No More New Year’s Resolutions!

How Clutter Affects Your Mental and Physical HealthI’m done with resolutions. Resolutions can be broken. Broken resolutions make us feel guilty. I was done with guilt a long time ago. I’m sure many of you may feel the same way. So what do we do to kick of the year? I feel like I have to plan something for 2017 even though big events are going to happen whether I like it or not. My one son is going off to college in the fall. The other one will be starting high school. I’m thinking about a career transition. So I know that we will all be going in new positive directions. But as an organized take-charge person I want to cause these good things to happen. I’m not the type to sit back and wait. (Remember waiting was what I did in December). So if you’re with me in wanting to look forward to this year, but you’re also done with the typical resolutions let’s try a new approach.

  1. Consider what do you want MORE or LESS of in your life this year?  I want more time with old friends so I’ve already started some initiatives to do this. I’m making plans to renew my play subscription at a local theatre for this year. That means I will see two of my closest friends at least 5 times for dinner and a show. I’m also making vacation plans to see my college friends, to take a trip with my daughter and to spend time with my family. These highlights will give me something to look forward to almost every month!  I also want fewer emails that I have to read, and act on, so I’m stepping down from volunteer commitments that cause me to receive so many. This will free up time for productive work and personal endeavors.
  1. What’s been on your TO DO list for a long time? Can you make that happen this year? What will it take?  For example, I want to update my bathroom. I secured estimates a few years ago but then the money wasn’t available so the project stalled. Since then, we’ve taken care of several other home improvements that were less expensive so I feel like we can do it this year. I’ll go back to the contractors, get new estimates and when I have a clear cost, I will start socking away the money until we can pay for the whole project. Then I will schedule it in a month when it makes sense, maybe in the fall when 2/3 kids will be away at school. For major home improvements you really need to think through the project: resources, cost, schedule. Then start making calls!
  1. Who can help you with making your dreams a reality?  If you want to get organized but haven’t been able to do it on your own, hire a professional. Likewise, if you’ve been thinking about a career transition and haven’t made much progress, hire a business coach like I did! I’ve been working with her for a few months and she knows the process so all I have to do is follow her steps and do my homework. That takes a big burden off my shoulders. Maybe you’re tired of cleaning your own house – hiring a cleaning person is a treat that many hard working women deserve. Just do it and save the money somewhere else in your budget. Most of us can’t reach our dreams without a little help.
  1. What’s something you can do every week to make you happy?  Is it mediation, an exercise class or a group that you can join to pursue a passion? Maybe you’ve done it once and just need to continue. Maybe you need time to think about what it is that makes YOU happy. Or maybe you need to do a little research on your options. For instance, I got back into yoga over the holidays when my daughter was home. I remembered that I loved it and I wasn’t doing it enough. So I’m going to continue every week doing yoga for my health and sanity.
  1. Put it all down in your calendar.  Once you have some plans, or ideas for the New Year, write them down on a one sheet Year-At-A –Glance calendar. That way you can see on your big ideas, events and goals for each month. Move things around as necessary. Look forward to the social plans, get excited about your home projects and fill in the blanks where there’s nothing good going on.

I hope you have a happy and fulfilling 2017!

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

spring fever
I don’t like waiting. I like initiating action, following a plan and getting things done. Anyone else with me on this?

And yet, here I am, waiting. Waiting for Christmas like many people are, but on other things as well.

Waiting for Amazon to ship.

Waiting for college kids to come home.

Waiting on insurance to come back with an estimate on my car that’s been totaled.

Waiting for my niece to get out of the hospital.

Waiting to hear if my daughter got the part, if my son got into the college of his dreams, if my other son earned a scholarship to high school.

Waiting stinks. Waiting feels helpless. But then maybe it’s an appropriate mode for this season of Advent. We make as many preparations as we can, but in the end we still wait. Everything is not in our control and things will happen. Hopefully good things will happen in their own time. Someone once told me, “We make plans and God laughs.” He must laugh at me a lot because I make a lot of plans. Many work out. Some don’t at least in my timeframe. And let’s face it, some don’t work out at all, so we go to plan B.

So what’s an organized, Type A personality to do in this state? The best I can come up with is making a list and checking it twice. Making a list is simply a way to keep track of projects or tasks that are not complete. This can be done in a planner or on a smart phone or just by having a visual reminder. I always have a “Waiting on” clear plastic folder that sits on my desk so I know what’s out there, beyond my control until it swings back around. “Checking it twice” just means I look in the folder every couple days to remind myself, and record any progress or see if there’s something I can do to move the process along. Yesterday I found something I could do to move the insurance company along – they needed the car accident police report so I went and picked it up, scanned and emailed it to them. And yet I’m still waiting, but maybe that check will arrive one day sooner.

The other thing to do is focus on what I can control. I can do my work, prepare for Christmas, and make myself a better person through reading, exercising, or taking a seminar. I can take on a creative project just to see some results. And through it all I will learn patience. It’s a virtue, my mother tells me.

So what is it you are waiting on? Can you take some action today to move it along? If not, what can you do to divert your attention?

 

8 Rules to Manage Your Money

moneyWith the holidays coming some of you may be worried about the money factor. So many gifts to buy, big meals to plan and outfits for the festivities just adds to the stress of the season.   If you don’t worry about the expenses or at least plan them out, you run the risk of maxing out your credit cards and then dealing with the shock in January.

I was recently re-reading one of my favorite books, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach and she reminded me of another book with great advice: The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. So I want to share with you some solid advice on how to think about and manage your money, not just at the holiday time but all year and life long. I also believe that passing this wisdom on to your children is a smart way to teach them to live within their means and save for the future.

Clason’s principles of wealth are:

  1. Regular saving and sharing – taking what you earn and keep 10% for yourself and giving 10% to charity. The other 80% use to pay your bills
  1. Controlling expenditures – these are the bills. Make sure they are no more than 80% of your income. Keep a household budget and review it annually to see where you can make cuts if necessary.
  1. Living debt-free – some debt is fine and necessary like a mortgage or student loans for college. Make sure that you get the lowest interest rate and are able to make the monthly payment so that the debt will go away in a limited amount of time.
  1. Increasing prosperity through prudent investment – Think about your ROI (return on investment) for every major purchase. I recently heard a schoolteacher say that if he had thought it through, he wouldn’t have taken on so much college debt to go to his dream school only to get out and make a teacher’s salary. Many kids today take on $200,000 worth of college debt or more without calculating how long that will take to pay off. A state school at $6-10,000 a year may allow them to get the same job. My advice: do the math with your child before they enroll in college.
  1. Protecting the bulk of your wealth from loss – safe, not risky investments or bank accounts.
  1. Owning property – it’s the one thing that typically appreciates over time, you just have to buy low and sell high
  1. Establishing a future income for old age – Think about it in your twenties and start saving/planning. Most of us can’t count on pensions or social security, so have a plan and then a plan B.
  1. Increasing the ability to earn money through perseverance – This could start with a part time job in high school and lead to multiple avenues of income as an adult. When you make a job move, look for higher hourly rates, or more consistent hours or cheaper associated job expenses to keep more money flowing your way. Look for opportunities for passive income.

And finally, there is one other concept that George Clason talks about: the money magnet. I like this one because it’s kind of “woo woo” but I’ve seen it work. Keep a hundred dollar bill tucked away in your wallet to attract more money. It’s based on the law of attraction and helps you live with a feeling of abundance instead of scarcity. You can also examine your bank accounts monthly to appreciate how much you have. And if you are not happy with the bottom line, cross it out and write a number that makes you happy. Focus on that and next month, see if you get there.

What do you do to have a good relationship with money? Leave a comment.

5 Tips for Running Your Business Efficiently

compter person

 

Most people think a professional organizer is a little like a house cleaner, but many of my clients run small businesses or have me come to their professional offices. In thirteen years I’ve seen a lot of these offices and have come up with 5 pieces of advice for how to run your small business or professional office efficiently. These stem from the common mistakes that I see business owners make over and over again.

 

  1. Have Job Descriptions for every employee – Even if your employees have been with you for many years. In fact, they can even help you develop the job description. Find out what they are doing day to day, then compare that with what you want them to be doing for your business. A lot of issues can be resolved with clear job descriptions. Plus, it makes it easier to do a six-month or annual review; compare their performance against the job expectations. And it makes it easier to replace an employee who quits or moves on.

2. Divide and conquer – Too many small businesses have workers who they expect to be the Jack or Jill of all trades. The “generalist” is often pulled in many directions and does not have time to put a lot of thought or effort into any one task. But if you have more than one employee or consultant, find out their forte, their specialty what they really enjoy and let them do it well. Then you as the business owner or principal can focus on what you do best. For many business owners, that is business development or sales. Let others run the day-to-day operations and only get involved if there’s a problem.

3. Avoid the threat of “the bosses wife.” – I know that may sound sexist but I’ve seen it many times. A man owns a business and the wife “helps out.” If her role is not defined, if she doesn’t have a title then the workers might feel she is only there to spy on them or to have her opinion heard on how things should run in the office. If she is a partner, give her that title and specific roles. If she is an employee, like anyone else she needs a clear job description.

