Those of you who have read my books might have guessed that the tips in there for busy moms, come from my own experience. When I wrote my first book, my children where 4,7, and 10 years old. I was in the early years of being a stay-at-home mom, adjusting to all the nuances of keeping up with the house, having time for myself and spending quality time with my children. When I wrote my second book, it was two years later. My children were at the stage where they could do more for themselves and I wanted to teach them what I feel is a life skill – to be organized with your thoughts, your actions and your surroundings so that every day flows.
Now here I am with a middle-schooler, a high-schooler and a college student and the challenges are changing. So I thought I would share my experiences in a blog. The first one is about middle school.
In our school district, middle school starts in sixth grade. It is the first time students have a locker and are responsible to get themselves to the right class and remember which papers and books to bring to class and then home. They are getting into paper management, at a time when they are anxious about being in a new place and probably going through some hormonal changes as well. It’s the perfect storm. And often their lockers, school bags and bedrooms reflect that.
Here are a few tips for setting your middle school child straight in the first few weeks of school:
- Go to back-to-school night! You can see whom you know in your child’s classes. Parents can then use each other for resource when instructions are unclear and homework is forgotten. You also get to meet your child’s teachers and get a feel for their personalities. Most will give you their email so use it whenever there is a question about a certain class.
- If your child has to use binders: use one for all the classes they have before lunch and another for the classes they have after lunch. They can usually go to their lockers then and switch. Make sure to use dividers to mark each subject. The teacher may also require sub sections.
- If your child can use folders and spiral notebooks: color code each subject so a blue folder and notebook for math, red ones for science, etc. Have them keep the notebook and the folder together for each class.
- Make one TAKE HOME folder. This should always be with your child. So when they get forms in homeroom, they go in one pocket marked “Forms.” And as they receive papers for homework each day, then go in the other side marked, “Homework.” I tell my kids to empty the folder every morning in homeroom – get papers back to the teacher or put them in the right binder. Then the folder gets filled each day and comes home. This prevents them from dragging two big binders home every night along with their textbooks.
- Have a routine at home for the morning, after school and before bedtime. Post a chore chart or just a little reminder card in a place they look every day until the routine becomes second nature.
Middle school is a growing season. Let your child have more freedom and see how they do with it. They will start to develop their own systems and routines and that’s fine – as long as they work. If something is not working (like they keep forgetting homework) talk it out and come up with a solution.
What are some challenges you find with your middle school student?
When it comes to getting that big seasonal cleaning solution for your business, finding the right professional cleaning services can be difficult. With so many needs and possibilities, what is the best way to find the right services to suit your requirements? Getting your business as clean as possible is one thing, but finding the right company to provide those real deep clean services can be quite another. However, it can be made a great deal easier by following a series of steps designed to filter out the companies which don’t suit your needs. Follow these steps in order to find out just how to find out which company is able to suit your seasonal cleaning needs:
1. Timing – The first thing to establish when planning a big cleaning solution is to figure out the time frame in which you would like to operate. By establishing the best time in which to get your cleaning done, you can ensure that the operation does not interfere with your business commitments. While the general idea behind seasonal cleaning for your business is to make sure that customers get the best possible experience, this should not be done at the expense of your company’s ability to perform to its full potential. By finding a time which suits you, your business and your customers, you can ensure that your seasonal cleaning service provides the maximum amount of return on investment without interfering with your trade.
2. Scope – As well as establishing which time suits you best, it is also vital to establish which services you will need, such as upholstery cleaning, floor cleaning, window cleaning, carpet cleaning and more, in order to get your place of business as clean as possible. With every company requiring various services, the list of requirements will vary from company to company. As such, it is important to understand which services will benefit you the most and to plan your office cleaning accordingly. Depending on the type of business you run, whether it is a store front or an office space, the services which you require will alter accordingly. If this is the first time which you have performed a deep cleaning operation at your business, it might be worth enquiring with a professional office cleaning service as to which solutions will make a real difference. Once you have an idea of what you need to get the best results, then it is time to move on to the next step.
3. Frequency – Do keep in mind that seasonal cleaning can be a one-off ocurrence, while you can greatly benefit from a contract with a cleaning company for a more regular, everyday solution to your cleaning problems if you believe you need it. You may want to hire a fully vetted cleaning company, allowing you to trust them and what they have to offer. Read the contract carefully and see what responsibilities it covers on their end before you sign. Choosing an individual over a company may be a decent choice for a smaller business, but if you’re running a company this will not be the most logical choice in terms of efficiency.
4. Budget – Armed with the knowledge of when you will be needing the cleaning solution and which services you require, you can now begin to get in contact with professional cleaning services in order to find out what the possible price will be. By contacting a number of companies, you can compare and contrast prices, allowing you to make sure that you get the very best value for money. As well as comparing prices, talking to a number of companies will allow you to better establish which services will really suit your needs and the chance to talk to a cleaning expert can better inform you of how to go about the cleaning operation.
Once you have found the company with whom you wish to do business, the only thing which remains is to sit back and enjoy your newly cleaned business premises. With the cleaning services rendered, both you and your customers can enjoy the benefits of a thoroughly cleaned property. After the service has been completed, it might be worth asking the cleaning company for any tips which can help you maintain this level of cleanliness for the longest possible time.
Guest Post by: Ella Andrews
Ella Andrews is dedicated writer and keen home improvement specialist. She gets inspiration by exploring new sources of information regarding household maintenance. Presently she writes mostly about office organizing.
Long before any one heard of ADD, mothers across the globe were telling their rambunctious children to “finish one thing before you start another!” In our world full of distractions today, we adults would do well to heed this mantra.
As a professional organizer, much of what I do entails keeping my clients on task. Just by standing next to them, I encourage them to finish the pile in question, sort it, make quick decisions and then move on. Some don’t like this, they would rather cherry pick – do the task that looks interesting or fun. “We’ll get to that,” I tell them, all in good time. So I always have a plan when organizing with clients and that includes following my own absolute of finishing one thing before we start another. If we are focused on a room, items that belong elsewhere go in a pile or bin right by the door. We don’t leave the room until we are finished. They we move things around. If we are focused on a certain category, like photographs, we don’t worry about the bookshelves in that room. We just do photos until they are under control.
Take a look around your house. Just for fun, try to find all the projects you’ve started and not finished because you got distracted. If you can, put them in a bag or box and mark it. Then prioritize the projects. Next, get out your planner and make an action plan to get them done. If they are a bunch of little things, try to finish all of them in one Saturday. With larger projects try one per week or month. With these projects complete, you’ll have less clutter and more room for fun stuff!
But finishing one thing before you start another also applies to consumable products. Do you have 5 half squeezed toothpaste tubes in your bathroom? Six different shampoos or lotions open? How many ketchups do you have in your fridge? Just sayin…I once cleaned out a fridge that had 10 half gallons of ice cream in it. Some were freezer burnt so the homeowner would never feed those to guests. I suggested that if it’s not good enough for guests, it shouldn’t be there! When you do a kitchen or bathroom clean out, remember to keep the best, toss the rest and don’t buy anymore of that item until you really need to. If something is getting low, put it on your grocery list.
By following this rule, you can stay focused on tasks, feel a lot more productive on a daily basis and waste fewer products around your home.
What is it YOU need to finish before you start the next project?
Ok parents, I hate to say it but it is back to school time. In fact, some of you might have already sent your little ones back. Here in Philadelphia we are lucky enough to call it summer until the day after Labor Day. So I usually avoid facing the end of summer until I absolutely have to! Especially this year because my oldest is going off to college.
But it happens whether we like it or not so we might as well be prepared. I have compiled a list of my favorite back to school tips and routines for you to make the transition a little easier. Here ya go!
1. Determine what time your kids will need to get up for school and get them used to that schedule at least one week before the first day. If this means a few extra hours in their day – great! They’ll need it to get everything ready.
2. Find the school supplies list from your school and do a scavenger hunt in your house first. Check off the list and then take it with you to the store to buy any items you don’t have. This will save you money. Nothing wrong with used copybooks, folders and crayons – they might just need a little sprucing up.
