My Child Leaving For College

Hi there. I have been completely pre-occupied these last couple of weeks for two main reasons. First, I have a client in the political space (non-partisan, non-profit). With the events of January 6th plus inauguration, it has been non-stop. I am so happy that the inauguration was held without event. I particularly loved the poet laureate, Amanda Gorman. I will be re-reading her poem for days to come.

Second…drumroll…college girl left for actual (versus online in the dining room) college. So today’s post is about my child leaving for college. I promise to be back soon with organizing and food (so much to blog about!).

Getting ready for college (me not her!)

Folks, first, I want to say that the pandemic has made this experience so different than the typical send off. Through the years, I have read Facebook posts of friends who were distraught about their child leaving for college. They counted the days. They wept. I get it. My little pumpkin with braids in her hair who was just tackling her ABCs at the kitchen table is now off to college? What? Time plays tricks on us as those moments seemed like yesterday. So, yes, I had some sadness (and wait towards the end of this post for the full details). However, honestly after watching her not have a full life all fall term due to the pandemic, well I was happy that she could finally experience college life – in all of its good and not so good, but learning moments.

Getting her room ready

I was so excited to have her pick out a color palette for her dorm room (yes as a blogger it should not be a surprise that color palettes can be part of the dorm room!). We had fun, donning our double masks and equipping ourselves with plenty of hand sanitizer, as we hit Target, Ikea and Homegoods for just the perfect mix of throws, pillows, sheet sets and accessories. I also went into full mom mode, packing a first aid kit and “dorm doctor” set of medicines just in case. We picked out the essentials – electric tea kettle, Brita filter and of course some nice clothes too. I am not sure how we fit all of it into the car, but somehow we managed (with a Thule on top of course).

A walk down memory lane

At the same time, I was full into organizing her art going back to toddlerhood (yes, I did not throw all of it out…I had an art portfolio for my favorites). Mr. SB and I had a good chuckle at some of the cards with funny sayings, misspellings and portraits of us all drawn by our little artist. A favorite was one of the Disney princesses after seeing Disney on ice. Funny how those memories come rushing back to you. So come the day to drive there, I felt like I had fully gone through a walk in time but was generally happy to see her off on her great adventure.

Get ready for water works

Then came my youngest daughter’s video, which compiled special moments from all of our home videos. As high-school girls said to her sister, “I made it for you last spring but since you did not leave, I am giving it to you now.” She put together the sweetest mix of scenes of she and college girl when they were tikes. Yup, there they were dancing together on a vacation to Mexico. Hugging each other as little girls. All dressed up for Easter, Christmas and Halloween. Oh sure, I was ready to send pumpkin off…really, I am truly happy. I promise. Just fine.

Ladies (and gentleman if I have any male readers:) I bawled my eyes out…I had to head to bed early “to read a book” so I could cry by myself. I played that darn video at least ten times until I am pretty sure I had no tears left.

A few observations about my child leaving for college

When I finally pulled myself together I realized that you know what? It was a gift. Am I still happy that my gal is all grown up and in a wonderful university where I know she will thrive? Of course. Am I so happy that she can have a full college experience. Yes! But trying to pretend that time has not passed, that my own life will not be changing dramatically (even with just one out of the nest) or that life is frankly short, is not a good way to live. Appreciating all that she has become, all of those moments that make a wonderful life and make being a mom so gratifying, is not something to sweep under the rug so to speak. No matter how painful it can be! So maybe I did not do a month’s worth of Facebook posts, or document the drop off with dozens of photos, but I had my own way of thinking about it.

At that last moment where she had to leave, I gave her a big hug. I shed a few tears which I did wipe away quickly and drove off. My little girl flapped her wings and flew pandemic restrictions and all. Mom could not be prouder.

Did I text her a few hours later? You bet I did!

Organizing Challenge!

Hi there, so 2021 is well under way and like most of you, I have organizing on my mind. I thought I would share a few tips and plans as well as my list of spaces to organize in your home in the new year.

We are on the second week, but some are small (intentionally) so if you double up one week then at the end of the year you will have tackled at least one a week and have an organized home! This will be a two part blog post and you can find the second post here.

A note on organizing large spaces

For larger spaces, I recommend breaking into multiple areas and feel free to go as micro as you wish. One organized shelf is better than none. I use my 5 steps to organize anything for every space. As I mention in that post, a large space can be daunting to empty out all the contents as some pro organizers recommend. I find tackling one shelf or area that you can comfortably organize in a day or weekend is better. Making a bigger mess trying to organize is not the goal!