4. Have a plan for Financials, Customer Service and Marketing your business and review it every 6 months. So many small business people get caught up in working in their business that they forget to plan and work on their business until it’s too late. And that usually happens when you lose a major client or your leads dry up. It is a constant cycle of managing the money, having a Customer Service plan and routine to keep your customers happy and then a Marketing plan to keep new clients coming in. Some basic software that can help with these tasks are: Quickbooks, Constant Contact, and Survey Monkey.

5. Hire Sub Contractors as needed – If your business is not lucrative enough or steady enough to employee people then consider hiring sub contractors on an “as needed” basis. With subcontractors, like employees you should have a written agreement which includes pay scale, confidentiality and insurance information if you have a job that requires them to carry insurance. With sub-contractors there is less pressure on the business owner to keep them busy a certain number of hours per week. But you have the ability to again “divide and conquer.” If you’re not good at bookkeeping or marketing, hire someone to do that for your business.

What do you find difficult about running your business efficiently?

What you really need for back to school with teenagers

So if you follow me, you know that I’ve been in the organizing business for thirteen years now. I started when my kids were young and I was for the most part a “stay at home” mom. Things have changed as my family has grown up. What I used to like about back to school and back to routines is now a double edged sword. While the kids will be out of the house for the most part of the day, some things are harder. Like trying to wake them up, or remember to do homework, or remembering everything they need for after school sports, and helping them with homework (my kids passed my math levels a few years ago.) So while the stress is different, I still strive to teach my children organizational skills that I think will carry them on to their first job in the “real world” and hopefully make them better students. I do still believe that an organized person can do anything and be productive. While I watch the TV segments and read the articles in magazines about “back to school” I sometimes think, I’ve heard it all but sometimes the bright backpack or cute locker accessories are not really what it’s all about. So I’ve compiled here five of my favorite things which just might help you and your teenagers get organized this school year:

timetimerTime Timer – Because in a digital age, kids really don’t see time as concrete. This device makes it visual. Whenever I say to my kids “quarter of” or “quarter after” an hour, they give me a quizzical look. This only has meaning if you are looking at a round clock with hands. So consequently they may not understand how much they can get done in 15 minutes or half an hour. Try this test: ask your child how long will homework take? If they need to break it down by subject, do that. Then set the Time Timer and see how close they were to the estimate. Going forward they should have a better feel for how long it takes to do 2 pages of math, read a chapter in Science, etc. and that leads to better planning. If you have 4 hours of homework one night, you may have to skip a practice or give up TV

2015-16-oooc-academic-plannerPlanner – This is a great tool for writing down all your daily TO Do’s in each subject as well as keeping track of all your after school activities. With everything on one week or month at a glance, you can plan ahead for big projects. And having every s ubject written on the left hand column forces you to remember each one and consider it by the end of the day. I’ve us ed a planner since my first job out of college and I can’t imagine keeping track of things any other way!

IMG_1707Coat Tree – or a series of hooks in a mudroom setting is a great place to keep “activity bags” hanging and ready to go. Whether it’s a sport or dance class or karate, a small sinch ask or tote bag is a great place to keep all you need for an after school activity. Just grab it and go! The coat tree is also a great way for girls to keep all their scarves, purses and hats off the floor and easily accessible using vertical space.

 

 

 

charging station

Family charging station for iPhones – I can’t say enough about this subject. It serves multiple functions to have the whole family’s iPhones out of the bedrooms for the night. One, you’ll remember to charge them, Two, you won’t be awakened by beeps and buzzes to disturb your sleep. And three, the kids will not be texting late into the evening when they should be doing homework or sleeping. Decide on a time that works for your family and put the phones to bed. I strongly encourage parents to have the password for your kids’ devices so you can randomly check them. I tell my kids, if you don’t want me to see it, you shouldn’t be texting it or tweeting it, or sending that picture.

notebookThe 5 subject notebook – it’s been around awhile but it makes so much sense. Keep all your major subjects in one place. Often the divider is a pocket folder so you can keep loose papers here too. Less for your kids to remember to bring to class and bring home. When one gets filled, buy another for the next semester. This is great for middle school up through college.

Tips for Organizing and Cleaning for Spring 2016

 

spring clean

 

Guest Post by:  Kaitlin Krull of Modernize

After the dark, cold days of winter pass and the weather finally begins to take a turn for the better, most homeowners start to think about warm spring afternoons spent relaxing and entertaining. Unfortunately, one thing stands in between you and your daydreams: spring cleaning. If you’re anything like us over at Modernize, your spring cleaning to-do list is a mile long and full of tasks that seem impossible to tackle. Well, we are here to tell you that you can do it, and it’s not as difficult as it might seem. Here are some tips to help you organize and spring clean your way through to summer.

Tackle your home room by room

When you feel overwhelmed about all the spring cleaning jobs you have ahead of you, it’s best to take it one task at a time. We recommend splitting your to-do list into rooms, so that you feel a sense of accomplishment after completing each space. Start with high traffic areas such as your home’s entryway, the living room, and the kitchen, concentrating on one task at a time in order to achieve the best results. Make sure to complete an entire room before moving on to the next, or else you risk missing important organization and cleaning jobs.

Love it or leave it

The first step in your room-by-room spring clean should be organization. The best and most efficient way to go about organizing your belongings is a love-it-or-leave-it approach. As you’ve seen time and again on Space to Spare, a sort-purge-organize method works like a charm for virtually everything you own. Sort your stuff into piles according to what you want to keep, donate, throw away, and recycle, purge your home of the donations, trash, and recyclables, and organize the rest. Remember that it is 2016, so unless they are something you truly love and want to have as keepsakes or special memories, it might be time to let some of your ancient things go.

Clean as you go

Before moving on from any one space, remember to clean everything thoroughly during the organization process. Take the time now to move furniture, sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming underneath and behind larger pieces. Clean all surfaces, wipe down the insides of drawers and storage units, remove cobwebs from corners, and clean skirting boards and other dusty wall surfaces. Finally, if you haven’t done so since your last spring clean, it’s probably a good idea to wash or steam clean your upholstery, curtains, and other textiles. We promise you that your effort now will be worth it in the long run.

Get ready for summer

Remember that summer is just around the corner, so in addition to cleaning and organizing your home, begin to think about the changing seasons. Place winter clothing and accessories into storage and take out summer items to save yourself time later on. During your regular spring cleaning tasks, spend a little extra time in your mudroom, laundry room, and entryway, since these areas will inevitably see increased use in the summer months. Finally, clean all your windows, both inside and out. If you have time and energy to spare, now would be a great time to think about tackling the exterior of your home (including power washing your siding, dealing with lawns and landscaping, and tidying up your outdoor entertaining areas).

No excuses!

If a particular task seems too much of a hassle to you, we have one recommendation: don’t put it off! That extra elbow grease takes time but will set you in good stead for the summer, or at least for the next few months!

How Organizers Help Their Children

abs-coverHaving been in this business for thirteen years now, I have met many professional organizers like me who have children. I have been in their homes, heard their stories and it’s very clear that the organizational skills we possess are used not only in our businesses, but in our parenting skills as well. I was at one friend’s home last night and I had to laugh when I saw the “visual reminder” posted for her two young children in her kitchen. I recently put one on my own refrigerator to remind my boys of all the good/healthy things they should be doing every day; things that I find myself nagging them about constantly. To save myself some breath, I typed it up in a colorful professional memo. This list includes tasks like, floss, exercise, read a chapter in a book or an article, do something nice for someone else, etc. They are teenagers and I’m trying to get them to think outside of their own little world as well as to remember all the things I use to do for them when they were little.

So I thought about what our kids are exposed to in an organized household. There’s a lot of good there, but there is also a fine line. Too much structure, and the kids will rebel. So I’ve boiled it down to a few skills or lessons that you can learn from the professional organizer parent and apply in your own home if you are eager to calm the chaos and teach your children some life skills before they pack up and move away.

  1. Visual Reminders – Like the notes on the frig, anything that reminds a child to do something without mom or dad having to say it a million times is helpful. (I recommend the daily chore chart which can be downloaded from my Products page.) One of my absolutes is “put it where you use it.” So if your child needs to brush their retainer every night, put it on the bathroom sink. Need a bag for sports? Put it by your front door. But too many visuals can be overwhelming so limit the number.
  2. Routines – My daughter in college still likes to do her nightly routine. Her friends tease her as she brushes her teeth, washes her face, puts on PJ’s and starts to unwind. Many of them just crash in their bed whenever they get exhausted. But routines bring comfort. So help your children develop their own, like reading before bed, packing their lunch and schoolbag in the evening or cleaning out their locker every Friday. These routines will help their day and their weeks run smoothly.
  3. Time Management – As children get into middle school, help them find a planner that makes sense. Write down all their activities, part -time work and homework assignments. For long-term projects, help them work backwards from the deadline to meet certain milestones. Using a planner where they can see a month at a glance, a week at a glance and still have room for daily tasks will help them with meeting their goals. (Check out the Student planner on my Products page.)
  4. Goal Setting/Prioritizing –On more than one occasion I have sat down with my children and talked about their priorities. When so much is going on from exams to college applications to tryouts it’s easy to lose focus and get stressed out. It helps to talk it out and write it down. Ask questions like, what do you need to do first? How important is this? Limit the priority list to 3-4 items, so when daily stresses and decisions come up, they can ask themselves, “Is this supporting one of my priorities?” It also helps when they are bored and don’t know what to do. You can always do something to work towards your next goal.
  5. Decision Making – Any organizer will tell you that the crux of disorganization is the lack of decision-making. You can teach your children at an early age to make simple decisions. I encourage parents to do this with school art projects: go through the pile and let your child decide Yes or No to keep something. Then move on. They can do this with clothing, toys, etc. When they get older, it may be about activities to join, or colleges to apply to. Make sure they have some criteria for making the bigger decisions and that they think it through on the front end. Some people go through life avoiding decisions and second-guessing themselves, these people are usually unhappy.
  6. Money management – One thing organized parents do is give their children chores and pay them an allowance. This may be in the form of money or a point system. With a point system, the child can redeem points for extra screen time or a special treat. It all teaches them the value of work and money. When they start earning money through their part time job, it’s a great idea to have them put half in the bank and keep the other half for discretionary spending. Before they go away to college, make a budget plan with them. I suggested my daughter take the same amount of cash out of the ATM every week, this is her spending money. I discourage the use of debit cards because it’s easy to deplete your savings and not even know where the money went. It’s more “real” to spend cash. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Credit cards are even worse for college kids because they tend to live beyond their means, which is a bad habit to get into as an adult. As soon as they have a part time job, your kids could be paying for some of their living expenses like car insurance, and phone bills. If kids never know the cost of their own luxuries they will be in for a rude awakening when they start to live on their own.