3. Check summer reading or math assignments to make sure they are complete with your child’s name and in their folder on the first day. If they’ve put off assignments this might be the week to cram!
4. Make a weekly chart that shows all your kids after school activities and their daily chores. Post this on the fridge for daily viewing. It helps the kids to know what’s going on each day, for instance: I walk the dog after school then I have soccer after dinner. No surprises.
5. Designate a dumping place for all incoming papers, backpacks, shoes and homework. Once school starts you know the avalanche will happen. It’s a good practice to review papers each night as your children do their homework. Putting backpacks and shoes in the same place every day makes life easier for the whole family.
6. Set up a homework area for each child. This can be in their room or a common area. You’ll need a clear desktop, computer, dictionary, analog clock and possibly some bins for storing regular supplies. If table space is limited, try hanging something on the wall with multiple pockets or bins – one for each child.
7. Create a hanging file for “School Info” and “Kids Activities.” Again, I suggest a sub folder for every child. In it, you can keep reports and reference material for their schools.
8. Talk about lunches. Will your kids buy or pack? If they buy, set a budget. If they pack, talk about healthy options and get some reusable storage containers. Every school is different so check with yours about recycling and what kids are allowed to carry during the day. Make sure you are stocked with easy grab snacks, fruit and entree options and plan to pack lunches at night.
9. Set goals and boundaries. You may have the child that needs a push to get involved. Talk to him about what he’d like to join this year. I think 2 activities is a nice number. Or you may have someone who over commits and wants to play every sport, join every committee. Talk to her about budgeting her time. One sport team per season is a good rule of thumb. Or one physical activity and one intellectual.
10. Plan your last hurrah. Because I love summer and I truly love being with my kids, I like to plan something fun for the whole family to do during the last few weeks of summer break. Plan a family day to do whatever it is you like to do. Forget the schedules and lists and computers for 24 hours and just savor the summer. Mom and Dad take a day off from work and just enjoy.
How do you feel about Back to School time?
Trees make our world a better place in many ways; aesthetically with their graceful beauty; environmentally by giving off oxygen; by providing food, shade etc., and most people like and appreciate them for it. If you happen to have a lot of trees surrounding your property it can make for a pleasantly cool atmosphere even in the extreme heat of summer. And what child doesn’t like to try tree climbing at least once or twice? But while it’s easy to see the good things that trees do for us, what about what we owe them in return? Nothing comes free in this world and in order for the trees we love and enjoy so much to be kept in prime condition, we must hire tree services to prune and maintain them.
A tree care service can determine if there are any hidden problems with the health of your trees that you might not be aware of. Plus they can perform any necessary tree surgery that you wouldn’t be able to undertake yourself. It’s their experience, knowledge and skills that you need to help you keep your trees in tip top shape. Here are the top three suggestions to keep in mind when choosing your intensive tree care service:
Only opt to use a company for your tree services that has qualified arborists on its staff. What exactly is an arborist? An arborist is a certified professional experienced and trained in the science of planting and caring for all species of trees. While this job does require a broad range of skills, an arborist is trained to know precisely what the needs of each tree are and how to best provide care for it.
In the case of commercial properties like businesses, etc., qualified arborists are as essential as the tree companyservice itself. It’s vital to hire a company that has specialists, like an arborist who know more than just the basics of tree surgery. They also understand the value of public image and how important that is to a business, so they will do they best they can to keep the trees healthy and looking beautiful.
Wide Range Services
When looking for an intensive care tree service makes sure that the company you select has a wide-range of services available. For example, if your property has several trees that are either in poor condition, or perhaps a safety hazard and they have to come down, you will then have to call a tree removal service. By selecting a company for your tree care that includes this service, together with tree trimming and pruning, you have saved yourself the trouble of having to hire another company to tend to your trees. The same is true when it comes to transplanting trees and stump grinding. It’s always much better if you can depend upon only one tree company service for the all around health and maintenance requirements of your trees.
Last, but not least, find out how long the tree care company has been in business. Opt for a tree care company that has been around for a while. This will be an excellent sign that it has many satisfied customers, but that it also knows it’s field of work. A company with longevity has the experience, knowledge, respect for safety, and professional skills to provide the absolute best care for your trees under all conditions.
Candice is an arborist living in Sydney Australia, and had extensive experience and qualifications to provide tree services for Sydney, up to and including tree surgery. Her expertise in this field is often sought out and she had written numerous articles on the topic.
If you remember the “order of operations” in basic arithmetic it went: “My Dear Aunt Sallie” which stood for: multiply, divide, add then subtract. Well I’m flipping that around because my dear Aunt Sallie has a lot of clutter! So I suggest she subtracts before she adds. This can apply to a lot of operations we perform while organizing.
First example, lets take the clothes closet. Many of us do the seasonal clean out in the fall and spring. You really need to look at every piece of clothing, make sure it fits, it makes you look beautiful or feel wonderful and you are going to wear it! Those clothes can stay. Everything else should go to an appropriate donation center. So you subtract what doesn’t work for you. Then comes the fun part. Make a list of what you need to replace and any basic items that you don’t have (like a little black dress or a blazer) and go shopping! That’s the adding. You also want to take out clothes before you buy any bins, dividers or organizers for the closet. Too often people rush out to buy bins before they have pared down. Rookie mistake.
Another example of subtracting can happen in the kitchen. Why would you go food shopping if your refrigerator is stuffed so full, there’s no room on any shelf? Most likely you’ve got some old stuff in there that needs to go. Or if you have a ton of leftovers that don’t look appealing to your family, get creative. Mix some veggies and rice together with a sauce and cook fresh chicken or steak to go with it. Or if you have meat leftover, consider making a fajita, or stir fry dish. Just adding something new makes it so much better! Leftover fruit goes great into a smoothie or milkshake. Of course anything with mold should be tossed. Then you can go food shopping and add. One thing I like to do on food shopping day is take all the half-eaten snacks in the house and put them in a divided party dish. Those are the snacks for the day and until they are gone, we don’t open anything new.
One more example is with paper. Don’t just look at the piles you have and buy bins or file drawers to fit everything. First categorize & purge them. Then you can see what you’re left with and you can go buy file drawers, bins or file folders to put them in. And always take care of the backlog before you filter in any paper that has just come in.
I hope you remember this rule as you tackle your next organizing task.
In what ways do you subtract before you add?
Now that I am back from vacation, I’d like to share with you some simple pleasures that I find at the beach. My hope is that we can incorporate some of these into our daily lives, even when we are not at the beach or on vacation. As Hemingway said, “Paris is a moveable feast.” So too, is vacation. Simple moments can bring us calm, peace and help rejuvenate us in a hectic world if we are organized enough to make them a priority in our lives.
- Biking every morning
- Going to a farmers’ market and eating that food in the next couple days
- Sleeping with the windows open so you can hear the birds in the morning
- Ice cream in the afternoon
- Having just enough food and clothing to get through the week
- Reading on the porch
- Cocktails with friends outside
- Outdoor showers
- Digging your feet in the sand
- No computers
I once saw a friend take a beautiful vacation picture of an island beach and pin it to her visor in her car. She said she looked at it every time she needed to take a little vacation – even if she was stuck in traffic. This is the same idea.
What are some simple pleasures you enjoy in the summer?
Just about this time in the summer, I see how dirty my berber carpet is in our den. That’s the room we enter right from the garage. And after a troop of adolescent boys comes in from baseball, basketball and general playing outside we track a lot of mud in! Add to that, this is the room where the kids entertain friends, soda and snacks are consumed and my dog likes to hang out. You get the picture. So usually in September when the house is quiet again, I bring in my favorite steam cleaner to work his magic. The place smells like lemons after he’s through and he usually tells me, two more times and this carpet will be as good as new! And he reminds me not to use any spray cleaners in the mean time. So here’s a guest post from a professional on the best way to clean your carpets. Think of carpet cleaning as a seasonal clean out and appointments for the fall and spring to keep your carpets looking good. It also gives you a chance to move furniture out & around to spruce up your rooms.
