How to declutter when donation sites are closed

Many of us are using our quarantine time to get projects done around the house.  Going through closets, garages, and other storage areas to purge excess stuff, doesn't cost a thing, and doesn't require a trip to the store.  But the places we would typically take things that others could make use of, are closed.  Since the whole point of "decluttering" is to get things out of your house, what do you do when you don't have an outlet for these items?

One thing we don't want to do, is delay these projects.  Tackling storage spaces when you're in the mindset to get it done is the best way to be productive.  So don't let the closure of donation centers stop you!

Another option we want to avoid, is simply throwing everything in the trash.  Of course anything that is broken, stained, or unusable in any way needs to be recycled in the best way possible, and not donated.  But there are probably many items in that closet that someone else could absolutely make use of.

Before you start working on your storage area, try to designate a spot in your home where donation items will be stored.  You can use painter's tape to draw a square on the floor, use the bottom of a certain closet, or a corner of the bedroom, whatever works for you.  By having everything all together, it will be easy to load up once you can make the trip to drop it off.

We also want to make sure that whatever we decide to donate, doesn't end up back in your home.  To achieve this, we'll have to make sure that all your decisions are final, even though you know your items will still be in your house.  Try to make sure that no "maybes" go in the donation pile.  Be confident in your "donate" decisions, and don't look back.  It can also be helpful to not use transparent containers such as clear trash bags or clear bins.  Opt for black trash bags or cardboard boxes for your donate items.

Here is what my donation pile is looking like so far.  I'd love to hear updates on how your decluttering is going!

Organizing projects and strategies to make your ‘stay at home’ time more productive!

As our country attempts to quell the spread of COVID-19, and more and more states across the country issue stay-at-home recommendations, the rhythm of our daily lives & schedules becomes disrupted.  It can be easy to get overwhelmed thinking about everything that we can't change, and can't control.  But just because we are stuck at home, doesn't mean we have to be bored!  Let's keep our minds occupied and use this time wisely by tackling some projects around the house.  Included below are some ideas, and if there are other areas of the house you'd like to hear about, send me a note and let me know!

Clean out the closets

Bedroom closets: Take stock of different categories you may have in your bedroom closets & dressers.  Choose one category to start with, and gather everything in that category into one space.  Examples of categories would be shoes, dresses, suits, active wear, etc.  Try things on and evaluate what can be donated or sold.  This is also a great time to evaluate your storage usage and rearrange anything needed!

Kids closets: This is a great time to go through the kids' closets and dressers.  It's about time to pack up the heavy winter pajamas and sweaters, and the kids are home to try things on for size.  Bring out all the short sleeved shirts to see what will fit this summer, and make a list of items you'll need to purchase.

Entryway: Take a look at your entryway storage, whether it is a coat closet, garage, or mudroom.  You probably have some winter items hanging around that are not needed anymore this time of year.  Depending on your storage options, get these items packed up or placed on higher shelves to make way for spring items.  Gather all spring entryway items and get them stocked and ready for this season's use.  Ideas include rain coats, bug spray, sunscreen, and umbrellas.

Organize & clean out the kitchen

Utensil drawers: Empty out utensil drawers onto the counter.  Once they're empty you can wipe down the insides of drawers and dividers.  Before you put everything back, see if you have any duplicates, or items that don't ever get used.  You may even spot an opportunity to rearrange the drawers to be better utilized!

Appliances: Give small appliances a good wipe down, inside and out.  Crumbs accumulate in toasters so fast, and they can cause a fire hazard.  Take apart the bottom of the pitcher on the blender and clean each piece.  Staying on top of these small cleaning jobs can extend the life of your appliances!  Clean out the fridge & freezer, and take note of foods that you'll need to eat before they spoil.  You can plan tonight's dinner and use up these odds & ends.

Categorize: A great way to take on a portion of the kitchen, without taking everything out at once, is to focus on one category.  So for example, you could choose tupperwares to start with.  Go around the whole kitchen and gather all the containers and lids.  Match & stack everything that you can, and discard anything that doesn't have a match.

Touch up paint

Windows & trim: Nothing freshens up a windowsill like a fresh coat of white paint.  And really who has time to go around and do this on a regular basis?  Crack open a can of trim paint and go around the house touching up doors, trim, and windowsills.  Your rooms will look renewed in no time!

Clean up walls: Walls in high traffic areas such as hallways and entryways can be hit hard with fingerprints and dust.  If a good cleaning doesn't quite do the trick, it can be helpful to just give the wall a fresh coat of paint.