So these are a few areas where I see many organized parents really instill good habits in their children. I hope you can take some or all of these tips and try them in your own family. If you think your kids won’t listen to you or if you want your kids to be more organized than you are, we are happy to work with your child directly. It’s my observation that children of really disorganized parents tend to be neater. And some children of perfectionists tend to rebel against the order imposed on them. So as with all things, moderation is key. If they have a good homework routine, and can make practical decisions, then dirty clothes on the floor may not be a big deal.

What organization skills have you taught (or would like to teach) your children?

Organize Before You Move

boxesMoving out of your home and into a new space is one of the most disconcerting events in someone’s life. Even the most organized person can be stressed out at the concept of boxing up your life and moving it. There is an emotional side to the transition and there is also a very physical and practical side to a move. Regardless of the reason for moving, look at it as an opportunity to “right size” your belongings and create a fresh start to your life.

I have helped clients organize their current homes as they are boxing up and preparing to move. On the flip side, I have also helped clients set up their new homes in an organized, functional way so they can feel settled in their new space as soon as possible. Here are some tips on how you can organize before your move to make your transition a little easier:

  1. Do the math:

  • If you have your moving date, plan backwards from there. Count the number of rooms in your home and figure that each room is going to take 1-2 days to pack up. Of course bigger rooms and those with more “stuff” in them will take more time. A room with more furniture and fewer small items may only take one day. If you work full time and are only packing at night, figure on 2 days per room just to be safe.
  • Have the measurements of each room in your new home so you can determine what furniture will fit. Identify what is moving with you and what furniture will be sold or given away. You can do this with a list or by putting colored stickers on the furniture, one color for keep and one for give away.
  • Have the measurements of closet space for every room in the new house. If your bedroom closet is half the size, you may have to part with half of your wardrobe, or consider where out-of-season clothing will be stored. Don’t rely on eyeballing it. Size really does matter in this case!
  1. Start with storage areas:

  • Your basement, garage and attic are the places in your home where you can downsize the most. Obviously, much of what is stored there is not used on a regular basis so start by categorizing and purging here. Box up what you definitely want to keep (I suggest uniform plastic bins for storage areas) and label the box with where these items will be stored in the new home.
  • If you have items in your storage areas that belong to other people (your grown children for instance) label the boxes with their names and give them a deadline for coming by and going through their belongings. Or make a phone call and ask what they want you to do with it. Respect their decision and let it go!
  • Designate a spot in one of these storage areas for donations. As you pack up your home, move donations to that place so they can all be hauled out at once.
  1. Work your way around the house room by room:

  • Once storage areas are organized and all boxed up, go through one room at a time and categorize what you have, purge what you don’t need, want or love and then box up what you will take with you.
  • Label boxes with the category and the room to which it will go in your new home. Leave the boxes in the room where they are.
  • If your move is 2-3 weeks away, only keep out what you will use in that time frame. You may need to be a minimalist for a while, but that’s ok. It may feel good.
  • Determine how many boxes you will need to finish up the room and leave empty boxes there for the last minute pack up.
  1. Last minute items:

  • A day or two before the movers come go around to each room again and pack whatever is left. Label boxes with, “daily essentials” so they are easily identified when you get to your new place.
  • Linens and towels can be easily packed in extra large SpaceBags. Just make sure you have your vacuum handy to vacuum seal them!
  • Put remaining clean clothes and personal items in a suitcase, as if you were packing for a trip.
  • Bathroom sundries should be packed in plastic bins and labeled by category (i.e. medicine, makeup, first aid)
  • Schedule a pick up for donations if you have a large amount. Otherwise, drive to your local Green Drop, Goodwill or food pantry.
  • Clean out the refrigerator, and put out any trash or recycling.
  1. When you arrive at your new home:

  • Set up your bathroom with a trash can, hand soap, toilet paper and towels.
  • Set up your bedroom with linens and the clothes & personal items from your suitcase.
  • Set up your kitchen with any food that you’ve transported, everyday dishes and utensils and some paper products like cups, plates and napkins.
  • Make sure each room has a light in it and window coverings.

Take a deep breath, sit down and don’t try to set it all up in one day. If you’ve done a good job of paring down, and labeling the moving boxes, all you have to do is make sure each box and piece of furniture gets to the correct room. You’ll have your necessities out for the first few days so you can eat, sleep and use the bathroom. Use the room-by-room approach once again as you unpack your boxes and start living in your new home.

7 Steps to Organize Your Health

woman with fruitIt’s the beginning of the year and most of us are working towards our New Year’s resolution. Not surprisingly, two of the most common goals are: loose weight and get organized. As an organizer and someone who has had “lose 20 lbs” on my list for the last 10 years (even though I was 15 lbs lighter back then) I always think about how doing both together might be the right combination to finally achieve my elusive ideal.

I can be organized about many things in my life: paperwork, household chores, party planning and running my business but somehow the key to weight loss is the brass ring I’m still reaching for. I do not like the idea of a fad diet or starving myself so I stick with the traditional approach: to burn more calories than I eat.

Here are seven tips that you can follow to get started on your weight loss plan, whatever that may be:

  1. Schedule your exercise for regular days & times: If you try to get exercise in whenever you have time, it’s probably not going to be a routine. Instead, look at your typical week and decide when you can exercise, then put it in your calendar. Better yet, find a buddy to go with you so you can motivate each other! My schedule fluctuates so I do this on Sundays. I look at the week ahead and find 3 one-hour slots or 5 half hour slots where I can go to the gym or do exercise at home. I know I’m better in the morning so I try to do it before work. But if your only option is after a full day of work, have a standard time to do this so you create a routine.
  1. Plan your meals: Go food shopping once a week but plan out your meals before hand. You may only want to do dinners but you can also plan what you will have for lunch each day, especially if you eat at home or pack it. Only buy what is healthy and on your eating plan. Create a list and stick to it! Resist those impulse buys at the supermarket.
  1. Put healthy food at eye level: Let’s face it, when we’re hungry we grab what is closest and easiest. So, after food shopping cut up celery, carrots and fruit and have them at eye level in small containers in your refrigerator. Or put a bowl of fruit on the table. It’s decorative and appetizing. With nuts or granola bars – put them in easy grab containers in the cabinet or pantry.
  1. If you can’t see everything in your refrigerator or pantry – clean it out. This may happen once a month or just before you embark on a new way of eating. Take everything out and categorize it: proteins, veggies, fruits, dairy, drinks, etc. Then wipe down the shelves and toss anything that has expired or that you know is not a fit for your diet. Put everything back in categories so all your choices are healthy!
  1. Create a medical file for every member of the family. It starts with immunizations for the children, and should include all test results, doctor’s recommendations, treatment descriptions and MRI’s and x-rays. Put the latest papers in front of each file so you have a chronological history of all your medical ailments and procedures. Keep medical bills separate. This file is for medical history, not cost. It should be a permanent file, as long as the person lives in your home.
  1. Make follow-up appointments while you are at the doctors and put them in your calendar right away. Put any prescriptions that have to be filled or test requests in your TO DO bin.
  1. Use apps or a FitBit to track your progress on movement per day, heart rate, calories consumed, weight, etc. There is no sense in setting a goal if you are not going to measure it.

For more tips on how to organize your health, check out my booklet, 52 Practical Organizing Tips for Busy Moms sold on the Products page of my website.

How do you organize your health? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

 

Organize Your Home-Based Business

cover shotMany moms I know are trying to create that life balance with a home-based business. It’s a great idea, and I should know because I’ve tried a few! When my first child was young, I sold Mary Kay. That was a great way to go out in the evening, meet with other women and make a little extra money. I also got my own products at a discount, which saved money too. But I soon decided I did not want to be out at night when my kids were in school all day. And keeping inventory was becoming a problem. So I created my organizing business, which had no inventory, and the hours I work evolved every year as my children grew along with my client base. So here are some tips I’ve learned along the way to help keep my business running smoothly. Keep in mind, that you’re never finished with this process, it’s more a “rinse & repeat.” You find what works well with your life as it is now and stick to the basics.

