Parents get a tip or two from a pro at organizing
Clutter - Anne Blumer helps families create an environment where things just don't get lost
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Anne Blumer grew up in a disorganized, cluttered household, where schedules were unpredictable and paperwork lay in piles.
Blumer figures that's why she became a professional organizer as an adult -- and why her first client was her mother.
"I never knew that you could organize a household in a file cabinet," said Blumer's mother, Priscilla Eastman of Beaverton. Her own mother always told her, "There's a place for everything -- everything in its place," Eastman said, but she didn't know where those places were "until Anne showed me how to organize."
A dozen people recently gathered to hear Blumer speak on "The Organized Family," a free talk sponsored by the Lake Oswego New Seasons store. Several of them have already started putting some of her suggestions into practice.
"I just finished organizing a binder for each of my children's school and sports activities," said Jill Brock of Cedar Hills.
Blumer is a big advocate of "turning piles into files" as one key way to reduce clutter. She also encourages people to recognize when it's time to let go of an item.
"We hold onto a lot of things that were once important to us but serve no purpose today," she said. This is especially true of children who move into new phases every couple of years as they mature.
It helps for them to remember that the sad task of giving up some things makes room for new, exciting space or items, she said.
Blumer also recommends that every family create a "launching and landing pad" near where they enter the home.
Blumer's pad -- a shoe cabinet and the area around it -- is right inside a main door into her house and features containers for each family member to place keys, wallets or other items they carry when they leave the home. A power station on top of the table lets people plug in cell phones, personal data assistants, iPods or anything else that needs recharging before going out the door again. Her two children's school backpacks hang nearby.
Here also, for parents of young children, should be diaper and activity bags.
Brock hopes to relocate these things from the kitchen drawers that currently hold them. "My kitchen is basically the whole office space," she said. "It's a small kitchen, so it makes it challenging to actually do kitchen stuff."
Across the hallway from Blumer's launchpad hangs a bulletin board that organizes family activities. A calendar lists events using a different colored pen for each family member so names don't further clutter the squares. Next to that is an ongoing shopping list. The bulletin board also holds the dinner menu for the week.
This last is possible because Blumer's family comes up with meal ideas every Sunday night at a family council.
Margaret Blake of Lake Oswego, who attended Blumer's talk, has a new calendar and different-colored pens for her family members but hasn't started planning meals by the week. It's on her to-do list, however.
"I hate the daily 'What are we going to eat?' " she said.
Some people at Blumer's talk had prepared and frozen meals a month in advance through Dream Dinners, Dinner's on the House or other meal-assembly companies that promise quick, healthful, home-cooked dinners.
In addition to planning the week's meals (and shopping list) at each Sunday's family council, Blumer's family reviews upcoming activities and transportation arrangements.
They also talk about experiences during the past week. Communication is key to good organization and family harmony, Blumer said.
And if family dynamics get out of whack, Blumer has the coping mechanism of a true organizer: She rearranges the furniture. "If my husband walks in the door and sees me moving something, he says, 'What's wrong?' "
Jill Smith: 503-294-5908 ; firstname.lastname@example.org