The Aliyah Files #21 The Ultimate in Decluttering Part IV

Those making aliyah in the next future should be taking a long hard look at their belongings deciding what to bring.  As a HOME ORGANIZER AND DECLUTTERING EXPERT, I have a few things to say on the topic.

While some olim move into duplexes or houses, many olim are moving into apartments or smaller living spaces. This new space may be MUCH SMALLER than what you’re used to.  Unless a previous tenant or owner has left closets, you will have to buy them.  You may be lucky to have a machsan (storage room) or you may not.  There most likely will not be an attic, garage, basement, hall closet, coat closet, or space room.  The bottom line, STORAGE SPACE IS LIMITED.

The list below uses bullet marks for categories.  **note**THIS IS  NOT A ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL list but general guidelines.   My insight comes from the categories I encounter when working with clients who have found that even though they “got rid of things” prior to their move, now realize without the storage space they were accustomed to, find themselves in the situation of having “too much stuff”.

  • sentimental items-While sentimental items are irreplaceable, put a limit as to how many to take. Perhaps let each family member have one x-large box and select their favorites. In regards to photos, kids art or projects keep your favorites but you can’t keep everything.  You can photograph items and even upload them to create a keepsake photo book. BUT if a sentimental doesn’t “spark joy” because you have bad memories attached to it, then chuck it.
  • collections-pare them down. One doesn’t need 500 of X.  Also keep in mind it is very dusty here, especially when the windows are open.  The more things you have, the more you things have to dust. If familiy members have allergies, limit the stuffed animal menagerie which will most certainly be a magnet for dust.
  • clothing -I suggest keeping your current size only.  If you are someone whose weight fluctuates often, then by all means keep a few pieces in sizes up or down but not an entire wardrobe. For kids clothing keep what they currently wear.  If there is a sibling close in age that you are saving clothes for, then ruthlessly save only items that aren’t stained, are in good condition, and more classic pieces that can be mixed and matched. If you plan to save for future, not-yet-conceived children, save ONE BOX of each gender of only clean, unstained items. There are plenty of second-hand establishments, gemachim, and ordering on-line options. Additionally, there are what I call “generous relatives” who will come bearing gifts and more gifts…
  • books-favorites only.  Just because you once bought a book does not mean you need to own it for posterity.  Play this game:  Select a book. If you liked it enough, would you check it out of the library and re-read it? If yes, then keep it.
  • toys-favorites only.  Try to eliminate large, bulky items. Stuffed animals-drastically downsize and keep only favorites, as they are dust magnets, as already mentioned.
  • games-if they are currently being played and enjoyed, bring them. You may have a great “Shabbos game” for example, but if you aren’t using it, it will be clutter.
  • furniture-In the 9 years we have lived in Israel we brought (and have kept) our dining room table (family heirloom, an antique cabinet with a hutch, and an antique piece called a ‘dry sink’. What we brought and eventually replaced with smaller, more streamlined Israeli versions: beds.  Beds, couches, dressers, and other furniture from chutz l’aretz (outside of Israel) are bulky, and take up a lot of floor space plus often don’t provide additional storage.  I recommend buying new or second-hand smaller, more streamlined Israeli furniture that better fits the space.
  • electronics and appliances-with the exception of a computer or laptop (if you can convert the current) I would not bring anything else and buy here.  Some places give olim discounts when you buy a lot of merchandise.  Here is a GREAT OPPORTUNITY to ditch that box of random cords that have been stored for the posterity and “just in case”!
  • warehouse club items.  I go against the common advice of “stocking up”.  If there is some medical item you must have then that falls into a different category, but it is totally unnecessary to buy disposable items in bulk. I have clients who still have plastic utensils many years after having moved. See The Aliyah Files #17 https://theklutterkoach.com/2018/07/18/the-olim-files-17-ditch-the-warehouse-club-mentality/
Karen, The Klutter Koach
May 21, 2019

The Aliyah Files #7: To Bring or Not to Bring, That is the Question

Apologies to William Shakespeare on the slight adaption of his famed quote.  To bring, or not to bring (belongings on aliyah) is the next big question after deciding where to live and when to move.

This question repeats itself over and over on Yahoo and Facebook groups with everyone putting in their two-cents worth.  As a home organizer and moving strategist, I have a few things to contribute to the topic. My advice isn’t a “one size fits all” formula but for some general guidelines as someone who assists clients all the time with these questions. The less you bring on aliyah the easier it will be to transition to Israeli living spaces which are often smaller than what you may be used to.


bookcases: bring. You can also have a handyman put up wall shelving.

beds: sell, with the possible exception of bunk beds.  The American size mattresses take up a lot of floor space will overwhelm and clutter a room.  We brought our beds and this was the biggest mistake we made.  The first place we moved to was a semi-detached house with large rooms.  We had no problem fitting in our American furniture. However, after that, we were living in standard size Israeli apartments which were much smaller and little by little sold off the beds replacing them with smaller and narrower Israeli ones.

dressers: sell.  We sold five dressers.  There was one tall, narrow one that may have worked out, but floor space is at a premium.  The key is to utilize vertical space versus horizontal space and dressers take up a lot of floor space.

sentimental pieces:  Make your own decision. We kept an antique buffet with hutch and antique dry sink.  We also brought an heirloom dining room table.

couches: sell.  You can find used couches.  There are constantly people selling or giving away.  Also not too expensive to buy new.


I advise to sell them.  Aside from the difference in electric current, they may not fit into the Israeli space.

Small electrical appliances: sell.  The motors will burn out eventually even when using a transformer. There is some debate about whether to bring your favorites but I personally didn’t bring any.

Computers.  Bring.  Most convert to 220v.  It is a matter of getting a new plug or using a transformer.


Bring your books, but weed out anything you haven’t read in a while or isn’t a favorite.  Pare down the collection in phases over a period of months.  After each phase, remove more books until you are left with your favorites.  Some communities host book swaps or have libraries where you can buy books for as little as 5 NIS.