BY: Candice Hubbard
When it comes to carpet cleaning nearly all the carpet manufacturers are in agreement that the absolute best way to accomplish this task is by using hot water extraction, or what is otherwise known as “deep steam cleaning. “ Dry cleaning is usually not recommended because the results are nowhere as good.
What Is Deep Steam Cleaning?
This is a method of carpet steam cleaning that is really nothing more than the extraction of hot water, but there is a great deal of steam involved. What is called a truck-mounted hot water extraction machine uses extremely high pressure to force near boiling hot water into the carpet, and then proceeds to pull out the water, dirt, debris, etc. That essentially sums up this simple method of carpet cleaning.
One method of dry cleaning uses a dry foam or shampoo which is poured onto the carpet, given time to dry, and then, with no rinsing, pulled into a vacuum. Much dirty residue is left behind in the carpet.
Another method of dry cleaning is done by placing a large cotton bonnet on the carpet and using a buffer machine, the same one used for polishing floors, to buff the carpet. While it’s more work than dry foam, the dirt and residue are still left behind in the carpet.
Lastly there’s the absorbent powder. A moist, absorbent powder is spread throughout the carpet, left to dry and then pulled into a vacuum. Because the carpet is not rinsed, much dirt and residue are left behind, so this too is not a very thorough cleaning.
Benefits of Deep Steam Cleaning
The benefits of steam cleaning your carpet are many:
. The extremely high heat does an excellent job of eliminating bacteria, dust mites, fungus, and mold. They don’t stand a chance against this way of cleaning your carpet. This is why it is considered the healthiest manner to clean a carpet.
. There is no soapy residue left behind, provided the carpet steam cleaning is performed properly. And if you are dealing with a professional company, there is no reason that it shouldn’t be. If there is a soapy residue left behind from the detergent that is used, it will serve to attract dirt, and that will make your carpet become dirty and need to be cleaned again even sooner.
. The high-pressure steam is another advantage to this way of cleaning. It penetrates downward all the way to the base of the carpet’s fibers, thus removing dirt that is embedded there.
. The powerful vacuum system sucks up 95% of the wetness that is left behind, thus your carpet is left feeling damp to the touch, but not soaking wet.
Steam cleaning is really a fantastic way to clean your carpet. The heat involved is above 118 degrees Fahrenheit, and every 18 degrees more that it is heated doubles the cleaning strength of the cleaning agents that are used. Amazingly enough deep steam cleaning is done between 180 and 240 degrees. Another benefit of this is that it uses much less of the cleaning agents on your carpet, which makes it a much healthier choice for the environment as opposed to dry cleaning.
Candice does professional carpet cleaning in Brisbane, and carpet steam cleaning too. She owns her own carpet cleaning business and writes often about the proper methods of cleaning a carpet. Her opinions are considered expert.
Starting with a good list and sticking to it is just like planning your work and working your plan. Just the other day, my sister asked, “Are you ready for your graduation party?” Although I haven’t bought a thing or made any food, I said “Yes, I have my plan.” Which basically means I have a list of decorations I want and food I’m planning. I’ve ordered what I can ahead of time and now I just have to execute. The second part of the list is my calendar where I have a list of “To Do’s” each day. I will shop for decorations one week before and then the fresh food the day before the party. All set.
So if you are a list maker, ask yourself, “Is it thorough and do I stick to it?” A prime example of this is when you go shopping. The point of a shopping list is to keep you on track and sometimes on budget. If you stray from the list with a lot of impulse purchases, you’ve really defeated the purpose. Take your time when making the list and think it through. Then trust it.
Likewise if you start your week or your day with a list of tasks you want to accomplish and then stray from the task at hand, the list does you no good. Obviously things come up that are not planned for, but if you refer back to the list and re-prioritize it on a daily basis, it still keeps your organized. And don’t fall into the habit of having a list of 100 things to do in one day. Assign a date and timeframe that is realistic, otherwise your list will overwhelm you. Make a list of big goals, and then make sure your daily tasks support those goals.
Packing for vacation is a great chance to practice your list making skills. I keep a standard list on my computer for going to the beach for one week. I list food and house items as well as personal things like clothing and sundries. When we pack, I give my kids the list: 4 shorts outfits, 2 bathing suits, books, chargers, etc. I sit with them as they pack so I know they won’t forget anything. Each year I change up the menu but I trust that the list will guide us from year to year. Many things on that list haven’t changed in 10 years.
So you don’t need a list of lists but make sure your lists are:
- Documented on your computer for re-use
One of my absolutes comes up all the time when I’m working with clients and my own family. “Keep like things together. “We’ve all heard this before, but have you thought about all the ways you can do this? As with most organizing techniques, there is no right or wrong way to do this, you just have to find what works for you. Often the way I see one item and categorize it is not always the way my client sees it.
Let’s take the example of an open, studio apartment. With one big room it’s easy to have things all over the place. When everything is everywhere, chaos ensues. This makes it hard to find what you need when you need it. It often leads to countertops and tables being covered with clutter. So the first step is…put like things together in a big way. Categories might be: kitchen, entertainment, office, and exercise equipment. If you do a big sort you can put every category in a corner or just a pile. Or if you’ve already decided on zones, put everything in its correct zone.
The next step is getting into the nitty gritty. With entertainment you can break it down into: cd’s, dvd’s and books. With office materials you might have paperwork to file, office supplies and computer equipment. Putting these things together helps you see what you have and maybe what you can get rid of. Then you can find appropriate bins, drawers or shelves to put these items on. Having designated bins makes it easy to clean up too!
And this rule applies not only to physical items but also to tasks. I find when I put like tasks together, they get done much more efficiently. If I have a list of calls to make, I do them one after the other. If I have tasks that need to be done on the computer (as I’m doing right now) I do them and then I can walk away from the computer for a while. This is especially true with errands. If you want to save time, it helps to make a list of where you need to go and plan it out geographically. Can you do some on the way to or from an appointment? Plot it out, and then make sure you have all the things you need to easy on down the road in your car. Sometimes my goal is simply to get rid of all the things I have on my passenger seat by the end of the day.
So the next time you’re trying to bring order to your home or office, think “like things together” and see how this can guide you to a neat outcome.
As we approach graduations and the end of school hoopla, it’s a great time to pull together your child’s memories of their school years. The problem is, many of these papers, pieces of artwork and awards and ribbons are all over the house in bins, files and maybe hanging on refrigerators and bulletin boards. Here are a few steps to pulling together and savoring all your child has done and accomplished this school year:
- You have to be reasonable about what you keep. It’s often said that the key to organizing is making decisions. I completely agree with this statement and have seen it with many of my clients. The people with the most clutter and the most “old stuff,” can’t seem to make a decision and let go of the past. When it comes to savoring your child’s life with little pictures, and tokens of their stages of growth, it’s best to do it on a year by year basis. Think of it as finding the “best of” that year. Chose the best, toss the rest and move on! There’s so much more ahead.
- Only save the happy memories. Believe it or not, there are people who save mementos of unhappy occasions. I have seen people save bloody blankets from when their dog was hit by a car, newspaper clippings of national tragedies and obituaries, and pieces of casts from a broken arm! And I have to think, “Why?” Why would you want to be reminded of something sad, tragic or unhappy? I guess it’s a matter of opinion and preference but I would like to think that if you are saving things for your child, you would want only the happy memories to be preserved. So when considering what to keep for your child, ask yourself and your child, “Does this bring a smile to your face?”
- Gather it all together. If you’ve already accumulated a bunch of memorabilia for your child or children, to get it under control and organized you’ll have to gather it all in to one room. If you have more than one child, do this for one child at a time. It’s a great excuse to have some one-on-one time together!
- Finding time. Make sure you have allotted a few hours for this process because you may get lost in your reminiscing and that’s okay! If you don’t think you’ll get through it all, make sure you have an area where you can leave the stuff until you do finish your project.
- Use my Categorize, Purge and Re-Arrange (C.P.R.) process. Your categories might be: photos, artwork, baby blankets & clothes, baby photo albums or scrapbooks, trophies & awards, religious articles, schoolwork and stuffed animals, just to name a few. Of course your personal categories will depend on the age of your child and how much you have saved thus far. As you categorize, ask your child “Do you want to save this?” If the child says “No” you’ve got to honor that. You can also decide if something is necessary to save just by your child’s reaction. If there are lots of “oohs” and “aahs,” and “I remember this!” You probably want to keep it. If you get, “what is that?” it’s probably a toss.
