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!

The most effective basement organizing

The most effective basement organizingWhen it comes basement junk clearance, the words alone may make you want to shudder with dread. The prospect of having to go through what is probably years’ worth of items collected and put away for safekeeping, only to be forgotten about, is very likely the last thing you want to do. But needs must and there really is little else as rewarding as completing a basement clearance! Just think of all the space you’ll have. You could turn your basement into another room for guests who come to stay or even create that home office you’ve always dreamed. Either way, the job of domestic clearance will give you a sense of satisfaction rarely felt, but never forgotten! So if you’re ready to get down to thorough rubbish removal, this guide might prove accommodating!

It’s true that as you stare into the abyss of clutter in your basement you’ll not only be questioning where to begin, but might find yourself deliberating on what to include in your junk removal pile. Questions like – What if I need it again? Will my daughter be angry if I throw this out? How much is this worth? – will all be rearing their heads, but here is a general rule of thumb. If you haven’t used something for over a year, then it’s highly unlikely that you ever will! So dump it, or give it to someone who would make use of it. Just don’t keep it in your basement for a minute longer. So begin by separating your items, into various piles to keep and others labelled as rubbish, recycling, donations and to sell.

Being stuck down in a basement with no light or fresh air can get a bit stuffy. Be sure to wear a dust mask to protect yourself from inhaling too much dust. Also if you’ve got sensitive eyes, wear a pair of goggles. Wear protective hand gloves when lugging boxes up the basement stairs as you ready them for trash removal.

Other than being one of the most taxing of all clearance tasks, a basement clear out will also require time from your busy schedule.  Just set aside a couple of hours each day or a half or full day on a weekend to get the job done.  Set yourself a realistic target to first sort everything in one or two days. Then complete all junk disposal and then you can set the next goal to set up the basement for it’s new use.

There are a number of ways to discard of your waste. First, make sure you recycle as much as you can by taking it to your local recycling plant. By taking care of the house clearance yourself means you may need to hire a van or find a friend with a truck. You may consider calling your local town municipal authority to see what they will pick up. Another option is to hire a junk haul out company in your local area.

A good house clearance may leave you with less clutter, but it could mean a build up expenses. So why not try selling some of what you consider junk online. The Internet auction realm is booming at present and some people make a living out of selling unwanted items on eBay. Once your basement is clear and you are storing only the things you really use, you can look at the possibilities for new uses for this space. Or you can simply upgrade the area and keep using it as you are!

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 house clearance tips at: Junk Removal Waste Ltd.

 

Arranging Your Office Cleaning

Arranging the big business clean you needWhen it comes to getting that big seasonal cleaning solution for your business, finding the right professional cleaning services can be difficult. With so many needs and possibilities, what is the best way to find the right services to suit your requirements? Getting your business as clean as possible is one thing, but finding the right company to provide those real deep clean services can be quite another. However, it can be made a great deal easier by following a series of steps designed to filter out the companies which don’t suit your needs. Follow these steps in order to find out just how to find out which company is able to suit your seasonal cleaning needs:

 

1. Timing – The first thing to establish when planning a big cleaning solution is to figure out the time frame in which you would like to operate. By establishing the best time in which to get your cleaning done, you can ensure that the operation does not interfere with your business commitments. While the general idea behind seasonal cleaning for your business is to make sure that customers get the best possible experience, this should not be done at the expense of your company’s ability to perform to its full potential. By finding a time which suits you, your business and your customers, you can ensure that your seasonal cleaning service provides the maximum amount of return on investment without interfering with your trade.

2. Scope – As well as establishing which time suits you best, it is also vital to establish which services you will need, such as upholstery cleaning, floor cleaning, window cleaning, carpet cleaning and more, in order to get your place of business as clean as possible. With every company requiring various services, the list of requirements will vary from company to company. As such, it is important to understand which services will benefit you the most and to plan your office cleaning accordingly. Depending on the type of business you run, whether it is a store front or an office space, the services which you require will alter accordingly. If this is the first time which you have performed a deep cleaning operation at your business, it might be worth enquiring with a professional office cleaning service as to which solutions will make a real difference. Once you have an idea of what you need to get the best results, then it is time to move on to the next step.

3. Frequency – Do keep in mind that seasonal cleaning can be a one-off ocurrence, while you can greatly benefit from a contract with a cleaning company for a more regular, everyday solution to your cleaning problems if you believe you need it. You may want to hire a fully vetted cleaning company, allowing you to trust them and what they have to offer. Read the contract carefully and see what responsibilities it covers on their end before you sign. Choosing an individual over a company may be a decent choice for a smaller business, but if you’re running a company this will not be the most logical choice in terms of efficiency.

