Home Office – From Cluttered to Focused Part 2 by Laurel Schenkoske

Home Office – From Cluttered to Focused Part 2 by Laurel Schenkoske

Part 2 of 3 by Laurel Schenkoske

It’s been about a week since my last post, and since my commitment to get my home office in working order in two weeks (by September 6th). If you remember, that meant creating a space of efficiency, which includes serenity and mindfulness.

In all aspects of life, things often have to get worse before they can get better. The same is true of physical space, and I certainly experienced it in my own office decluttering. A few of the smaller boxes I had stacked in a corner, I was able to make room for and arrange neatly in the closet. But three large boxes in the middle of the floor were very random – a result of last-minute packing from the old house – and had to be sorted piecemeal. I therefore emptied them of their contents, and spread it all out on the floor to better assess what I was dealing with. Doing this gave me a sense of what could be donated, what could be stored, and what needed a place in our home.


During this time, I did not attempt to do any kind of work that required concentration in the office. Even though I could have sat at the desk, with my back to the mess, it would have been nagging at me the whole time.

By now, much of the content seen in the picture has found a home. But even as I type this, I can hear the TV and a video from my husband’s phone. I get up to close the office door, and he walks in to ask what’s going on. The door had been open to begin with because one of the cats was howling to get in. Clearly, space and clutter are more than just elements of the tangible.

The physical office is starting to take shape. But as that develops, I need to work out a system to keep it mentally peaceful, as well.

Goal: Work-ready in 1 week.

By: Laurel Schenkoske

Laurel is a busy college instructor, Ph. D. student and wife.  She is also writer for Top Shelf Home Organizing.  Follow her as she discovers efficiencies in her own home, office and busy routine.

Home Office – From Cluttered to Focused by Laurel Schenkoske

Home Office – From Cluttered to Focused by Laurel Schenkoske

Part 1 of 3 by Laurel Schenkoske

A little over two months ago, my husband and I moved, just a mile away from our old place. After two years in our Tucson duplex, our lease was finally up, and we were hoping for a better landlord, and needing air conditioning for the not-such-a-dry-heat monsoon season. We were lucky enough to have my parents and sister help with the cleaning and moving-in process, but even now, there is still clutter everywhere, and several random boxes sitting in the middle of the office. I was out of town for the last three weeks, for a very much needed break from work. Towards the end, I was feeling like I might be able to get re-motivated for work and school. But returning to the clutter I’d left behind, especially in the office, has made that much-needed motivation vanish.

office%201I am a Ph.D. student and an instructor at the University of Arizona, so, I’m a little busy. I don’t have weekends free and I don’t get summers off. I am never able leave my work at the office and forget about it until the next morning. Always, always, always, I have lesson prep and grading, research and writing, presentation and grant applications, committee responsibilities, and meetings – meetings as an instructor, meetings with my student cohort, meetings with my professors; they don’t end.

That all said, I need an organized, efficient space for work and concentration. This year it’s more critical than in the past since, with my more “flexible” (read, self-management requiring) time schedule, I need a place to work without distractions. And as most of us know, distractions abound. Facebook, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, and ohmygoshNetflix. And clutter. When I see clutter, my mind wanders. I want to clean, or to organize, or to just look in the stuff in that box over there. Whatever temptations the clutter offers, it is more appealing than the important task at hand.

Moreover, the distractions get in the way of my thinking process. In fact, physical clutter has the power to fill my mind with a sort of mental clutter. The more things I see around me, the more I can’t concentrate on my reading or writing. If I pause to reflect on my work and see stuff everywhere, my mind goes into cognitive overload and isn’t able to process anything fully. I begin thinking of all the things I have to do and start feeling anxious. My work takes much longer, and consequently, I have to stay up late, or get up early, or just plain fall behind.

But, if when I stare off into space, my eyes can rest on an empty piece of floor or a plain piece of wall, my mind has an opportunity to process and to rest. This gets me back on track much more quickly.

In German, there are a few sayings that apply here: Ordnung muss sein = There must be order; and Alles hat seinen Platz = Everything has its place. The first is a stereotype for the German lifestyle in general. The second applies more specifically to physical organization. But to have order in your life as a whole, everything does need its place. While my direct priority is to create a functioning office space, the underlying reason is that it will help create serenity and mindfulness in my home and in my life.

Mission: The Office. While much of our new home needs decluttering, organizing, and wall decorating, the office must be my new priority.

Goal: Work-ready in 2 weeks.

By: Laurel Schenkoske

Laurel is busy college instructor, Ph. D. student and wife.  She is also writer for Top Shelf Home Organizing.  Follow her as she discovers efficiencies in her own home, office and busy routine.

What I Learned From An Organizer

What I Learned From An Organizer

It is the feeling when you arrive home from a busy day and overwhelm sets in. The countertops are full of miscellaneous things to do. Your dining room table has piles of bills, papers, projects, and laundry. The kids summer crafts, projects and paperwork have taken over your home. Your summer meal planning was lost the second week of the summer.

It is time to reset your home, meal planning, exercise routine and your priorities.