  1. Decide your hours – when the kids are small, working at night and on weekends might be a good idea if your spouse can take care of them while you’re out. When they are in full time school though, I found I wanted to work 9-4 so I could be there when they left and when they got home. Whatever works for your family – set the hours and stick to them. Take off your business hat when it’s time to be mom and vice versa.
  2. Create an office – Believe it or not I see people who work from home and drag their laptop all around the house, have paperwork everywhere and wonder why their business is not organized. Even if you have a small desk and 2-drawer file cabinet in the corner of a room, you can make it an office. I find it’s easier to concentrate on work when I sit there with everything I need at my fingertips.
  3. Keep a list of clients – From your first one to the person who calls you on the phone just to ask about your pricing. This will give you a list to go back to when business is slow. You can use a simple Excel spreadsheet or go to a Contact management system so you can send them information via email.
  4. Communicate regularly – Speaking of list of clients, what can you say to them? Well, a blog that goes out the same time each week, a monthly newsletter with some tips or news or an Evite for a special event. These are all ways to get in front of your customers over and over again. You never know what will spark their interest!
  5. Be easy to deal with – I see so many people caught up in logistics of running their business that they fail to just listen to what the customer needs and fulfill that need. Too much formality may scare some people off. Whether it has to do with payment, or scheduling or what type of work you are doing, try to be flexible and meet the customer’s needs.
  6. Use the phone! Given all the ways to communicate with people now, we often forget the phone. It is personal so that is key in a service-based business. Pick up the phone and check in with a no-pressure question that is specific to your client’s situation. When my appointment calendar is empty, I call it dialing for dollars. Just by making phone calls I will start booking with people who had been “meaning to call me.”
  7. Always look professional – in my business we get dirty but professional, and I always error on the side of being a little dressed up especially on my first meeting. As I get to know a client, I mirror their image and then step it up one notch. So if the client wears sweats, I might wear jeans and a casual top. If I’m working in an office of course I wear dress pants and a blouse.
  8. Share some personal info – but not too much! In a service business we get to know our customers pretty intimately. It’s good to share your own stories so they feel comfortable with you. But hesitate from giving too much information to where it becomes a discussion all about you. You are the professional; they are the clients so it’s really all about them.
  9. Say Thank You and ask for referrals – No surprise here but referrals are a big part of a small business. Many of us forget to ask for them! Make a point of this a few times a year and maybe offer an incentive to your clients for sending you their friends.
  10. Assess your financials monthly, quarterly and annually – When you love what you do and the checks are coming in, don’t forget to record them! Keeping track of your income & expenses may surprise you. You may be making less than you think or you might have peaks and valleys throughout the year. Use Excel or QuickBooks to track your money so you know what is worth doing over and where you may plan ahead for slow times of the year. Quarterly reports can help you predict the rest of the year and annual assessments can help you adjust your overall business plan.

What do you find hard about running your small business?

How Clutter Affects Your Mental and Physical Health

How Clutter Affects Your Mental and Physical HealthOverflowing closets and shelves, disorganized desks and tables and excessive amount of stuff can be overwhelming. Clutter affects most of us and can get to the point when it’s dragging you down .Many people fail to address the aggravating problem until they start feeling mentally exhausted. The negative effects of clutter go beyond the messy home and impact your physical and mental health.

More items mean more cleaning. The excess of stuff can cause allergies by attracting dust, dander and mold or it can impose a risk of household injuries. Clutter can also increase your stress levels by influencing your routine.

The Origins of Clutter

You collect clutter for a various reasons. Maybe it has sentimental value or you spent a good amount of money on it and you feel reluctant to simply throw it away even if you haven’t used for some time. In other cases, the items may serve to fulfill needs like security, self-worth, comfort or excitement. Your belongings may turn into a connection with the past or a symbol of being loved. Whatever the case, it can be literally painful to give up of your possessions.

According to a study at the Yale University the two areas of the brain associated with pain –the anterior cingulated cortex and insula, are invigorated when a person is faced with the situation to let go of items. This means that your brain perceives the loss of a valued possession the same way as if something caused you physical pain. The more financially or emotionally commited you are to an item, the more you want to keep it around. Don’t feel ashamed about being a hoarder or “clutter bug.” It’s your mind that plays tricks on you.

Effects on Physical Health

Clutter can have negative influence on your day-to-day activities. You will have difficulties finding what you need in the huge pile of mess and often be late for work or an appointment. It may sound surprising, but clutter also decreases the odds for exercising. Not only that, it can make you fat. Researchers have found a link between overconsumption of things and overconsumption of food. In general, the clutter drains your energy.

Effects on Mental Health

The excess of things in your surroundings can affect your ability to focus and process information. Physical clutter can overload your sense and weaken your decision-making skills, making you more stressed and less creative. The disorganization constantly bombards your brain with stimuli, informing it that something is not finished. As a result you get anxious or experience more severe mental issues. Clutter may strengthen existing bad habits like procrastination. It may also prevent you from living in the moment or block out new things from coming into your life.

The Solution

Try cleaning up the clutter one room or category at a time. It often helps to have another person do this with you, whether it’s a trusted friend or professional. When you’ve cleared an area, enjoy the feel of that room. Treat yourself appropriately. Recognize that disorganization is not beneficial for you and let go of the unnecessary. Ask yourself, do I feel better now that I’ve de-cluttered? If yes, move on to the next area. After cleaning the mess, it is essential to set up an ongoing organizational system to prevent the things from piling up again. A good habit is to put things back to their assigned places at the end of each day or at least at the end of the week. Most importantly, you should break the habit of accumulating things you don’t need. Only shop for what you absolutely need and what brings you joy.

This is a guest post by Ella Andrews. More on cleaning and organizing read at: dagenhamcarpetcleaners.org.uk

Getting over “overwhelmed”

secretary

If there is one word we organizers hear more than others, it is “OVERWHELMED.” Our clients are overwhelmed by: emails, paper, hectic schedules, work, kids activities, toys, clothes, you name it.

So how can we get over this state of mind, or state of being? There are several approaches.

  1. Write a list – This may sound like a small solution to a big problem, but consider this. All this stuff is on your mind and stressing you out in your head. If you make a list of what needs to be done, you can free your mind and make some sense of it. For example if you have projects at home, write them down in groups. Maybe inside projects, projects for the kids to help with and outside projects can be your groups. When the lists are made, then assign projects to a certain day or month. Great method for do-it-yourselfers.
  1. Call in a truck – Let’s face it, if you have a house full of clutter and you want to deal with it fast, you can call in a truck for either donations (like Purple Heart or Goodwill) or junk removal. Some junk removal companies will even sort through your stuff and donate and recycle what they can. All you have to do is point out what you want to go. Not a lot of tedious decisions to be made with this method.
  1. Sort, Purge and get organized – This is the method employed by most professional organizers. This works well for people who want to tackle one room or area of their home at a time. And for those who want to look at everything and decide what should stay and what should go. This will take time but with a third party to keep you focused it will get done.
  1. Learn to say NO – If you are overwhelmed by your schedule, then maybe a series of calls to get off certain committees is in order. I’ve had years where I’ve said yes to every volunteer duty asked of me and then I’ve had years where I completed my commitment and politely ducked out. Sometimes a year of doing nothing extra helps you decide where your priorities are. And with kids’ activities, I recommend one per child per season. They have to learn to make choices. You can lead by example in this area.
  1. Take a day off – Many of us work constantly. In fact, I heard the other day that we Americans only take 51% of our vacation days. So take a day off! Don’t wait for a major event to do this. A day off in the fall for a walk outside or day at the spa can be so rejuvenating. Or a day off in the winter to stay home by the fire and drink cocoa and watch movies can also be good for the soul.

How do you get over “overwhelmed?”

Creating a Fun & Safe Backyard

playhouseBy Marie Nieves

Seeing kids play in my yard brings back many memories. Those days seem so far away now, the days of freedom, playfulness, creativity and adventure, when we had all the time in the world and our back yard was our universe. The modest tree-house my father had made by himself had a lot to do with it – it was enough to create the sense of magic for us being our hiding place, our adventure base and our headquarters in the endless summer days.

The preparations

Creating something similar for our kids has always been at the back of my mind, but I never got around to it. So, what is the plan? You want everything to be renovated so that it fits perfectly. Check the pipes you use to water the yard. In addition, checking whether the drainage in the yard is good shows the state of indoor pipes. This might be odd but this is usually the sign of blockage or broken pipes. Consult with your local plumber and you are on your way.

The grass

If you want to do everything from scratch, think about the grass. Some may think this factor is irrelevant, remember that this will be the grass that your kids will run on when the weather is nice. There are different types according to the color, density, and leaf width. Higher grass quality requires more maintenance and, thus, more money. It’s not just about that. You need to be aware of your ground’s fertility, the amount of sunlight and rainfall the area where you live is exposed to. When buying the seed grass, know that the packages come with a mix of several seeds. For a low-maintenance lawn, I recommend the following mix: 65% of fine fescue blend, 15% of perennial ryegrasses and finally 20% of Kentucky bluegrass blend.