Games and toys

Keep favorites only.  If you say “That’s a great game to play on Shabbos”, my question is “Are you currently playing it on Shabbos?” If you aren’t, pass it on. Same advice for puzzles.

Stuffed animals: keep a favorite or two and part with the rest. They are dust magnets.


Keep only what you like and currently wear.  Prior to moving is the time to weed out the wardrobe.

Children’s clothing/hand me downs.  This category usually causes disagreement.  I say keep only current sizes and possibly one size up.  The logistics of storage are crucial here.  There is no basement.  No garage. No attic. No large walk-in closet.  You have an aron (free standing closet) and hopefully a machsan (storage room). The machsan varies in size but may be no larger than 2×3 or 2×4 meters. Some may be larger, but space is limited.  Children have their own preferences and siblings aren’t always the same season or build as each other.  It would be a pity to pay shipping costs for items that you’ll never need.  If you plan to bring hand-me-downs, perhaps save only Shabbos clothing or pajamas, not an entire wardrobe.

A final word

Prior to making aliyah is the best time to declutter.  If something doesn’t “spark joy” or you’ve kept something because you “may need it someday”, now it the time to pass it on.  I had previously written a blog post called “The Ultimate in Decluttering” with successive part 2 and part 3 where I share our aliyah process of paring down.  I talk about what we got rid of originally and how we continued to let go of our belonging over the next six years.

The Ultimate in Decluttering

The Ultimate in Decluttering Part II

The Ultimate in Decluttering Part III -6 Years Later

For those readers who want advice or someone to guide them thought the decision-making process (which may be helpful for shalom bayis when disagreements arise over specific items) CONTACT ME.

Thanks for reading.

Karen, The Klutter Koach


Easy-Peasy Decluttering Task

I could write about the impending Black Friday and Cyber Monday: the perils of impulse shopping… where today’s purchases become tomorrow’s clutter…but instead, I’ll give an easy-peasy decluttering task where you can have immediate success.

Many of you reading this have email, or otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this post. Also, many of you have WhatsApp.

Email: Take a few minutes and do some DELETING. Delete old messages in your inbox. Then empty the trash. That’s it. The trash may automatically empty after 30 days, but there is something rewarding about clearing it out.

WhatsApp: For the WhatsApp folk, be aware that messages take up space on your phone. Clear it out. If you are in groups, such as school, shul, or community groups, the information gets outdated quickly. Yesterday’s ride share/ buy-sell-giveaway/ homework is old news.

Go to the three dots in the corner of your screen…tap MORE, then tap CLEAR CHAT. Done! I’m so busy doing this throughout the day that I haven’t counted how many messages I’ve deleted thus far. Since my last deletion, there were 101 new posts on the buy-sell.

Neither task involves heavy lifting, or light lifting (other than your index finger), and has instant results. Voila- you have successfully decluttered!

The Wiser Generation and Downsizing

As a home organizer, I work with a wide range of clients. Believe it or not, many are already organized, but simply don’t have the time, energy, or headspace for downsizing and organizing. Many clients are of the Wiser Generation, aka Seniors, who must downsize for a variety of reasons.

One of those reasons is needing to move to assisted living/ retirement communities/ smaller homes / or in with family members.  

The mindset needs to be “Which items will come to the new residence?” instead of “‘What should I get rid of?” This really does make it easier. I am KEEPING this… such as you want those heirloom candlesticks, the framed photos on the mantel, and your favorite coffee mugs. The things you never liked so much but had no reason to part with, you are NOT KEEPING. There are so many categories of our belongings I could write a book, but this is a short article, so I’ll cover only a handful of categories.

Glassware: A sweet memory of mine is spending the night at my grandparent’s and having a glass of juice at breakfast. We sat at the Formica kitchen table and I felt very grown up, as this was more sophisticated than a Dixie paper cup with knock-knock jokes. I digress…

What I observe in homes established in this era is a different glass for everything.  Juice glasses, water goblets, shot glasses, brandy snifters, wine glasses, champagne flutes, and more. Once it starts coming out of the cupboard you see the sheer volume and realize you probably aren’t going to need most…or few…or any… of these categories. Keep what you need.

Books: For a book-a-holic like myself, I have many, and fill my bookcases as if they were old friends. However, space is limited in smaller spaces. Pick your favorite favorites. Perhaps you had a vegetarian phase, needed to know about a medical condition, or had a category of special interest. If you’ve passed these phases, pass on the books.

Dishes- meat, dairy, pareve for daily use, Shabbos dishes, Pesach dishes.  Pare down… have less per set. Are you using disposables more often?  Or do you need something lightweight like Correlle? Reassess your needs and downsize accordingly.

Storage containers: My parent’s Tupperware is still going strong… there’s still a very yellow component to their kitchen.  Regardless of what safety/plastic standards are/were, I’m not discussing them. Butter tubs, one-time use containers, lids without bottoms, bottoms without lids, yellowed, stained, cracked…throw them out.  Bottoms and tops need a match and things that nest inside each other save space.

Glass jars: You do NOT need more than one small-ish shelf of empty spaghetti and jelly jars. Post them on freebie groups and there are interested parties, or put them in the recycles if you can’t bear to throw them out. 

Personal care items and food items: They have expiration dates for a reason.  I can envision a few of you reading about to argue that dates are only put there so the company makes you buy more.  However…when years go by and you have a product in 2022 that expired in 2019 or sooner I would lightly urge you to toss it.  I am not giving advice for 2020 and 2021, but in my humble opinion, I’d probably toss those also.

Bags: The infamous bag-of-bags in the kitchen begets more bags of bags. The luggage is no longer to airline standards if you fly. The school bags, the picnic coolers, the garment bags. Which are your favorites, and how many do you really need?

Perhaps a future article can cover more categories, but if you start with these, which hopefully aren’t too emotionally charged like the memorabilia category, you’re off to a good start. 

