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.

How to make your bathroom kid-friendly

Pic 1 - Kids Bathroom

 

Once we have children, our whole life gets turned upside down. We sleep less, worry more, work harder, etc. Among things parents should do for their children is home redecoration and adaptation of certain rooms. This includes baby proofing and making your existing bathroom more kid-friendly. This does not mean you have to renovate the bathroom just for your children, but changing a few things around the existing one to make it safer will suffice. Here are some of ideas:

 

Going Up on a Step Stool

Reaching the sink, the toothbrush or an item on the washing machine might be hard for some youngsters, which is why step stools are a good introduction to your bathroom. They are inexpensive and easily placed on the most convenient locations and more than helpful.

Playhouse in the Bathroom

Playing with toys in the bathroom does not seem like something every parent would allow, but they could not be more wrong. Moreover, it is fun to see your child enjoy taking a bath for a change, just because there are some toys around. They can be stored all over the place, do not take too much room, but provide lots of entertainment.

Keep the Important Stuff to Yourself

Do not forget how dangerous razors, shaving machines or medicine can be for a child. Thus, keep them out of their reach and make their visits to the bathroom safer. With high wall cabinets equipped with a lock, you are doing a sensible thing for everyone involved.

Decorations

We all know that children love colors! That is why you decorate their rooms in a colorful way and introduce themes that make them feel special. However, do not stop at that – playful bathrooms are much more child-appropriate so install a few accessories like radiant wall posters, intriguing tile prints, decorated mirrors, and so on. With more details like these, your child will fall in love with the bathroom instantly.

Heating

Not all homes have good heating and it is essential for your bathroom to be warm when you have a child in your life. There are several bathroom heating options and you can choose between floor heating, heated towel raids and heat lamps. All of these do the trick and are sufficient to create appropriate temperature, but floor heating might be the most sensible solution as most children often walk barefoot all the time anyways.

To Each His Own

All those who have more than one child know the everyday struggle over toothbrush/towel/soap/everything else. That is why it is vital to separate your children’s things and teach them to use their own. Individual towel hooks and plastic glasses with toothbrushes will help you more than you could imagine.

Final Ideas

When decorating a bathroom that your child uses, you can never go wrong if you make it colorful, shiny and playful. Figure out their favorite toys and activities and try to incorporate them into the bathroom as well. Ultimately, be absolutely sure to stay away from sharp edges and slippery surfaces at any cost!

About the author

Marie Nieves is student of economics who loves unusual trips, gadgets and creative ideas. She is an avid lover of photography and she loves to talk about her experiences. You can find Marie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and G+.

Mind The Cents: Smart Tricks To Save Money

green home

 

In times of global economic crisis and shrinking employment opportunities, having some extra cash on the side is always welcome. Still, how can you save up without having to compromise on the bare necessities of modern life? Well, if you didn’t pay attention in your economics class or don’t know where to start cutting your bills, we have several tips and tricks on where and how to reduce your monthly costs to your budget’s advantage.

 

A vicious circle: Give up costly habits

Though you may consider yourself a frugal person, you probably have pet habits that cost you more than you can afford in the long run. For instance, if you’re a smoker, you’re probably losing hundreds to your vice on a monthly basis – thousands even in the course of the year. Similarly, regular beer intake can set you back a lot even with an ample budget, so you’d better find a more satisfying and cost-effective pastime.

Reduce you water and electricity bill: Cut shower time

Enjoying a long hot-water bath at the end of your day is not as budget-friendly as you may think. In fact, keeping your water-heater on 24/7 will add a pretty penny to your electricity bill, while a full tub will up your water consumption to the max with regular use. For optimal water temperature and lower energy bill, turn your thermostat to 120 degrees or less – that should be enough for a quick shower without wasted electricity and cold water-induced goose bumps. Check out some more tips on how to save money on utility bills.

Use ATM cards wisely: Use cash instead of plastic

With the plastic card era at its peak, most people don’t think twice before they whip out their payment card to pay for a grocery bill, especially if they know they have an extra dozen on their bank account. Even if you’re a hardcore ‘shopping list only’ enthusiast, you may be leaking money with your credit card payments. It runs out people are likely to spend more when using payment cards than when paying cash for services and goods because hard money feels more real than plastics, so sticking to cash may be a better option than flashing around your ATM cards at the counter.