4. Budget – Armed with the knowledge of when you will be needing the cleaning solution and which services you require, you can now begin to get in contact with professional cleaning services in order to find out what the possible price will be. By contacting a number of companies, you can compare and contrast prices, allowing you to make sure that you get the very best value for money. As well as comparing prices, talking to a number of companies will allow you to better establish which services will really suit your needs and the chance to talk to a cleaning expert can better inform you of how to go about the cleaning operation.

Once you have found the company with whom you wish to do business, the only thing which remains is to sit back and enjoy your newly cleaned business premises. With the cleaning services rendered, both you and your customers can enjoy the benefits of a thoroughly cleaned property. After the service has been completed, it might be worth asking the cleaning company for any tips which can help you maintain this level of cleanliness for the longest possible time.

Guest Post by: Ella Andrews

Ella Andrews is dedicated writer and keen home improvement specialist. She gets inspiration by exploring new sources of information regarding household maintenance. Presently she writes mostly about office organizing.

The benefits of steam cleaning your carpets

carpet cleaner

Just about this time in the summer, I see how dirty my berber carpet is in our den. That’s the room we enter right from the garage. And after a troop of adolescent boys comes in from baseball, basketball and general playing outside we track a lot of mud in! Add to that, this is the room where the kids entertain friends, soda and snacks are consumed and my dog likes to hang out. You get the picture. So usually in September when the house is quiet again, I bring in my favorite steam cleaner to work his magic. The place smells like lemons after he’s through and he usually tells me, two more times and this carpet will be as good as new! And he reminds me not to use any spray cleaners in the mean time. So here’s a guest post from a professional on the best way to clean your carpets. Think of carpet cleaning as a seasonal clean out and  appointments for the fall and spring to keep your carpets looking good. It also gives you a chance to move furniture out & around to spruce up your rooms.

BY:  Candice Hubbard

When it comes to carpet cleaning nearly all the carpet manufacturers are in agreement that the absolute best way to accomplish this task is by using hot water extraction, or what is otherwise known as “deep steam cleaning. “ Dry cleaning is usually not recommended because the results are nowhere as good.

What Is Deep Steam Cleaning?

This is a method of carpet steam cleaning that is really nothing more than the extraction of hot water, but there is a great deal of steam involved.  What is called a truck-mounted hot water extraction machine uses extremely high pressure to force near boiling hot water into the carpet, and then proceeds to pull out the water, dirt, debris, etc.  That essentially sums up this simple method of carpet cleaning.

One method of dry cleaning uses a dry foam or shampoo which is poured onto the carpet, given time to dry, and then, with no rinsing, pulled into a vacuum.  Much dirty residue is left behind in the carpet.

Another method of dry cleaning is done by placing a large cotton bonnet on the carpet and using a buffer machine, the same one used for polishing floors, to buff the carpet.  While it’s more work than dry foam, the dirt and residue are still left behind in the carpet.

Lastly there’s the absorbent powder.  A moist, absorbent powder is spread throughout the carpet, left to dry and then pulled into a vacuum.  Because the carpet is not rinsed, much dirt and residue are left behind, so this too is not a very thorough cleaning.

Benefits of Deep Steam Cleaning

The benefits of steam cleaning your carpet are many:

The extremely high heat does an excellent job of eliminating bacteria, dust mites, fungus, and mold.  They don’t stand a chance against this way of cleaning your carpet.  This is why it is considered the healthiest manner to clean a carpet.

There is no soapy residue left behind, provided the carpet steam cleaning is performed properly.  And if you are dealing with a professional company, there is no reason that it shouldn’t be.  If there is a soapy residue left behind from the detergent that is used, it will serve to attract dirt, and that will make your carpet become dirty and need to be cleaned again even sooner.

The high-pressure steam is another advantage to this way of cleaning.  It penetrates downward all the way to the base of the carpet’s fibers, thus removing dirt that is embedded there.

The powerful vacuum system sucks up 95% of the wetness that is left behind, thus your carpet is left feeling damp to the touch, but not soaking wet.

Environmentally Safe

Steam cleaning is really a fantastic way to clean your carpet.  The heat involved is above 118 degrees Fahrenheit, and every 18 degrees more that it is heated doubles the cleaning strength of the cleaning agents that are used.  Amazingly enough deep steam cleaning is done between 180 and 240 degrees.  Another benefit of this is that it uses much less of the cleaning agents on your carpet, which makes it a much healthier choice for the environment as opposed to dry cleaning.