A tree house!

We’re getting a tree-house! It will be without a tree though, and on the ground, but the design will be that of a tree-house, so that the kids can use it as their little outdoors house. What do you need to know when building a tree house? We decided to play it safe and build it on the ground. If you are planning to build it on a tree, try not to make it too high, as a precaution. The ultimate checklist for this yard gem is as follows:

  • planning (determine the type and design, the location, draw plans or buy them and create a budget)
  • resources (find all the necessary information on the material and tools, consult with friends who are good at making this kind of constructions or call a professional for a consultation)
  • construction (once you have all the necessary things, begin building the tree house)

Mounting up the wall

I’m also thinking about including more natural materials in our garden, like stone and wood. I will always remember the exterior Cotswold-style wall cladding on our garden walls above which I could see the tip of my neighbors’ apple tree. The stone wall is the best option because it is durable. Additionally, do think of the height. If you want more privacy, build it higher. If you plan on saving the money on the material, the best option is to go with wall of plants. When they grow high enough, they will compensate for the lack of stone material and provide you seclusion.

Our playground

We also used to have an improvised sandpit in our yard, so I’m thinking about getting or making a sandpit for the kids. When building a sandpit, remember you are making it for the kids. Choose a place that is receives enough sunlight but is also shaded in certain parts of the day. Don’t forget about drainage, so build it a bit higher. How do you determine the size? Observe your kids’ playing routine and see how much space they require. Get some lumber and make a frame for your sandpit. Place it on the intended spot and mark the edges on the ground. Start digging. Once you are finished, place an inner frame inside the hole, and line it with landscaping fabric. This will keep the weed out and help with the drainage. Place the frame you made earlier and fill it with sand. And you are done.

These are just some of the suggestions you can use to renovate your yard so that it is a perfect playground for your daughters and sons. It will definitely not stop here. There are many ideas online that can help you spark your imagination for the renovation projects and even make you re-live your childhood.

Clothes Organizing Made Easy

Clothes Organizing Made Easy

If you are sick of looking at the chaos in your wardrobe or wardrobes, and you are tired of going through all the piles just to find that one shirt, you should probably think about organizing your clothes. Here is a quick guide on how to do that with the least effort.

Empty your wardrobes. Yes, start with that. If you are going to look for a place for everything, you need to know what you actually have. The amounts of clothes you can take out of your wardrobe may surprise you. This way you will also see what kind of space you have – it is very possible that the only reason the wardrobe held everything is because you shoved and pushed everything in.

Start making piles. This is where the organization begins. Separate your clothes in two piles – used and never used. Take the latter pile and find it a different storage altogether – a closet, or cellar, or why not even give them away? Surely, there are some clothes that don’t fit you, or have gone out of fashion, or had been just a gift which you never liked and don’t plan on using anyway. Fix your attention to the former pile. This needs some more effort. You should probably make four more piles, dividing the clothes into seasonal uses. If it’s summer now, you probably don’t need the winter clothes in the front. Fold the clothing for the farthest away season and place them at the back of the wardrobe. Separate the clothes in the other piles into upper-body wear, lower-body wear and underwear. It’s time to make use of your wardrobe’s sections. Find a section for every clothes type and place them there. If your wardrobe is section-rich, you can even further sort your piles by color.

Deal with coats and shirts. These types of clothes go on hangers in the more spacious parts of your wardrobe. Coats and jackets for the season shouldn’t take up space there, though. Take them to your coat stand or closet for more convenient access when going out.

Small spaces for small items. Ideally, socks, underwear and accessories should have no place in your wardrobe. Get them their own cabinet or dresser drawers. With proper folding you should have no trouble going through them and finding exactly what you need in no time at all.

A well-organized closet and dresser will make you feel like you have a new wardrobe and will save you (and your family members) lots of time getting dressed each morning. As a reward for a job well done, go shopping for wardrobe staples if you don’t have them, like black dress pants, a nice pair of jeans or a crisp white blouse. Or go for a fancy dress and some great shoes.

To maintain the order in your closet, put everything back in its place on a weekly basis. And clean out the closet seasonally.

 

Article granted by Ella Andrews-n freelance writer and home décor specialist – on behalf of: http://bromptoncleaners.co.uk/sw10-carpet-cleaning-brompton-sw3/

Living With Gratitude & Trust

G&T summit

Last week I had the unique opportunity to speak at the Gratitude & Trust Summit in New York City. This event was organized by Paul Williams & Tracy Jackson, the authors of a book by the same name. It was a different kind of speaking opportunity for me but I’m so glad that I got outside my comfort zone and took a chance.

Those of you who have heard me speak know that I can talk for hours on the “how to” of organizing. This event was more like a Ted Talk in that I had just 10 minutes to talk about the “why” of organizing. The common theme running throughout the day was how to change your life for the better. For some that means overcoming an addiction or a bad habit, and we had speakers who talked about therapy, fitness and meditation. Other speakers shared their own private experience with overcoming major obstacles in their lives from abandonment, to incarceration, to hitting rock bottom from a substance addiction. All, of course, wove the theme of gratitude and trust throughout their talks.

I was amazed at how unselfish some of these people are. One woman gave up a job as an attorney to open up two homes for women in recovery. She was inspired by her own recovery from alcoholism and every month she barely makes the bills but she has the strength and fortitude to go on. Talk about trust! Another man devotes most of his life to documenting the plight of the homeless in America. After suffering from addiction himself, he was homeless for a time. He now advocates on their behalf. He does have a day job to pay the bills but his cause: invisiblepeople.com is his passion.

I came away with inspiration from each of these people who so generously shared their deepest darkest secrets and raw feelings. The human spirit is amazingly resilient. With the right attitude and a belief in a higher being, we can overcome anything. When I got home from the conference I found out that my husband did not get a job he was applying for and that our health insurance plan will be cancelled at the end of this year. But I didn’t panic. These problems seemed minimal in light of all I had heard on Wednesday. Instead of complaining, I went to gratitude. We have until December to figure out our health insurance. My husband and I both have work and even though we may not have all the amenities of life that some of our neighbors do, we are blessed with three healthy kids, a nice community and loving family and friends.

I am honored to have shared the stage with this group. And although getting our homes organized may seem like a frivolous “nice to have” I hope that I conveyed the message that for some people, getting organized and de-cluttering their life is a way to change their life and often their relationships with loved ones. If we start with gratitude for all that we do have, we don’t have the need to keep buying more. If we trust that we will have all that we need when we need it, it makes it easier to let go of all the things that are not bringing value to our lives.

If you would like to listen/see the full summit go here: . http://livestream.com/accounts/1249127/events/4138114

10 Tips for Using Visual Reminders

chartimageThe more I work with busy parents, the more I see the need for visual reminders. If you’re not familiar with this term, these are items that remind us to do something. It may be a box or bag with returns in it, or a simple post-it strategically place around the house so you don’t forget. I see that my clients have a need for this in their hectic lives but I also see that there is a point of diminishing return. If your house is packed with visual reminders that clutter up every flat surface, you’re not going to see them for what they are.

 

 

I consider myself a visual person too. I like to have a big family calendar in my kitchen, I use a Franklin planner so I can see an entire month at a glance – to me it’s like looking at a jigsaw puzzle as I try to see what I can fit in where. Sorry, but a dot on a phone calendar does nothing for me. So I use visual reminders in my day-to-day life but there are a few tips to using them effectively.

  1. The majority of your house needs to be straightened up and items put away in their assigned places in order for your visual reminders to STAND OUT. Don’t put a reminder on top of a pile of clutter.
  2. You need to put visual reminders in consistent places. For instance, if there are things you want to remember before you leave your bedroom, put a post-it on the mirror. If there are items you need to take out of your house, put them in your car or on a table near the door. I call this the GOING OUT TABLE.
  3. If you are going to be out and about running errands on a Saturday for instance, put items in the passenger seat of the car so you see them and take care of them. This could be returns to stores, or deliveries. Anything you are bringing home can go in the back seat or trunk to keep it straight.
  4. If the pile of TO DO’s on your desk is falling over, break it down further. You might categorize items into: calls, computer research, shopping or projects.
  5. Gift cards are a common item that I see people tuck away and forget about. So think about putting them in your wallet – they are like money! Or have one card-holder just for them. Or simply put the ones you will use on-line in the top drawer of your desk and put the others in an envelope in your car. The key is easy access when you want to use them.
  6. Dry cleaning and clothing repairs are another category that I find all over people’s homes. Put them in the same bag each week and place the bag in your bedroom until it’s full.
  7. If you are a major visual person who cuts out magazine articles for ideas on decorating, recipes, and home improvement projects, consider making binders for each and placing the articles in plastic sleeves.
  8. Realize that everything can’t be out. You have to prioritize and only keep out what you are going to work on in the next week or so. Use a planner (electronic or paper) for any projects that need to happen in the future. Label files clearly and you’ll be able to find what you need when you are ready. Leaving just a few projects out is less overwhelming.
  9. Have a “Pending” or “Waiting On” folder on your desk. This is a visual reminder of who needs to get back to you or what you are waiting for to come in the mail. I use this for on-line orders, invoices and anything related to a call back.
  10. If you use visual reminders for your kids, keep it simple. Use pictures for little ones and stick to three items. Check out the chore chart on my Products page for a way to keep everyone’s chores and activities straight in your family!

