Organizing Tricks and Treats


Halloween is in the air. Falling leaves and pumpkins dot the landscape, and trick-or-treaters are preparing for their annual excursion. While I admit a bag full of candy is a wonderful thing, I have a slightly different selection of tricks and treats for you this Halloween. A bucket of choices that are calorie free, teeth-friendly and require no dressing up in a costume.

Here is my basket of organizing tricks, along with a few of the sweet treats that come from being organized. Reach in and pick out as many as you like!


(in no particular order)

» Put items away in the moment. 

» Ask these questions when you are de-cluttering:

  • Does it fit my life today?
  • Would I buy it again today?
  • Do I like it?
  • Do I need it?
  • Do I have space to keep it and/or display it?
  • Do I have a positive reason for keeping it?
  • Does it work?
  • Do I have something else that is similar?

» Run the dishwasher ever night and empty it first thing every morning. This routine will provide you with an empty place to put dirty dishes all day long, freeing the sink and countertop.

» Put paperwork you need to file into a folder marked “To File”. Once a week, schedule 15 minutes to empty the folder into the appropriate hanging files.

» Set aside 5-10 minutes at the same time every day for planning.

» If you need to remember something, ask yourself, “How am I going to remember this?” Write it down, set an alarm, hang a post-it. Make a conscious plan not to forget.

» Set the ringer on your phone to different tunes for important contacts (e.g. spouse, children, school) so you will know instantly if you need to answer the call.

» When you put an appointment in your calendar, always include the person’s phone number so you can call/text if something comes up.

» Always end a meeting with a recap of who will be doing what, by when.

» Designate a place to capture random thoughts you want to remember (e.g. a note on your phone, note pad in your purse/briefcase, planner, etc.) Have this with you at all times.

» Write “reusable bags” at the top of your grocery list so you will remember to get them out of the car before you have a cart full of items.

» When you think you are out of space, look up. A couple of hooks or shelves can go a long way.

» “Lost and Found” isn’t just for commercial establishments; if you have a busy household, set up a basket.

» Store items in the first place you would think to look if you lost them.

» Pitch or donate supplies for hobbies you no longer pursue.

» A cutlery organizer, typically used in kitchen drawers, can be a great solution for bathroom drawers as well.

» Use a lazy susan under a sink, in the fridge or on a shelf to hold small supplies.

» Don’t store paperwork horizontally in a regular drawer. Paper is best stored in hanging files or binders.

» Unfold paperwork before filing it to minimize bulk.

» Set up a medical file for each family member, including one for each pet.

» Establish a change jar or bowl to keep coins from ending up on the kitchen counter or in the bottom of a drawer. Not sure where to put it? Try wherever family members empty their pockets.

» Keep a small screwdriver with your stash of batteries. You often need one when replacing batteries, so it is handy to have one close by.

» Keep a roll of tape and a dedicated pair of scissors with your wrapping supplies so you don’t have to go hunting them down when you want to wrap a gift.

» Store only the clothes that currently fit you in your main closet. If you want to hold onto clothes that are +/- one size, keep them in a less prominent location, such as the attic or a secondary closet.

» Pack a pop-up hamper for your next vacation to corral the laundry as it builds while you are away. If you are traveling by car, just toss it in full for the drive home and take it directly to your laundry room.

» Store these items in your suitcase:

  1. Deck of cards
  2. Safety pin
  3. Spare toothbrush and travel toothpaste
  4. Empty plastic bag (to hold wet clothes, dirty shoes, etc.)
  5. Travel umbrella
  6. Nightlight

» When de-cluttering with kids, ask them what they want to keep, rather than what they want to get rid of.

» Want to get kids to put things away? Drop a hoola hoop over a pile and set a timer to see if they can put everything inside back before the buzzer rings.

» Establish one spot in your home where you will keep books that need to be returned to the library.

» Buy a large, plastic painter’s bucket with a lid to hold sand/ice melt. Works much better than a torn plastic bag.

» Establish a “giveaway” box. Fill the box with a clear plastic bag, label it and put it in a convenient location (e.g. garage, mudroom, hall closet). Instruct family members to put anything inside that they no longer want. When the bin is full, remove the bag and take it to your local donation center. Replace with a fresh bag and start over.



(the sweet rewards)

» Finding an item exactly where you thought it would be.

» Arriving on time without having to rush.

» Sitting down to work at a clear desk.

» Remembering what you wanted to remember.

» Walking into an orderly, serene space.

» Having what you need, when you need it.

» Not worrying about important tasks that you have been avoiding.

» No longer feeling guilty about unsorted piles, boxes and bins of accumulated possessions.

» Having less to clean, move, store, insure, and manage.


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What organizing trick or treat would you add to this list?

25 thoughts on “Organizing Tricks and Treats”

  1. Perfect timing as I have to do a bit of cleaning and organizing, especially with my kids’ bedroom. Definitely going to use your advice by asking them what they want to keep versus what they want to get rid of. Wish me luck 🙂

    1. Good luck Janine! I think letting the kids focus on what they want to keep helps make the process a positive one, taking away the anxiety that some children feel that they are going to be forced to get rid of things they love. That isn’t what we do, right? We want to make space for what they are enjoying at their current stage.

