Author Archives: Organizing Champaign-Urbana

About Organizing Champaign-Urbana

Professional organizer in Champaign-Urbana, helping busy moms go from overwhelmed to organized

Toy clutter

You are probably living with toys all over your house: in the family room, on the kitchen floor, in every bedroom. When you’re on top of it and you get the entire house picked up, BOOM! Everything manages to come back out before you can make yourself a cup of tea (or pour a glass of wine) to celebrate. Every birthday and holiday brings more and more gifts and toys into your house with no hope of ever keeping up.

Imagine this instead: the kids are in their playroom, taking out blocks from their designated container, building towers together for 20 minutes by themselves before cleaning them up and putting everything back on the shelf.

Short of getting rid of most of the toys when the kids aren’t looking (which certainly has some advantages!), you’ve got to come up with a plan to deal with the incredible amount of stuff that kids have.

My two part technique is to do toy rotations for babies and toddlers and organizing toys by type for older kids. Toys are easier to locate when kids want to play and easier to pick up when they’re done. When they have less choice and less stress, everyone is happier.

For younger kids, especially the immobile ones, I recommend a toy rotation. You put one type of toy in each box (one touch and feel book, one board book, one car, one rattle, one teether, one stuffed animal). You rotate through 4-5 boxes, swapping the bin out for a new one every day, week, or whenever you remember.

As your kid gets older, you can switch what’s in the bins so they can make new combinations of toys: balls in the stacking cups, then next week, stuffed animals on top of the stacking cups.

While you can try the toy rotation if you have older kids, but they tend to notice (and comment!) if something specific is gone. I recommend keeping their absolute favorites always out and then separating other toys by category.

To do this, take out all the toys and separate them into groups that your kids understand. Maybe you’ll do balls in one, cars in another, art supplies in a third, and dress up in a fourth. The kids can pick and choose which specific bin they want to play with at the moment.

The key to both toy rotation and toy compartmentalization is that they must pick up each bin before getting out a new one!  If your kids are struggling with the idea, read about toy time-outs and how you can make kids more accountable.

If you need help personalizing your toy clutter solutions, contact me today!

Should I get rid of that?

When you look around your house as you begin to declutter, you will see something that you initially refuse to part with because either you or someone else spent a lot of money on it.

Crown with fleur-de-lis diamonds
Please feel free to donate any tiaras you have around your house that you no longer wear (Full disclosure: I have one in my house that I refuse to donate.*)

“It’s too nice to donate” you think. Spoiler: nothing is too nice or expensive to donate. If it has run its course in your house and your life, you are free to let it go. You don’t need to hold onto something because it was expensive. When you come across this situation, ask yourself these questions: would I keep it if it were originally free? And would I bring it to my house today, even if it were free?

You should not hold onto something that is taking space in your house simply because of its price tag. Period.

The other common excuse I hear is “Someone gave that to me, so I need to keep it.” Unless it’s a family heirloom, don’t think twice. (Please ask your family before donating any heirlooms!) Would you expect someone to keep a book you gave them three years ago if they were done reading it? Realistically, how many of the gifts you’ve given do you keep tabs on?

If you’re really not sure about something, put a box or designate an area in your house as a donation spot. My closet has a corner on a shelf that allows me to keep a pile of things that need to go to Goodwill. When it gets full, everything goes. Personally, I know that once something is in the pile, it’s on its way out the door. Some people may be more likely to remove stuff after it’s been put there. Having a system is a great first step!

Using the questions above, take another look at your home and the stuff that is filling it up. Once you stop attaching monetary value to donation items, it gets much easier to let them go.

If you need some help deciding what you should keep and what should go, contact me today to help you figure it out!

*I was not joking. It says ‘Mother to be’ and was given to me at my baby shower, which I later took to the hospital and wore during labor.


Searching high and low

Growing up, everyone in my family knew dad’s keys and money clip were kept on top of the refrigerator. I remember looking up to see if his keys were up there before looking around the house. If he was home, they were up there; no keys, no dad.

Binoculars sitting on a ledge

At the same time, no one ever knew where mom’s keys and purse were: in her pocket of yesterday’s coat, near the door, on the kitchen counter, on the dining room table…somewhere in the house was usually a good bet. You always had to shout to find out if mom was home!

Nowadays, my family has a landing zone in our mud room where my purse, husband’s wallet, and our keys stay. For us, we have a getting home routine: come in, shoes come off, purse and wallet go on the table, and keys get hung on hooks. I go through my bag(s) and take everything into the kitchen that I need to go through tonight, such as mail, notes from school, or papers from work.

