Author Archives: Allison Flinn

Manage Your Mail

Manage Your Mail


Even in our largely digital world, mail remains a fact of life.  And without a consistent plan for how to deal with it, mail can be a major source of clutter in the home.  Even worse, important items can get lost or deadlines missed.  Here are three easy tips for creating a mail zone that will keep things flowing smoothing.

1) Choose a mail zone space and location that is convenient for your family.  Think of a place where the whole family will walk by on a daily basis – maybe that’s right when you walk in from your garage or other entry, or perhaps in the kitchen somewhere out of the way from spaces used for cooking.

2) Determine what mail categories suit your family, it might be one folder per family member or one for bills, one for things to act on immediately, and one for things to act on that are not urgent.

3) Create a sorting system and label it based on your mail categories.  Desktop file sorters are great for keeping things contained but accessible.  But stay away from inboxes or flat trays – they just invite piles and clutter.

Bonus Tip – Don’t even bring junk mail inside!  Immediately after you retrieve your mail, do a quick sort and dump any junk mail, unwanted catalogs, etc. right into your exterior trash cans.


Going Virtual

Going Virtual


Home is where the heart is.  Right now, it’s also where everyone is – and will be for the foreseeable future.  If your first week of social distancing has you noticing some areas around your house that are adding to your stress levels, we can help.  Reclaim has added a Virtual DIY Organizing package to help you during this unprecedented time.

With our Virtual DIY Organizing package we start with a questionnaire where you will provide us with details (pictures, measurements, key issues, etc.) on the space(s) you would like to organize.  From there we will provide a detailed action plan that will include a complete list of recommended products with links to purchase, and instructions for product placement.  We can even ship custom handwritten or vinyl labels to your doorstep for a personalized finishing touch.

Here are some common areas that we can easily tackle virtually:

Pantry – You’ve stocked up, now what?  Is your pantry jammed with food but you have no clue what’s actually in there?  Let’s create a plan to best utilize your space and allow you to easily see your options.

Playroom – Playrooms need to work overtime right now.  Is yours a disaster zone by 10am, but kids are complaining they have nothing to play with?  It’s counterintuitive but kids tend to play deeper when there are less options and more open space.  We can help you get control of your playroom and put a system in place for storage, toy rotation, labeling, and more.

Home Office – Working from home can be a challenge.  Even more so if your workspace is cluttered and messy.  Some simple steps can make a big impact on creating a peaceful work environment – we’ll walk you through them.

Bathrooms – It’s more important now than ever that all of our medicines are up to date.  Take control of your bathroom and medicine cabinets by tossing anything expired and let’s create a new system that works for you.

Master Bedroom & Closets – It’s about that time to switch closets over to warm weather clothes.  Instead of shoving and stuffing things wherever you can find space, let’s look at your closet space with fresh eyes, edit your items, and give everything a proper home with space to breathe.

We know this time of uncertainty is leaving people feeling scared, stressed, and confused.  We have so little control of what is happening outside our homes right now.  But, we can control what goes on inside.  We are here to help you (from afar!) as much as you need right now.

Benefits of Decluttering For a Move (Even if You’re Not Moving!)

Benefits of Decluttering For a Move (Even if You’re Not Moving!)

Clutter weighs us down in our normal daily lives.  It can contribute to feelings of stress, anxiety, and steal time from us as well (oh so many minutes looking for something that should be easy to find…scotch tape! scissors! stamps!)  Daily life aside, the impact of a cluttered home gets even more serious when you are trying to sell your house – because it can have financial repercussions too.

One of our favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin, offers some great tips for clearing clutter ahead of a move in this article, but Rubin also challenges readers to consider using these approaches even if they aren’t moving.  We couldn’t agree more.