Biography: 

Candice does professional carpet cleaning in Brisbane, and carpet steam cleaning too.  She owns her own carpet cleaning business and writes often about the proper methods of cleaning a carpet.  Her opinions are considered expert.    

 

 

Summer Sanity Savers – Review

The first thing I like about this book is that it’s short and to the point. Because as a work-from-home mom of three, who has time to read a 200 page How To book?

Prerna offers some great ideas for how to streamline your workload , which really apply to all year, not just the summer. And she offers some great suggestions for delegating, simplifying and prioritizing all the other tasks that go along with being a mom and having a home to run.

I agree that when you delegate to other people, and give your kids responsibilities in the home your business will grow as a result. Years ago I hired a cleaning person to come twice a month so now I just have to straighten daily with the help of my family and do basic cleaning on the in-between weeks. Financially it makes sense too because I pay her less per hour than I make. Less time cleaning = more billable hours for me. And I don’t worry about when I’m going to clean the house.

There are several applications and helpful links that Prerna provides. Personally I’m going to visit Quick Notice and WWSGD to help grow my contact list automatically and create some Canned Responses to emails. I think these will be great time savers for my business.

I love the meal planner sheets because although I sometimes do this in my head, it helps to write it down so that my kids and husband can see the list and we can do a “first one home starts the dinner” kind of approach. In my case, I do not work from home every day, but rather run a business out of my home.

The parenting and activity ideas were also good for pre-school children but the one thing she doesn’t address is the coordination of schedules when your kids are older and more active.  When you have more than one child and throw part-time jobs, summer camps and having friends over into the mix, it gets nutty. The author admits that her husband also works from home and they coordinate their time with their daughter – which is nice and tidy but not a reality for many moms. If she thought the summer with one three-year-old was tough to work through – my life would look like a battlefield in comparison! (Maybe this will be covered in a sequel.)

Everything You Need to Know About Spring Cleaning & Organizing

Welcome to the eBundle that will have you organizing and spring cleaning your home, schedule and home based business! In these 23 eBooks, you’ll find tips, support and know-how about working from home, cleaning, organizing and mom support along with printables!

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The All Organized – Organization eBook Bundle is available March 24th until April 7th for only $20. That’s a savings of $133! So hop over and buy it now!

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Organizing your home

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This 6 eBook mini eBundle will have you breathing a sigh of relief as you move through getting your pictures organized, know what paper you need to keep, help for homemaking and getting to less stuff & living more!

Working from home

Organize your home and home based business with the work at home mom mini bundle from Organize365.com

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The ‘Working from Home’ mini eBundle will help you stay sane and productive when the kids are home and you need to work. It will also help you organize your direct sales business, and, along with an eClass, to learn about establishing office hours and a schedule that will help you run a family and a business. And, if you’re looking into starting a home business, or already run one, there’s an eBook about how to be a work at home mom.

Moms

Organize your home and home based business with the mom support mini bundle from Organize365.com

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This mini eBundle will help all of us with meal planning and involving the kids in cleaning so we can work and live more efficiently. There’s also support here for the mothers of special needs children and those in the military to organize their homes even more efficiently than their military service.

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This mini eBundle of 2 cleaning books is mighty! They’ll help you schedule your cleaning and know what’s clean enough so you’re not embarrassed when clients, friends or your mother-in-law stops by unexpectedly.

Schedule

Organize your home and home based business with the scheduling mini bundle from Organize365.com

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This ‘Scheduling’ mini eBundle of 6 will help you create a schedule, arrive on time and provide simple strategies that work for your entire life. With the planner printables included, you will be able to make a plan that works for YOU!

This eBundle will be available March 24th until April 7th for only $20. That’s a savings of $133! So hop over and buy it now!

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The Fine Print: We have all the nitty gritty details over on the Frequently Asked Questions Page, but here are a few highlights:

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  • YES! This eBundle CAN be read on Kindles, iPads and more!
  • Have questions about the eBundle? Check out the FAQ page for support!

Start Fresh On Monday with my Special Offer!

I’ve something I want to share with you and it’s coming Monday.

It will help you organize, freshen the house and your life and with Spring we’re all looking for fresh starts.

Want a hint?

Coming Monday, March 24th, the All Organzied eBundle.  A refreshing way to start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s information on:

  • Organizing

  • Working from Home

  • Schedules

  • Cleaning and

  • Moms

So come back Monday, March 24th at 8am.

