Have you ever wanted a fairy-godmother to swoop into your home and with a few waves of her magic wand make life more beautiful and more manageable? I haven't seen any magical little old ladies in the neighborhood lately, but I have been visited by a very stylish young woman with similar powers.
Donna Youdin, MSW, started her career as a social worker but was looking for a more personal way to help women when someone recommended she consider lifestyle coaching. With a lot of encouragement and a leap of faith, she started her own consulting business, Life With Donna, LLC, and has been happily helping women make positive changes in their lives ever since.
With a compassionate but savvy approach, Donna helps women better manage stress, organize their time, improve relationships, tackle big projects, plan events, and establish healthier lifestyles. She meets with clients in their homes, at a store, and even the gym. She will also help clients find the professionals needed to move forward, whether it be a yoga instructor, estate-sale planner, or caterer.
In my case, there is room for improvement in all areas of my life, but now that colder weather is here the children's coat closet seemed like a good place to start. (Baby steps, so to speak!) Like many families, the morning rush can be very stressful and much of that stress revolves around finding articles of clothing and necessary school gear (backpacks, lunch boxes, homework folders, etc). When we spend the morning rushing around looking for socks or a missing boot, tensions run high and set the entire day off on the wrong note (a high, shrill note to be exact). Although we don't exactly have skeletons in our closets, the contents can be quite scary. To establish a better routine in the morning, we clearly needed a better closet system for the kids. And so, enter Donna!
Although Donna's counseling talents run deep, as you would expect, she also has a knack for organizing and a long-standing love affair with the Container Store (so do I Donna, so do I!) Typically Donna will work through an organizational project with a client, chatting and offering support along the way. Her goal is to teach her clients the skills they need to organize, plan, and complete not only the current task, but projects in the future. And although she will happily meet a client in the Container Store to help them sort through the options, she was also very helpful in sending links to products that I could order online, and making suggestions for homemade solutions as well.
Feeling inspired by our brainstorming and planning session, I ventured out to the Container Store, and redid the kids' closet as shown below:
Kids' Closet Before
Kids' Closet After
The changes were simple and affordable -- no magic wand required! First, the kids and I had a "mitten party" and matched up all the gloves and mittens and sorted them by child. We clipped matches along a plastic chain from the Container Store and hung inside the closet. Hats, scarves, and even more pairs of mittens went into a clear plastic shoe organizer ($14.99) hung on the inside of the door. Instead of a shoe rack, I settled on a pair of recycled plastic baskets that fit nicely in the bottom of the closet (on sale for $18.99 each) -- one for the boys to share and one for my daughter (girls always seem to have more footwear!). We then used the existing hooks for hats and bags and reorganized the top shelf so that it now stores less-used game boards. Lastly, all outgrown coats and boots were donated to charity.
Some of the helpful lessons we learned from Donna along the way:
- Use hooks to keep back-packs, coats, and hats off the floor. Each child should have their own hook.
- For children who are learning to dress themselves, closet hanging shelves with a shelf for each day is the best way to ensure they won't miss something critical (like clean underwear!)
- Help your child to decorate a shoebox of their own. Use it to clean-up their scattered belongings at the end of the day or store personal items.
- When possible, use clear bins and containers so that you can easily see what is inside.
- Always keep the most-used items in reach and visible, while seldom used-items and out-of-season items can be stored up high (top shelf) or out of sight (under the bed).
- For girls rooms and Mom: convert an old picture frame or shadow box into an attractive display for jewelry by covering the inside with a piece of decorative material or wallpaper over artboard or corkboard. Use decorative tacks or hooks to hang necklaces and bracelets. You can also leave the frame open and use ribbons or wire for hanging hairclips and pins. [These examples are from Martha Stewart which I found on TipNut.com]
- For little boys' rooms, have a designated parking spot for all trucks. Whether it be a masking tape outline on the floor or a tray on a shelf, each big vehicle should have its own spot. After dark, anyplace else is a tow-away-zone!
- Finally, if its a family organization problem, get the entire family on board. Each family member should understand their role in keeping their belongings organized and put away. The more you involve the children in the planning process, the likelier they are to follow the new system.
Sometimes we just need a little inspiration and support to get started. Generations ago we would have relied on a friend, mother or sister for help, but with distances and busy schedules its not always possible. A lifestyle guide such as Donna, however, can provide private help during the times you need it most. Although my closet project was a humble one, it was an uplifting start. I've now moved onto the pantry, the kitchen cabinets, and the linen closet. Each manageable success means less stress, easier days, and the pleasure of finally tackling a neglected area. Now that the holidays are upon us, the more organized we all are, the better. Now if only Donna could come over and help with my tangle of Christmas lights!
To learn more about Donna and her services, please visit her website at www.lifewithdonna.com and Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/LifewithDonna.
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