I highly recommend beginning the process before you have to and the pressure is on… Work in small blocks of time to avoid overwhelm. Envision your smaller space and how you would like it to look. …and if you need that virtual hand-holding, reach out and I’m here to support you.

How to Reduce Clutter in November

How can you reduce clutter? I’m going to be harsh, my dear readers, but it’s tough love. If you already have too much clutter, that’s an issue for another day. What I suggest doing NOW to STOP more CLUTTER is to take a good hard look at your consumer habits. What are you buying and bringing home? No judgement, G-d forbid. I’m not peeking into your shopping cart or your online order.

My question to you is, are you buying something you really NEED? Or is it something “on sale”, something cute that caught your eye, something you didn’t know existed until you saw it while you were scrolling? Many things are impulse buys.

My first suggestion is to be MINDFUL of your purchases. Do you NEED it? Distinguish between WANTS and NEEDS.

For those of you who can take this up a notch, once you’ve practiced mindfulness, put yourself on a spending freeze. Try it for a week. For the braver, try for two. BUY ONLY consumables such as food, medication refills, diapers, etc. If XYZ item is broken or needed, such as all the umbrellas from last season need replacing, replace them because you NEED them.

November is a short few days away. Time will pass quickly and before you know it, it will be Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Retailers and marketers will be doing their utmost to get you to spend your hard-earned money. As I mentioned above, much impulse buying takes place during this season.

If you take time now, the first two weeks of November, to practice buying the consumables you need, you’ll have more confidence when Black Friday and Cyber Monday have their tantalizing merchandise for your purchasing pleasure.

That my dear readers, is my suggestion. It may take a little practice, as all new habits do. You will save money, avoid buyer’s remorse, and cut down on clutter.
Flex those mindfulness muscles. You can do it!

Buying Storage Containers

A question I’m repeatedly asked is “What I should I buy before you come for my organizing session?” The answer: NOTHING. BUY NOTHING.
Pro Organizer TIP: Wait to buy storage containers until you know
1) What you need to organize
2) The size you need.
Otherwise, you might waste time and money buying the wrong thing.

In some of the kitchens I’ve organized, a shoe box, plastic box, or basket from another room can be re-purposed. Aluminum pans have been used (fold down sharp edges) and food storage containers in which to corral small items. My philosophy: use what you have before purchasing something new.

In situations where there is nothing available to use or a specific size is needed, then and only then go shopping. However, note…*Not all containers are created equal*. Look for durable, not junky, and preferably coordinating containers for the same room. Know your preference: do you like metal, plastic, wicker, cardboard, see-through, lidded, etc.

Do you like neutral colors or colored ones? Does the room have a color scheme? If you don’t know what you like, peruse Pinterest and search ‘storage solutions’ or ‘kitchen storage’ or ‘bedroom storage’ or whatever.

Storage containers can be a useful tool if you buy the right kind. Otherwise, they add to the clutter problem instead of solving it.

Got questions about storage, making aliyah, decluttering, or another organizing dilemma? Contact me.

The Aliyah Files #38 Love Thy Neighbor

One notable change for many families making aliyah is the type of dwelling they are moving to. The most drastic change and adjustment is to move from a single-family home to an apartment. Granted, some apartments may offer a decent amount of space including a yard, mirpeset (porch), parking, space, or machsan (storage room), but having neighbors above you, next to you, under you, or all the above will be a new experience and takes getting used to.

For those who went away to university or yeshiva or seminary with a dorm, you can draw upon this experience. You most likely will be sharing stairways, elevators, common areas, and parking lot. Some neighbors you will bump into (figuratively, hopefully not literally) and others you will scarely see.

Bear in mind the following:

Some may have children that you will hear crying and fussing all…the…time, while others may have quiet children who never make a peep. Or perhaps no children, but maybe they are dog-parents and you hear poochie barking often.

Some neighbors are so quiet you wouldn’t know there was anyone lives there, and others that you know when they are home because of the decibel level of voices or music.

In any event, in the alphabet soup of personalities and the fact that we are all human, there is potentially an opportunity for discord, as well as the possibility of beautiful harmony. Or even both concurrently. Try to use the Torah’s wisdom of loving your neighbor like yourself.

May you be blessed with wonderful neighbors and dwell in harmony!

Post-Pesach Organizing Tip

Passover 2022 just ended and you still may be shifting your kitchen back to its pre-Pesach state. While everything is still fresh in your mind, I highly suggest making a list of what you need to buy for next year such as kitchenware, other items, or how many jars of non-kitniyot mayonnaise jars you need for the week.😄 (A certain type of mayonnaise product was in high demand and sold out quickly. If it didn’t apply to you, don’t worry about it and read on).

The list can be digital or paper. Create a file called Pesach 2023 (or another memorable heading).

Add any notes, shopping lists, recipes, menus, etc. to the file, and now you’ve got a head start for next year.🤗

Pesach and decluttering (or not) and why. What I decluttered this week

Many people combine spring cleaning and decluttering during the Pesach-cleaning process. It’s a logical concept, but I would like to remind everyone there are 50/52 weeks of the year for decluttering, which is an ongoing process, not a yearly event. The mitzvah is to look for chometz.
Nevertheless, in the cleaning process, I found a few items to declutter. One basic concept I use for decluttering is one from Marie Kondo (the Konmari method): Does the item SPARK JOY?

I wanted to share what I decluttered and why, as I encountered items in my Pesach prep that no longer suited my needs. So for a little show and tell, or more accurately telling because there are no photos, here’s what I did.