Outdoor spring cleanup

Remove leaves & debris: No matter how much time you spend raking and cleaning up in the fall, there always seem to be straggler leaves and fallen branches come springtime.  Now is a great time to get the remaining debris out of garden beds and off of lawns.

Tend to the garden:  There are a lot of spring bulbs that can be planted this time of year, for summer blooms later on in the season.  Instead of making a separate trip to a garden center, just check the grocery store when you do your regular food shopping and see if they have a display there.  Some garden centers are also offering pickup options to maintain social distancing.  This is also a great time of year to split hostas & distribute them evenly in garden beds, and spread mulch if you have some bags of it leftover from last year.

Fertilize your houseplants: The days are getting longer, and your houseplants are probably waking up due to the extra light.  This is a perfect time of year to give them a little energy boost for all the new growth that will be coming up.  There are many different fertilizers you can use; examples include gradual release granules, water soluble food used during your regular waterings, and even fertilizer spikes.  You can also customize your nutrient mix to the type of plant you are feeding, so they get the perfect balance.

Need more detailed help?  I'd be happy to take a look at your space, and make personalized recommendations.  Contact me anytime for ideas or to schedule a virtual session!  I'd also love to hear from you if you complete a project on your own, and see the results!

Decorating with plants

Bringing plants into your home not only adds life and texture to a space, but provides tangible benefits to your living environment.  They act as natural air filters, removing particles such as dust and mold.  In addition to cleaning the air, they release fresh oxygen as well as moisture from their leaves.

Ways to incorporate real plants:  Larger plants can make an equally big statement in ceramic pots on the floor.  Use a plant stand for hard floors to provide air circulation underneath the pot, and keep your floors in good shape.  Hanging plants are very convenient because they don't take up horizontal space, and macrame is making a comeback so there are lots of fun hanging options.  And of course any horizontal space is up for grabs, including shelving, furniture, & windowsills.  Just make sure to have the proper liner underneath to protect the surface your plant is on.

Don't have a green thumb?  If you love the look of plants, but just cannot manage to keep them alive, breathe some life into a space with artwork and decor.  Many home stores are carrying pretty good faux florals, succulents, & green plants, as well as wall art, so you're sure to find something that will work in your space.

Here are a few tips if you're ready to take the plunge and bring some outdoors into your indoors:

Consider their care.  A certain plant may be the perfect size and shape for a certain spot in your home, but we have to make sure it's the right conditions for that plant as well.  For successful results, look up detailed care information online, and match that up with the conditions in that room.

Watch out for pests.  When purchasing plants, always give each one a good once-over for any signs of pests.  Check at the base of stems, in folds of leaves, and on new growth.  Even if everything looks good, keep a new plant isolated from others for a few weeks, because sometimes pests will emerge from the soil and need to be treated.  You can also pre-treat each new plant that comes home, just in case.  Any home improvement store or garden center will have lots of options to choose from.

Less is more.  When it comes to water, that is.  One of the most common blunders that will knock your plants out is overwatering.  Houseplants need much less water than it seems.  Succulents especially thrive on neglect, sometimes going weeks or more without water.  Even tropicals don't like soggy roots, so make sure you are allowing your plants to come up for air between waterings.

Recommendations for good starter plants:

Start somewhere.

The impossible task.  The daunting chore.  When a mole hill seems to have morphed into a whole mountain.

I know this feeling.  When my clients describe this feeling to me, I can empathize.  I've been there.  It usually comes to life with the words, "I don't know where to start."

Sometimes it's the fear of failure that keeps us from trying.  We just can't risk spending energy on a project that will make ourselves feel worse after a failed attempt.  Most of the time we can justify the procrastinating with the valid rationalization that we're just too busy.  It's true, there are other things to be done.

But just like a spring that has been compressed over time, we can snap out of this pattern, and spring into action.

Start somewhere.  Identify your challenging task/room/items.  Stand in this area or near these things and really look around.  Find one decision you can make about what you see.  It could be finding one item you can take to donate now.  One sink full of dishes you can wash now.  Or one basket of laundry that can be folded and put away.

Improve mindfulness.  If you're not familiar with the concept, I'd encourage you to learn more.  We can benefit from this concept by honing our ability to focus on the present moment, and steer clear of judgement.  Without being overly reactive, emotional, or judgemental, we can evaluate our goals and entertain steps to achieve them.

Embrace the journey.  So often a project can actually require more time than is available in any one day.  Pushing yourself into fatigue can decrease productivity, and make your efforts less effective.  Allow yourself down time in between organizing sessions, and accept the state of transition that you may find yourself in.  Enjoying your breaks will give you the much needed energy to get started again when you can!