- Create a Memory Box. Once you have looked at everything and made your decisions, create a memory box for each child. I recommend a trunk that can be left out in their bedroom. This way they can add to it easily. Or a plastic tub in their closet works well too. If you collect lots of papers (awards, artwork, cards) consider putting them in a scrapbook. Summer break is a great time to review, reminisce and refresh your memory box. You can also take some time to put together a scrapbook of all you’ve collected over the year. The first time you do this, it’s a big project but if you continue each year, it becomes a seasonal clean out.
In honor of Memorial Day Weekend, I’m thinking about memories. So many times when I’m working with clients, we find memories in the strangest places – garages, basements, closets, even kitchens. I believe the key to really treasuring your memorable objects is to give them a place of honor. Display shelves work great if you have the room. But usually you have years worth of memories that won’t fit in a scrapbook or on a shelf. So what do you do?
Here’s a guest blog that I did for Organize 365. It comes at a great time of year – end of school and beginning of some children moving away from home. Any move or transition is a great time to look back at our sentimental items…but first you have to gather them and give them an important place in your home. And so we have the “memory boxes.” If your sentimental items are taking up space in your cupboard or your drawers, you may need to give them a new home. Check out all the possible uses for a trunk that also doubles as a time capsule: http://organize365.com/memories-trunk-guest-post-debbie-lillard/
Sometimes it’s the simple things that I realize really keep me and my family organized. Don’t think that you have to spend a lot or fill your cart at Bed, Bath & Beyond or the Container Store to “get organized.” I often say, it’s the process not the products but I do have a few favorites:
1. My daily planner – Really, how can you live without one? Mine is a Franklin/Covey and it is on paper. I like to touch and see what I have to do. Then I like to cross it off when I complete the task. I have a month at a glance for where I need to be and a daily page to write all the details of my tasks, hourly time schedule and notes about who I spoke with, etc. I plan my week out on Sunday night and then consult my planner each day. You could use a simple notebook and write the date on top of each page, but you still need that month at a glance to get the big picture.
2. My step basket – It sits on my steps and as I straighten the living room each night, stuff that belongs in the bedrooms goes in it. When we go to bed, everything gets back to the right room. When I’m straightening the bedrooms it gets filled again to go downstairs. Great way to tidy up fast for company, too!
3. Family Calendar - I have two boys now on 4 baseball teams and a daughter who works and does theatre. Need I say more? My husband and I have to coordinate who’s going where and who’s taking who each night. So it’s all on the family calendar hanging on the fridge. Color coded for each child, of course.
4. Shoe racks, shelf dividers and double hanging racks for the closets – Ok, technically that is three in one but these are the items that work in most closets. The trick with the shoe rack is to count your shoes before you buy the rack. Most shoe racks have room for 12 pairs, but Container Store has a rolling rack that holds 50! If you have the wall space in your closet, this is my favorite. Now realize you might still have to put out of season shoes away because most women I know have more than 50 pairs of shoes! The shelf dividers keep sweaters from toppling over and the double hanging racks are great for increasing the hanging space if you have the vertical space
5. Big Rubbermaid plastic bins – really you can put these all over your house! Use them for storing old tax papers that you don’t need in your file cabinet. Use them for sports equipment in the garage, pool equipment outside and for putting out of season clothes away in the attic. And of course the color coded ones are great for holiday decorations. These keep moisture, dust and critters out of your items in storage.
What organizing products do you use on a daily basis?
We’ve all been there. You go to a business conference and you accumulate great ideas, business contacts and therefore business cards, as well as free products. No matter how organized you are, it’s a little overwhelming to re-enter your real world with all this new-found stuff and excitement!
As I recently came back from such a conference, I wondered how many days (or hours) on average it takes my colleagues to unpack their suitcases and put away all their new items? So I decided to test myself, do it in a day and document the process I used. So here it is, for all you other entrepreneurs and business travelers:
1. Compile receipts – Obviously this was a business related trip so you’ll need to save receipts for tax purposes. While I traveled I put all receipts in a pocket in my wallet. When I paid cash and could not get a receipt I wrote myself a note and put it in the same place. I also use one credit card for business so the receipts will get dumped in that credit card’s file folder and will be compared to the next bill. I also totaled them up for my own curiosity about the cost of the trip.
2. Connect with Business Contacts – I put business cards in one spot in my travel bag as I collected them. I also made some notes on the back of each card as to why I was saving it. Some people were company representatives, some were board members in my same position from another city and others were just personal acquaintances who I spoke to because of a common interest. When I arrived home, I sorted them, connected with each on Twitter and Facebook and will write personal emails to those who I would like to keep in contact with. Business cards can get filed, or scanned and saved into your contacts list.
3. Review Your Notes – If you’re lucky enough to actually learn something from your conferences like I do each year at the NAPO National conference, you’ll want to review your notes, highlight the gems and then create an Action list for tasks that you want to start working on immediately. Some courses might have been informational but you’re not going to use that information right now, so you can file it in a reference folder. Other info may not be useful to you ever, so recycle it. The conference you attend might also like feedback so fill out the survey after you have looked over your notes.
4. Gather your freebies – What is it with expos and trade shows that makes you want to pick up every free item someone is giving away? I like to think I avoid that temptation being a minimalist at heart. But sometimes I take items for my kids (cheap souvenirs) or my clients. So divvy up the goodies and either toss the rest or use some as prizes the next time you speak somewhere. I know my clients are always excited about another canvas bin, Command hook or file folder!
5. Start Fresh! Going to a conference can open your eyes to new possibilities in your business. You can’t do it all and change everything, but decide what goals you would like to set or new avenues you want to pursue and incorporate them into your business goals. Post your action list right in front of your desk so you can see it daily. Add the day to day tasks into your planner that will help you reach those goals.
One thing I learned for my next conference is to pack a small bag with wheels. That will save my shoulders in the airport and walking around the expo!
What take-away do you have from your last business conference?
Wow, how many times have you said, “we’ll get to that someday” or “we should get together and do lunch (dinner or coffee)?” The reality of today’s fast-paced, over-scheduled society is that if you don’t intentionally put something on your calendar and plan a date to do something, it’s most likely not going to happen. And this applies to friendly get-togethers, big projects and even little tasks. Here’s five examples of how you can make it happen and bring some balance and satisfaction to your day, your week, your month and year!
- Have a standing date with your best friends or family. I have heard families say to me that every Sunday is dinner at mom’s. Whoever can make it does and mom always makes spaghetti and meatballs and the rest of us bring side dishes. How nice to know that if you want to see your parents or catch up with siblings, you know where they will be every Sunday. Likewise I have for years gotten subscription tickets to a local theatre so five times a year (every other month from Sept. to May) I have a date with my close friends. We go to dinner, catch the show and catch up with each other’s lives.
- Plan your year – When it comes to big goals, it’s a good idea to start the year off with some big plans. Whether that is a nice vacation with your spouse or family or it’s a big idea for your job or business. Set a few achievable goals that you can work on through the year. Too many will set you up for failure so stick to a max of three for each area of your life. If you reach those early – by all means, set some more! One year I decided I was going to write a book. I got started in January, did some research on publishers, read some “how to” books and although some of this was luck, I had a publishing contract by May! Imagine what you could do if you set your mind to it.
- Plan your month – I always start a month off by looking at what I’d like to do on a personal level and a professional one. I write those goals or projects down in my daily planner. Then when I plan my daily/weekly tasks I make sure they support the larger project. Or if I have an unexpected day or half day to myself and I just don’t know what to work on, I check the list. Anything not accomplished gets carried over to the next month. But it’s still in the plan!
- Little projects around the house – Putting work and professional goals aside for a moment, think about what you need and want to get done around the house. Month by month you can plan home improvements. For example, Spring & Fall are good times to clean out places like the garage or basement or closets. You may have to look at the weather but pick a Saturday to do the garage as a family and it will go quickly and may even be fun. Winter months are great times to do inside painting or renovations. Tax time is a great time to clean out the file cabinet and end of school is a great time to clean out kids paperwork. Put it in your planner or on the family calendar.