  1. Jacket with the broken zipper. I had this jacket since 1997 (it’s now 2022, do the math). I loved this jacket, but at some point, the zipper broke. I looked into getting the zipper replaced, but sadly, the cost of replacing it would be more than the jacket. I thought of wearing it unzipped, but it just never happened. After more than a handful of winters of not wearing it, it went to the clothing recycling receptacle.
    What’s interesting is when I bought a new sweatshirt, I didn’t connect the fact it was the same color as the jacket, so inadvertently, I had already replaced it, which made getting rid of the jacket easier. Broken zippers do not spark joy.
  2. Throw pillows. While nice to lean upon, they always end up on the floor and a good part of my tidying up involves putting them back on the couch or nagging the kids to do so. While only a fraction of a second to return the pillow to the couch I spend a lot of time doing it. Being on a cleaning frenzy for both crumbs and conquering dust, I needed to wash the pillow covers as the once uncovered and less pristine-looking pillows needed a facelift.
    With the pillow covers off, I realized that dust had gotten past the pillow covers giving the pillows a dusty smell and sending my allergies into overdrive. Since the pillows were showing their stuffing, they were unwashable. I thanked the pillows for their service (the Jewish concept of hakoras ta tov, showing gratitude, as well as a Konmari concept) and then trashed them. Dusty, unsightly pillows do not spark joy.
  3. Books. Normally, I have no difficulty parting with reading material. These particular books have been controversial since the author was found to have done some heinous acts. After news broke, I pulled them from my shelves, stashed them in a bag unsure of what to do with them, and left them in limbo. Today they went away. If items have bad memories or associations attached to them, they do not spark joy.
  4. Decorative items. I like looking at things that make me happy and displaying them. However, too much stuff can overwhelm a small space. After putting a few items away and not seeing them for a certain amount of time, I got clarity on which items I really loved and which I was ready to part with. Too many display items can lead to visual clutter, and stress, and also accumulate dust. Clutter, stress, and dust do not spark joy.
  5. Odds and ends. Stretched-out clothing that didn’t make me feel fab, some cookie cutters that never get used (we prefer classic chocolate chip, not shaped cookies), and a handful of craft supplies. The fabric-covered cardboard box from the Old Country that held the supplies was more tape than the box. The box had sparked joy, so I kept trying to repair it. I gave it a sad goodbye and it went out with the pillows. Broken, stretched out, or unused items do not spark joy.

    The newly cleared-out spaces spark joy.

So there you have it, a peek into my recent decluttering.
The goal is deciding what we want to surround ourselves with and what sparks joy, and that is what we keep. Note that our likes and preferences change over time, so what once was, no longer is and that’s ok. You don’t need to keep something for posterity.

So I’m back to Pesach preparations and searching for chometz after this brief recharge to write (an activity that Sparks Joy). Wishing you a chag kasher v’sameach.

Pesach Organizing Tips 2022

It’s that time of year again – preparing the home for Pesach. Here are 7 quick tips that may make things easier.

1. Pretend you are a contestant on Master Chef. Instead of a mystery box of ingredients, your meals will be created using what you have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. This will both free up space for kosher-for-Pesach items as well as use up your chometz.

2. Empty out purses, bags, and backpacks. Check for chometz, throw out trash, put non-necessary items back where they belong. If there are children in the household, do this on the last day of school before the vacation or the last day of pre-Pesach camp (if attending).

3. When cleaning out closets and having giveaways (as spring cleaning often goes in tandem with Pesach cleaning), donate the items sooner than later as many gemachim and other second-hand establishments stop accepting donations a week or two prior to the holiday.

4. If shifting things around in the kitchen, take photos of how things looked Before so they can be returned that way After.

5. If there are clogged drains or any pressing maintenance issues, schedule a technician before the holiday.

6.  Get to the pharmacy without a last-minute rush, unless a prescription can’t be filled before a certain date,.

7. Reward yourself with positive praise for a job well done, as you deserve it! A little praise, whether from others or giving ourselves a pat on the back keeps the motivation going.

Saving and Reusing Plastic Bags from the Perspective of a Home Organizer

Do you save bags? Most friends I know do. Many clients do. I do. But at what point does this bag collection become out of control? When you have a bag of bags, and you need to put the bag of bags into another bag of bags, and soon you have an entire cupboard filled with bags of bags, then you may have too many bags.
But perhaps you need and use all these bags. You re-use them for trash can liners, soiled diapers, doggie doo pick up, or for the next shopping outing. I suggest folding them to save space. Some people (speaking for myself) differentiate between “good bags” and “not good bags” and keep a bag of bags of each type of bag, such as grocery bags, versus shopping bags.

If you have decided your bag stash has taken over and you need to get rid of some, I have found places to re-home them, such as second-hand shops or pre-school/daycare/kindergartens.

I must bring to your attention and alert you to one very important thing. I’ve had the experience when working with clients that bags were kept under the sink. Most of the time, there isn’t an issue…however… I have had to be the bearer of bad news on more than one occasion. I have had to alert the client there is dampness/moisture/mildew or a leak under their sink.
If this is the scenario, the bags are wet and/or have absorbed the mildew smell or have mildew growing on them, you MUST throw them out.
I’ve also had to be the bearer of bad news to alert the client of evidence that Mickey and friends may have visited and an exterminator should be dispatched. These bags should also be trashed.

So these are my two thoughts about re-using bags. This post was inspired by a status update by a favorite thrift shop that wrote they are happy to take your bags of bags.

The Aliyah Files #37 Seasonal Wardrobe Rotation

It’s November and the temperture in my region has been 80s during the day and lower at night. If accurate, the weather forecast predicts a good ten degrees lower tomorrow. Hooray! as I’m not a hot-weather gal. In the meantime, I’m waiting for the right time to put the summer clothes away and take out the cooler weather ones. Because of limitations of space, seasonal clothing rotation is a necessity and I can’t have two complete seasonal wardrobes out all out at once.

Since we’re teetering on the border between hot and cooler weather, we’re in what’s called a TRANSITIONAL STAGE. This means that after each load of laundry, before putting away the clean items in the cupboard, I cull out a few items that are there.
The ones that didn’t get washed, in general, may be the second tier of favorites in the wardrobe, with the favorite items getting the most usage.