Cost-efficient combinations: All-in-one TV packages

Most modern households have a TV, a compute, a landline and several cell phones per family members. That’s all fine and well until you get down to the bill figures: with separate phone bills, internet costs and TV packages, you may as well be burning money. If you want to save up on these modern utilities, try a combined TV and internet package that delivers the same service at lower costs. For instance, you may want to get a Compare Broadband Bundle that merges TV, internet and phone service in one cost-effective package and guarantees all time internet access with your favorite TV show on and your phone open for calls 24/7.

Turn off water when not necessary: A small splash goes a long way

Keeping your tap running while washing teeth or scrubbing the dishes is completely needless and it can also prove costly in the long run. A small splash can go a long way if deployed wisely, so turn off your faucet when you’re not directly using water from it – this will help you save some extra dozen or even hundred on you water bill without jeopardizing your personal and homeware hygiene.

Eliminate phantom power: Switch off unnecessary appliances and devices

Our household devices and gadgets discreetly use up electricity even when not in use. Cords and wires attached to outlets with connected devices on the off or stand-by mode leak energy, and so do the phone charges and similar gadgets which we usually live plugged in through neglect. To counter phantom power, unplug your coffee maker, printer, wall chargers and similar appliances when you’re not using them – you may be surprised by the trimmed down figure on your next electricity bill.
These are just a few simple solutions that could help you save money in the long run, so it’s crucial that you stick to them permanently and not just “once in a while.” Developing money-saving habits takes time much as any other. It might be a little difficult in the beginning but when you reap the rewards you’ll be glad you made them stick.

Guest blog by: John Stone, Editor, Smooth Decorator

WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE TO SAVE MONEY? LEAVE A COMMENT:

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

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.

10 Things This Pro Organizer Wants You to Know

cover shotAbout a year ago, Reader’s Digest published a list in their “Who Knew” section entitled, 13 Things A Personal Organizer Won’t Tell You. I like to think that I do tell my clients these things when we meet in person and when we are in the process of getting organized. For those of you who haven’t worked with me, here are my tell-all nuggets that I have picked up over the last 12 years:

  1. Yes, many of my clients “know” how to organize. I don’t think you’re stupid. In fact most of my clients are smarter than me. But there’s a reason why you called me and just by making that appointment and having me work with you, we will get to the project that has been escaping you, for whatever reason.
  2. Most clutter is just post-poned decisions. I’m going to press you and play devil’s advocate just to get you to decide. If you say, “keep it for now” you’re postponing again!
  3. I know your stuff may have been worth a lot of money when you bought it, but the reality is that it’s probably not worth much now. (With a few exceptions.)It’s easier,and I believe better, to donate what you don’t want or need. If you’ve got classic antiques, we’ll check those out but clothes and household trinkets are just not worth selling.
  4. I don’t recommend yard sales. Like consignment and trying to re-sell items, it takes a lot more time and energy than it’s worth. That being said, if your neighborhood is having a sale day and someone does the advertising and marketing to get people on your street AND it’s going to be a fun day outside for you and your family – go for it. If it’s only you, think twice.
  5. Your closet is full of “someday” items and “wear only with ___” items that are really just taking up space that could be filled with “I love this” items. Keep clothes that make you feel great and look great. Everything else can be donated.
  6. Don’t be afraid to have your kids help with purging. When you start them young, they learn that sometimes you should let go of things. If they are the type that is emotionally attached to everything, you hold up the item and ask for a YES or NO decision. It keeps things moving.
  7. Don’t make your systems too complicated! Some of my perfectionist clients do this, and then they can’t keep up with their own system. So use bins, files – things that are easy to dump things into. If you are designating a single category to each, it’s easy to keep up with. For example, in a linen closet have a bin of household refills, another for medicine. Keep files names general until they get too big, then sub divide.
  8. There’s no magic to keeping up with organization. It’s a matter of having routines. You can do them daily, weekly or monthly. I suggest paperwork & mail – deal with it daily. Straighten bedrooms & family rooms daily, clean weekly (or bi-weekly) and clean out monthly or seasonally those areas that you don’t use all the time. (garage, basement, attic)
  9. Hiring an organizer is a luxury, we know. But if you need someone to keep you focused, give you different ideas, help you haul stuff out, and teach you systems and strategies, that may free up valuable time for other things in your life. Don’t feel guilty that you need help.
  10. If I’m taking donations out the back door, don’t keep bringing new stuff in the front door. Learning to live with less stuff can be very calming. The less you have, the less you have to categorize, purge and re-arrange. One simple tip is always shop with a list of what you need.

What’s your experience in working with an organizer?

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.

 

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? 

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. 