This routine helps keep our entire family organized. Our mornings are much smoother because the same landing zone also acts as a departure area. If I need to take some papers to work, they go on the mudroom table. Books need to go back to the library? Same place. Throughout the day and night, items get placed there for the next time we leave the house. It take a lot more brain space to have to remember: “what do I need to take to school and work?” versus “Pack up what’s on the table.”

Having a set departure area makes it much easier to ensure we have everything we need when we leave the house. There is never a “where are my keys” moment in the morning because they are always right where they belong.

If you spend a lot of your day searching for stuff, contact me today to help you get it organized!

Making routines routine

You will not be shocked to hear this: I’m a big fan of routines. Our family has routines for school days, weekends, grocery shopping, bed time, cleaning the kitchen after dinner… just about anything and everything. But, trying to keep a structured routine with a family can be, well, trying. Since it takes on average 66 days to form a new habit, it can be especially tough to make some serious changes to your mornings and evenings, especially as family life is always busy and constantly changing.

One habits pointing one way, new ones pointing another

If you’re struggling to get ready on time and are always rushing, check your routine (or lack thereof). You may find that some small changes can make a huge impact on your daily life. Think about what your ideal morning and evening would be like. Would they look something like this?


  • Make bed
  • Wash and put away dishes (or run dishwasher)
  • Wipe bathroom & kitchen counters
  • Quick 2 minute pickup
  • Check calendar


  • Wash dishes and run dishwasher (or put away dishes)
  • Wipe kitchen counters and sink
  • Sweep kitchen
  • Take out trash
  • Clothes (do a load, put dirty in hamper, put clean away)
  • Go through mail
  • 15 minutes pick up blitz
  • Set up coffee
  • Pick out clothes
  • Make lunches and pack bags

Take a look at what you’re doing now and compare it to how you would like it to look. Maybe there are some things on your list that can be shifted from morning to the night before to help your AM run a little smoother. Give it a try for 66 days and see if it makes a difference.

If you need a push to help you and your family get those routines in place, contact me today!

Permanent Clutter

Temporary items become permanent clutter when you neglect regularly sorting an active space.

-Marcia Ramsland, Simplify Your Space

I read this quote recently and tried to look around my house with fresh eyes and see if there was anything that I had grown blind to. Sure enough, it took three seconds to find something: on the bookshelf, four feet from my spot on the couch, sat two old laptops. I had previously messaged one of my brothers about how to wipe them two months ago. I’m not much of a procrastinator and my house is pretty well kept, so that is huge to me! When I first put them there, I thought it was a great place because it would serve as constant reminder to me that I need to do this right away. Clearly, that plan did not work because I began to ignore them very soon after that. TWO MONTHS of clutter in the middle of our living room. A temporary item becoming permanent clutter.

When temporary items become permanent clutter, it's time to get organized. Organizing CU, a professional organizing company in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, helping you get your house and life organized.

I tried to look at the root of the problem as to why I didn’t just wipe them both clean that day and Google a spot to drop off old electronics*. First, it was the instructions I was given: erase it, then overwrite it with the same thing over and over. I had already done the first part; I just wasn’t sure how to overwrite it. But I didn’t ask the very simple follow up question right then. Or anytime I thought of it. My brother works from home, is very available at any time, and we have messaged 100 times since then. (Full disclosure: it wasn’t until I got to this sentence in this post did I think “why not do it now?” It took him less than 5 minutes to respond to me and clarify in very simple terms what he meant.) My goal is to get them wiped this week and have it in my donation pile for Goodwill by the weekend.

Everyone has areas or things in their house that they’ve just been neglecting or ignoring for a while. It might be two days, two months, two years, or twenty years. But it’s never too late to take a look around and see what permanent clutter you can cut out . Take a look around with a fresh set of eyes and see if you can find anything quick that you could donate or throw out today. You will be amazing at how much easier it is to relax in an emptier space. Why not do start now?

If you need a nudge to get your started to help get rid of that permanent clutter, contact me today!

*I’ve done that hard work for you if you’re in the Champaign-Urbana area:

Change your habitat

Change the habitat, not the habit. Instead of changing your old routines, try to work with them. Organizing CU, a professional organizing company in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, helping you get your house and life organized.

I read this great article back in August and I can’t stop thinking about it:

Stop Trying to Change Your Habits: Change Your Habitat Instead

My favorite thing is that this idea came from one person’s comment on another post. You never know where inspiration will come from! Listen, you know yourself. If you or your family always take your shoes off in the living room, then put a basket there to toss them into. If worn, but not yet dirty, clothes are always left on the floor in one area of the bedroom, then put a laundry basket in that area of the room to keep everything corralled (this one comes from experience – there is a basket in my bedroom!). If mail always ends up on the kitchen counter, put an inbox at the end to keep it in one place.

Give it a try and see if you notice a difference! If you need help figuring out which habit’s habitats could change, contact me today!