Saving Your Memories

Memories come in all shapes and sizes. I see them in every room of the houses I organize. But the main thing to remember is that memories are in your head, not in your stuff. No one can take those memories away from you. But I realize that sometimes saving a few things will help jog those memories and make you smile for a loved one lost or a time gone by.

At this time of year as school careers end, reunions are planned and many people are anticipating making wonderful family memories in the summer, let me offer some advice when it comes to saving your memories.

  1. Your old Photos – If you have loads of old photos, go through them. Get rid of the duplicates, the blurry shots, the pictures of people or places you don’t recognize. Keep the best, toss the rest. Put them in some semblance of order: by year or at least by decade if you can. Use whatever categories make sense to you. Then digitize them. There are many options nowadays for scanning and saving photos. There are even ways to repair and enhance special photos.

 

  1. Digital Photos – If you have tons of digital photos you’re a step ahead! Now you may just need to organize them and protect them. Create standard files in your “Photos” or “Pictures” folder on your computer. It’s best to then make folders with the year and subfolders for each month or with names of special events. That way you can locate all your digital photos from one year pretty easily. I recommend Forever software for storing and organizing. Click here to check it out:

 

  1. Home Movies – This is another category that many people have & cherish. It’s one of those things that many say they would want to save in a fire. So get them transferred to DVD. Many photo service stores offer this transfer so investigate those near year based on quality and cost. You may want to try one transfer to see how you like it, then continue with the rest of your collection. Your local CVS, BJ’s or Costco may have this service.

 

  1. Everyday collectibles – For all those things our kids bring home from school: art projects, awards, trophies, ribbons I love a nice trunk. You can get a utilitarian one like a Rubbermaid container or a decorative one from Home Goods or Pier One. Bed Bath & Beyond will usually have steamer trunks in July/August with all their “back to school” gear.

 

  1. Clothing, t-shirts, sweatshirts – Are you a t-shirt collector? Or do you have clothing left from a loved one who has passed? There are many services which do “memory quilts” now. And some will make things other than quilts. For instance, Once Upon A Time Creations in the Philadelphia suburbs actually makes stuffed animals from clothing, Christening dresses, pillows and purses made from wedding gowns. You can even make a pillow cover from grandpa’s old sweater! Check out some of their ideas and you will give these old clothes a new life.

What memories do you have trouble organizing? Leave a comment or question.

Organizing Your Office

Office Organizing Tips2

 

 

 

 

Guest Post by: Ella Andrews

Office environments today need to be organized and ordered so operations can run smoothly and effectively, regardless of whether this is on an individual or company-wide scale. Without organization, things will descend into chaos, allowing the items you really need around the office to be lost and worse, so a system is required to ensure this never happens around any office. The following tips will give you more information you can use to make this work:

  • Sorting the paperwork

The last thing you want to deal with is literal piles of paperwork on your desk, like something out of a 50s detective story. You need to have a good, strong filing cabinet to handle the physical mediums of information such as documents, folders and more for storage purposes.

  • Keeping your desk clean

This will apply to all items you don’t happen to use on a regular basis, such as pencils and pens. These items will need to be organized to ensure they will be out of the way. You can use separate containers for smaller stationary items such as staples, paperclips, pushpins and more that would otherwise clutter up your desk.

  • Keeping things within an arm’s length

If you’re using certain electronics or items often, you should make sure they are close by and easy to reach. Your computer will need to be the center of your setup, so look for ways you can improve upon what you already have going so everything will function properly and without the need for far too much movement that would slow you down.

  • Organizing drawers

Separate your items by form and function, as it will allow you to have dividers placed inside your drawers, keeping things easy to find. You would do well to avoid mixing things up, as this will only make your life much harder than it needs to be.

  • Organizing your wiring

Any cables, wiring and cords will need to be properly organized as well, keeping the chaotic mess to a minimum. Zip ties and Velcro straps will get the job done, allowing you to keep them out of the way while you work. You will have more breathing room to move your legs around without tripping over cables.

  • Office layout specifics

This is a vital step toward organizing a good and efficient office environment that works to promote a productive approach to the work process. If you need to move around the office, you need to be able to approach things in such a way as to make movement a breeze, using the right office chair and angles to allow it.

  • Keeping personal items organized

These can pretty much go in different locations, whether it’s a drawer or more shelving, but you need to ensure you don’t go too far with their number. Doing so will ensure you have a far easier time dealing with office cleaning in general, as well as allowing a cleaning company to get cleaning done right.

 

Ella Andrews is a dedicated writer and keen home improvement specialist. She gets inspiration by exploring new sources of information regarding household maintenance. Presently she writes mostly about house and office cleaning and clearance themes. Read more tips on: Roehampton reliable cleaning

Absolute #10 – Routines are a Must!

deb4_0689-300x225Ok, so here it is – the final Absolute of Organizing. It’s the most important because after organizing is a project it really is a process. A process that you have to do every day or you’ll be back at square one with a mess on your hands. So create daily routines to keep your life & home running smoothly.

Think about it – did you ever walk out of the house without brushing your teeth or putting on deodorant? Ok maybe once or twice but not daily. That’s because you probably have a hygiene routine you follow each morning. If you forget something crucial, it’s most likely because your routine was interrupted. So if other things about your life are frequently forgotten, think about where you need a routine.

Mail – The most common routine I see missing is how to handle the mail. Many of you know this so I’ll just keep it simple. Open the mail, sort it into: To Do, To Read, To File and then move your piles to where you will handle them.

Email is much like the paper mail. You must have a routine or you will get sucked in! Triage it in the morning. This means mark as spam any messages that you will NEVER read. Delete messages that you won’t read today but may want sometimes. RESPOND to anything that is a quick answer or urgent. FILE any emails that you will need to reference in the future (yes you can create folders right on your email). And if you are in a rush or your timer has gone off, leave all remaining emails in your Inbox – these are your To Do’s which can be handled later. At lunch time, check for urgent emails again and then in the evening if you have time, clear those non-urgent emails in your inbox.

Hectic times of day – if it’s the morning rush or the post work/school rush that has you pulling your hair out, create a routine. Maybe it’s to put on the news while you cook dinner or clean up dishes from the day. Maybe it’s to delegate to your children setting the table or walking the dog. Whatever it takes to calm down a chaotic time. If you have a morning routine you can actually doing it while sleep walking!

Weekly/Monthly Tasks – Think about the things that have to get done weekly like trash, laundry, and food shopping, then assign a day for each. Monthly tasks like bill paying should also have a routine that includes one place where you put the bills and all the materials you need to pay them at hand. Then you need to schedule it.

Straightening the house – The simplest way to keep a house straightened is to have all family members straighten their bedrooms in the morning and the common areas at night. At the very least, get items to the right room even if they are not put away.

 I hope that gives you some ideas to get your routines started in the place where you most need them! What are some of your organizing routines? Leave a comment:

Absolute #9 – Organize from BIG to small

Big – like a whole storage room garage

 

 

make up

 

 

 

Small – like your makeup bag

This absolute or rule of mine is another way of saying, “start by looking at the big picture.” I think many people are overwhelmed with the concept of organizing their home. They don’t know where to start so they start small. They fold clothes on shelves, clean out a junk drawer, put little pieces of toys in a bin. All of those exercises are worthwhile and can help you straighten up your home, but they don’t take into account the big picture. Here are some quick tips on how you can organize from big to small.

  1. If you want to organize your whole house, take a walk through it with a notebook. Write down the function of each room and then what needs to get out and what needs to stay in that room. Then move things to the right room.
  2. If you are tackling one room or area, categorize everything in there first. Start with what you see – items on shelves, table tops, floor, your bed, etc. Then dig deep into drawers, closets and pull everything out. You may be surprised at the biggest pile!
  3. Address each pile separately and purge what needs to go out: donate, trash, recycle and move to another room might be your sorts here.
  4. Now we get into the small stuff. What you have left in the room needs to find a home. That could mean a shelf, a drawer, a closet or new bins.
  5. If you are left with some itty bitty categories like jewelry, foreign money, craft notions, or baseball cards you can put those in a temporary bin, take them out of the room and do a mini categorize, purge & re-arrange. That can be done while watching TV.

By following these tips you will have done a thorough clean out. I’ve seen it work in all kinds of homes for the last 11 years. And if you want to re-arrange your sock drawer so be it. But starting small will take you a long time to get the whole house in order.

The Lazy Person’s Guide To an Organized Home

The Lazy Person's Guide To an Organized Home2

 

 

 

 

Guest Post by Ella Andrews

There is nothing shameful in admitting that you are not into organizing. Believe it or not, most people have the same attitude towards daily organizing chores. How do they succeed at keeping their home neat? It’s all about the proper storage solutions. You can maintain the pleasing appearance of your living space even if you are lazy and not exactly motivated. The secret is to trick yourself into doing it.

Many people get discouraged by the idea of spending their whole weekend sorting through piles of clutter. Indeed it’s not a pleasant activity, but it is manageable if you follow this process:

Set a Deadline

When you know that you can prolong something for infinite amount of time, you will have less incentive to deal with it as soon as possible. Having a clear schedule will give you an idea of what you actually need to do. Completing each task within a deadline will boost your confidence that you can manage the issue and will provide you with certain satisfaction.