As one goes throught this process, there will be less summer and more winter, while avoiding the scenario of having nothing weather-appropriate to wear while Mother Nature is in a fickle mood.

Ok, so where to put it, especially when you have minimal space? Here’s where a little creativity and organization comes into play. I’ll first give you some ideas WHERE to put it and then WHAT to use.

Where to store out of season clothing

  • under the bed
  • on top of the closet
  • on a high shelf
  • in a spare room
  • in the machsan (storage room)—but only if there isn’t dampness issues like mold/mildew. If you can smell it, then anything with fibers DOES NOT belong there
  • inside a bed where the matress lifts providing storage underneath
  • laundry room

What to use for storage

  • transparent plastic storage boxes
  • transparent plastic storage bags
    As you can see, I prefer transparent to opaque, as I think it’s better to see the contents. If you prefer non-transparents, then that’s fine also. With either, labelling the contents is crucial.

Should I save clothing for siblings?

I frequently get asked what I recommend for someone who wants to save clothing from one child to another. It depends on many different factors, so I can’t give a general answer, as each family’s need are unique. What I WOULDN’T SAVE are seasonal fabrics like corduroy, extra bulky sweaters, swimsuits/pjs/shorts with elastic waistbands (if more than a year, two years at most) because the elastic will dry out and go C-r-u-n-c-h when you give it a pull. Colors and styles that are vogue for a particular season, like mustard yellow or girls tops with a zipper down the back are not worth saving.

Also, DO NOT SAVE anything that is holey, ripped, or stained. The stains will intensify over time and you don’t want to find the unpleasant surprise of yellowed clothing. I’ll interrupt myself and say that these items should be put in clothing recycling receptables (if available) or used as rags. These items are NOT DONATABLE to second-hand establishments.

Label the contents

ALWAYS label the contents. DON’T RELY ON MEMORY. I can’t count how many times someone has forgotten they had something in storage. For example, a client and I excavated a box of winter coats that would have fit the previous year, and when we found them, were too small for anyone in the household. I’ve also fallen into this pitfall of thinking I’ll remember something…and don’t. My brain is like a computer with too many tabs open as it is.
No need for any fancy labelling machine. Just a permanent marker, bold tip preferred. You can write directly on the box or use a piece of paper taped to the box, or a sticky label.


As mentioned, everyone has a unique situation. Organizing clothing and creating functional kitchens are two of my favorite projects to tackle, so don’t be shy and contact us with question and/or schedule an appointment. As an FYI, the best times to tackle organizing projects are

  • after Sukkot- a week before Chanukah
  • After Chanukah- two weeks before Purim
  • After Pesach- end of June
  • summer, if you’re schedule permits
  • after school year begins-two weeks before Rosh Hashana
    so….NOW is a great time to schedule.

The Aliyah Files #36 Money and end of year school expenses

The Aliyah Files #36 Money and end of year school expenses

The school year is coming to a close. As the final weeks are being counted down, another thing I’m counting the amount of money flying out of my wallet and wishing the money tree would sprout more bills. Here are some unexpected expenses to expect:

field trips (tiyulim)- some are included in the annual fee, some not

Snacks- whether or not your trip was paid for in the annual fee, a cultural norm is to send nosh for the trip. As if a sandwich or piece of fruit isn’t sufficient, chips, nosh, and candy are expected (at least by the students). Regardless of the exciting places my kids are destined to visit, the snacks are what is the topic of discussion.

Picnics/pizza parties/ barbeques- All these end of year food-related activities come with a price. Whether it’s 5 or 10 shekel, it’s adds up quickly when you have many kids and they have many parties each.

Gifts- Often you are asked to contribute money for appreciation gifts for teachers and staff.

Book fees- Many schools have used book programs. While you ultimately save money by buying used, you pay for the books now for next year at the end of the school year.

Lost book fees- In addition to paying for next year’s books, if any books were lost or damaged from the current year, you have those fees.

School camp-The school year ends and then there is ‘school camp’ for a few weeks. While the cost is nominal compared to other camp experiences, there is still money to be forked out.

If there are any other expenses I have omitted, either because I don’t have them, or I was out back watering my money tree, and I’ll edit for next time.


The Aliyah Files #35 To bring or not to bring kitchenware

Whether making aliyah or moving house, the volume of kitchenware is something to consider before shlepping all your things from one home to another. In many dwellings, storage space is inadequate. In others, while adequate storage, the kitchen design has me shaking my head wondering “What in the world was the designer thinking?” making it challenging to access and use what you did bring. IMHO, here are some things to consider:

Coffee mugs and reusable bottles- I can fathom to guess you have your favorites. Keep them. The excess is clutter. Get rid of it.

Breakables-the chances of breakage a high, even when handling with utmost care. The counter tops of granite or other hard material spell disaster for glass and ceramic items. The number of ‘fatalities’ aka broken drinking glasses we had in our first year of aliyah fell into the category of ‘too many to count’.
Just keep this in mind when deciding what to bring.

Paper goods, plasticware, and baggies-DO NOT STOCKPILE THESE ITEMS. DO NOT GO WAREHOUSE CLUB SHOPPING PRIOR TO ALIYAH. Many advise to do so, I am staunch against it. You can buy them here. READ ALIYAH FILES #17 Ditch the Warehouse Club Mentality.

Storage containers-The joke is that the missing lids and your unmatched socks have run off together. If there are containers without lids, or lids without containers, chuck them. Also, consider keeping only the ones that nest together, as it will save space.

Multiples-For example, take note of how many spatulas you have. How many do you have? How many do you realistically use? Just because you bought a package of three, doesn’t mean you need to keep all.

Gadgets-Do you really need the egg slicer, strawberry huller, apple corer? Maybe yes, maybe no. I can’t answer that for you. If you don’t use it or use it so rarely, you can probably live without it.

