An Organized Remodel

img_2330.jpgOur family is in the middle of a kitchen remodel. Now more than ever it helps to be organized. Remodeling can be disruptive; there’s noise, dust and people coming and going. In order to preserve our sanity, we thought it would help to maintain a few routines. One of those routines is eating dinner together. I wanted to continue that routine as much as possible. Because I’m a clutter control freak, I did a little advance planning. Read more

An Organizing Tip From an Urban Gardener

ph02772j.jpgI live in the city and have a small vegetable garden. When I first started gardening my Dad warned me that in order to grow carrots, I would need to thin them out if I wanted them to thrive. The first time my husband saw me pulling them, he protested. He didn’t want to waste those good “potential” carrots. So I thinned a few rows and left a few alone. The rows that I didn’t thin, produced underdeveloped and misshapen carrots.

Some of my clients save a lot of stuff because they don’t want it to go to waste. They plan on using it in the future. Unfortunately, they often forget they have it. When they get around to donating it, the item is yellowed, brittle or outdated. Don’t let things outlive their usefulness. “Thin things out” now and get them into the hands of someone who will use them. Then you will reap the added bonus of having less to care for and having better access to the things that are important to you.

Saving Money

j0408819.jpgGas prices are dramatically affecting food prices. I talked to the checker at my local supermarket. I asked, “Is it my imagination or are cereal boxes getting smaller?” She said the store had just closed out a line of larger sized boxes and brought in the smaller sizes to replace them. I asked if the cost of gas was driving this change and she said “Yes!’
She is the store price checker and has been working extra hard marking-up prices. Manufacturers don’t want to absorb the extra shipping costs, so they pass the cost on to consumers. One of their tricks is to use smaller packages and then offer special pricing if you buy 5 or 6 items. Read more

Emergency Pantry Meals

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I always try to keep a few pantry meals handy so that I can make dinner without running to the store. I’ve even gone so far as to write down my “meals in reserve.”

But I hadn't thought of the clever idea featured in last month’s Better Homes and Gardens. In an article called Zoning Rules they suggested creating bins to hold a few weeknight meals in your pantry. For example one basket might contain everything you need for a spaghetti dinner: a jar of sauce, pasta, a side dish, even a loaf of French bread. Other menu possibilities might be fixings for chili, tuna casserole or a taco dinner.

If you’ve got the shelf space, it’s a great way to keep everything together and you're guaranteed to have all the ingredients. Once you cook the meal, write down the replacements you’ll need on next week’s grocery list.

Lose Your Excess Clutter Weight

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My Food Diary.com offered a great motivational tip for losing weight. If you want to lose 20 pounds, place a 20 pound weight where you'll see it. Put it on the dining room table or on the sofa. This will remind you of how much extra weight you are carrying around. The article went on to say, “ We tend to not notice the drag–especially since the weight tends to come on slowly.”

The same could be said of clutter. It creeps up slowly, until one day it’s completely out of control. This reminds me of a clever decluttering book by Don Aslett, Lose 200 lbs. this weekend. People are often surprised by the amount of excess they have tucked away. How many excess pounds of clutter are you storing? Is it weighing you down? Maybe it’s time to lose it.

Contain It!

basketOur family saves labels, can tops and box tops to raise money for our school, church and community. But all of these scraps and bits were making quite a mess until I contained them. The photo shows how. We keep the labels and box tops in envelopes on the side. The can tops and milk caps have their own containers. We also toss in the pizza cutter and lighter. This basket slides into a small space under the microwave, so no one sees the clutter.

Get Motivated!

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I live in Minnesota, where we nest inside our homes all winter long…often eating comfort food. As a result it’s easy to pick up a little winter weight. I knew that it was time to start thinking about getting back into shape, but I was having a hard time getting motivated. I started thinking about how I’m always telling my clients to declutter one step at a time. “Just start with a few minutes a day,” I tell them. “Once you start to see results, it will be much easier to stay motivated.” Read more

What’s for Dinner?

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The other day I looked in the fridge and found a bunch of miscellaneous ingredients and was trying to decide how to morph them into dinner. I went to my computer and typed in my secret weapon: Allrecipes.com. After typing my ingredients into the search box I was given a bunch of possibilities. This site is made up of a community of cooks that submit recipes and photos. It’s also a forum for comments. Sometimes the comments are pivotal in deciding if it’s the right recipe for our family or if someone else’s additions or corrections sound like a good idea. Read more

Clobber Clutter

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Are you frustrated by the surface clutter that accumulates in your home? It doesn’t take long for piles to develop. And if you turn your back on them they start to grow. Here are five habits that will help you outsmart the mess.