 

Keep Purging Simple

Too often when someone starts to organize, they get bogged down in where everything is going. Some items may go to a friend or family member, others to a favorite charity, others you might keep if they fit, or can be fixed…you get the idea. Suddenly your sorting process has turned into seven different piles on the floor and you can’t quite remember which is which.

That’s why I try to help my clients (and my kids) focus on a simple decision. Is it a yes or a no? Thinking simply is what helps you get organized. Yes means it fits now, I wear it, I use it, I love it! No means there’s too many conditions or simply I don’t use it or want it anymore. This can apply to clothing, toys, memorabilia, household items, really anything you’re trying to organize. If you find you are so attached to things that nothing ends up in the “no” pile, try this trick: have a friend or family member sort with you. Let them physically hold up the item and you just say yes or no. Don’t take too long, just go with your gut instinct.

The yes items will stay and you’ll have to find a home for them, but on the positive side, these are all the clothes that make you look great or feel wonderful. They are the photos and memorabilia that bring you happiness. They are the practical, functional items that you use everyday.

If you say no to an item it means you don’t love it, it doesn’t make you feel good when you wear it, it brings you bad memories, or sometimes you don’t know where the heck you got it from or why you kept it this long! Let go of the no’s and you’ll feel lighter.

I know that life is not all black and white and that there are many shades of gray in making decisions but just for fun, the next time you sort through a category, try this black & white approach. Keep it simple and see if it doesn’t go faster and easier.

And if you need a place to take your “no’s” give me a call, I’ve got lots of resources.

Get Motivated to Organize!

Let’s play a word association game. I say “organize” and you think…Yuk? Boring? No time?

Well what if I told you there are some people who think it’s fun? Organizing is one of those things like exercising and paying taxes that we all have to do at some time in our life, so why not make it fun? And yes there is a small majority of the population that already enjoys organizing. Did you catch Sheldon Cooper on the Big Bang Theory recently? He begged Leonard, “Oh please, can’t I stay just five more minutes?” when he was organizing Howard’s closet. I like to believe you don’t have to be a geek to enjoy organizing.

So for those of you who don’t long to get your hands on a labeler and sorting bins, I offer the following motivation for you and your family to get motivated to organize and have some fun in the process.

1. Set a time limit. Don’t make an organizing project an endless weekend of drudgery, but then again don’t fool yourself and think you can answer the phone, or run out and do a quick errand in the middle of a project. Typical limits are 6-8 hours for a full room overhaul and about 2-3 hours for a typical closet. Set a timer and try to beat the clock. Turn off the phones & TV’s and any other distractions. Do put on some music with a fast beat, have a drink and a snack ready when you start. When time starts to run out, make the music faster and challenge yourself to get it done. (My family cleans out the garage twice a year and we can now get it done in 1.5 hours)

2. Enlist some help. If you have kids and a spouse, get them involved! Or if you’d rather, ask a girl friend to help you and then you can help her with one of her projects. Delegate duties based on everyone’s personality. A big burly husband can do the heavy lifting. A kid who can’t keep still can be the one to drag boxes or bags of donations out to the car. A person who likes to sit in one place can sort or shred papers or make labels. When the project is finished, take everyone out for a meal or a special treat. (pizza and ice cream are always crowd pleasers)

3. Treat yourself. When you’ve completed a room that could use a little sprucing up, go shopping for new curtains, a nice picture, a plant or throw pillows. (I love Home Goods for this stuff)Finish your closet and go shopping for clothes that you need, but not too much! It’s your reward for an organizing project well done. I say make room for the good stuff. Many of my clients tell me after a room is finished, they keep going back to it just to enjoy how it looks! When you finish your closet, it’s like getting a new wardrobe.

4. Make it a game. When my kids were toddlers, I would trick them into picking up the toys. We had different colored round tubs for each category: one for stuffed animals, another for balls and so on. I’d ask my daughter to pick up the stuffed animals, my son to pick up the balls and they would shoot them like basketballs into the right container. (Nothing like a little sibling competition to finish first or get the most in)

5. Make some money. The first time I had my boys clean out the toy bin, I sold their give-aways at a children’s consignment shop and told them they could keep the money. They each made $25 and they were more motivated to do it again the next year! Check out local consignment shops to see what you could sell from your unused clothing, household items and toys. Money is always a motivator.

Spring Greening Ideas

While everyone is talking about Spring Cleaning, why not consider “Spring Greening?” April 22nd is Earth Day and the sunny spring weather, popping plants and just being outdoors reminds us of the beauty of nature.  With so many negative reports on the hazards in our environment, I urge you to consider what you can do with your own carbon footprint to take better care of the earth.