Freshen up your front entry for spring

Spring has arrived for us in the mid-atlantic area, and Mother's Day marks the unofficial start to gardening season!  The threat of a sudden frost keeps gardeners at bay for much of April, but now we should be in the clear to get the plants outside and in the ground.  This is also a great time of year to refresh the front entry and get everything cleaned up from whatever winter left behind.  Here's a few ideas to get some curb appeal going on your front porch or entry.

Edge the garden beds

This is a simple & easy task that makes a big impact on the front of the house.  Edging your garden beds gives everything a nice clean look, and helps to keep mulch in place.  Read more on how to do it here.

Plant some containers on the front porch

Bring some spring color right up to the front door with some large planters.  Include plants of varying heights & textures to add interest.  Read on for more container ideas.

Paint the front door and trim

Not only does it freshen up the look of your entry, but painting regularly protects the wooden components of your exterior from the elements.  Apply a fresh coat of paint and seal any cracks to prevent wooden trim from rotting, and keep pests from finding entry points into your home.  Here's a how-to for more details.

Powerwash exterior surfaces

Is there anything more satisfying than watching videos of powerwashers transforming driveways and sidewalks?  Achieve the same results in your own home, read on for more powerwashing tips.

Add some finishing touches

A fresh new welcome mat and a little wind chime or flag add character to your front entry.  Find something that speaks to you to add a personal touch to your home!

Organizing tips for planning your move

The prospect of moving into a new home can be exciting and daunting all at the same time.  You've finally gotten past the hurdles of making an offer on a home, getting through financing and inspections, and are in the "home" stretch (see what I did there?).  But now you have to get all your things from one place to another, and that requires some planning.  Keeping things organized from the start of a move can prevent so many headaches later on.  

Keep it simple

There are countless ways you could create custom color coded labels, moving folders, and tabbed binders to keep everything organized.  Many of these methods could be effective, but could also take more time to prep than they'll actually save, especially if the process is not intuitive for you.  The following tips are a basic process that will keep you organized, but also help you stay efficient!

Clean the house

There's a lot going on, so it can be difficult to find the time to keep up with dishes and laundry and clutter.  But having everything in its place will make packing up so much easier.  Straightening up and getting like things together is a crucial step to complete before packing up.  This will enable you to pack boxes that make sense, and avoid having numerous "miscellaneous" boxes.

Pack the essentials in luggage

Think about everything you'll need access to during your move.  Clothes, toiletries, important documents, etc.  Every member of the family should have a packed bag as if you are going on a trip.  This ensures that essentials don't get packed in boxes, and keeps everything you need close at hand.

Compile all artwork & home decor

Artwork, picture frames, and other decor pieces can be gathered up from all over the house, and brought to one designated area.  These items will need to be packed with a little extra care so they don't get damaged, so keep the bubble wrap handy in this area as well.  It's also easier to pack up artwork when you can box it up with similar sized pieces.  Another plus - you can get these boxes done early since home decor can be packed up well ahead of time, and they can be left among the last boxes to unpack over in the new house.

Label boxes with contents and destination

Unloading a truck is so much easier when every box is labeled with its destination in the new house.  You can use markers, pre-printed labels, or color codes for rooms, whatever works for you.  Just make sure to label all 4 sides of the box, and including a short list of contents on the top of the box can highlight important items that are inside.

Name every room in the new house

Everyone will be getting used to the floor plan of the new house, and labeling all the rooms is so helpful.  If the label on the door of the room matches the destination written on the box, all the guesswork goes away and boxes get where they need to go the first time!

Where to donate your household items

Whether you are just starting on the path to getting organized, or you already have everything in its place, we all need to go through our things routinely and edit.  During this process of evaluating what we can let go of, it always helps to keep in mind who could make better use of the stuff we have sitting in our closets unused.

Maybe you already have a pile or bin of items set aside "to donate."  We've all been there - we've done the work, sorted through our things, and identified what we're ready to pass on to someone else who can use it.  But the next step is deciding on the best place to take it, and get it there.  Or even better, having a truck come and pick up your donations right from your street!

To make things a little easier, included below is a list of local organizations that accept donations of household items, a brief summary of their wish lists, and a direct link to their websites.  These organizations are mainly located in the Baltimore/DC corridor of Maryland - Anne Arundel County, Howard County, and Baltimore County, but several of them provide their services nationwide.
Please visit each organization’s website directly for more details & to verify information, as it is subject to change.