Small electrical appliances-IF and only IF you have a transformer IN THE KITCHEN and the storage space then and only then consider brings your Cuisinart or other loved appliance. I’ve worked with so many people who brought their foreign voltage appliances to eventually put them curbside. I personally did not bring anything with cords.

You can always err on the side of “might need it” and bring it, but since you are paying to shelp, is it worth the cost of “might”? Only you can decide.

That’s my two cents on what to bring for kitchenware.

If you found this article helpful, there are 34 other Aliyah Files to catch up on.


The Aliyah Files #34 What To Bring on Aliyah: The categories of Might and Maybe

Might and Maybe are dangerous words to use in moving. Items given this designation fall into the blackhole of possibilities and good intentions. Putting it bluntly, most of these possibilities will NEVER happen.

Think back to March 2020 when the world was on lockdown. Think of all the possibilities where ‘might’ and ‘maybe’ came into play: ‘I might learn to play guitar, maybe I’ll learn a foreign language, I might read all the books on my bookcase’. REALITY CHECK-survival mode and Netflix. I can fathom to guess, the guitar lessons and foreign language went by the wayside.

Also remember during this times the games, books, crafts, cookbooks that had lain unused for many moons may have gotten some usage. Or maybe they didn’t….

As I say, if you didn’t use what you had during a global pandemic, chances are that keeping it for ‘someday’ probably ain’t gonna happen. REALITY CHECK: You aren’t going to use it. Pass it on. Don’t bring it. To reiterate from other posts I have written, STORAGE SPACE IS LIMITED. You will probably have a challenging enough time fitting items you do love and use.

If you are already utilizing and enjoying something, keep it. Bring it. Continue to enjoy it. That cookbook with the recipe your might try, you won’t. Save space, find a recipe on-line and say goodbye to the cookbook.

Need a little virtual hand-holding in this process? Zoom appointments are available to make the initial process less daunting, and as always, questions welcome.

You can do this! In the end, it’s all just STUFF.

The Aliyah Files #33 To Bring or Not to Bring Your Furniture

As I write this, I’m sitting in my 3-bedroom (4 room) Israeli apartment. Looking around my home, I’m taking note of what remains from our move nearly 11 years ago.
1. dining room table

2. antique dry sink

3. vintage (possibly antique) buffet with a hutch

4. wicker foldable screen

5. free-standing coat rack

That’s it. Yup. Nothing else. Prior to moving we sold/gave away our bookcases, couches, Lazyboy recliners, an antique armoire, and dressers. We brought all the beds, and little by little replaced them with the more narrow and practical Israeli counterparts.

Furniture from the USA is bulky and heavy. If you move into a house, it may fit, but if you’re trading a house for an apartment, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised how furniture can overwhelm and take up tons of floor space.

For the inquiring minds, other non-furniture items still in our possession since making aliyah:

Wall art and framed photos, of which only 25% got hung. We are allowed to hang things in our apartment, but I don’t have the proper drill for cement walls covered in drywall.

Photo albums

Special tchatckes/collections like our Lladro figurines

Favorite books

Towels, bedding, blankets

Special toys like Legos and wood blocks

Special memorabilia

Our China (we use real dishes during the week and China on Shabbos). Note-we’ve lost a handful of pieces since we moved and no longer have a complete set

Silverware, Shabbos items like kiddish cups, candle sticks, challah board, etc.

Favorite tote bags and backpacks

large plastic drawers and large plastic storage containers

plastic stackable storage shelves (from Home Depot)

Winter coats for myself and my husband (all kids things have been outgrown). They are LL Bean are phenomenal quality… and yes, it gets cold in winter.

high-quality water bottles

pots and pans, but only the ones in good condition

folding chairs, set of six but kept in storage. We use the stackable plastic Keter ones instead.

Besides a few other odds and ends, that’s it. Everything else we bought here if we needed it.

There is no “one size fits all” formula on what to take, but as a general rule of thumb, less is more. In regards to furniture, if something is scaled small enough and sentimental, bring it. Your big sectional couch, say goodbye.

Questions? Need a neutral party for advice? Contact me. Don’t stress too much….it’s just “stuff”.

The Aliyah Files #32: 5 tips for downsizing photos from the pre-digital photo era

In the pre-digital era of photos, you may recall dropping off rolls of film to the nearest photo processing establishment and eagerly anticipated their return, hoping that pictures weren’t blurry or otherwise disappointing. These long-ago prints are now stockpiled in envelopes, bags, drawers, boxes, and albums. If the mere thought downsizing this collection CAUSES ANXIETY, don’t worry, here are some TIPS to assist you with this task.

  1. If you’re beginning to downsize your home DON’T START WITH PHOTOS. Begin with a more neutral category like toiletries or kitchenware. Once you’ve gotten used to paring down a category that carries less emotional attachment than memories, you’ll have strengthened your decision-making skills only then you’re ready for Step #2.
  2. Practice downsizing photos by deleting some digital photos. Once you feel confident about deleting digitally, then move on to the prints.
  3. Throw out photos that are blurry, unflattering, associate bad memories, you dislike them, have too many of the same subject, don’t recall the subject, or doubles. There is no “rule” saying “keep every photo you ever took.”
  4. Label the back of the photos with a photo-safe pencil. Write an approximate ‘what, where, and when’ such as “Karen, circa 1975, Grandma’s house in Milwaukee”. This will help you recall the details of the photo. *Note: For vintage black-and-white photos, write the information on a sticky note or other paper.
  5. Store the photos in a archival photo-safe box. Be consistent in the the brand and size you purchase, as it makes for an organized look. The two link I added are from a highly reputable company called Created Memories, of which I have personally used, but there are other fine products out there for all budgets.

When I was in the process of making aliyah, I used these steps. It was so freeing to get rid of all the excess photos as well as KEEP ONLY WHAT YOU WANT TO REMEMBER. I kept select photos of memorable events, but not every photo that I ever took nor was in.