- Who or what have you been neglecting? Think about whom you haven’t spent one on one time with and make a date. If you’d like to continue, make that a weekly or monthly date. How about exercise? I’m sure a lot of us have that gym membership that is going to waste. The only way to get regular is to plan it. Look at your typical week and see where a little extra time can be found. Maybe it’s early in the morning before you have to shower and get off to work. Or maybe there’s some dead time in the evening (7-9 pm) where you could exercise instead of watching TV. Try it for a few weeks and see if it doesn’t become a habit.
In the interest of work/life balance it’s a good idea to plan something that you enjoy doing every day, every week and every month.
“For in the dew of little things, the heart finds it’s morning and is refreshed.”
The first thing I like about this book is that it’s short and to the point. Because as a work-from-home mom of three, who has time to read a 200 page How To book?
Prerna offers some great ideas for how to streamline your workload , which really apply to all year, not just the summer. And she offers some great suggestions for delegating, simplifying and prioritizing all the other tasks that go along with being a mom and having a home to run.
I agree that when you delegate to other people, and give your kids responsibilities in the home your business will grow as a result. Years ago I hired a cleaning person to come twice a month so now I just have to straighten daily with the help of my family and do basic cleaning on the in-between weeks. Financially it makes sense too because I pay her less per hour than I make. Less time cleaning = more billable hours for me. And I don’t worry about when I’m going to clean the house.
There are several applications and helpful links that Prerna provides. Personally I’m going to visit Quick Notice and WWSGD to help grow my contact list automatically and create some Canned Responses to emails. I think these will be great time savers for my business.
I love the meal planner sheets because although I sometimes do this in my head, it helps to write it down so that my kids and husband can see the list and we can do a “first one home starts the dinner” kind of approach. In my case, I do not work from home every day, but rather run a business out of my home.
The parenting and activity ideas were also good for pre-school children but the one thing she doesn’t address is the coordination of schedules when your kids are older and more active. When you have more than one child and throw part-time jobs, summer camps and having friends over into the mix, it gets nutty. The author admits that her husband also works from home and they coordinate their time with their daughter – which is nice and tidy but not a reality for many moms. If she thought the summer with one three-year-old was tough to work through – my life would look like a battlefield in comparison! (Maybe this will be covered in a sequel.)
Welcome to the eBundle that will have you organizing and spring cleaning your home, schedule and home based business! In these 23 eBooks, you’ll find tips, support and know-how about working from home, cleaning, organizing and mom support along with printables!
The All Organized – Organization eBook Bundle is available March 24th until April 7th for only $20. That’s a savings of $133! So hop over and buy it now!
Organizing your home
This 6 eBook mini eBundle will have you breathing a sigh of relief as you move through getting your pictures organized, know what paper you need to keep, help for homemaking and getting to less stuff & living more!
- Paperless Home Organization by Mystie Winckler
- GTD for Homemakers by Mystie Winckler
- The Busy Mom’s Guide to Getting Organized by Sara Pederson
- 10 Steps to Organized Paper by Lisa Woodruff
- 10 Steps to Organized Photos & Memorabilia by Lisa Woodruff
- Simple Living- 30 Days to Less Stuff & More Life by Lorilee Lippincott
Working from home
The ‘Working from Home’ mini eBundle will help you stay sane and productive when the kids are home and you need to work. It will also help you organize your direct sales business, and, along with an eClass, to learn about establishing office hours and a schedule that will help you run a family and a business. And, if you’re looking into starting a home business, or already run one, there’s an eBook about how to be a work at home mom.
- Organizing the Business of Direct Sales by Lisa Woodruff
- Organizing Direct Sales Office Hours eClass by Lisa Woodruff
- Productivity 2.0 by Prerna Malik
- Summer Sanity Savers for the Work at Home Mom by Prerna Malik
- How to be a Work at Home Mom by Prerna Malik
This mini eBundle will help all of us with meal planning and involving the kids in cleaning so we can work and live more efficiently. There’s also support here for the mothers of special needs children and those in the military to organize their homes even more efficiently than their military service.
- Easy Peasy Chore Chart by Alina Joy Dubois
- Empowering Special Moms by Marla Murasko
- Meal Planning Made Simple by Merissa Alink
- Organizing Military Matters by Kaui Eiklor
This mini eBundle of 2 cleaning books is mighty! They’ll help you schedule your cleaning and know what’s clean enough so you’re not embarrassed when clients, friends or your mother-in-law stops by unexpectedly.
This ‘Scheduling’ mini eBundle of 6 will help you create a schedule, arrive on time and provide simple strategies that work for your entire life. With the planner printables included, you will be able to make a plan that works for YOU!
- Project Organize Your Entire Life by Stephanie Morgan
- Creating a Schedule that Works by Marlene Griffith
- 28 Days to Timeliness by Davonne Parks
- An Excellent Life: 5 Simple Strategies for Doing Life Well by Beth Beutler
- 100 Days of a New Year by Jennifer Tankersley
- HOME List Plan It ePlanner by Jennifer Tankersley
This eBundle will be available March 24th until April 7th for only $20. That’s a savings of $133! So hop over and buy it now!
The Fine Print: We have all the nitty gritty details over on the Frequently Asked Questions Page, but here are a few highlights:
- Download and back up your eBundle right away! We all know how busy life can be, so don’t wait! We can renew download links until May 9, 2014.
- Can’t find your eBundle? Check the spam folder in your PAYPAL email.
- All sales are final. There are no refunds and the deadline for purchasing will not be extended.
- If you have any questions or issues with any of the e-Books included in this bundle, please contact that author directly.
- YES! This eBundle CAN be read on Kindles, iPads and more!
- Have questions about the eBundle? Check out the FAQ page for support!
I’ve something I want to share with you and it’s coming Monday.
It will help you organize, freshen the house and your life and with Spring we’re all looking for fresh starts.
Want a hint?
There’s information on:
Working from Home
So come back Monday, March 24th at 8am.
Those of you who read my first book might remember that I have 10 Absolutes of Organizing These are rules that organized people follow in all aspects of their life.
My third absolute is perhaps the motto of minimalists. Why keep something if it is of no use to you? Think about that for a minute. Especially if you are moving, why would you box something up, move it, and unpack it if you don’t USE it? Or, you’re in the midst of organizing and yet you want to hang on to something you haven’t seen or used in years for SOME reason. It may be guilt or wishful thinking or unrealistic expectations.
Here are some reasons I’ve heard from people for keeping something that they never use:
- my mother(best friend, sister…) gave it to me
- it’s worth a lot of money
- some people collect these
- I could turn that into a ___________
- And the ever popular: I might need it someday
To which I say, “really?” Are you really going to do something with this item we found at the bottom of a box in your basement? Or if it is so valuable, why has it been hidden for so long? And if you’re only holding on to it because of who gave it to you, ask yourself the next question, “Do you like it?” or “Does it give you pleasure to look at it? If you answer yes to either of those then okay, keep it but put it somewhere so you can enjoy it. That might be a display shelf or a memory box.
I really don’t force clients to throw anything out, I just ask the right questions so they can take a realistic look at what they keep and what they toss.
When all is said and done, after you sort through a particular closet or room, you want to be left with those belongings that you use, you love and you want. Everything else can be donated, given to someone who really wants it, or recycled.
To each of the reasons above, I say:
- Don’t worry about the person who gave it to you. They have had the pleasure of giving and have most likely forgotten about it by now.
- If something is worth a lot of money and you got your use out of it, so what? Pass it along if another can use it. A $300 dress from the 80’s is really not worth $300 today.
- For collectibles, check into what the real value is today. Believe me the antiques market is not what it used to be even 20 years ago.
- If you want to turn something useless into something else, make a plan to do that in the next 2 weeks – or let it go!
- And if you think you might use it someday, think again. If you let it go and “someday” comes, will you be able to find that and afford it? If yes, then let it go. (think of the theme from Frozen and sing it to yourself as you do it!)