Here are some ideas of how to organize around your house and also recycle, reuse and reduce while you’re at it.

1.  Clean out your closets – It’s an easy 2 hour project to take everything out of a closet, keep what  you use, need and love and donate the rest.  The hard part is knowing where to take the excess and then actually doing it.

  • Clothes – Goodwill, or any charity for clothing that is in good repair. Take a good look at what you give to others and make sure you are not passing on rags. Impact Thrift store actually will take rags for recycle but it’s nice to separate these out and mark them as such.
  • Food – find a local pantry, usually affiliated with a church, where you can take food that you don’t want or need.
  • Electronics – Some Goodwill stores and municipalities, or Best Buy & Staples will recycle old electronics, DVDs, CDs, and VHS tapes. If you want them out of the house, put them in the car and find the closest location for drop-offs.

2. Re-use fabric shopping bags – Make a bag of bags and leave it in your car. Take them out any time you go to a store. Not just for groceries but also for runs to the drug store, clothing stores, anywhere! Imagine all the plastic bags that you are preventing from going to a landfill.

3. Reduce your family’s waste and stop buying foods that are individually wrapped.  Instead of lunch size snacks, buy one big bag or barrel of snacks and pack your kids’ lunches using re-usable containers, cloth napkins, water canteens and re-usable fabric lunch bags. Make it cool to be green in school!

4. Recycle everything you can – We all know about newspapers and plastic or glass bottles, but what about paper plates, napkins, food boxes and mail? Make it easy to recycle by having a recycle bin in your house in a convenient location: right next to the regular trash can or out the back door are two suggestions.

5. Buy recycled products if you must buy more organizing products, check out the companies below:

  • Lowimpactliving.com
  • IKEA.com
  • SeventhGeneration.com
  • SpecialtyLiving.com
  • Greenhome.com
  • Inmodern.net

6. Unplug – Teach your family to turn off lights as soon as they leave a room. But also unplug major appliances when they are not in use. Don’t leave chargers in the outlets. All these things use up electrical power unnecessarily. Develop a routine at night to do this. Put everyone in your family in charge of a room or two.

7. Buy local produce – As the farmers’ markets and produce stands open up in your town, support them! Buying local means less gas for everybody and it usually means you get fresher fruits and vegetables. That’s what I call win/win.

8.  Program your thermostat to go down at night or when no one is home.

9. Consolidate your errands and set up carpools for your kids’ activities to use less gas.

10. Plant flowers, trees or shrubs and celebrate Earth Day!

Organize in a Big Way or Not at All

As I was making my bed this morning I realized that how we make our beds is a good analogy for how we go about organizing. You can just pull a corner here, a corner there and make it look okay. But to really do a thorough job you’ve got to take off each layer, fluff it out and replace it neatly on the bed.  Some mornings all you have time for is a quick fix and that’s okay. But if you really want the bed to feel crisp and clean when you get into it at night, taking the sheet, blanket and comfortor off is the only way to go. So I recommend doing that at least once a week.

 

I find that a lot of people try organizing in this half-way mode or little by little. They’ll put things in a little box and think that’s organized. Or they’ll do one corner of a room today and not get to the rest of the room for a few weeks. The problem is, that in the meantime other things come into the room and pile up. The ONLY WAY TO ORGANIZE is to go through everything in a room. Categorize, Purge & Re-arrange (this is my CPR method). This means to take everything out of the drawers and closets, sort into categories and decide what needs to stay and what can go. Once you have piles of everything that stays in a room and you know that these are things you NEED, USE and WANT, then you can begin to put them back.  Sometimes you’ll need to purchase bins or organizers but you’ll know exactly how big a container is necessary. And on day 1 it’s not going to be perfect but you will be able to see what you have without all the clutter. Then you can play around with the best places to keep things. Use the system for awhile and then you can fine tune.

For planning purposes, figure that each room will take you 8 hours to organize completely. If you have a lot of clutter and lots of little things to go through, you may need to add another 4 hours.  Knowing how much time you’ll need takes the fear out of getting too far into a project that you can’t finish.

So, back to making the bed. It only takes about 5 minutes to do thorougly so why not do it every day? Your reward is a nice place to lay your head when the day is done. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.

This week is National TV Free Week – What can you do with that extra time?