Organizing Your Middle School Student

arc notebookThose of you who have read my books might have guessed that the tips in there for busy moms, come from my own experience. When I wrote my first book, my children where 4,7, and 10 years old. I was in the early years of being a stay-at-home mom, adjusting to all the nuances of keeping up with the house, having time for myself and spending quality time with my children. When I  wrote my second book, it was two years later. My children were at the stage where they could do more for themselves and I wanted to teach them what I feel is a life skill – to be organized with your thoughts, your actions and your surroundings so that every day flows.

 

Now here I am with a middle-schooler, a high-schooler and a college student and the challenges are changing. So I thought I would share my experiences in a blog. The first one is about middle school.

In our school district, middle school starts in sixth grade. It is the first time students have a locker and are responsible to get themselves to the right class and remember which papers and books to bring to class and then home. They are getting into  paper management, at a time when they are anxious about being in a new place and probably going through some hormonal changes as well. It’s the perfect storm. And often their lockers, school bags and bedrooms reflect that.

Here are a few tips for setting your middle school child straight in the first few weeks of school:

  1. Go to back-to-school night! You can see whom you know in your child’s classes. Parents can then use each other for resource when instructions are unclear and homework is forgotten. You also get to meet your child’s teachers and get a feel for their personalities. Most will give you their email so use it whenever there is a question about a certain class.
  1. If your child has to use binders: use one for all the classes they have before lunch and another for the classes they have after lunch. They can usually go to their lockers then and switch. Make sure to use dividers to mark each subject. The teacher may also require sub sections.
  1. If your child can use folders and spiral notebooks: color code each subject so a blue folder and notebook for math, red ones for science, etc. Have them keep the notebook and the folder together for each class.
  1. Make one TAKE HOME folder. This should always be with your child. So when they get forms in homeroom, they go in one pocket marked “Forms.” And as they receive papers for homework each day, then go in the other side marked, “Homework.” I tell my kids to empty the folder every morning in homeroom – get papers back to the teacher or put them in the right binder. Then the folder gets filled each day and comes home. This prevents them from dragging two big binders home every night along with their textbooks.
  1. Have a routine at home for the morning, after school and before bedtime. Post a chore chart or just a little reminder card in a place they look every day until the routine becomes second nature.

Middle school is a growing season. Let your child have more freedom and see how they do with it. They will start to develop their own systems and routines and that’s fine – as long as they work. If something is not working (like they keep forgetting homework) talk it out and come up with a solution.

What are some challenges you find with your middle school student?

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.

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!

Organize365 All Organized Ebundle 23 ebooks to organize your home and home based business for $20

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

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

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

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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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10 Steps to the Perfect Summer Party

I am currently winding down from a great Memorial Day weekend. The weather was great (although not as warm as I would have liked) and we had the perfect combination of things to do this weekend, including a play, some sports, our annual party and downtime.  If life could just be this perfect all year!

About 10 years ago my family decided that we would host a Memorial Day picnic and celebrate my two older kids’ birthdays at the same time. Their birthdays are mid May and mid June and to get this big gang together twice in the same month is a little difficult. Memorial day happens to land in the middle and we thought, “What a great way to kick off the summer season.” Because none of my family members have beach houses, this works perfectly. And the more we do this party, the easier it gets! I remember being frantic the first few times fretting about what food to serve, what kind of cake, where to put everything, and what if it rains? As an organizer, I strive for simplicity in all I do so a little experience and simplifying came in handy as we effortlessly had a party for over 30 people and still had time to enjoy our weekend. Now I can not take credit for all of this. It takes team work, and my husband and kids all chipped it to make this party go off without a hitch. Hopefully you can learn some tips to help you throw a great summer party this season:

1. Decide the date and start time and let everyone know via E-vite, text, or email. Ask for an RSVP 5-7 days prior to the party. This way you know how much food or drink to buy.

2. Decide on the menu, and opt for something that can be set out on a table, and then forgotten. Order food or purchase it a few days before the event. If it’s hot food, use a warming tray. Cold food – put a tray of ice underneath. If you have air conditioning, set up food and drinks inside so guests can help themselves. Don’t offer too many choices. Two entrees, two salads and a couple kinds of snacks are generally fine for any size crowd. Incorporate fruits & vegetables in a fun way so those who are vegetarians have options.

3. The day before or the morning of the party, do all food prep that can be done. Straighten the house – but only clean sinks and toilets. The floors will get dirty so clean those AFTER. If you have children or children are coming, put away anything valuable that you don’t want touched or knocked over.