WHAT HAVE YOU LET GO OF RECENTLY?
Like Christmas, tax time comes the same each year so there’s no reason not to be ready for it. I know that circumstances change with homes, business, investments, etc. But if you have the usual numbers ready to go, getting the totals on your tax forms should not be that difficult.
- First of all, ask your accountant what he/she needs and what back-up information you need to save. Don’t just give her/him everything that may be related to your taxes or everything you gave last year, because often people give the accountant way more than they ask for only to pay a higher price for the accountant to sort and make sense of it. So give him what he wants and no more.
- Now make files for those categories. I’m a big believer in specific folders for: Business Expenses, Medical Expenses, Investment income, Income receipts, charitable contributions, etc. Think in terms of your line items. If you have one filed just called “Tax Stuff” you’re going to have to sort it next year anyway. You can make these actually hard copy folders or folders on your computer. Simply drop in statements and receipts all year long. At the end of the year you can tally and staple these receipts together, voila – no more sorting for the accountant.
- If you have your own business or you travel for business, keep a mileage log in your car. Or use a mileage app. For every appointment write down the starting and ending mileage, total mileage and purpose of the trip. At the end of the calendar year, tally up the mileages and take your deduction allowed by the IRS. You can also use an app on your phone to do this.
- Again, if you have business expenses for your work, use one credit card for only business purposes. If you have a card that offers a year end statement – that’s perfect – they will categorize your expenses for you! For miscellaneous cash expenses for business, just remember to get a receipt and drop it in your Business Expense file.
- If your family needs to keep track and itemize out of pocket medical expenses, have a folder for those receipts as well. Or you could make all medical payments on one credit card, and use those statements for the year so you don’t have to tally receipts. You can keep another Medical file for each member of the house which contains medical reports, labs, diagnosis, etc. That you keep forever. The expenses file you can clean out each year.
- No need to keep weekly paystubs once you get a correct W2 form. And no need to keep ATM receipts if you are balancing your bank account every month. The monthly statements will support the transactions.
- Finally, once you have your tax “back-up” ready, pull it out of the filing cabinet and put it in a manila envelope marked with the year. In some cases you may need a banker’s box. Give the accountant what he needs and then file the completed return with all the back-up info. As you put in this year’s, shred the tax file that is 6 years old. *
*always check with your accountant about what you can toss – everyone’s circumstances are different but 6 years is a general guideline.
Too often when someone starts to organize, they get bogged down in where everything is going. Some items may go to a friend or family member, others to a favorite charity, others you might keep if they fit, or can be fixed…you get the idea. Suddenly your sorting process has turned into seven different piles on the floor and you can’t quite remember which is which.
That’s why I try to help my clients (and my kids) focus on a simple decision. Is it a yes or a no? Thinking simply is what helps you get organized. Yes means it fits now, I wear it, I use it, I love it! No means there’s too many conditions or simply I don’t use it or want it anymore. This can apply to clothing, toys, memorabilia, household items, really anything you’re trying to organize. If you find you are so attached to things that nothing ends up in the “no” pile, try this trick: have a friend or family member sort with you. Let them physically hold up the item and you just say yes or no. Don’t take too long, just go with your gut instinct.
The yes items will stay and you’ll have to find a home for them, but on the positive side, these are all the clothes that make you look great or feel wonderful. They are the photos and memorabilia that bring you happiness. They are the practical, functional items that you use everyday.
If you say no to an item it means you don’t love it, it doesn’t make you feel good when you wear it, it brings you bad memories, or sometimes you don’t know where the heck you got it from or why you kept it this long! Let go of the no’s and you’ll feel lighter.
I know that life is not all black and white and that there are many shades of gray in making decisions but just for fun, the next time you sort through a category, try this black & white approach. Keep it simple and see if it doesn’t go faster and easier.
And if you need a place to take your “no’s” give me a call, I’ve got lots of resources.
Sometimes I’m amazed at how a little organizing project can have such a big impact. I have had clients overjoyed with a neat linen closet, weep over an organized pantry and hug me after organizing their coat closet. And I’ve even been excited over little projects I do at home like cleaning out the gift wrap/card organizer. So I thought I would share some little projects I’ve done that have a big impact.
Medicine cabinet: A couple times a year it’s a good idea to go through your medicine cabinet. Take everything out and sort it into categories: first aid, pain relievers, lotions, etc. As you do this, look at expiration dates and toss anything that is outdated. How you put things back depends on what you are using; a wall cabinet or a shelf in a closet. Either way, you can use plastic containers to keep like things together. The size of the container should be big enough to fit one category and to fit on the shelf. Label the containers so that everyone in your house knows where things go. When you are finished make a list of what you don’t have but need. Then go shopping
Benefit: seeing what you have, stocking what you need and being able to find the right meds at the right time.
Refrigerator: This could be a monthly project or just seasonally. I like to clean mine out before a vacation or after the winter holidays. Take everything out one shelf at a time. Wipe down the shelves and any messy jars. Discard anything that is outdated, moldy or just plain old! Then designate one shelf for leftovers at eye level so you can see them and use them up. It’s also great to have shelves or bins dedicated to fruit, meats & vegetables, and ready snacks if you have kids (or snackers).
Benefit: Fresh food, easier to prepare a well-rounded meal, seeing what you have and what you need
Coat closet: A seasonal clean out here should be enough – once in the Spring and once in the Fall. You can put one person’s coats all together, getting rid of any that don’t fit. And you can create bins for each person’s scarves & gloves so all they have to do is grab the bin and get what they need. Hooks are very helpful on the sides and back of the closet. I use mine to hang umbrellas and tote bags. Slide a plastic boot tray in the bottom for wet shoes and you’re all set! I think it’s best to keep these closets simple with a hanging bar and a shelf.
Benefit: not being embarrassed when guests come over, having a place for everything
Wrapping Paper/Cards – It’s great to have all these gift wrapping supplies in one place. There are many types of organizers you can purchase from cardboard to zip up containers that fit under a bed to a stand up Rubbermaid container. Whatever you use, keep this in a location where you will most likely wrap presents. Begin by pulling everything out. Trash the old, wrinkled wrapping paper. Put gift bags together by size or by occasion. (I like to keep all my Christmas bags together) And make sure that the rolls of wrapping paper fit in your container. Cards w/envelopes, scissors & tape, gift tags and a pen can go into a small container or a pocket in your organizer.
Benefit: being able to find what you need and get birthday cards and presents out in a timely manner.
What small projects have you tackled with a big impact?
If you like new beginnings, second chances and setting goals – this is a beautiful time of year. Never mind the cold, grey weather. Just sit down by your fireplace by yourself or with your loved ones and dream about how great this year can be. Better yet, grab a piece of paper or a white board or your computer and write down your plans! This is how all great projects get started.
Now think about what went wrong last year. For our family, lack of vacation time was a stress point. I’d like to correct that this year if possible. So we are planning a long weekend in the spring, some time at the beach in the summer and a fall weekend in the mountains. Not a lot of details yet but that’s okay. These are our goals for fun time.
My oldest child needs to make more money before she goes away to college. Instead of leaving this to chance, I suggested she decide on her summer activities and then sit down with her boss to discuss how often she can work. If one place cannot give her enough hours, she may have to look for a second part-time job.
My middle child needs to get more involved in extra-curricular activities so we’re setting a deadline for him to join something by January 15 or we are going to sign him up. Everybody is motivated differently and believe me, we’ve tried to urge him before.
Everyone in our family has deadlines and appointments so we selected a beautiful calendar to hang in our kitchen so we all know what’s going on from day to day. Individually we also have planners. Now is a great time to let your students select a planner – daily, weekly or monthly – that makes sense to them.
Think about what you loved last year: A great vacation? The division of chores in your household? Projects that were completed? Repeat or expand on them this year. If you’re sprucing up your house, take one room per month and do what you can. A new coat of paint, rug or curtains can really update a room. You’ve got twelve months so if you budget your time and your money, you could have the house you’ve always dreamed of next year at this time! My method of project planning is to:
1. Brain storm
4. Write a task list
5. Get started
Cheers – to a great new year with all its infinite possibilities!