1) Only handle papers once. It’s sometimes called the OHIO rule (only handle it once.) Don’t set things down “for a minute.” That’s where the trouble starts. It’s too easy to be distracted by a project, person or phone call. Once you walk away from it, you may forget to put it away. Read more

Command Center in a Basket

basketYesterday Michelle asked how to set up a Command Center.

There are so many ways. I decided to show mine because it is compact and fairly inexpensive.

I bought a basket and popped two three-ring binders into it. One binder is for all of our family information. The other is my recipe binder.

I also have a section in the back with a few file folders for things that I don’t want to hole punch. Read more

Stair-Steppin’ for the Environment

chichen_itzaSome people resist taking measures to live a low-impact lifestyle because they’re afraid it will be too hard. They’re not interested in saying goodbye to convenience, splurges and fun to adopt a tough, pioneer-style existence.

I’m here to say, “That isn’t the only choice.”

You don’t have to start out selling your car and turning off your electricity!

This is a process much like climbing stairs. In my mind, I visualize a massive staircase like the one in Chichen itza, Mexico (see picture). It looks overwhelming at first, but as you take it one step at a time you make fast progress. If you climb too fast or if you get winded you can always stop and rest. If you’re climbing with someone else, you might need to pause and wait for them to catch up. Start slowly and keep climbing. Read more

A Salute to William Morris

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“Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

I’m sure when he uttered those words in the mid 1800’s, he had no idea he would be the most quoted man in organizing circles more than a hundred years later. His words cut to the heart of organizing. He simply encouraged others to shift their direction–to move toward simplicity.

Imagine if everyone owned only what was meaningful or useful! They would have more time, more money and less stress; because possessions bring responsibility which requires time and money.

The Key to Organizing: Do it Now!

objects_lock_metal_282448_m.jpg“It's often not the big things that stop us but the little things that we just don't get around to. But little things done consistently can have a profound impact on your business.”
Robert Middleton

I read this quote designed to inspire business people to get busy marketing themselves and their products. And as often happens, my thoughts turned to organizing. Read more

Three De-cluttering Tricks.

serene1) Shift your thinking. Think of your home as a haven. I think of our home as an oasis from the madness of the world. It’s where I feel safe and secure and let my hair down. In order to feel perfectly comfortable, I know I can‘t have piles of stuff that act as a constant reminder of all the work I have left to do. Since I view my home in this way, I’m less likely to let it get too cluttered.

2) Stay motivated. While working on a decluttering project, I frequently return to the areas that I have already cleaned or organized. That little backward glance makes me feel good about what I’ve accomplished and makes me want to accomplish more. Read more

Make Your List and Print it Twice…

santalistAfter completing my holiday cards I made two more copies of my freshly updated mailing list. In the past I would look around for return address labels ripped from envelopes, check my address box for scribbled notes or quickly scan last years list trying to remember who moved, died, or had a baby. This took a fair amount of time.

Then I found a faster, less cluttered way of doing things. I made a paper copy of the mailing list and made updates throughout the year. I updated the paper copy with red pen as soon as I learned of a change. That way I was able to make all of the adjustments to the list in one sitting. Read more

Prepare for the Holidays Using a Few Organizing Pointers

reg-1351796507-19212.jpgAs you go about the business of preparing for the holidays, remember a few of the “rules of organizing.” They can be particularly helpful at this time of year.

1) One-in one-out. To keep your home from looking cluttered, put away most of your knick knacks and accessories. Then pull out the decorations. As Robert Browning says, “Less is more.”

2) A place for everything, and everything in its place. Gather all of your holiday decorations in one place. Sort them and decide if they are still important to you. Read more

Preparing Your Thanksgiving Feast

thanksAre you hosting the Thanksgiving meal this year? If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed about preparing an elaborate sit-down meal, follow these simple strategies to simplify the feast.

1) Clean the house this weekend. Get your family involved in the process. Then next Wednesday you can just touch-up the areas that need it.

2) Take inventory of your serving platters, trays and dishes. Do you have enough chairs and linens? If you figure it out now, you’ll have time to react. Borrow from a friend who isn’t entertaining that day. Read more

Simplify Recycling: Recycling Numbers De-Coded

recycle-husbandFor me, living a simple life includes caring for the earth. We can make a difference – one household at a time. One way is to recycle and teach our children to recycle. “Through careful recycling, you can reduce the amount of garbage you send to the landfill by 50-75% or more.” (Eco-team). Our family’s goal is to have more recycling than garbage every time we haul it to the alley.