4. One hour before the party, set up table cloths and serving bowls & trays. If someone is helping you with food, you can put a post it on each tray or bowl so they know where everything goes. Have one table for snacks/desserts another for main course and then tables with chairs for where people can sit and eat. Set up a drink area and label one cooler for beer/wine and one for soda if you are serving both.

5. Use disposable utensils and plates. Put a permanent marker with the cups so people can write their names on them and use one cup the whole day. Set up a regular trash can and a recycle can outside and label accordingly.

6. If you love theme parties, try www.myperfectparty.com. It’s a great way to coordinate the menu, decorations, drinks and games all around a theme. Once you purchase your “party in a box” you can use it again and again. This year, instead of our usually patriotic flare, we went with a Hawaiian Luau which was left over from my daughter’s Sweet 16 party.

7. During the party do a sweep through the house and throw out any trash you see. If serving dishes are empty, refill them or put them in the sink. Don’t clean until guests have left! As you do your sweep, chat with guests in each room. Ask if anybody needs anything.

8. At the end of the night., ask kids to clean up the toys scattered all over your yard or playroom. Blow out any lit candles. Once the bulk of guests have left, put food away in plastic containers, get dishes to the kitchen and basically consolidate the mess.

9. Load the dishwasher and run it. If you’re not going to hand wash dishes, at least rinse them and put them in the sink. Wipe down plastic table clothes and let them dry over night.

10. The next morning survey the outside of your house, put everything in it’s place. Wash dishes & linens and sweep and mop the floors.

If there’s an extra serving of food or piece of cake – take that as your reward and take the rest of the day off!

What are some of your tips for a great summer party? Leave a comment.

 

Boomerang Kids: What to Do When Your College Grad Moves Back Home

Guest Post by Paul Benjamin

Paul Benjamin works for EZ Storage, a self storage company serving the Philadelphia area for over 40 years.

If you are one of the many who’s children have “re-nested” after going away to college, take heart. You are not alone:

  • The Pew Research Center reports that more young people between the ages of 25-34 live at home with their parents at the highest rate (20 percent) since the early 1950’s.
  • A recent study released by Northeastern University estimates that 53 percent of young adults under age 25 with a bachelor’s degree were underemployed or unemployed.
  • In late 2012, the Economic Policy Institute pegged the unemployment rate for high school graduates somewhere around 53 percent.

While these harsh realities say one thing to the young generation, they mean an altogether different reality for their parents. Many parents understand changing economic and cultural dynamics that make it necessary for grown children to move back home. They love their child and want to provide the support necessary to help him or her regroup and regain their independence.

Nonetheless, it’s critical to strike a balance between the desire to help an offspring and your peace, happiness and style of living to which you’ve become accustomed.

Here are some considerations that will aid you in making the transition:
1. Move-in and Exit Strategy

All parties involved need to have a clear understanding of the expectations prior to the scheduled move-in date. Many experts recommend that you establish a lease agreement that defines the “rental period” (i.e. month-to-month) and house rules. You should also charge rent.

It is also important that you set expectations or house rules that go beyond the lease agreement, such as:  assisting with chores, paying for groceries or entertaining friends.

Outline the exit strategy at the start. Define whether that means finding a job, returning to school or other situations.  Schedule a meeting to determine if they will be able to move-out at the end of the period or need additional time.

2. Handling Storage Issues

A child moving home from college or from their own apartment accumulates quite a few things over the years. Take steps to minimize the impact of having the person move their belongings back into your home, cluttering your space and well-organized home.

Before the move is made, encourage your children to go through their items and donate, sell or otherwise dispose of anything they no longer want or require.  If you need to create more storage space around the house find a place where they can store their things and not mingle them with your own. This could be a garage, attic, shed or extra bedroom.

Make good use of storage boxes. You can find stack-able boxes in all sizes, shapes and materials. Plastic containers provide protection against water mold and rodents.  Arrange the items —furniture, books, dishes, appliances— according to how or where you intend to store them and always clearly label the boxes.

You should also group and prioritize things according to frequency of access to reduced disorganizing the space when looking for things. For example, put the most used items on top or in the front of other boxes. Sturdy shelves to hold storage boxes also make it easier to remove one box at a time.

3. Renting Storage Space

In some cases, creating storage space in your home is not a workable option to accommodate the personal belongings of an adult child.  In this case, discuss renting a storage unit to store their furniture and belongings until they need them again.

Make a list of the items you want to store, which will help you get the correct size and plan the organization and associated costs.