A messy, cluttered home may give potential buyers a red flag – they may wonder how well maintained the home is given it’s so disorganized, and also give them reason to offer a lower price than you are asking.  If you aren’t preparing to sell, think about how your cluttered home makes you feel, and how it affects your family. Are people always looking for things you could have sworn you just bought? Do you dread going into certain rooms because of all the stuff you’ve shoved in there?  Are certain closets classified as “open at your own risk”? 

On the flip side, a decluttered home is open and inviting; crisp, styled spaces can help buyers, or your own family, see a home with clear eyes and feel calm.  In an organized home, it’s easy to imagine the exciting possibilities.   

Decluttering to prepare for a move (real or hypothetical) is a core service we offer at Reclaim.  If you are moving, we can declutter and pack as we go. If you aren’t moving, you might feel like you’re coming home to a new house after we’ve worked our magic.  



Habits of the Highly Organized

Habits of the Highly Organized

We’ve found that the key to actually achieving a goal or resolution is to create habits that support the change.  With that in mind, we thought it would be helpful to poll our team of highly trained organizers and learn a habit they practice that helps keep them organized.

Allison – Start small. Break a large project into smaller tasks. This allows you to see the progress you have made and makes the project not seem as overwhelming.

Mary – Every night before going to bed spend 10-15 minutes tidying up and making sure everything is put away where it belongs. It makes the mornings a lot less stressful and overwhelming.

Vivian – Invest in products. It’s easy to use what you’ve got or repurpose something that isn’t the best fit but will do for now. You will never have complete satisfaction until you have the perfect product. The more visibly appealing a product is while still being functional, the more likely you will be to utilize it. Go ahead and buy that beautiful jewelry organizer you’ve been eyeing. It will be worth it.

Shelley – Decant, decant, decant! Removing bulky packaging saves space as well as improves appearance.

Olani – When you come home, put everything (purse, jacket, shoes, groceries, dog leashes, etc.) away before you settle in or move on to your next task.

Bonus Tip – Eliminate unnecessary paper clutter by not even bringing mail into your house unless another family member needs to see it, or action needs to be taken (bill to pay, RSVP to send, etc.) – if it’s junk mail or otherwise useless it will inevitably end up in a pile.  Head right to your trash can outside instead!

Try implementing one or a few of these ideas and you will be well on your way to organizational bliss.  (But – if you still need a jumpstart, we’re always a phone call away!)

Getting Prepared For The Holidays

Getting Prepared For The Holidays

Santa Claus isn’t the only one making his list and checking it twice, chances are – you are too!  

With the holidays quickly approaching, we are sharing some tips to get you ready for the jolliest time of year!

Gifts – organization is your best friend when it comes to gifting this time of year.  Find a system that works for you to keep track of everyone you need to buy for.  We like to use a simple spreadsheet with columns for who, what, purchased/baked (yes/no), wrapped (yes/no), shipped (if applicable), and cost.  This approach can help you keep an eye on your overall budget, ensure equality among different children’s gifts (moms, you know), and make sure no one on your list will be forgotten.  

Bonus Gift Tip – if you are feeling overwhelmed about picking the perfect gifts, we love using this easy 4 step approach – “something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read”!

Pre Christmas Purge – what goes up must come down, and when new gifts come in other things must go out – isn’t that how the saying goes?  Anyway, before you are totally buried in wrapping paper and new toys – assess what might be ready to donate or toss. Starting with a somewhat clean slate will make things feel less chaotic come December 26. 

Decor – Target – our best friend, our worst enemy.  You run in for milk and leave with twinkle lights, a boxwood wreath, and some miniature decorative Christmas trees!  Stop the madness!  Or at least, enter prepared.  Pull out your holiday decor bins (you have those nicely organized already, right??) over the new few weeks and take a look what what items you might need.  This goes for gift wrapping supplies too.  As much as we love Target, no one wants to be the sad soul there on Christmas eve looking for a roll of red and green ribbon (trust us, it won’t be there!).