Start With the Not-So-Obvious

There are a number of hidden spots around your home that are flooded with clutter. When in a hurry, you probably fill different drawers with miscellaneous items. You have no clue what is going on in there until you open the “Pandora’s box.” Even exposed areas like coffee tables and countertops fill with various things that are often neglected. You can pass them, without even noticing the chaos. Instead of overflowing multiple drawers with random stuff, have one specific place. Just imagine how much mental energy you waste trying to figure out where you put those keys. You can save efforts and time by designating one “junk” drawer or basket – a lazy storage solution for a lazy person.

Deal With It Right Away

You can avoid getting overwhelmed by simply dealing with the mess on time. A big part of the problem comes from the natural tendency to procrastinate. Get rid of this nasty little habit. You will find immediate improvements.

Try to de – clutter on the go. For instance, when new mail arrives, keep only the important and throw away the rest. Have a recycle bin close to your doorway. In this way you will stop unnecessary paper from accumulating. Try to put everything on its place after you used it. This applies particularly to your clothes. Don’t simply put them on the chair or let them lie on the floor. Spare five minutes to return them back in the closet or put dirty clothes in a hamper.

Make It Fun

Most people associate organizing with their teenage years when they were constantly told to clean their room. Transform your attitude towards de – cluttering. One way is to combine the annoying tasks with something pleasant. If you love music, turn it on and start dealing with the clutter. Think of a compatible activity that will make organizing a little less painful. In time you will start feeling less stressed and antagonistic towards the household tasks.

Maintain your positive attitude and persistence and you will soon find out that organizing is not all that bad.

 

Ella Andrews is a dedicated writer and keen home improvement specialist. She gets inspiration by exploring new sources of information regarding household maintenance. Presently she writes mostly about house and office removal matters. Read more tips on: http://www.manandavanlondon.org/storage/

How to Make Your home Look More Organized

I’m always asked for quick tips and tricks on organizing. I usually answer that there’s no trick. There is a method, there are routines and it’s an on going process to keep your home organized. However I will tell you that if you are a visual person, one key to looking and feeling more organized is uniformity.

Let me explain. You can have a closet or shelf that is functionally organized, but it still looks off to you. It doesn’t feel neat and tidy even though you can find what you need.  Like this:

after closet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you put like things together and in uniform bins, it will look much better, like this:

shelf bins
shelf bins

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try this with your clothes closet. Put everything on the same type of hanger.  My favorite is the new micro-suede hangers because they are thin and they grip silky materials. Put like items together: blouses, pants, jackets, dresses and see what a difference it makes. You will feel like you’re shopping at a store every time you get dressed! Better yet if you can have a little space between clothes.

hangers

 

 

 

 

 

You can also try this with your storage shelves in the basement or attic. Put everything in the same type of bin and label it uniformly. This will make finding what you need so much easier.

atticmaxx

 

 

 

 

On a smaller scale, try this with your file drawer.  Just by putting files in the same manila or hanging files and labeling them with color codes and in the same type, you will have a neat drawer that is so much easier to use.

FFSetUpHorizJPG

 

 

 

 

(This is an example of Freedom Filer labels which can be ordered from my Resources page)

What area can you improve with uniformity?

Help Your Kids set Goals

goalsAt this time of year there’s a lot of focus on adults getting their acts together. We want to get in shape, save money, make more money, reach new milestones. But what about our kids? If we help them develop goals, gain focus and make a plan, I believe that will give them a life skill that they will use over and over again throughout their lives.

Just the other day, my sixth grader received a letter that he had written to himself one year ago. His clever fifth grade teacher had each child fill out a simple form with: Books I’d like to read in 2014, Things I’d like to learn more about, One thing I’d like to change,etc. Then she had them address the letter to themselves and she mailed them this January 1. That’s one way to do it, and it was interesting to see where his mind was at last year, but if he never looked at those goals or made a detailed plan to reach them what are the chances of success? Not very good I tell you.

As parents, here’s a few things you can do to help your kids start off the year with some attainable goals.

1. Write it Down Annual Goals – Sit down with your child one on one. Ask her what does she want to achieve this year? Maybe it’s an academic achievement, or making a sports team, or learning a new skill. Then talk about when he/she can do on a day to day basis to reach that goal. Putting it in writing solidifies the goal. And posting it on a bulletin board, white board or a simple post-it on the desk gives him a constant visual reminder of what he’s working towards. Also put daily or weekly tasks into a daily planner so your child remembers to do these.

2. Check in on a weekly basis – Sunday nights might be a good time to talk as your family looks ahead to the new week. Check academic assignments or tests that are coming up. See what your child has planned in the way of extra-curriculars for the week. Don’t overload the schedule but make sure that there is time for productivity.

3. Positive Feedback – As your child reaches little milestones, tell them you are proud. If you want to reward them in other ways, okay. But parental approval and confidence does go a long way in motivating your adolescent to keep going!

4. Have a plan B – So it might not all go perfectly. Kids fail tests, they don’t make the team, they don’t get elected sometimes. It’s a life lesson that they may as well learn now. So help them dust off and come up with a plan B. For example if your son doesn’t make the school football team, is there a less competitive team he can play on during that season? If your child fails a test, immediately ask the teacher about extra credit. If your child runs for an office and loses, is there another committee he/she can volunteer for? You may be surprised how many options are out there until you search and ask the question.

5. Help them re-prioritize  – Each year in school brings a new challenge. This is especially true in high school. One year the goal might be to get a driver’s license, another year it’s get into a dream college, or get a part-time job. There’s so much thrown at students these days that it’s really helpful for a parent to narrow down the priorities to maybe three per semester. Talk about them, post them and this helps the kids focus.

I will say that I have learned this through experience. I have a daughter who was very involved in high school. She was loyal to her various committees and activities. Sometimes I had to remind her to focus on her own priorities of getting good grades, getting into college and working a part-time job. On a day to day basis, this helped her focus. My sons are athletes and the competition gets tougher the older they get. My husband helps them design a workout routine to make sure they are at their best condition when tryouts occur. I help them look at long term projects and set interim deadlines. Kids seem to think they have all the time in the world and they only think about what’s happening tomorrow. Parents can provide a great service in helping them see the big picture and plan ahead to meet their goals.

 

Out With the Old – In with the new!

messy office

 

 

This is the week for New Year’s Resolutions. And I know many of you will be planning to get more organized this year! And even if that’s not your goal for the year, many of you organized people will be cleaning out files, bins and desktops this week. So here are some quick tips to help you with that process. I’ve got a list of “no-brainers” that you can toss in order to make room for all the new stuff that will come in the new year.

1. Reading materials – Any magazine or periodical with the year 2014 or earlier can be tossed. If there is something in there worth saving (like a great article or a recipe) tear it out, file it or scan it. Then have a nice basket or bin cleared out for your 2015 reading.

2. Banking receipts – all those ATM receipts that are filling up your purse, a drawer in your desk or a bin can be shredded IF YOU HAVE BALANCED YOUR BANK ACCOUNT THIS MONTH. Once the deposit or withdrawal has shown up on your statement, the little piece of paper is redundant. So keep your statements (most of which are on line now).

3. Food – If it’s been a week or longer for those leftovers – use ’em or lose ’em. Expired jars and cans can also be tossed.

4. Calendars – toss last year’s and buy a nice pretty one to keep with your or hang in a central location in your home.

5. Holiday decorations that you didn’t use – donate to a senior center, school or theater.

6. Wrapping paper, cards, boxes and bows – when you put your gifts away, keep the best, toss the rest and fold the paper and boxes down for easy storage.

7. All those holiday photo cards. – Keep the photos that are important to you and cut them to fit in an album. Toss the rest, know one will know!

8. Invitations to events that already happened. – You wouldn’t believe how long I’ve seen these things hanging around on bulletin boards, calendars and in planners.

9. Post its and scraps of papers of things you “meant to do.” Take a clean sheet of loose leaf or a page in your new daily planner and make a master TO DO list. Only include those things that are still a priority. Then assign each task or project to a month of the year and write it on that month’s page. I wouldn’t plan out any further than 6 months.

10. Envelopes that you’re saving because of the return address – Take the information, write it in your address book or make an excel spreadsheet and toss the envelopes.

Good luck with your post holiday, pre-new year clean out!

What other areas do you like to tackle before the year’s end?

Organizing Your Child’s Room with Creativity

Organizing Kids' Room. Painting it.2 Painting the kids’ room is one of the most fun projects one can undertake in their home. Not only because the effort is all done in the name of the most precious and loved members of the family, but because the work itself is so much fun. It allows the parents to do a new sort of project, which, under other circumstances, is not applicable for the rest of the house. The kids’ room follows rules much different from the rest of the house, and thus is considered a highly creative outlet.

As far as painting the walls of your kid’s room goes, there are little to no limits. Not only that, but you must adopt a new set of rules as your children might want to have a final say in the matter and it is imperative to listen to them. They will be living among those four walls after all.

A good starting point would be to clear, de-clutter and decide what your child likes most. Surely you have a good idea of that already, but you should even more actively look for their opinion and include them in the decision process.