My husband and I once changed all the interior doors of our home (a total of 15) over the course of two months just by doing two doors a week. We did this to break down the cost (about $80 a door) and to spread out the time it took to hang and paint the new doors. Normally we reserve big home improvement projects for the weekend. But as we get into spring and summer the weekends are busy with baseball and travel. I had a deadline that year which was motivating me to get rid of the brown flat doors in our older home and replace them with white paneled doors. I was hosting my sister’s wedding shower in August. We found that if we worked together we could hang the door and do one coat of paint at night from 7-9 pm. The next morning I would put the second coat of paint on two doors and we were set. The only thing we were giving up was about 2 hours of television! Amazing what you can fit in when you have a goal and not a whole lot of time.

So I started thinking, what other home improvement or organizing projects could I complete in just two hours? If you stop watching TV for a week, assuming you watch a couple hours after dinner, you’ll have 7 blocks of two hours where you could accomplish some of those little chores that you never seem to have time for. Here are a few things I’ve done on my own and with my clients:

  1. Organize a pantry – Taking all food out, checking expiration dates, wiping down the shelves and replacing good foods in categories.
  2. Organize a garage – Yes, believe it or not we do our garage twice a year in two hours. One hour to take everything out and one hour to put it back. We purge as we categorize everything we take out. Then we sweep or blow out the leaves and dirt and begin putting categories back. Of course we have 5 people doing this – my hubby and three kids. Although you know who does most of the work.
  3. Switch out your clothes – Take last season’s clothes out of your drawers & closet and replace with the next season’s clothes from storage. First I empty the drawers & closet putting everything on the bed that I want to store away. Anything that I haven’t worn in a year, or that doesn’t fit goes in a donation bag. Then I bring down the stored clothes and put them in the drawer or closet. Finally the out of season clothes are packed away into plastic bins or hung in a cedar closet.
  4. Clean out files at the end of the year. Take out whatever you saved for taxes and put aside for the accountant. Print end of the year statements from your bank or credit cards. At the end of a school year you can go through kids’ papers. Put artwork in a portfolio, awards & ribbons in a scrapbook and all else can be recycled.
  5. Do a “Great toy clean out” – This is another one you can involve the kids with. Have them bring all their toys into one room. Sort into piles. Here are some suggested categories: learning toys, outside toys, balls, games, arts & crafts, building toys. Anything that is broken, toss. Any toys that are no longer used go into a donate pile. Then collect any containers you have for storage and decide where all the toys will be kept. I recommend certain categories in the bedroom and others in a common room in the house.

Tell me what you’ll do this week instead of watching TV.

My 10 Absolutes or Rules of Organizing

Sure we all have our “spring cleaning” seasons where we throw out the old stuff, organize what we have and feel like we’re ready for a fresh start.  Then life happens and this leaves many of us wondering, “How can I maintain this newly organized room/area in my home or office?” I always say, first it’s a project and then it has to be a process. So here are my “absolutes” for organizing. If you think about them, and apply them to all facets of your life you may find you are a becoming a more functionally organized person.

  1. CPR is the method:  Categorize, Purge and Re-arrange – Believe me, it works. Whether you are talking about a junk drawer or an entire basement. The hardest part and sometimes the most time consuming is to categorize everything. Then you can see how much you have and begin to purge. Of course you can also purge as you go for obvious items. It’s like taking apart a car engine. The Re-arrange step is where you get the bins, baskets and organizers and put it all back together.
  2. Keep purging simple with “yes” and “no” piles – People often get bogged down with dividing up the stuff they want to give away. I hear, “This is donated, this goes to so and so, this will go to the church bazaar…” Keep it simple by only giving yourself 2 options: Yes or No. You can hammer out the details at the end of the project. Or if you’re lucky enough to be working with a Professional Organizer, let him or her take care of the distribution for you.
  3. Keep only what you use – Don’t keep something because of guilt or “just in case.” If you use it or really appreciate it like a special piece of art, then keep it. Life is a lot simpler this way.
  4. If you don’t plan it – it won’t happen – How many of us wait for “someday?” Or a day when there’s nothing to do and you’ll get on that scrapbook or clean out that closet? Really who has that kind of time these days? If you want to accomplish something the first thing you have to do is schedule it. Put it on the calendar, estimate the time it will take and then focus on that project, eliminate distractions and don’t let anyone keep you from holding that appointment.
  5. Keep like things together – Sounds elementary but you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t do this. It happens when we get too detailed in our categories. For example, lacrosse equipment goes in the mudroom, and baseball goes in the bedroom, but hockey goes in the garage. A better system is to put all sports gear in the garage & have different racks or bins for each sport. Again this works all over the house: kitchen, bedroom, family room, etc.
  6. Start with a good list – Whether you are shopping, planning a big project or packing for a trip, the list is essential. Put more time and thought into the list and your task will be easier.
  7. Subtract before you add – When re-doing a room, a closet or an office, the tendency is to buy organizers for everything that is in there first. But if you use CPR and pare down to what you really use and need, you may not need the organizers at all. Don’t mistake shoving everything in boxes or bins as organizing.
  8. Finish one thing before you start another – Again an elementary lesson probably learned in first grade, but how many of us pride ourselves on multi-tasking? Try mono-tasking. Things will get done more completely and in less time. You can also apply this rule to consumable items. Don’t open the new toothpaste until the old one is finished and in the trash – stop wasting.
  9. Organize from big to small – Don’t arrange deck chairs on the Titanic! If your whole house is a disaster, look at the big picture first. Establish the function of each room and make sure the only items in each room serve that purpose. Then you can go room by room and get it in ship shape.
  10. Daily routines are a must – Routines bring comfort, and help us remember what we need. Ever forget to brush your teeth? You probably broke your routine. Even a 15 minute routine at the end of your work day can set the tone for a better tomorrow. Place your TO DO’s on the left of the desk, file loose papers, clear all voice mail messages, take out your deliver-ables. Even if your day is chaotic, your morning & nighttime routines will help center you.