Little Karen, approximately age 4

These 5 tips are a good first step in tackling your photos. I’m not going to discuss making albums or digitalizing, as these are more time-consuming ventures, and recommended only for those who are motivated to do so. Also, a rule of thumb, in the famous words of Marie Kondo, the world-famous home organizer from Japan, “If it doesn’t spark joy, don’t keep it.”

This is a PROCESS. Do it in short blocks of time. Power sorting isn’t recommended unless you want to, as it can be overwhelming.

Additional note: if you think friends or relatives may be interested in some of the extra photos, put them in pre-labeled photo mailing envelopes for hard-copies, or take a digital photo and send electronically. For the sake of time, don’t focus on redistributing anything, just consolidate and sort what you’ve got and what you are keeping for yourself.

If you need support in your downsizing efforts, feel free to reach out and CONTACT ME. #BeenThereDoneThat


The Aliyah Files #31 Moving Tips on Packing Books for the Jewish Home


Bookcase (1)

Jewish homes have lots of books.  Marie Kondo’s suggestion of a 30-book limit just doesn’t work for us, so when it comes to packing up bookcases prior to moving there’s a lot of work to be done.  I highly recommend doing a book purge prior to packing so you are only bringing books you love to your new home, but if you’re ready to pack here are some tips.

Bookcase (3)
Solid or Fun Prints to Denote Rooms

Color code by room.  If you have more than one room with a bookcase and plan to have a similar setup in the new place, use colored stickers or colored duct tape to denote to which room the box belongs. For example living room=green, bedroom #1=blue, bedroom #2=yellow.

Bookcase (4).jpg

Label the side + top of the box.  When the boxes are stacked, you can’t see the labels.

Bookcase (7).jpg

Separate kodesh (holy/religious) and chol (non-religious).   There is a halacha (Jewish law) about not stacking nonreligious books on top of a kodesh (holy) books which I  confirmed this with my rabbi, so I would presume that what applies to stacking would also apply to packing. In practical lingo, keep your Gemorahs and Chumashim in separate boxes from your New York Times bestsellers.

Use small-sized boxes for books. If you are looking for second-hand boxes, ask around to see who has moved recently and offer to take the boxes off their hands.  If you’re hunting around town for boxes, the boxes that the 2-liter soda bottles come in are a nice size. Just don’t use something too big or the box will get really heavy.  Also, if possible, try to keep the boxes approximately the same size.

Bookcase (5)

If you want to be uber-organized, pack by category.  Think of a library and how books are arranged. They are grouped by topic.  Some people already have similar topics grouped together.  If you don’t, no worries, and don’t stress about it.  Just consider organizing your shelves by categories post-move.

Finally, be sure the tape at the bottom of the box is securely reinforced.  There’s nothing worse than a poorly taped box that breaks open.

If you haven’t started packing yet, I suggested doing a book purge. Here’ a post about downsizing your book collection using what I call “the onion analogy”.

Have questions about what to take on Aliyah?  Contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Karen, The Klutter Koach



The Aliyah Files #29 Got Tummy Trouble? What OTC meds can you take for relief?

The topic of the Aliyah Files #27 was OTC medications for pain relief and sinus. To continue with the OTC medication theme here are products for relief of diarrhea, gas, and other tummy troubles. May you not need any of them and if you do, may you have quick relief of symptoms!

Gas X / Simethicone = Gazim X

Gazim X
Gazim X

Miralax=Perglax Neutral

Imodium = Stop It



Pepto Bismol = Kalbeten


Electrolytes (Pedialyte) = Hydro Add

Hydro AddTums=Tums



L. X. Care =used for constipation

L.X. Caren

A shout out to Arthur Jacobs of Arthur’s Natural Pharmacy in Ramat Bet Shemesh for allowing me to photograph the merchandise. A word from Arthur “In addition to these products there are different kinds of probiotics. Probiotics aren’t created equal so you should know which one helps your particular ailment.”

So here you have it…tummy trouble OTC products.  My disclaimer is to always consult a trained medical practitioner when needed and read the leaflet insert on dosing instructions.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Karen, aka The Klutter Koach

February 14, 2020


The Aliyah Files #27 You’ve finished your stash of Motrin and Tylenol, now what? Here’s the Israeli OTC medication guide for Fever, Aches & Pains

When I’m achy and miserable I want relief.  I also want TLC, soup, and a hot beverage but that can’t be bought at the pharmacy.  So what OTC meds can one find at a pharmacy in Israel that are equivalent to the familiar brands we know and trust from the USA?  Here’s an Illustrated Guide for OTC medication for Fever,Aches & Pains…with a bonus product for Sinus pain relief.

One thing you’ll notice is the packaging generally has English on one side and Hebrew on the other.  Another thing you’ll notice is the instruction leaflet inside the box is written in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. As with any medication, check with your doctor/healthcare provider if you have any questions.

Ready for some relief? Here are your options:


Acamoli English side of box
Acamoli=Children’s Tylenol

Acamoli Hebrew side of box
The Hebrew side of the box of Acamoli


Nurofen for Children
Nurofen for Children=Children’s Motrin

Narocin=Naproxen Sodium= Alleve

If you’re a fellow sufferer of sinus pressure, there’s Flixonase (Flonase) which is not OTC and Sinufed (Sudafed) which is OTC but like the USA you need to show identification and can only fill one box at a time.



All 4 of the kupot (coo-POHT), (Leumit, Clalit, Macabee, and Meuchedet) have pharmacies. Superpharm is a national pharmacy.  There are also private pharmacies.

In Ramat Bet Shemesh I want to give a shout-out to Arthur of Arthur’s Natural Pharmacy  Not only does Arthur’s carry prescription meds, OTC meds, and vitamins, but also natural remedies. The customer service is excellent, the store is clean and well-stocked, and unlike the kupot which often close in the middle of the day or early on some days, Arthur’s is “Open 8-8 and don’t be late!”

