Spare cords, lost keys, broken teacups — some of the most vexing organizational problems are the ones you don't often see addressed. We asked Edina-based organizer Stephanie Rasley, a.k.a. the Duchess of Order (www., to name some big challenges and offer solutions.

1. "I don't have time to organize." Try breaking the project into 15-minute pieces. Organizing projects get put off endlessly while people wait for a six-hour block of time that never comes along, Rasley said. But "everyone has 15 minutes." She suggests setting a timer.

2. "I can never find anything when I'm packing for a trip." If you travel a lot and need to grab items quickly, fill a clear-pocketed over-the-door shoe organizer with travel-size items: shampoo and conditioners, razor, passport, euros, plug adapters, detergent and so on. Use one with clear pockets so you can see the items. "I'm just a real advocate of everything clear," Rasley said.

3. "Where do I put all these spare cords and computer parts?" Take a shoe box or larger covered bin and create a J.U.I.C.E. Box, which stands for "just unused incidentals, cords & electrical," she said. "Everything that has to do with electricity or computers gets thrown in this box."

4. "I'm always looking for my keys." Find lost keys, TV remote, glasses and whatever else you're always misplacing with a system that uses an electronic sensor to locate objects remotely. Rasley recommends either KeyRinger ( or Stick-N-Find ( The latter uses an app on your smartphone.

5. "I've got unfinished, broken & orphaned items all over the house." Create a special box or bin to hold your broken teacup, orphaned glove and shirt that needs a button replaced — yes, put them all in together; if you try to create separate categories the system is more likely to break down. Go through it once a year. "At the end of the year, ask yourself, 'Am I going to go buy the super glue and put it back together, or is it just time to have this item move on?"

6. "I can't find matching bedsheets in the linen closet." Corral bedsheet sets together with a big rubber band.

7. "My kids' artwork is all over the house." Don't try to save everything — pick out maybe 10 things a year to store, Rasley said. If it's too hard to narrow down, consider saving some pieces in digital form, either using a smartphone app (Artkive,, is especially designed for preserving kids' art) or by taking videos of the kids holding the artwork and talking about it. "That way, you get to hear them talk in their own little voice about the school year."

8. "It's hard to coordinate dates for family get-togethers and meetings." Meeting Wizard ( emails up to 12 possible dates and times to a group; when invitees respond, it displays the times they're available. "I use it for family get-togethers if we're trying to get a dinner going or something," Rasley said. "It's how I schedule most of my meetings."

9. "I never have the tools I need." Fill a plastic-handled tote with scissors, tape, Sharpies, stapler, Post-it notes, labels, picture-hanging supplies, tape measure, box cutter, pliers, hammers, screwdrivers. "I have one that I take to clients' homes, so I have everything we need to fix or organize," Rasley said. "I also use it as my handyman kit at home."

10. "I just can't seem to get organized on my own." Consider hiring a professional organizer, Rasley said. Search for one through the National Association of Professional Organizers ( Lest you think this suggestion is self-serving coming from a professional organizer, bear in mind that Rasley herself hires another organizer twice yearly to manage her storage room. "I do!" she said. "No. 1, it gets on my calendar so I get around to it, because redoing my storage room is not a super fun high-stimuation thing that I look forward to. No. 2, it gets the energy level a lot higher if there's another person there." Bonus: At the end of the day, the organizer can clear away all your discarded objects.

Katy Read • (612) 673-4583