Welcome Fall! Closet Organizing Tips for Cooler Temps

Welcome Fall! Closet Organizing Tips for Cooler Temps

Here in North Carolina we are finally (finally!) getting a little taste of fall weather, and although we know there are still hot days ahead, we can’t help but get excited to pull out our fall clothes and say hello to flannel and see ya next year to sundresses. Here are a few tips to help with your seasonal closet changeover.

  1. Before you put summer clothes away, identify anything you didn’t wear at all this season.  Is it worth the space and effort to store it again only to be unexcited to see it next summer? Make a toss or donate pile. **Also make a pile of anything that’s dry clean only and have that taken care of before storing for the season**
  2. Remember that seasonal clothing storage doesn’t have to be complicated, just find a system that works for you whether it’s large lidded tubs or zippered under bed storage.  Make sure everything is clean before it gets put away for the year.
  3. While your closet is on the emptier side, grab your vacuum and do a quick dust bunny round up and/or any applicable cleaning before putting the next season’s clothes in.
  4. When unpacking and putting away your clothes for the new season, again assess things before they go in your closet or in a drawer. If an item is ripped or too well worn, doesn’t fit, or doesn’t excite you – don’t let it take up physical (or mental!) space. Add those items to your toss/donate pile. If something is a closet staple that you need to replace, jot that down as you go so you’re prepared to shop!
  5. When putting clothes away in your closet, organize them by type, and then color. So that means put like with like and then within each category group by color.  Categories will depend on your lifestyle but may include work blouses, casual tops, work dresses, casual dresses, etc. Organizing by categories will allow you to quickly know which section to look to when getting ready.
  6. Consider using slim matching hangers; not only are they visually appealing but they also streamline your hanging items and reduce bulk.
  7. If you have vertical space use it strategically. Put lesser used items higher up and label so you don’t forget what’s up there! Some examples of these items might be special occasion shoes or handbags, and (depending on your climate) cold weather boots and very heavy sweaters.
  8. Since you’re on a roll and creating this beautiful fall/winter closet go ahead and give your drawers some TLC by doing a quick sort and fresh folding. Again, set yourself up for success by making sure like items are grouped together and removing anything no longer loved, needed, or useable.

Being greeted by a well-organized closet can be a much needed moment of calm on busy mornings. And don’t forget – if you’d like us to lend a hand with yours – we’re here to help!

Back to School

Back to School

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Sorry Santa – but it’s back to school time! Organizers tend to embrace this time because it’s inherently friendly towards order and structure – two things we love! Here are a few tips to get your crew ready for class to be back in session.

It’s the perfect time to review everything in your children’s closet. Go through and assess everything all the way down to socks (toddler moms – you may need some bribes here to get the little ones to try on anything you’re unsure of). For anything that doesn’t fit either donate, or tuck away in a labeled bin for younger siblings or friends. Make a list of items that need to be replaced so you can focus when Old Navy inevitably has a major sale over the next few weeks. Getting kids dressed for school is hard enough (Opinions! Drama!) – make the mornings just a tiny bit easier on yourself and know that when you come to a magical agreement on what to wear… at least you’ll know it fits!

As excited as we are for back to school, we know it can also mean the start of runny noses and other bugs; check to make sure your children’s Motrin didn’t expire in 2012 and make a list of other essentials to stock up on like Kleenex, hand sanitizer and band aids.

Like you did with clothes, take stock of your lunch boxes and other lunch gear – make sure each item has a matching lid and/or whatever it needs to function properly; discard anything missing key parts and see if you need a restock on items that will make life easier when you’re packing your 100th PB&J in a few weeks.

Everything. Must. Be. Labeled. Order some now so you are ready to go! Check out for some cute options that stand up to dishwashers and frequent use.

Create a system now so that when the paperwork starts coming home you have a designated place to take action on it, easily see reminders, etc. If something is an easy sign and return – do it right away before adding it to a pile never to be heard from again. Vertical sorters such as wall pockets work well to keep piles at bay.