 

Five Steps for Spring Cleaning

 Spring is here and you know what that means…you can see every  smudge on your windows, every dusty baseboard and you need to dig out the garden supplies from your garage. So what’s a woman to do? Spring clean of course!

As a Professional Organizer you may think my home is always pristine and clean. Not so. I have three children and a dog so we deal with mud and dog hair just like everybody else.  And although I do have routines for straightening daily and cleaning weekly, it’s time for that third step: cleaning out seasonally.

If you’re not sure where to start, here is a 5 Step Approach for Spring Cleaning:

  1. Look up –Tops of cabinets, lighting fixtures, even walls. These often get neglected in the regular cleaning process. So take a long handled duster, sweep away those cobwebs and wipe the tops of cabinets & bookshelves. Put a little Windex on a paper towel and wipe the lights.
  2. Look down – Baseboards collect dust and mud all over your house. So fill a bucket with water, add a little Murphy’s oil soap and use a soft rag to wipe them down. You might be surprised that they are white – not grey! One person can’t do the whole house so have your family chip in. Let everyone do their own bedroom and share the common areas. Use a towel or cushion to sit on.
  3. Look out – First the windows. In the morning light you can see everything: hand prints, water stains. So take some time to go through the house and clean your windows inside and out. If you’re lucky enough to have the windows that tilt in, you can engage your family, give the kids chores to do their bedroom windows and divide duties for the common rooms. If you have older windows, you might need to hire someone to clean the outside -or bribe your husband.
  4. Look around – Take a walk around your house and make note of the outside projects. For example, picking up branches, mulching gardens, picking up leaves, trimming bushes. Then see if there are any repairs needed as a result of the winter: loose shutters, falling gutters, etc. Once you have the list you can prioritize projects and get quotes if necessary.
  5. Do the switch – In your garage, make sure lawn, garden and sports equipment are accessible. Tuck away the winter supplies. In your closets, put away the heavy wool clothing and blankets and bring out the lighter spring clothes & linens. Rubbermaid bins that seal are the best way to store clothing. And Space Bags are awesome for condensing big blankets in the linen closet.

Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be drudgery. Take it one step at a time and pace yourself over weekends and days off. Engage your family in the process so everyone can feel proud of their home. Motivate your family with a special treat when they are finished. Need a deadline to motivate you? Shoot for Memorial Day weekend so you can relax & enjoy it.

How to Organize Your Garage

As a Professional Organizer I have organized a few garages in my day.  Some were in newer homes with nice walls and some in old homes in rural areas where they have a separate wooden structure.  Spring and Fall are great times to get your garage cleaned out primarily because you can take everything out, sweep it and put what you want back in.  Secondly you have a change of season where you might need new things brought to the front, others can be tucked away.

I think there are some common problems with garages that people share no matter where they live.

  1. A garage is not just for keeping cars – many people use their garage to store bikes, lawn equipment, sports equipment, extra raw materials (like pieces of wood…)wood for fireplaces, tools – all kinds of bulky equipment.
  2. The garage is an entrance way into the house for a lot of families – so you might keep shoes, recycles, and trash there. This might be your motivation for trying to keep it organized, because you walk through it all the time and don’t want to look at a mess!
  3. A garage is usually one big room which makes it hard to organize because there’s no pre-determined place to put things.  You have to create a system from scratch.