Disposing of unwanted items

Also, there are multiple ways of decluttering and disposing of your unwanted items. Here is a short summary of what I have found helpful. I plan to add more detail in a coming post.

  1. Discard. The first and easiest is trash. Keep a trash container close to you when tackling a space. Packaging, broken items and other unwanted stuff goes right into the bag.
  2. Donate. I have a wonderful thrift shop in my town where I donate items and then the thrift shop sells them in a lovely shop. All proceeds go to charity. For anything of value that I simply do not want I tend to donate here. Goodwill is also a good option. I find they take everything. Of course friends and family may want your items. But they may not! Be careful about giving old items without asking.
  3. Sell. Selling for me is a good option for items such as sports equipment or children’s toys and furniture. We have a local Facebook group that connects to Facebook marketplace. I would recommend you proceed carefully. I tend to stick to my town and it is easy enough to check out a person’s profile to make sure they actually live locally. For clothing, I have found that teen clothing does very well at Plato’s Closet and there is minimal work involved. Thred Up is another online thrift shop. As you receive little for clothing, I prefer to donate most clothes.

I also give myself a set time to remove the items from my home. I used to struggle with this – I was great at identifying what to get rid of but not so good at actually taking it out! A week is a reasonable time frame in my case.

Also, I recently added a donate box in my laundry room. I try to either identify 5 items a day to either donate or discard. When the box is full I give myself a week to remove it and either donate or sell. So far, it has worked very well. My children also add to it as they outgrow clothing.

Top spaces to organize in your home

With the above in mind, here are my top places to declutter and organize in your home this year.


  1. Desk files. This one could be broken into as many weeks as you need. A few categories I am tackling include old credit card statements, (I keep a year on a rolling basis and organize by month so when the new year’s month is here I throw out the year before), car repair files and medical. Once I get through that I will go through files from former jobs. There is debate on whether to keep these items at all? I prefer to at least have the last year on hand for most categories.
  2. Desk drawer. I have two desk drawers that tend to collect items and plan to go through all the odds and ends, pens (do they work?) and office supplies. I love rewarding myself after decluttering and organizing and have my eye on some coordinated blush pink pens and this acrylic, monogrammed pen holder to display them on my desk. Another organizing tip: if it is pretty you will likely want to keep it that way!


  1. Pantry. This can be a big job. I tend to do a review and clean out every November before the holidays start. On a monthly basis, I take a look at staples to see what is short on supply and buy new items as needed.
  2. Junk drawers. I have three junk drawers. They are actually no longer used for “junk.” One holds cooking related items such as recipes I prefer to have on paper (if they tend to be long, I would rather look at print), chip clips and fridge liners and drying mats for the dishes. The other one has our note pads used for shopping lists, pens, scissors, and a space for take out coupons. The last one stores electronics. These general groupings make it easy for me to go through quickly and remove any items that no longer work or seem out of place.
  3. Tupperware/Storage. This is a big one too. I finally donated any pyrex without lids. We also instituted a system where the lid goes on the container when storing out of the dishwasher. I had a rack for lids but that system did not work at all! Have you found that to be the case?


  1. Attic. So this one is almost complete for me and it took me three days. I need to add some labels so that the rest of the family knows where to put luggage, extra storage containers etc. I also finally donated my girls’ stuffed animal collection (four bags!) and will confess I just could not do it the first time I faced that the girls were no longer playing with stuffed animals. So I stored them and this time I was more than happy to donate to a place that wanted them. Sometimes you may need a little time mamas…do not be hard on yourself if you do.


  1. Basement. I tackled the basement over holiday break. It took me three days and like the attic it was a refresher. Post holiday it always tends to accumulate as we decide which Christmas decorations are going up and which stay stored. This time I went shelf by shelf. I labeled areas for each appliance and if something did not fit, donated it. I also tackled some gifts that we simply do not use and gave those to our local thrift shop.
  2. Holiday decorations. This one I tackled a few years ago but every year I do a review. This year I identified items for donation. My girls loved colored lights when they were little. We now have white lights. The thrift shop will be getting some very nice colored lights next year:) I put the box on top with a note to myself, so next season I will remember to bring it over.