  2. Funny story about your point on stashing a small screwdriver… The other week when we were taking the air conditioner out of our bedroom my husband needed a screwdriver. I’m about to head down to the basement to get one when he calls out, “Go to the bathroom. I keep one in my toiletry drawer.” I learn something new about this man every day! Clearly, this system works for him and I had no idea we have a screwdriver stashed in our loo. 😉
    Oh and regarding the ice melt, we use one of those oversized iced tea pitchers with our ice melt stash that’s always filled so we can easily shake it out on the sidewalk when needed.

    1. I have a screwdriver in my dining room because it is a handy place to keep it. I find I run in there all the time for a quick “grab and go” project. Love that your husband has a similar system. Great tip for the ice melt! A pitcher is something that is easy to fill and not too heavy to walk around and shake. Might have to see if I have any old pitcher to put near my bucket!

  3. I love your Trick or Treat organizing concepts, Seana! A few things stood out, like setting up the “Lost and Found” and the hula hoop timed organizing game for kids. Brilliant! Adding fun into organizing systems can be just the right “x” factor needed to help people be successful with maintenance and completion. You also mentioned letting go of hobby supplies that you no longer use. Last night I made a purple sparkly beaded bracelet from some beads I had recently purchased. I went to my bead supply area to find the string. I found it, but had forgotten how many beads I had let go of over the summer during our tag sale. There was a point when I was doing collages and other projects with beads. But it had been years since I used them. So when I was clearing things out that I no longer used for the tag sale, they went. I also discovered a forgotten empty drawer right near the bead drawer that I had cleared. I remember your post and infographic from last week that focused on how our organizing systems and needs change over time.

    1. I was just working with a client on this issue. I think we hold onto these supplies with the idea that we will go back to this hobby “someday.” It can be an emotional connection, because we have fond memories of when we did this hobby in the past. I guess it comes down to assessing how much we want to pick it up again. If it is a vague desire, that can be a clue that it is okay to shed it. Good for you having gone through so much! I know I am pursuing different hobbies now than I did 20 years ago, and I have decided that is perfectly fine and moved a lot of stuff out.

  4. What a creative idea for a blog post! If adults knew what kind of ‘tricks and treats’ you were giving out, I think they’d dress up in costume and bring really big bags with them to haul away those no-calorie, teeth friendly organizing ideas…

    1. I hadn’t thought of this point, but this is so true Janet! It also relieves the draw on electricity during summer months with the air conditioners are cranking. I posted this tip once on my Facebook page and was surprised by how much (positive) reaction it garnered. I think we can feel guilty about running it if it isn’t 100% full, but there can be value in having a rhythm to the whole dirty dishes thing, especially in a busy household.

  5. You would have loved our weekend because that’s what we did! It was glorious. This time of year is definitely about those tricks and those treats. One of the “treats” to being organized here is that we honestly get a long a lot better when we’re not arguing over clutter.

  6. Great timely post, Seana! Happy Halloween!

    I love that you mentioned the question, “Would I buy it again today?” This is the loaded question, isn’t it? There are many things that we can say no to when asking this question. It will probably be a question that people won’t ask themselves because times change and things that once were needed or wanted may not be required or wanted any longer. I wonder if people get rid of more stuff when they ask this question. You should do a survey. I would love to hear the results.

    1. That would be a fun survey, Sabrina! Believe it or not, I just came back from working with a client in her kitchen, and when she got stuck on an item, we asked this very question. She decided she would not buy it again (it came from her Mom), and therefore decided to let it go. The right questions can be very helpful when equivocating over a decision.

    1. It sure is, Ellen. I think this kind of list shows the various aspects of the organizing profession, including productivity, time management, space planning, de-cluttering, prioritization and systems. It’s all a treat to me:)

  7. Hi Seana,
    I really love your tips. I do try to include phone #’s of people who I wouldn’t have in my phone just in case I need to cancel. I love your list for going away. We were away this past weekend and I really could have used a safety pin. Such a small thing but it would have changed my costume look. lol

    Here is one you could add. I have noticed that I have been getting lost lately (even though I use my GPS Ugh!). I realize I need to take some time to look on a map beforehand so that I have more of an idea of where I am going. I am so directionally challenged.

    1. I am also directionally challenged, Kim. GPS has been a lifesaver for me, but I agree that it helps to look at the “big picture” before heading out. GPS isn’t perfect, and it helps to have some general idea which direction I should be heading in:) The safety pin has saved me a couple of times!

  8. Love your list of tricks. you’ve reminded me of some I’d forgotten and introduced me to a couple I hadn’t recognized. My favorite is unfolding paper before you file it. It’s so simple and makes such a big improvement. I’m about to reread the list again so I can thoroughly absorb all your tricks. 🙂

    1. I had one client who really didn’t want to unfold. She loved keeping things folded, and in their envelopes. With some encouragement, I was able to get her to give it a try, and the difference in the width of the paperwork was SIGNIFICANT! Let the advertising, envelopes, repeated instructions in 12 languages, etc. go, and unfold what is left. Hope you had a great Halloween Susan!

  9. My favorite! When you put an appointment in your calendar, always include the person’s phone number so you can call/text if something comes up. I also put contacts into my phone asap!

    It is a treat for everyone to be organized!

    1. I write down any pertinent details in the calendar, such as the phone number or the color of the front door of the house or where to park, etc. This way, I know the information will be close at hand when I actually need it! Couldn’t agree more:)

  10. My favorite! When you put an appointment in your calendar, always include the person’s phone number so you can call/text if something comes up. I also put contacts into my phone asap!

    It is a treat for everyone to be organized!

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