Wishing you a “Choref Bah-rie”, the blessing for a healthy winter.

Karen, The Klutter Koach

Have you missed any of The OLIM FILES?

#26 Fairy Dust, Pixie Dust, or Just Dust

#25 Best Snacks for School

#24 Storage Space

#23 Summer Sizzle

#22 Time is Relative

#21 The Ultimate in De-cluttering Part IV

#20 Tu B’Shevat and Midterm Report Cards

#19 Healthy Eating on a Budget

#18 Welcome to Israel!

#17 Ditch the Warehouse Club Mentality

#16 Over-the-Counter-Medication

#15 What to Buy as Soon as You Get Off the Plane

#14 Essential Hebrew Part II

#13 Essential Hebrew Part I

#12 Color and Home Decorating

#11 S’more, Meet Krembo

#10 Pumpkin-Spiced Latte

#9 The First Week of School

#8    The Illustrated Guide to School Supplies

#7  To Bring, or Not to Bring- That is the Question

#6 Making Pesach in Israel

#5  Doors, Light Switches,Toilets and Other Oddities of Your New Home

#4 Small Appliances

#3 Israeli Closets

#2 Cleaning Products

#1 Housekeeping 101 in Israel

The Aliyah Files #28 How to downsize your book collection

DO YOU LOVE BOOKS? I do, plus I’m a self-proclaimed bookworm.  As much as I love books I don’t own every book I’ve read nor have kept every book I’ve bought. Gasp! Is it sacrilegious to give away books? No, it isn’t. If you’re making aliyah or even just moving across town, this is one category of items you’ll probably want to downsize.

Presents are nice (5)

If you want to / need to CULL YOUR COLLECTION here’s how. I call it the Onion Analogy. It’s a process of paring down one step (layer) at a time. 



  • Think of an onion with multiple layers. The first layer to peel (discard) is the books you don’t like. You couldn’t get into the story, it was boring, you liked it once upon a time but no longer. This is the easiest layer.
  • The second layer is books you read once or twice but don’t have an interest in re-reading them. If you’re needing to downsize because of a move this part of the process can have multiple layers to peel. This can be done over a period of time.  You don’t need to do this in one afternoon.  I recommend not doing this too close to a moving date if you’re moving because you may be overwhelmed and might end up taking more books than you would otherwise.
  • My guideline for the last cut of books is to ask yourself: IF I WERE TO GIVE THIS BOOK AWAY, WOULD I CHECK IT OUT OF THE LIBRARY? If yes, it’s a keeper. If no, pass it on.

So what do you do with the books you don’t want?  Many libraries accept books.  You can donate them to a thrift store, second-hand bookstore, or school.  If your community has a freecycle group you can also post there.

Painting Blog Banner

Don’t worry about not finding reading material in English in Israel.  There are libraries, book swaps, books to borrow from your friends.

In Bet Shemesh, the Benjamin Library has a twice-yearly book sale (which is in two weeks) and there is a great book swap in Maale Adumim with thousands of titles.

You can get books from Book Depository, order online, use a Kindle, or download books from the library.

So before I give you any more ideas for replenishing your book stash, keep to the task at hand of DOWNSIZING what you’ve got so only your favorites make the overseas journey to your new home.

Thanks for reading.

Karen, The Klutter Koach      January 6, 2020


The Aliyah Files #25: Best Snacks to Send to School

We’re made it to the end of the long, hot summer vacation and it’s BACK TO SCHOOL. Here are some suggestions as a mom and (former) classroom teacher.  Since kids generally have to choose between socializing and eating they will choose socializing.  Think Grab ‘N Go.

In Israeli schools here is a morning meal approximately 10:00.  The typical fare is a sandwich.  Send on bread, baguette, or roll.  Unless there is a peanut allergy restriction, some ideas to spread on the bread are peanut butter, jelly, hummus, cheese, cream cheese, or chocolate spread (popular, yes.  healthy, probably not).

Fruit and veggie options: grapes, apple slices, oranges, carrot sticks

Nosh foods: granola bars, popcorn, pretzels, crackers

Dairy: send single-serve yogurts ONLY if your child will finish in one sitting. Remember to send a spoon

Beverage: water.  Invest in a water bottle

I have had success in making ‘healthy cookies’, bites, balls, mini muffins, etc. that my kids really like and actually eat.

Many schools offer a hot lunch option.  There is a protein, a grain, and a cooked vegetable.  There is usually bread and a fruit or vegetable for the taking.  If you don’t sign up for the hot lunch then send something you think your child will eat. Ditch the Pinterest mentality of preparing any Bento box funky type of meal as it will be time (and food) wasted.

I have found that even implementing the above suggestions, it is a good idea to have dinner ready to serve earlier than later.  The little darlings come home ravenous so I feel it’s best to feed them a real meal than offer them nosh.

Thanks for reading. Here’s to a successful school year!

Karen, The Klutter Koach

August 31, 2019


#24 Storage Space

#23 Summer Sizzle

#22 Time is Relative

#21 The Ultimate in De-cluttering Part IV

#20 Tu B’Shevat and Midterm Report Cards

#19 Healthy Eating on a Budget

#18 Welcome to Israel!

#17 Ditch the Warehouse Club Mentality

#16 Over-the-Counter-Medication

#15 What to Buy as Soon as You Get Off the Plane

#14 Essential Hebrew Part II

#13 Essential Hebrew Part I

#12 Color and Home Decorating

#11 S’more, Meet Krembo

#10 Pumpkin-Spiced Latte

#9 The First Week of School

#8    The Illustrated Guide to School Supplies

#7  To Bring, or Not to Bring- That is the Question

#6 Making Pesach in Israel

#5  Doors, Light Switches,Toilets and Other Oddities of Your New Home

#4 Small Appliances

#3 Israeli Closets

#2 Cleaning Products

#1 Housekeeping 101 in Israel