What do you have planned?
- Set a budget and decide how you will pay for Christmas. For some people it’s easier to take out the cash and only spend that. If you do a lot of online or catalog shopping, maybe use one credit card or debit card. If you use a credit card you may want to tuck away your budgeted money into a savings account until the bill comes. This will prevent that post-holiday shock in January.
- Make your list and check it twice. In order to set your budget, you’ll need to make a list of all the people you buy for. Include family, friends, teachers, charity donations and service people that you typically tip for the holidays. Estimate how much you will spend on each.
- With kids, stick to a number of presents and not a dollar amount. Typically the little toys are cheaper and the kids don’t know the cost anyway. So if you spend more on your teenager it’s okay. That one IPod might equal 5 V-tech toys but that doesn’t mean you have to buy them to be fair. You could set a limit like: 3 toys, one outfit and one book per child so when the presents are un-wrapped it all looks even.
- Shop efficiently. This could mean doing all of your shopping on-line. Many companies offer free shipping in Nov & Dec. Or it could mean going to a store only once. If you go to Toys R Us for example, take your list and get all the toy gifts at that time. It could also mean buying the same thing for multiple people. If you buy for your nephews, you could get each of them a sweatshirt in their favorite colors. Before you go shopping, take all your retail coupons in an envelope with you and check the fine print before you buy so you get the best deal.
- Automate your holiday cards. With so many digital photo companies now, it’s easy to make a great photo card for all your family and friends. Make sure you do these early so you have them in time. Also, if you don’t have your address list on the computer, this is the time to do it. Printing labels is so much easier than writing. Plus, you can have the children help you stuff and address the envelopes.
- Decide when and where the celebrations will take place. Speak to both sides of the family and make sure you leave some down time for your immediate family to spend together. This is a big cause of stress during the holidays – trying to make time for everyone else. Think about what you want too!
- If you are hosting a meal, ask for help. Most people are willing to make a dish or bring a bottle of wine to a holiday dinner so don’t be a martyr. You provide the entrée and one dessert and let the guests bring the rest. If you make a big Christmas Eve dinner, then keep Christmas day simple and serve cold cuts.
- Remember the kids. If you are traveling for the holidays even for a day trip to Grandma’s, remember to bring something for the kids to do. Adults might be fine with having drinks, snacks and catching up with the relatives. But the kids will be bored if that’s all there is. Bring along a special craft or a holiday movie to watch. Or even let them open a new toy when you arrive.
- Remember the reason for the season. It’s not about the stuff you get. It’s more about the time with family and close friends, celebrating a wonderful season. It’s a little about what you give but don’t let that stress you out. Whether you like it simple and quiet or loud and fun, enjoy!
- Manage your time. Like any other project, you have to set interim goals for the holidays. Here’s a sample schedule:
- Decorations – outside decorations up during the first weekend of December.
- Shopping – use the first 2 weeks of December
- Wrapping & sending cards – use the 3rd week of December
- Food shopping – make a complete list and go the week before the holiday.
- Christmas tree – decorate the week before on a Sunday night.
- Baking and food prep – one or two days before Christmas.
I’ve been sounding like a broken record lately with my clients so I thought I would put out this advice to the universe. With 10 years of experience in organizing and helping my clients de-clutter I’ve learned a few things that can save you some time and energy in the long run. Here they are:
DO NOT HAVE A GARAGE SALE TO SELL YOUR JUNK – Despite what you see on TV about people doing a clean sweep and getting lots of cash to redecorate, this is not the norm. Remember those shows have a TV production crew drawing people to their sale and most times, they come up short anyway. Yard sales & garage sales are a lot of work for the owner. You have to get up early,set your stuff out, price it, haggle about those prices with everyone, spend a day outside and then you have to do something with all the left overs at the end of the day. You also have to get people to show up which is no small task. My only “unless” would be that if your community or neighborhood is doing one big sale and it’s going to be social and someone else is doing the marketing for you or if you live in a heavily trafficked area, then go for it. It might be fun and you’ll earn some spending money in the process.
I told this to one client who was downsizing and her husband insisted on doing the sale. He and a friend looked forward to it. Then the Saturday came and it rained. They sat out all morning made about $50 and had to haul all the junk back to the house or put it in the trash. I went back on Monday and they said,”It really was a waste of time.”
DO NOT THINK YOUR OLD CLOTHES OR FURNITURE ARE WORTH $$$$$- Yes there are a lot of consignment shops popping up. Clothing consignment stores are very particular about the brand name, condition and style of clothing they will consign. Do not be offended if they don’t take your stuff. You many have paid $300 for a suit in 1985 but it’s not worth that today. Consignment shops sell stuff cheap. And even if your items get accepted by the store, there’s no guarantee they will sell. Case in point. I have a client with well- made dresses from the 80’s. They served her well and she thinks they are worth something. Actually they were worth, on average, $40 a piece at a local consignment shop. But in two months, only one item sold. So now she wants them back to try to sell somewhere else. This could be a vicious circle, taking my time and hers to move clothes around that she does not wear anymore.
The same goes for old furniture and household items. As one auction director said to me, “It’s a simple case of supply & demand.” Just because your grandparents told you something was worth a lot of money, it doesn’t necessarily mean that is true today. People are not buying antiques the way they used to even 20 years ago. And the baby boomers are downsizing and flooding the market with this stuff so supply is high, demand is low. That’s the hard truth.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Donate the items or don’t expect to make a ton of money. Be thankful to find someone who will come pick up all your unwanted household goods and clear out your house. Whether you’re downsizing or staying you will feel lighter once they are gone.
Clothing is the easiest thing to donate. Don’t be picky about where your clothes go. Trust that the homeless or less fortunate will appreciate your old clothes and put out some good karma. If you have a specific charity that helps people get back to work like Dress for Success or a half way house, they would love dress clothes – male or female.
Furniture is actually a little easier to consign. If you think you have some treasures, by all means have an auction house in to do an assessment. Get a couple quotes and then choose your best. Someone who will take the whole lot, not charge you for the pick up and give you one price is the most efficient way to go. It’s out in one day and you’ve got a little mad money in hand.
You can waste a lot of time second guessing your organizer, the auction house or consignment shop. If your goal is to eliminate clutter, downsize your home and move, then don’t loose sight of your goal. You’ve decided you don’t want or need these things so “Let it go!” What you see on Antiques Roadshow is not the norm.
Can anyone identify with what I’m saying? Please share your story.
I get asked all the time, “How do I keep my house this organized?” especially right after I finish with a client. Organizng is a project first and then it’s a process. Many of you have probably taken a day or more to clean out a room in the house , only to find that a week – the clutter is back! Life doesn’t stand still so neither does your stuff. The trick is to keep up with things like paperwork, cleaning, laundry, food storage on a regular basis. And if you want to keep up, I believe you’ve got two methods to choose from: The Full Barrel, or the Daily/Weekly Routine methods.
The Full Barrel – I love this term (which I borrowed from a book on food allergy reactions) because it’s so visual. You know what a full barrel looks like. And when it comes to organizing many people use containers (bins, baskets or boxes) to contain their clutter. So the method is that you contain one item or category to a container and when the container is full – you clear it out. That means sorting, purging and taking care of the items or putting them back where they belong. For instance, many people use this for laundry. You have a basket and when it’s full, you do wash. You can also think about a recycle container for newspapers. When its full you move it to the curb.
This system works well for visually motivated people and those who don’t like to live by a strict schedule. Be warned, however that the barrel may spill over at an inopportune moment. But you also don’t have to do any of these tasks until the bin is full so let it go and move on to something else!
The Daily/Weekly Routine – On the flip side, if you don’t want to wait for barrels to spill, and if you like predictability in your life, try the routine method. Invariably there are tasks that we all do every week like; food shopping, laundry, cleaning and taking out the trash. By assigning each task to a certain day you know that once a week these areas will be back to normal. This frees up your other days to do other things. For example, if you food shop on Sunday you can plan ahead for meals, lunches etc. and every week spend about the same money. If you run to the store every other day it’s more expensive. I also believe if your family has seven outfits, it’s okay to do wash only once a week. Have somebody fold it and everyone can put their own clean clothes away. It’s not hard if it’s only once a week.