1) Check with your city. If you aren’t sure how recycling works in your area, find out. Some cities want the recycling divided by category: glass, paper, plastic … Other cities commingle all the recyclables in one large container and the city sorts it. Read more

Four Earth-Friendly Ways to Organize Paper.

pinesClients often complain about their struggles with paper. Limiting paper before it enters your home makes it easier to minimize piles. Plus there’s the hidden bonus of saving a few trees. I’ve read that every ton of recycled paper saves seventeen 40 foot Douglas Fir Trees.

1) Think before you print. Before you print anything from your computer, decide if you will refer to it again. If you just want to remember a site, add it to your list of favorites. If you do want a copy, press print preview to determine if you need to print all of the pages. That will help eliminate the excess page of advertisements that often accompany an article. Read more

Getting a Handle on Homework

homework2My fourth-grade son has been having a hard time keeping up with his homework. For weeks he was forgetting to bring things home, couldn’t remember when things were due, and was perplexed about upcoming tests. Sometimes he would wait to do an assignment until the night before it was due– only to find out he’d been assigned more homework that day. At the first teacher meeting we learned how far behind he had fallen. Let’s just say he wasn’t the only one who was frustrated! He needed help, so I decided to turn him into a client. Read more

Got Overwhelm?

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Everyone I know is overwhelmed. There’s no end in sight to all of the chores that need to be done: the chauffeuring of kids, monitoring of homework, the backlog of email, appointments, project deadlines and the seemingly ceaseless ringing of the cell phone. This week alone I’ve witnessed a range of emotion from muttering and grumbling to tears, anger and despair. Why is this happening? Read more

Keeping the Keepsakes.

memorabilia11Everyone collects some memorabilia. Old letters, journals, postcards, play bills, maps and travel brochures can accumulate pretty fast. Many people save these physical items to serve as reminders or reinforce memories of special times.

My mom was a saver and I learned at her feet. I started out saving every card I ever received plus unusual collectibles like matchbooks and napkins. It got a little crazy. So if you have a problem with this, take heart. I was once in the clutter trenches myself. Read more

Disaster Preparedness: Storing Vital Documents

emergency-file2The Red Cross will tell you that the first step to being prepared for a disaster is to get a kit. The Red Cross sells back packs full of supplies for $49.95 and $64.95. But I was curious about how to store all of the vital documents needed in a crisis. I’ve found three kits in different price ranges:

Smead’s Emergency All-in-One is available at Office Depot during hurricane season. Unfortunately it’s not available nationwide but if you live in the southeastern states or Texas, you may be in luck. Read more

How to Recycle Your Stuff

bags-of-stuff_3Once you've decided to part company with your stuff, pass it on. I always find it gratifying to find someone who will use and appreciate the things I no longer need. The following organizations allow you to post your unwanted items online and connect with someone who can use them.

   •Freecycle
   •Freecycle Earth
   •Free Sharing
   •Sharing is Giving
   •Reuse it Network

This process reduces waste, saves on resources and strengthens community. Read more

There's more than one way to "Be Prepared"

reminder_2Being prepared is really just thinking in advance and being proactive.

I keep an ongoing shopping list posted on the fridge, so I'm ready to shop at a moment's notice. I stock up on supplies so I don't have to worry about running out of them. When I buy gift wrap or school supplies or laundry detergent, I buy a little extra. When I have a few minutes to kill, I go to the card shop and pick out a few birthday cards. While I'm there I get a few sympathy cards or thank you notes to keep on hand.

Another way to be prepared is to make a list of important phone numbers and keep it in a prominent place. I list every obscure number I can think of, for instance: the dentist, phone company, insurance agent, schools, neighbors, doctors, favorite take-out restaurants and the gas company. It saves me from looking these numbers up in an emergency. Plus it's helpful info for a babysitter. Read more

Preparedness Month: have an up to date household inventory

boyscout.pngThe Boy Scout motto can also be valuable organizing advice.

It's storm season: a time when damage to your home could be sudden.

Having an up-to-date household inventory would be invaluable when dealing with an insurance agent. Photos, videos and receipts go a long way toward getting fair compensation.

If you make "Be Prepared" your mantra, you‘ll start thinking in advance.