  1. Closets. This one is an ongoing project. I plan to break it into 1) shoes 2) clothes (work and casual) 3) miscellaneous. So far, I have tackled my and Mr. SB dress shoes. I donated shoes we were not wearing. My rule is that if shoes do not fit into the existing racks, then I need to find a few to donate.
  2. Under the beds. Do you store items under the bed? I find this space to be a terrible place to store anything because I forget about it! One solution, is to either not store anything or use clear storage containers. I also will leave myself a note in a prominent place that reminds me that I stored my summer shorts or whatever under the bed!

Living room

  1. Bookshelves. I have two book shelves in our living area and books all over the house. We are book worms. I want to tackle the books as well as display them and other objects from our travels in a beautiful way. I look forward to sharing that project.
  2. Coat closet. We have two coat closets. I bought two new coats at the J. Crew holiday sale (and they are on sale now!). One in pink (The Lady Coat) and one in green (I love them both!). That means I need to donate two of my existing coats. I do try the one in one out for clothing as much as possible. Once you hit your max on storage, that is the only way to maintain an organized, decluttered space. I have also plan to identify any shoes that no one wears any longer and store the summer shoes in the attic.


  1. Gardening supplies. I have this on the calendar for Spring. We store gardening items in our garage. Every year I seem to accumulate a few more pots so I try to donate some as well.
  2. Tools/Workbench. This may be more my husband’s area but I did buy a pegboard set of attachments on Amazon which will help organize the rolls of tape, wire and other odds and ends.
  3. Cars. Yes, I include cars. In each car, I store snow removal items (during winter), sunscreen (during summer), water bottles, a warm blanket, a bright yellow, reflective vest and some protein bars in case of an emergency. I also have $20 in the glove box where I also keep the insurance and registration. Other items I store include masks (#Covid19), reusable shopping bags and hand sanitizer. That said, there always seems to be other items that are not needed. A regular review of items is warranted every few months.

Check back in for the remaining spaces to organize in your home in the new year. It may just inspire your own decluttering and organizing journey for 2021.

Why Your Past Matters When Organizing

Hi there! A new year is prime time to talk decluttering and organization. Like many of you, I like to start the new year with a clean and organized home and will be writing more about that and how to help you in coming posts. Before I get into tactics though, I want to start with some retrospection. Your past matters when organizing. Why? Because just like in relationships, marriage, parenting and finances and more, much of your behavior may be rooted in the past. In fact, psychology plays a large role in why decluttering can be so hard. So let’s take a moment to think this one angle through.

What was your home like growing up?

Did you grow up in a spotless, perfectly organized home? Every item had a “home” put in its designated place at all times? Or was it the opposite? Maybe it was tough to find the kitchen table because of all of the papers piled on top? Or the dining room was not a dining room but a storage unit? Did your parents save everything or throw it all out?

How the Depression and the War influenced family organization

In my case, my dad grew up in the Great Depression. My mom was also born at the tail-end of the Depression and was growing up during World War II. People had far less stuff, whatever was purchased was bought very carefully and nothing was discarded without thought. Characteristic of that era, my parents tended to save items and were reluctant to throw them away. It turns out my French husband had the same dynamic. His parents grew up shortly after WWII when there were real shortages of necessities in France.

Growing up

How did this impact our homes? Both of our families had lovely homes for which we are grateful. My mom kept a spotless, beautiful home, and the clutter was mostly confined to the hidden areas. That said, over the years, these items tended to accumulate so I became used to seeing a space (especially a closet or “junk drawer”) full of items. In other words, no one wanted to throw anything out! Sure we would get new decor (but the old decor was stored for someday). I am not criticizing my family for these ways – it went along with the times. Also, even when I was a kid, we did not have the explosion of cheap items created abroad. We tended to buy more carefully and keep what we bought.

How does that impact my organization journey?

Fast forward to now

If you have been following my blog, you know I started an organization journey (Project O) a few years ago. I had some of the typical obstacles that kept me from throwing anything out:

  1. “I might need it someday”
  2. “My children (or sub in nieces/nephews/their children may need it someday.”
  3. Sentimental
  4. It was a gift
  5. “It cost a lot/or it is worth a lot.”

I promise to write more on these challenges. That said, the biggest obstacle for me has been overcoming the past and what has been engrained as “normal.”

What is “normal” varies for each person

Your past matters when organizing because it sets up your “normal.” Here are a few habits/behaviors that may be setting you up for failure as you try to declutter and organize.