Pantry Perfection

Pantry Perfection

Organizing pantries is one of the most popular requests we receive. Because this area is one of the most frequently used in the house, it’s easy for your pantry to become disorganized with too much stuff and not a good system in place.

The two biggest problems with often see with pantries are lots of expired items and no containment. Here is our method for decluttering and organizing  your pantry:

  1. Remove everything.
  2. Toss expired food.
  3. Categorize remaining items.
  4. Remove excess packaging.
  5. Contain like-items. Our go-to items are bins, tiered can risers, canisters, and lazy susans.
  6. Label bins and canisters.
  7. Create zones so that like-items are together such as baking, snacks, kids’ stuff, dinner items, etc.

Maintenance is key. The systems we put in please are easy to use but there are a few additional things you can do to ensure that your pantry stays organized.

  1. Try to keep the floor clear. If not possible, contain those items that are on the floor.
  2. Don’t overbuy.
  3. Every three months review the items in your pantry and toss the expired items.


Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin

I had the pleasure of hearing Gretchen Rubin speak at the Annual NAPO (National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals) Conference last week in Ft. Worth, Texas.  As an avid listener of her podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin, I was really excited for her keynote. Here are some of my biggest takeaways.

Photo Credit: Annette Adamska

–   Resist the urge to take freebies. They usually just send up becoming clutter. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you need it. Reusable tote bags are a great example– while functional, you only need so many before they become clutter.

–   The One-Minute Rule. If it takes one minute or less, do it now. This is a great way to get small tasks off your to-do list. Rubin says by doing this “you’re getting rid of the scum on the surface of life.”

–   The Power Hour. Take time to do one-time tasks that consistently weigh on your mind, but could be indefinitely postponed. An example would be creating a photo album of a family trip.

–   And finally my favorite tip, “The Ex-Factor Test.” When going through your closet ask yourself, “If I were to run into an ex, would I want to be seen wearing this piece of clothing? Would I feel good about it?” In other words, is this something you love? Something you feel good in? If not, time to let it go.

If you’re interested in learning more about Gretchen Rubin, I recommend checking out her website:

Beyond Tidying Up

Beyond Tidying Up

Chances are you’ve heard all the buzz around the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Since I am obsessed with all things organizing, I couldn’t wait to dive into the show. I got even more excited when I found out that a friend and former co-worker was featured on one of the episodes. She even gave me the inside scoop on what it was like to work with Marie Kondo! 

There isn’t a day that goes by where someone doesn’t ask me my thoughts on the show so I decided to write a post discussing the similarities and differences in Reclaim’s approach and the KonMari Method.

The KonMari Method has six basic rules.

Commit yourself to tidying up

We discuss commitment during our initial in-home assessment. We talk about the decluttering and organizing process and ensure that the client is on board to make the necessary changes in order to achieve their goal of a less cluttered, more organized home. To ensure success we need to make sure that the client is ready to declutter (or, in other words, “tidy up”).

Imagine your ideal lifestyle

During the in-home assessment we also get an idea of what the client’s vision is for their home. This gives us a clear picture of how they see their ideal lifestyle and helps us create the best organizing solutions for them and their needs. These personalized solutions, once put in place, will make it much easier for the client to maintain an organized home.

Finish Discarding First

We first sort and then declutter. The sorting process allows the client to see how much they have of a particular item, making it easier to make decisions as to what goes and what stays. The organizing process won’t be nearly as effective if the client doesn’t declutter (or “discard”) first.

Tidy by Category, Not by Location

This goes back to Rule #3. When we sort we gather all items that belong in the same category. Let’s use clothing as an example–we also gather all of our client’s clothing together. But unlike Marie Kondo, who has the client create a large pile, we use garment racks and sort all clothing by style and color, allowing the client to see how much they of a particular item or color, making it easier to see what they have and therefore decide what stays and what goes.