So if you’ve decided it’s time to tackle the garage, you can follow my CPR process that I discuss in my book ABSOLUTELY ORGANIZED. It works for any room.

  1. You’ve got to plan the time to do it and solicit some help either from your family or a friend. It’s not a one person job and it’s going to take anywhere from 3 – 6 hours the first time you do it. To make it fun, put on some music, give the kids a reward afterwards or promise your friend a meal that evening. As I always say, if you don’t plan it – it’s not going to happen.
  2. CATEGORIZE – Take everything out of the garage and put it in piles in your driveway or on your lawn.  Categories can be: sports equipment, lawn & garden, tools, bikes… And if one of those categories is really big: break it down further.
  3. PURGE – As you pull things out start to purge whatever is broken or disgusting, or anything you don’t use anymore.  For items you want to give away, I suggest you look online for places to donate, or give to a friend or just put at the end of your driveway and let people take it. For chemicals or gasoline call your township and find out about hazardous waste collections.
  4. RE-arrange -Now that you have piles of everything you’re keeping, start to think about what you use most often and make it accessible.  For the kids’ toys and sports equipment, use colorful plastic tubs on the floor.  For lawn chemicals, put them in plastic bins up on a shelf.  Keep things in their categories and create zones.  Even if you don’t have the right containers or shelves right now, put things back in temporary containers where you want them by the end of your organizing session.

Now you can go shopping for what you need like industrial shelves, wall cabinets, racks, etc. There’s a range of products for garages and you can spend thousands of dollars on a complete makeover, but you want to make sure it’s organized first, so you can measure the space for exactly what you need.  Rubbermaid has an inexpensive Track system if you want to do it yourself or you can go high-end to places like GarageTek.  I’ve even seen people put up old kitchen cabinets in their garage for storage. Whatever works!

To keep your garage organized, you have to straighten on a weekly basis. I suggest you teach your kids where things go and ask them to put things back to normal on Sunday. Then get the whole family in the habit of cleaning it out on a seasonal basis.  Our family has a pool so we do a Saturday clean out once in the late Spring to get the pool/beach stuff out and then once in the fall to put the pool stuff away and get the winter supplies out. Because we do this twice a year I am proud to say we do it now in LESS THAN 2 HOURS – so it’s not an all day hassle anymore.

 

Spring Cleaning

So what is spring cleaning? Does it mean we have to clean up around the outside of our house? Use vinegar on the windows? Beat the carpets? Or is it that desire to air out our homes and hang our linens on the clothesline for that crisp clean smell?

Whatever it is, I am ready for it and so are my clients. They’ve been easily tossing things for the last 2 weeks. Even those who normally hang on to stuff! So if you’re feeling it – I said go for it. I guess it means something different to everyone. Here’s what I like to do once the snow has melted and the temperature rises:

  1. Get outside and play & pick-up sticks with my kids. Literally, have them help you pick up sticks that have fallen all winter. Set a timer and make it a game or have a contest to see who gets the most. Then tie them up or put them in a trash can and dispose of them.
  2. Give the house a thorough cleaning from top to bottom. Start on the top floor, and clean each room until you reach the basement. This may take a day, a week or a month. Also, look up in your rooms – at the light fixtures or tops of shelves. These places are often neglected during your regular cleaning. And move the furniture to vacuum underneath.
  3. Clean out the closets – This is a great time to purge your clothes and the kids’. My method is to take everything out and put back what fits, box up what doesn’t and give it to charity. Make a list of what staple goods you need for spring & summer and reward yourself with a little shopping spree. But bring the list!
  4. Dare I say it? Put the shovels, the ice melt and the Christmas lights away. Use a cord wrap for the lights and tuck them away in the garage. Make sure spring items are easily accessible: bikes, baseball gear, roller blades, gardening supplies, etc.
  5. Air out & switch out your linens. Time for lighter blankets & sheets so wash the winter ones and tuck sheets sets into a pillowcase, making it easier to find the sets together next time. Just for fun, wash the curtains, area rugs and maybe put out some spring throw pillows and blankets. Crack the windows on a nice day and you just might & catch it – spring fever!
  6. As you are going through the house make a list of “fix-its” or projects you would like to accomplish this season. Then discuss priorities & budget for these with your spouse. I always get 3 quotes and then tackle one project at a time. Plan to finish before your summer vacation!

Leave a comment to tell me what you will do for Spring Cleaning!