Also, if you know of a great place to donate common household goods that isn't listed, please feel free to email me the info and I will update this page.

Donation Pick-Up

Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake

Furniture, appliances, cabinets, building materials, housewares, hardware, lighting, electrical, plumbing, sporting goods, doors, windows, flooring, tools

Hope For All

Clothing, furniture, household items, hygiene & cleaning products

Lupus Foundation of America

Clothing, shoes, bedding, curtains, housewares, jewelry, toys, small appliances, tools,

Purple Heart/Green Drop

Clothing, shoes, blankets and bedding, tools, collectibles, kitchenware, toys, small appliances, electronics, musical instruments and sporting goods.

Salvation Army

Clothing, furniture, household goods, appliances

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA)/Pick Up Please

Clothing, accessories, shoes, baby items, house and glassware, books, toys, bikes, stereos, radios, portable TVs, bedding, draperies, curtains, kitchenware, small furniture & rugs, small appliances, tools, jewelry and cosmetics

Donation Drop-Off

A Wider Circle

Furniture, household goods, kitchen items, baby care items, televisions, fans, towels & bedding, non-perishable foods, personal care items, cleaning supplies

Anne Arundel County Animal Control

Cat & dog food, toys, bedding, blankets, towels, shower curtains

Anne Arundel County Humane Society

Pet food, cat litter, towels, blankets, grooming tools, cleaning products, toys & treats, office supplies

BARCS (Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Center)

Cat & dog toys, blankets, towels, sheets, veterinary care items, plastic pet crates, food & treats, cleaning supplies, office supplies

Be More Caring

Tents, sleeping Bags, blankets, pillows, non-perishable food, clothing & shoes, winter items (coats, hats, scarves, gloves, hand & feet warmers, toiletries, flashlights, batteries

Boys & Girls clubs

Games, electronics, arts & crafts supplies, office supplies

Brick Recycler

Bulk legos

House of Ruth

School supplies, new/unused toys, craft supplies, office supplies, household & cleaning items, paper products

Howard County Animal Control and Adoption Center

Pet supplies, cleaning supplies, grooming supplies, towels, fleece blankets, hair dryers

Maryland Food Bank

Canned foods, non-perishables, cereals, pasta, rice

Partners in Care

Clothing & shoes, accessories (purses, wallets, ties, backpacks), jewelry, linens, toys, games, puzzles, books, DVDs, kitchenware (pots, pans, utensils, china, vases), small electrics (stereos, appliances, irons, mixers), artwork, sporting goods & exercise equipment, crafts, baskets

Sarah’s House

Kitchen & food items such as paper products, household items including twin & full size sheets (can be used), school supplies, diapers & wipes, hygiene & hair products

Scrap Bmore

Artist supplies (paint, carving tools, stencils, clay), carpet samples, tiles, collage & scrapbooking, containers (jewelry boxes, cigar boxes), craft supplies, fabric & notions, gift wrap & party supplies, offices supplies

Second Chance

Building materials, kitchen appliances, bathroom fixtures, tubs, sinks, accessories, household goods, garden elements, collections, lighting or unique architectural items

Success in Style

Men & womens professional clothing, suits, shoes, accessories (cuff links, ties, wallets, briefcases, computer bags, scarves, jewelry, handbags)

Suited To Succeed

Professional clothing, jackets/blazers, skirts, dress pants, blouses, jewelry, shoes, new pantyhose, purses, scarves & belts

Traveling Tutus

Dance costumes & attire

Sales & Auctions

Blind Industries

Pickup & auction of collectibles, valuables, vintage & antique items

Contact Liz or Rob for more information @ 410-737-2600

Clothes Mentor

Resale store for better brand name, gently-used women’s clothing and accessories

Game Stop

Video games, video game consoles & accessories, cell phones & tablets.

Lynn Katzen Ebay seller

Jewelry, collectibles/figurines, designer pens/pencils, anything old!, collections, sterling silver, coins, apple products, designer bags, shoes & accessories

Music Go Round

Musical instruments & accessories

Once Upon A Child

Resale store for gently used baby & children's clothing, toys, gear, and furniture

Peenstra Appraisals

Fine art, antique, & jewelry appraisals, and resources on the best place to sell the items

Steve Dance auctions

Tools, auto parts, antiques, estates

Recycling & collection

Anne Arundel County Curbside Collections

Anne Arundel County Bulk Pickup

Baltimore County Curbside Collections

Baltimore County Drop Off Locations

Howard County Curbside Collections

Howard County bulk pickup

Best Buy

Electronics recycling

Other resources & ideas

Donation Town directory

Schools & teachers

Reach out to a local school or PTA to see if they could use your extra items.  Ideas include: educational items, flash cards, play-doh, toys that could be used as math manipulatives/center activities

Wire hangers

Many dry cleaners will re-use your wire hangers, just bring them back to the location for reuse.