Then there are the daily routines like checking email, US mail, cleaning up the kitchen, walking the dog, etc. Delegate where you can so one person is not doing it all. Also set a timer for things like checking email so you don’t let that effect the rest of your day. Whatever is a priority do it first. For example, if you want to go to the gym and work out, don’t turn on your computer or answer the phone before that. Trust me, it will set your whole day off schedule!
Speaking of which, this system works well for people who like a schedule. If your life is such that you don’t have one – then make one! Be your own boss and set hours for certain things like exercise and reading if that’s what you want to do. When left to chance these things will not get done. But don’t forget to leave a little white space in your daily and weekly routines because if you’re over scheduled you’re over stressed!
What routines do you have that keep your home or office running smoothly? Leave a comment.
Take, for instance, your vanity or medicine cabinet or bathroom cabinet – wherever it is that you keep your lotions, potions and make-up. This is one area that can be quickly organized and cleaned up. I would give it 2 hours plus any shopping time for containers. When you have skin products and make-up that is organized, clean and fresh your skin is going to look world’s better wearing it!
If, on the other hand you have held onto make up for years, just because it’s not finished or if you have skin care products from various manufacturers, you are doing your face a disservice. Follow these steps for a beauty routine make- 0ver and see the results for yourself:
1. Take everything out of your cabinets and categorize – make-up, cleansers, moisturizers, toners, facial scrubs, perfume, bath soaps, specialty products, nail products, and brushes – for starters.
2. Toss anything that is discolored, watery, or has an expiration date that has passed. Bottles that are covered with dust might indicate that they’re pretty old too.
3. Take a second look & toss more. Even if you don’t have expiration dates, you know how old certain items are. In general, make-up is good for 6 months to a year. Eye products should be tossed after 3 months so the next time you buy mascara, put a label on it with your own expiration date! Lotions last about 1 year.
4. Look at your categories. How many cleansers do you have? One is enough! Using products from one skin care line is optimal because they are formulated to work together. For example, a Clinique cleanser can remove Clinique’s foundation. If you mix companies you might not get desired results or you might overload on one ingredient causing a reaction.Choose your brand and get the complete set.
5. Take the products that you use every day and put them in one drawer, bin or on one shelf. Then take other products by category and put them in their own container. Plastic is the best because canvas or wicker bins will get wet at some point.
6. Clean your brushes with soap & water then let them air dry. Repeat this once a month at least.
7. Put all your toiletries back in the cabinet from which they came. If you have travel size (admit it you’ve got a collection!) toss any old ones and keep more recent ones in a travel bag in the linen closet.
Stand back and be amazed by how clear your bathroom is, and how easy it is to do your routine the next morning. To be super efficient, put all your daily products on the left of the sink and as you use them, move them to the right. That way you won’t miss a step!
What’s the toughest part of keeping your cosmetics under control? Leave a comment.
Get the inside scoop on how I got started in the organizing business, what goes on behind the scenes on Hoarders, and some tips on keeping your home organized! Listen to this podcast from Smead:
Moms always say, “I wish there was a textbook for raising children.” Well, there isn’t one so most of us just “wing it” on a daily basis.
I like to think my book, A Mom’s Guide to Home Organization, is somewhat helpful in answering the question of how can mom’s juggle all their responsibilities and still maintain order in the house. I even have a chapter on how to keep your baby on an eating and sleeping schedule. This little “how to” lesson was handed down to me from my mother who had a very authoritative pediatrician. He told her exactly what to feed us and when. This got me through the first year with my three children and I welcomed having more instruction than what my own pediatrician was saying, namely, “You can try a little cereal or some fruits…” She really left it up to me so I listened to my mother. Some people don’t agree with that schedule and that’s fine. It worked for me and my sisters and some of our friends. My kids are healthy and awesome sleepers to this day. But I have to say we did go through the picky eater syndrome that so many moms experience today. It’s a vicious cycle so how do you get out of that? I guess the answer is to never start with the fried, processed and salty foods that kids crave. Always give healthy options and they’ll have to eat something good.
If you have babies or toddlers it’s not too late for you! Try reading Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. It is the most comprehensive healthy eating guide that I have seen on the market. While I don’t consider myself a “crunchy granola” mom, I do appreciate healthy, all natural food but I’m sometimes intimidated by the amount of time I think it takes to make everything by scratch. That’s why I loved Ruth’s simple charts and instructions. Not only is she healthy but she’s efficient too. Surprisingly, Ruth did not start out as a nutritional expert; she was actually a NASA programmer! But when her twin boys were born premature, she became a determined mom. She wanted to give them the healthiest diet possible so she did her own research on nutrition and cooking. The result is this complete guide on choosing the right foods, preparing them, storing them and when to feed them to your babies.
Although my children are grown, I plan use the recommendations in this book to keep preparing healthy food for my family. Even if you pick up a few of her techniques, recipes or preparation tips, I think you and your kids will be happy and healthier in the long run.
Although this book was originally published in 1996, it has just come out with its third edition. For more information, go to www.superbabyfood.com.
September is National Emergency Preparedness month and to be honest, I never really thought about this too much. I’m not the type of person who panicked at the year 2000, in fact I laughed at people who basically stocked a bomb shelter days before New Year’s Eve that year. But as a Professional Organizer and someone who naturally plans ahead, it would make sense that I should know a little something about preparing for natural and man-made disasters. Since 9/11 our area certainly has had our share of them! And quite frankly, while we haven’t had real disasters, there have been plenty of times when my house and my neighborhood has been out of power for 4 days or more. Each time I vow there is something else I’m going to do to be prepared. So, I recently attended a class on this with my fellow organizers in Philadelphia and I’d like to share with you what I learned.
1. Verify the information you are receiving about any disaster. Lots of rumors spread among neighbors; make sure you are only acting on information from a credible source.
2. Have a list of emergency numbers posted in your home and on your cell phone. This may include: local Red Cross, School Info Lines, Power Company, Water Company, Telephone company. That way you can call immediately for an outage or to get up to date information on that utility.
3. Pick a safe room in your home in case you need to shelter in place. Choose a low room for a tornado, high for a flood, a bathroom for hurricane or earthquake.
4. Create an emergency plan/checklist for your family to help. One person can close windows, shut off water, gather pets, etc. so everyone is not running around bumping into one another. Locate water, electrical and gas shut off valves in your home and mark clearly.
5. Practice your plan just like you would a fire drill. Kids do this in school all the time now. It makes it calmer and easier to do in the real situation. If necessary, involve your neighbors in your plan so you can share resources.
6. Pick a meeting point for your family in case you get separated.
7. You can preserve refrigerated food with ice in a cooler, so it’s good to have an extra bag of ice in the freezer at all times.
The Emergency Supply Kit:
1. A gallon of water per person per day is the rule of thumb. Listen to authorities about whether or not it needs to be purified before consumed.
2. A battery operated radio to get news reports if no electricity.
3. Candles, flashlights and extra batteries, or a crank flashlight
5. Non-perishable food, and a manual can opener & plastic utencils
6. Medicine and/or baby supplies for 3-5 days
7. Fire extinguisher, gas grill for cooking
8. Comfort & convenience supplies: blankets, sleeping bags, change of clothes, cash and credit card, medical insurance cards, important documents in safe box, simple games to pass the time in a black out.
The auto kit:
1. Blanket, coveralls or extra sweatshirt
2. jumper cables, flares, triangles
3. shovel, rock salt and sand (for snow)
4. tire repair kit
6. AAA card if you are a member
(These are local numbers so make sure you have the ones for your area)
- Poison Control
- Red Cross
- Department of Health
- Electric Company
- Phone Company
- Water Company
- Out of town relatives/friends where you can stay if evacuated
Finally, I suggest you contact your county’s Department of Emergency Services for a list of instructions on what to do in the case of various natural disasters or emergencies. Keep it in a central location in the home where everyone knows where to find it. Or for more information check out http://www.ready.gov/God willing, you will never need to use these resources but if you’re prepared, even a little power outage will not feel so devastating.