As much as it is likely that your kids will have a ton of interests, it is important to make a throughout clearance, choose a single theme and stick with it. Different themes will only make the project harder to finish and the end result will not be as satisfying. Choosing on the theme and working from there is the first step to making a great room.

When it comes to what you can actually do, there are limitless possibilities. Some modern designs feature interesting ideas such as the glow and magneto themes. Glow themes include an element which looks ordinary until there is no light in the room anymore. Then it hides parts of the picture and reveals others, making it not just wallpaper, but a whole story. Magneto themes include a picture on the wall, which can then be complemented with different magnets and attachments, adding more elements to it, essentially serving a purpose of canvass for creativity.

If executed properly, after the waste clearance and the de-cluttering process, a wall painting can greatly complement the rest of the room. For example, if your child’s bed is one that features a racecar design, why not reinforce the young pilot’s imagination by adding a race flag wall or a traffic light element? If your little one likes travelling, let him choose the next destination by placing a great map of the world on one of the walls. If you have a nature lover, draw trees next to the window and then use green curtain as their leaves.

Literally there are numerous options to choose from when it comes to painting the kids’ room. Only one’s imagination can set the limits.

More helpful tips for your home find at: builders clearance Battersea.

What creative things have you done to decorate your child’s room? 

It’s Never Too Late to Get Organized!

atticmaxx

 

 

 

We’re in the midst of a frenzy of Christmas activity and so many of you are not thinking about organizing. That’s something most people think about in January. But I want you to know there are some things you can do right now to get a fresh start to the New Year and make next Christmas season a little easier.

What to do with all those Christmas Cards:

  • Sort the cards as they come in using a three pocket mail sorter that hangs on your wall. Photo cards, cards & envelopes, and Christmas letters can be the categories.
  • Cut out the pictures that you want to save, like those from family and close friends, and put them in a photo album. This can be your regular chronological photo album or a special one just for Christmas pictures. Looking back over the years is fun to do especially at holiday time.
  • If you like to scrapbook, save beautiful holiday cards to decorate your pages.
  • Save return addresses for new people who are sending you cards and for those who have moved, put them in your computer.

Get your decorations under control:

  • Take time to wrap up your lights when putting them away. A cable wrap can be found for about $2 at a hardware store. It’s certainly worth it not to have to detangle next December!
  • Lots of home stores carry red & green plastic bins now. Put your decorations away in categories such as: outside, inside, and tree ornaments. These make it easy to identify in your attic or basement especially if you have decorations for several seasons. For ornament dividers, you can use the cardboard ones found inside of a case of beer or wine.
  • Take a look at all those decorations that DIDN’T get put up this year. Discard the broken or really old ones and donate any that are in good shape. Places to donate include: schools, community theatres, nursing homes, libraries, or any charitable organization.

Use your time between Christmas and New Year’s wisely:

  • With all those leftovers it’s a great time to clean out the fridge. Have a “use it or lose it” night and have your family pick a dinner from the leftovers. Take stock of your plastic containers and make sure they all have matching lids or else toss them! Clear and square are the best because your refrigerator and drawers are squares!
  • Something fun to keep away the post-Christmas blues is to plan vacations for the upcoming year. Our family likes to brainstorm on a white board. Parents have the final say about where and when but it’s fun for the kids to come up with unique ideas each year. A couple weekend trips can really break up the year instead of waiting for one week off in the summer! Have someone look up info and pictures on the computer while you discuss different options.
  • End of the year also marks a good time to clear out catalogs and magazines. Designate a magazine rack or basket for each and every time the container is full – purge the oldest copies. Also, put it where you will use it. That could be the living room, bedroom or even bathroom!

What will you tackle in the way of organizing this December?

Get Ready for the Holidays!

RoastTurkey

Happy November! If you’re a planner, like me, you can’t help but think about what’s around the corner…Thanksgiving, and Christmas, family meals, gifts, decorations, cards, oh my!  But a little planning and a few deep breaths can go a long way in helping you get prepared and then enjoy the holidays as you should.

Here are a few things you can start doing now in order to get a jump start on the winter holiday season:

1. Asked your loved ones for gift suggestions. Or just be very observant if you don’t want to ask them outright. Start forming a list of ideas, especially if you have kids and a spouse that you buy for every year. Then you can start looking for those things on sale or grab coupons for the stores they love and buy a little early.

2. Clean out your pantry to get ready for cooking. Spices has expiration dates so toss the old stuff. Check your recipes for your traditional holiday meals or maybe a few new dishes you want to try and make sure you have all the ingredients. Again, make a list of what you need and then go shopping! Make sure your carving knife is sharpened for the turkey.

3. Talk to relatives about the holidays to know who’s coming when and if you need to spruce up the spare bedroom, now is the time! Clear the clutter that may have been tossed in there all year and make sure you have some nice sheets and towels for the guests.

4. If you send holiday cards, decide now if you are going to use a photo that you have or take a new one. Then place your order on-line with Shutterfly or Snapfish or anywhere else you can purchase photo greeting cards. If you are sending traditional ones, purchase them now.  In either case, make sure your address list or book is up to date and create mailing labels in a word document to make it easier to address the envelopes.

5. Take a look at your calendar or day planner and map out all the major things you want to get done before the holidays. For example, your checklist might look like this:

  • Shopping for gifts
  • Decorations Up
  • Cards Addressed
  • Presents wrapped
  • Tree Decorated
  • Cookies baked
  • Food shopping for the holiday meal

Then assign a week for each task (probably more than 1 week for shopping) and put that goal on your calendar. That will give you something to shoot for and help you focus on one task at a time. Try to finish everything a day before the actual holiday so you have time for last minute details or unexpected events. Then do something festive that you enjoy after all the hustle and bustle is done.

Relocating an Office – How to Organize It

Relocating an office. How to organize it2

Guest blog by: Ella Andrews

 

Changing offices can be a difficult and stressful transition to make. Organizing an office is a tough job, especially as it can affect the everyday efficiency of a business. Having some useful do’s and don’ts can transform the move into an easier transition.

 

 

1) Make sure you plan and don’t rush

Take your time. As mentioned before it is a difficult task and cannot take place in one day. Having patience and taking time towards the move can avoid missing any last minute details. Implementing an action plan, or a numbered checklist of duties allows you to anticipate and foresee possible issues that may arise. This will avoid any time-consuming blunders, and will make the move quicker and more efficient. Also, having a diary to keep track of how many days are left and what duties need to be fulfilled will improve the work pace.

2) Assessing Location

While considering location there are a few factors that need to be assessed. How much proximity is there to competitors? Also, how easily accessible is the office? How many modes of transportation are nearby to the office, such as bus stops and train stations? The office should not only rely on one mode of transport; this could limit the number of clients coming to the office, and eventually affect the office’s profits. How popular is this location? If clients have not heard of this location how will they get there? These are all factors that need to be considered.

3) A Fresh Start

While relocating offices, sorting out which documents and files should be kept and which should be thrown out is important. This will allow the move to require less storage space and will be a fresh beginning in the new office. Also, reviewing what equipment should be shifted in the new office is important, as some equipment may be damaged or not be of any use. Selling old equipment or machinery could help pay for some of the packing materials. Also, donating equipment could also be a way of getting rid of unwanted items, yet again giving the office a fresh start.

4) Packing Materials

The move will consist of fragile objects, having appropriate packing material could prevent any type of damage from occurring. Especially whilst moving you need to consider how durable the material is since it could be a long distance of travel. For instance, having plastic to wrap certain items like computers could prevent water damage from occurring. Marking and prioritising boxes of what needs to be unwrapped or opened first could help you to find objects quicker. For instance, marking the box that is carrying office stationery will avoid wasting any time and will help avoid confusion as to where certain things have been stored.

5) Removal companies

Making a list of quotes given by a  few good removal companies and comparing quotes would be a good option as it could save you some money. Also as well as having quotes, ensuring that the removal company is trustworthy and has a positive reputation is also necessary. Looking at a few customer reviews will give you an insight into which removal company you should choose. There are some removal companies that do not provide packing materials; therefore doing research into which companies provide the best service and offer a good quote is necessary.

 

6) Planning the office

The layout of the office is important, as factors such as Health and Safety need to be considered. Identifying where the electricity sockets are in the office and determining how the electrical wires are going to be placed, as this can avoid any trips or falls from occurring. In addition, testing out how strong the Internet connection is in the office could determine if using a router where it can be placed within the office.

 

 

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. 

The “Be” Attitudes of Organizing

candlelight

 

 

As I prepared my lesson for Sunday school this week, I was inspired to put a twist on the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s gospel. In it, Christ gives us a roadmap for living a happy life which have become known as the Beatitudes.

So I submit to you that there are ways to be organized so as to live a happy life:

 

Happy are the minimalists for they shall have abundance in other ways.

Happy are they who purge for they shall make room for the good stuff in life.

Happy are those who see only fresh, healthy food in their kitchens

For they shall waste not

Happy are those who donate to the poor

For they shall want not

Happy are those who straighten daily and clean weekly

For cleanliness is next to godliness

Happy are those who teach their children how to help out, let go and pick up

for they will be passing on a life skill

Happy are those with routines for they shall not forget

Happy are those who write everything down, and do one thing at a time

for they will have focus

Happy are the simple for they will live with less stress

What be-attitudes do you have to add? Leave a comment!