  1. Your family saved everything for someday. You may need that rope (yes, I come from a family of avid sailors…we had plenty of ropes around the house/garage!), tennis racket, window treatment, fill-in-the-blank. This is a big one. In my house, we often had lovely new curtains or a rug…but the old ones were not discarded but stored. I can not remember when an item that had been replaced was used again…
  2. Your family and friends shopped a great deal. Shopping was big in the eighties and nineties. Many of us grew up going to the mall just for fun. Shopping was entertainment and bargain hunting was a practical sport in my family. Frankly I still enjoy a trip to my favorite boutique or discounter. That said, shopping and especially impulse buys can really add to your stuff and make your home unmanageable. Retailers are masters at luring you in with sales and then making it very hard not to buy. Social media and the Internet, with hyper targeting, has made it even more likely you will buy on impulse. Buyer beware.
  3. Your house was a mess/super organized/cluttered. I have a friend who grew up in a very cluttered home. Her mom never saw a garage sale she did not love and came home with dozens of “finds.” My friend today has the opposite approach. Her husband calls her the “terminator” as she throws everything out. It can work both ways. She could have also become immune to clutter and that would become her normal for now. Neither is inherently bad but if clutter is something you want to avoid then be aware of how your home growing up may impact what you are comfortable with now.

Where am I today (and how do I deal with it?)

So dealing with my past has helped me really understand the obstacles that face me when decluttering and organizing. Here are few:

As I noted, my mom kept a very clean and lovely home. I actually am also very particular about cleanliness which I no doubt inherited. Enjoy cleaning…but decluttering is another story.

I have tendencies to keep items too long (I am looking at you Restoration Hardware window treatments…) with the idea I may need them someday, they were costly, it was a gift etc.. Questions I ask:

Am I keeping this because of my past? What part of my past? Frugal, depression era parents (usually a good thing especially when it comes to finances but not so much when decluttering).

Do I feel guilty because perhaps my modern day values do not align with the values of my family growing up (but are OK today as we are not in a depression, items are readily available etc.)

Is a closet that is stuffed to the gills a result of too much stuff or the fact that I am used to seeing closets looking that way? While Pinterest and Instagram may present unreasonable or unrealistic organization, both platforms woke me up to what is possible. As I have decluttered and organized I have discovered how calm and freeing it can be to have fewer items.

Have you examined your past and how it may impact your decluttering and organizing journey?

Welcome 2021

Hello 2021. Am I glad to see you! I am up early today as 2020 New Year’s celebrations went the same as the rest of 2020. Small, low-key and at home. We ordered sushi takeout and Mr. SB made some steamed clams. I think I was in bed by 10!

The upside is I am up bright and early this morning and thinking through my hopes and plans for 2021. I thought I would share instead of keeping them in my head.

Organization and Home Plans for 2021

I will start with the house. If you have been following my blog you know I started Project O (O is for organization) years ago. I learned a great deal and will be sharing more this January on how you can declutter and organize. I am in a good spot but have the following to tackle in 2021.

  1. Archiving all kids artwork. Yes, I have teens. Yes, I still have artwork that I want to preserve. I am going to use a free app from Artkive and put all of the actual art into a book. If you would like Artkive to do the task you can. For me, by the time I organized the art (it is one large folder) I may as well do it myself.
  2. Tackling sentimental clutter. I found an excellent podcast over break, called the Sustainable Minimalists She recommends making appointments with your sentimental clutter and going through it in 15 minute increments. I love this idea. My goal is to take two packing boxes and consolidate into a scrapbook or one memory box.
  3. Creating photo books. I usually create a photo book and calendar every year. This year was no different. I created a calendar of our time at the shore in CT. However I never created a book for our three week trip to Bretagne and Normandy France or our tour of the Pacific Northwest. On my list for this winter!
  4. Refreshing our kitchen. Our kitchen screams late nineties. Everything works and I am grateful for all of the yummy meals we make there. However having spent so much time in it this past year, I really want to paint the cabinets white, install new countertops and refresh certain appliances.
  5. Deck redo. Our deck has been an afterthought until this year. In 2020 our girls loved laying out in the sun and we started entertaining on the deck. The table, which is 19 years old, has seen better days. I would like to paint it a Nantucket grey and buy some comfortable deck furniture. Aiming for this spring.

Well am sure there will be more plans to come but these are some of the more pressing ones that I hope to tackle. How about you? Do you have certain projects and goals for 2021?