Follow the Right Order (Clothes, Books, Paper, Miscellaneous Items, Sentimental)

We allow our client to dictate what we do first. During the in-home assessment we create a list of priorities and from there develop an action plan. We believe there is no right or wrong place to start, but we encourage clients to start in a room where they feel it won’t be very difficult to make decisions during the decluttering process.

Does it Spark Joy?

We don’t ask this exact question, but if a client is struggling with what to keep and what to get rid of we’ll ask them questions such as “When is the last time you used this/wore this?” “What would be the worst thing that would happen if you got rid of this?” or “How does this benefit you?” If there is no clear answer, then most likely it’s time for these items to go.

On the show, Marie consults with the families, but she doesn’t actually do the hands-on work. At Reclaim we provide full-service decluttering and organizing and we’ve found that our clients greatly appreciate this approach. The thought of decluttering and organizing a home can be a daunting task, but with our team we can get it all done in a matter of days. We do all of the sorting, provide support during the decluttering process, provide donation resources, and organize everything, putting personalized organizing systems in place that are easy to maintain for our clients. We have very high success rates when we see a project through from start to finish.

Q&A with Sehnita Joshua Mattison from “Episode 6: Breaking Free From a Mountain of Stuff”

How did you get to be on the show and what made you decide to apply?

They posted a casting notice to a local moms group I belong to on Facebook. We were determined to clean up our space, so we figured why not? For years I had been putting the idea of clearing out space on my vision board and this was going to help make that vision a reality.

Your husband Aaron already seemed on board with decluttering before Marie arrived. Has he always been the organized one?

Aaron grew up in a very organized household. His mother is extremely organized and tidy. I am definitely responsible for more of the clutter. If an item has a place to go Aaron has always been good about putting it back.

It seemed difficult for you to part with things that you no longer needed nor really wanted, but were still useful. How did you get over his hurdle and let go of those items?

Marie’s method of holding something and asking if it sparked joy really did work. By doing this process it made me get an idea of how much I really liked something. Also, putting like items together was helpful. Marie suggests sorting by category, not by room. By doing this we could see how much similar stuff we had, which made it much easier to get rid of things.

Books and magazines seemed to be particularly challenging for you. How did you overcome your attachment?

Magazines were particularly difficult for me because if I was going to get rid of them I wanted to make sure that they were going to the right place. I limited myself to a few baskets of magazines and made the commitment to part with the remaining ones. I ended up donating all of the extra magazines to a local senior center and they were thrilled.

You both mentioned that if there is an open space in your house it will get filled with stuff. Now that you have decluttered, have you found it’s easier to leave space open?

It’s much easier now to put things back that have a home. This process also helped me recognize that we need more pieces of furniture with storage so things have a place. And now that we have gone through all of our stuff and know exactly what we have, we are no longer buying things we don’t need.

What was the most useful tip Marie shared with you?

Marie’s folding technique is a game changer. It has helped in so many ways. Putting laundry away is so much easier. It’s easier to get dressed because I can see everything in my drawers and it’s even made packing a suitcase easier. In the past I would just stuff clothing in my suitcase until it was full, but now I am much more thoughtful about it. It really has made life so much easier!

Have you seen any changes with your children since getting rid of so much stuff? Especially their toys?

When we watched the show together as a family, the first thing my daughter Natalia said was “Where is my yellow school bus?” She was a little upset about that, but other than that the kids aren’t missing anything of what was given away. My son Ashton was very decisive about what he did and did not want, so that helped. I did feel guilty giving away toys that were gifts, but Marie suggests that the act of giving and receiving the gift is what you value and stays with you, not necessarily the actual gift so that was helpful.

The show was filmed eight months ago. Have you been able to maintain the systems Marie put in place?

The majority of it, yes. 90% of our house is in good shape. A few areas could still use some tidying up and reassessing, which is the next step. We are a work in progress.