behind the Door Shoe Holders Are Good for More than Just Shoes.

We have all seen those shoe holders that hang behind your door, but did you know that there are so many more uses for them?

Put one in your kids' room to hold Polly Pockets or Matchbox cars.

Put one in the bathroom to organize hair accessories or personal care products.

Hang one in your office to hold USB cables and office supplies (see photo).

Hang one in your pantry to organize spices or kids snacks.

These shoe holders are inexpensive and come in a few different colors. Just label the pockets and you are ready to go, utilizing a completely unused space.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Purge Before You Buy!

Organizing supplies are so appealing. You walk into a place like Storables and think you have just found the solution to all your organizing problems. Sadly, going on a spending spree before purging your items is not only going to add to the stressful clutter that already exists, but it will also stress out your pocketbook. Oh, and throw in a little guilt too because every time you look at those unused products, you will feel worse for having spent money on them and then not used them.

The first step in getting organized is always purging. You will be amazed at what organizing products you do NOT need when you get rid of all that you do NOT need first. So clear out that clutter. Once all the unused, unwanted or unneeded stuff is gone, you can decide if you need more organizing materials, such as boxes or containers.

Unless you are Bill Gates’ long lost child or heir, you may want to reconsider stores like Storables or the Container Store. Places like Target and Wal Mart or even the Dollar Tree have great selections of inexpensive clear containers that you can sort things in. Remember that clear boxes are key because you can see what is in them. And don’t forget to label everything. Don’t have a label maker? No worries – masking tape and a sharpie work just as well.

Enjoy getting organized without breaking the bank!

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at Check out her blog at

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Get Organized for a more enjoyable vacation!

Going on vacation is something we all look forward to, yet it can cause quite a bit of stress during the preparation. Here are some quick tips to make the process of preparing for vacation go more smoothly:

• Packing List – type up a general packing list for each member of the family. Save it as a document in your computer. When preparing to leave, print them up and hand them out. This way no one will forget toothbrushes or special medicines.
• To-Do List – as long as you are typing up that packing list, type up a to-do list for vacation preparation as well. Include things like “put newspaper on hold” or “ask neighbor to feed fish.” Again, every time you are preparing to leave, you print this up and check off the items.
• Contact List – Keep a vacation contact list on file as well. Include emergency contact numbers, addresses for postcards, etc.
• Big Trip Preparation – if you are going away for an extended vacation or you are traveling internationally, there will be more things to do to prepare. Make a complete list of all that needs to be done (passport update, money exchange, etc). Open your calendar and break down the items so you only have a few things to do each week, leading up to your vacation. For example, passport updates should be handled 6 months out so there is no stress or rush. Money exchange can be done a few weeks out so you aren’t running to the bank the day before you leave. Plan ahead so you aren’t completely frazzled the week of your departure.

Now go ahead and start off your vacation in a more relaxed state of mind. Enjoy!

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at Check out her blog at

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Managing Grocery Inventory

With the economy in the dumps, people are paying more attention to couponing. By cutting and using coupons, you can save a lot of money on items you use every day. But all this money saving can lead to one issue: inventory management.

Many deals out there either require the purchase of multiple items or the deal is so amazing (like free!) that you take advantage and buy more than one. Deals like this are too hot to pass up, but what is the point of getting a good bargain if the items are going to expire from lack of use or cause you stress because they become clutter? Here are some helpful tips on how to manage your bargains:

• Dedicate space for your extras. Set aside a space on a shelf, in a cupboard or in the garage for inventory. Make it a spot that is as visible as possible so you don’t forget what you have. A shelf in your garage that you walk by daily is a great idea. You will always notice what you have more than enough of and what you might be running low on while simply walking to your car.
• Store like items together in the appropriate areas. All your toothpaste should be together in the bathroom where it is used. If you don’t have space in the bathroom, then store all extra toothpastes together in a designated spot.
• Always take stock of what you have before buying more. Like I mentioned earlier, a bargain can still become a waste of money if you don’t ever use it. So when you see the next amazing deal on cookies, check your inventory. If you already have enough cookies to last you through the next ice age, hold off.
• Follow the grocery stockers lead and maintain your shelves. When adding more jars of peanut butter to your inventory, put the newest jars in back and pull the oldest ones forward to the front where they will be used first. Always keep the oldest stock closest to the front so you use it in a timely manner.
• Keep labels visible. Make your inventory easy to see. Keep labels turned forward and use graduated shelving (can be purchased at Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond) for things like cans that are all the same size. This creates a storage system that is visually easy to manage.
• Remember to donate. Part of keeping track of your inventory, is checking expiration dates. If you find that you have food or perishables that won’t last until you can use them, pass them along to someone who can. Donate to a shelter or a food bank. You should regularly go through your inventory to see how things are doing. Know what you have so you don’t waste money or product.

So maximize your dollars in two ways – by saving money with coupons and by keeping track of inventory. Happy Shopping!

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at Check out her blog at

Even Bathrooms Need to be Organized....

Even bathrooms need to be kept organized. Here are some tips on how to do it:

• Take regular inventory of medications. Medications have an expiration date which should be followed. When they expire, be sure to put them in the trash and not down the toilet.
• Keep inventory organized. All your extra tubes of tooth paste should be next to each other as should the extra toilet paper, shampoo, etc. This will help you to know at a glance how much you have of everything. When you are down to your last shampoo, put it on the list to get more. This keeps you from running out or having too much in stock.
• Throw away old make up. Make up has a shelf life. If you haven’t used it in a while, toss it. Or if you have been using the same mascara for a year, it may be time to replace it. Keep your skin healthy by using fresh make up. Keep your bathroom organized by throwing away what you don’t use.
• If you aren’t sure about certain items, use the box trick. Get a box and put all the items you aren’t sure about in it. If you have to go into the box to use something, put it back into its proper place (do not put it back in the box). After one month, whatever is left in the box is unnecessary. It can be donated or thrown out (if expired or old).
• Have you been collecting hotel soaps, shampoos and lotions? Or do you have several make up samples that you will never use? If so, either use them now or donate them to a women’s shelter. They are always in need of toiletries.

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at Check out her blog at

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Purge First

It's that time of year. The Sunday paper was full of enticing ads for inexpensive organizing materials. But before you rush out to stock up on what you may or may not need, take this bit of advice: downsize first. When organizing clients homes, I have found that organizing products become part of the problem rather than the solution. Purge first and then take an inventory of what you actually need. Happy Organizing! Happy Organizing!