12321504_1750493618519972_6517300394412900562_nThis is what happened in my home. Yes, I am an organizer and I know better. With busy schedules and the desire to keep the family feeling ‘free’ for the summer, everything got out of control. The bedrooms filled with things that do not bring calm and peace for resting. The pantry has filled with processed food due to a lack of meal planning.  Routines and structure were gone.

This past week, a wonderful organizer came into our home to help me. That’s right. I hired and organizer. Here is why:

  • The organizer was a non-judging third party that gave me clarity on what was important to me.
  • Time was dedicated just to organizing my home.
  • She offered a new perspective on ways to structure the organization in my home.
  • It was easier to let go.
  • We worked very efficiently as we went through the kitchen, pantry, craft closet and toys.

Here is what I learned

  • It is good to get help.
  • I am organized (obviously), but letting go of my kids’ junk is hard.
  • The process inspired me to keeping going.
  • I would not have set aside the time to dedicate only to organizing.
  • The kids only noticed how nice their rooms and craft closet looked. They didn’t notice what was removed.
  • An organized pantry inspires healthy eating and better meal planning.
  • It was fun.

As summer winds down, schedule time to get your home back in order. Kids need the structure in their homes to be ready for school.

Top Shelf Home Organizing takes pride in helping people get organized.  Call Jayme when you are ready to gain control of your home.

Give Yourself Grace

Give Yourself Grace

Are you where you thought you’d be when you grew up?  Have your career and life goals changed?  Are you struggling to keep up with your should do list?  Do you want to simplify your home and routine?

Owning a large home in the suburbs with auto loans, mortgage payments that consume the family budget and a career the sucks the energy right out of you might not be where you dreamed you would be.

Give yourself some grace.  Change takes time.   Get on track in your own way and time.

Pick a priority.

Set a goal.

Start small and enjoy the results.

Clear out a drawer.  Remove less-than-useful social media newsfeed and email.  Rethink a toxic relationship

You can’t get it all done today, tonight, this week or this month.   Remember your goals and dreams.  Get rid of the clutter that stands in the way.  Invite someone who will support you along the way.

Remember your why.  Get back to what you love.

How Clutter Affects Health

How Clutter Affects Health

What an up and down week of weather in southeast Wisconsin. Winter is still trying to stick around with some reassuring signs of summer.

Personally, I have been feeling drained and exhausted which is not typical of my energy level during this season transition time.

After discovering I was avoiding my living room where I spend time with Matt and the kids, it dawned on me: The clutter surrounding our family space is draining my energy. My husband and I moved the kids’ toys, that have been stored in the basement, to our living space while we have the basement painted.

There are 3 Health Benefits to being organized and simplifying our daily routines.

  1. More Energy

Having clutter drains energy. Stagnant energy builds up around clutter and causes tiredness and lethargy.

  1. Improved Health

People with limited clutter look and feel better. They are typically more active and have a fresh face. Clutter congests your home and your body.

  1. Reduced Depression

Stagnant energy surrounding clutter pulls you down. Feelings of hopelessness can be relieved by clearing the clutter. Clearing the clutter allows you to make room for something new and fresh.

This weekend we will focus on clutter reduction in the living room. We will make it a family event and have the kids decide which toys can be passed on to a charity or another child will help to reduce the toys.

Think about what you can improve in your home and routines that will give you some much needed energy and lift your spirits.


Organizing is a process, not a destination. Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey.

Not Enough Kitchen Cabinets

Not Enough Kitchen Cabinets

Is your kitchen too small?  You don’t have enough cabinets?  Not enough counter space?  Consider what is stored in your kitchen.

Make space in your kitchen

Reduce Items

  • Reduce items to only kitchens items and only one of each item.  One pizza cutter is enough.  One set of measuring cups is enough.  Limit serving platters to only what you need to host the largest party you have each year, dish towels to get you through until the next round of laundry.
  • One set of dishes, no more than three plates per person living in your home.  One set of flatware.  No more than three cups per person.

Organize Items

  • Group similar items and store them together.  Plastic storage containers stored together.  Stovetop cooking utensils stored together.
  • Store items by use: items you use everyday in cabinets and drawers within reach.  Occasional use items such as decorative serving platters on higher shelves, pots and pans stored together, near the stove.  Plastic wrap, foil and bags near the refrigerator for storing leftovers and preparing lunches.
  • See-through cabinets should be used to store visually pleasing items such as china.  Keep these cabinets uncluttered.
  • Cookbooks you use and love stored vertically on an open shelf or in a cabinet
  • If storage space is very limited, consider hanging pots and pans, aprons and hot pads.
  • For the pantry, sort food by category, toss old food and spices, consider see through containers for items that are loose and do not stack/stand well.
  • Create wall space for to-do-lists, mail sorting and calendars

Storage Gadgets

  • Invest in storage racks, containers and gadgets only when you have considered all the above.
  • Purchasing storage items prior to reducing and reorganizing can prove to be a waste of money if not well though out.  Lid racks, drawer dividers and in-cabinet organizers can be very useful with a good plan.

Organizing is a process, not a destination.  A professional organizer can help you make the most of your kitchen space.