Plastic bags

Most grocery stores have a recycling bin at the front of the store for plastic shopping bags.  They’ll take bags from any stores as well.  Curbside recycling won’t take plastic shopping bags, if you need to dispose of them in your curbside collection, they’ll need to go in the trash bin.

Design trend: Maximalism


Recent design trends have been all about creating a serene retreat with minimal contrast - Fixer Upper style, modern farmhouse, tone on tone neutrals that give the eye plenty of space to rest.

For those of you who prefer some more color, contrast, and drama in your dwellings, you may be happy to hear that the pendulum has already begun swinging in another direction - from Minimalism to Maximalism.

Of course, the idea is not to constantly change our homes based on trends that move in and out as quickly as the tide.  We should cultivate spaces to surround ourselves with that we enjoy and that feel right to us. 

But for those of you who have been wandering the aisles of Home Goods and Target looking for a little more bold color & personality, this design trend may be a welcome contrast to a sea of neutrals.  You may already be witnessing the trickle down effect in home stores near you!

Take a look at these articles for examples and color palettes:

Sherwin Williams on Maximalist Color

House Beautiful on Maximalism

How to do Maximalism by House & Garden

Enthusiast palette by SW

Some of the example photos are not for the faint of heart - the bold color pairings and pattern on pattern layering can be overwhelming!  But many of us can take a piece of inspiration from the use of color & pattern, to give a little personality to our own home.

Marie Kondo makes 2019 the year for tidying up

Many of us have been following her methods and career for some time now, but if you haven't gotten to know Marie Kondo yet, it just got a whole lot easier to do so.

With her new show, "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo", Marie introduces the methods she describes in her 2012 book, in a version that can be digested in 30 minute episodes.

Image result for marie kondo show on netflix
Image credit: Netflix

She meets with different families and homeowners, all with what appears to be differing sets of circumstances.  But what they all have in common, is that they have too much stuff, they are overwhelmed, and they don't know what to do about it.

What I have always loved about Marie's methods, is that she does not require clients to emotionally disconnect from their belongings.  In fact, she encourages them to spiritually connect with their home and their things in a way that helps them to understand why they might be holding on to things in the first place. 

As a sentimental person myself, I have always empathized with my clients when they are going through items that have great meaning for them.  By prioritizing things that hold the most meaning and that are the most special to us, we can highlight and make room for those things, while letting the rest go and freeing up space.

Another point that is important to mention, is that this show is itself produced in a very "tidy" way.  Of course everyone's personal journey will not cleanly wrap up in a 30 minute episode.  In several episodes, it was mentioned that the elapsed time was as much as 6 weeks. 

What about the concept of "spark joy"?  It may take more time for some of us to grasp this concept if it ever resonates with us at all.  If you are not as connected to your things, you can also choose to focus on the amount of storage space you have.  Focus on keeping only items that fit within their allotted space. 

For example, keep only as many books as can be contained on the living room built-in shelves, or as many clothes as there is room to hang them in the closet.  Over time, you will find that you are prioritizing certain items over others, and this will help you discover what sparks more joy, or what is more valuable to you.

It is such a great feeling when the weight, guilt, and stress is lifted off your shoulders.  When people realize that they can be successful and create real change in their homes, they can take that energy with them to create long lasting habits and routines to keep it that way!


Styling rooms with neutral colors

Against the blank slate of a white backdrop, even neutral colors can become the accent. Green plants, black and white, and textured elements can each add interest to an otherwise monochrome palette.  Consider these tips when styling your property for resale, or taking a neutral twist in your own home.

9 Tips for Styling White Rooms - The Spruce
"Who said white rooms are boring? A neutral-color scheme can brighten a room and help make small spaces feel bigger. Learn how to maximize whites and neutrals and embrace chic and minimal style."

How to Use Neutral Colors without Being Boring - Homedit
"Colors tend to have one of three primary behaviors: active, passive, and neutral. The word neutral, in fact, means impartial or unbiased. Because of this, the use of neutral colors in home decorating is a common and effective strategy."

Fabulous Fall Decorating Ideas - Southern Living
Decorate for fall by using natural elements to bring festive color to your neutral palette. These ideas are great for DIY, or find the styles already made at your local florist or craft store.