The good thing about renting storage units is the flexibility. You can use this solution for one month, six months or an entire a year based on your situation. If you choose this option, consider the rental fee and what it includes,and also the firm’s policy for access.

Remember, when an adult child moves back home your primary objective lies in minimizing the impact on your finances, your lifestyle and the organization of your home. Ultimately, you want to facilitate the child regaining their independence while maintaining a harmonious home environment and relationship.

If you’ve got “boomerang kids” let us know the good, the bad, the ugly! Leave a comment:

 

Avoid the Tax Rush

  If you find yourself stressed out this time every  year, trying to find papers and receipts to give to your accountant, you’ve got to be thinking, “There must be a better, simpler way!” And there is. Think about it. Like Christmas, tax time comes the same each year so there’s no reason not to be ready for it. I know that circumstances change with homes, businesses, investments, etc. But if you have the usual numbers ready to go, getting the totals on your tax forms should not be that difficult. It’s a matter of keeping good files all year long.

 

6 Tips to Organizing Your Files for Taxes:

  • Write down the categories of papers that your accountant asks for. Not everything you gave him last year, because often people give the accountant way more than they ask for only to pay a higher price for the accountant to sort and make sense of it. So give him what he wants and no more.
  • Make files for those categories. I’m a big believer in specific folders for: Business Expenses, Medical Expenses, Investment income, Income receipts, charitable contributions, etc. Think in terms of your line items.  If you have one filed just called “Tax Stuff” you’re going to have to sort it next year anyway. Put the files close to your desk and drop in statements and receipts all year long. At the end of the year you can tally and staple these receipts together, voila – no more sorting for the accountant.
  • If you have your own business or you travel for business, keep a mileage log in your car. For every appointment write down the starting and ending mileage, total mileage and purpose of the trip. At the end of the calendar year, tally up the mileages and take your deduction allowed by the IRS. You can also use an app on your phone to do this.
  • If you have business expenses for your work, use one credit card for only business purposes. If you have a card that offers a year end statement – that’s perfect – they will categorize your expenses for you! For miscellaneous cash expenses for business, just remember to get a receipt and drop it in your Business Expense file.
  • If your family needs to keep track and itemize out of pocket medical expenses, have a folder for those receipts as well. Or you could make all medical payments on one credit card, and use those statements for the year so you don’t have to keep receipts. You can keep another Medical file for each member of the house which contains medical reports, labs, diagnosis, etc. That you keep forever. The expenses file you can clean out each year.
  • No need to keep weekly paystubs once you get a correct W2 form. And no need to keep ATM receipts if you are balancing your bank account every month. The monthly statements will support the transactions.
  • Once you have your tax “back-up” ready, pull it out of the filing cabinet and put it in a manila envelope marked with the year. In some cases you may need a banker’s box. Give the accountant what he needs and then file the completed return with all the back-up info. As you put in this year’s, shred the tax file that is 6 years old. *

*always check with your accountant about what you can toss – everyone’s circumstances are different but 6 years is a general guideline.

What tips do you have to keep tax info easy to find? Leave a comment:

 

5 Steps to Organizing Your Home-Based Business

So many parents I know are trying to do the same thing I am: have their own business so they can be at home when they need to be, have a flexible schedule and still make money. It’s a noble cause but one that takes extreme discipline and dare I say…organization.  Here are my five basic steps for organizing your home-based business.

1. Set Your Hours – Figure out when you like to work and when it’s convenient for your family. This might depend on the age of your children and what your spouse does for a living. Don’t make the mistake of letting your customers dictate your schedule. Many new entrepreneurs say, “I’ll do any job whenever someone will hire me.” That can cause a lot of chaos and stress. If you clearly state your hours on your websites you will find clients that are open those hours. Also, make your family aware of when you work so they don’t expect you to be at their beck and call either.

2. Keep finances separate and simple – When you start a business, you should open your own bank account for that business and a credit card account for the same. This will help keep your income and expenses separate from your personal ones.  Enter these numbers in Quick Books or an Excel Spreadsheet once a month. Also have a guideline for percentages of what you need to pay taxes, what you can take as an income, what you want to put back into the business. Here’s an example:

  • 25% for taxes
  • 30% back into the business
  • 30% to your savings
  • 15% for your personal draw or pay.

Play around with those percentages and tailor them to your needs and financial situation. Then each month when you do your books take out the savings and pay and put into the appropriate accounts so you don’t overspend for the business.

3. Provide excellent customer service – Your customers are the bread and butter of your business so keep them in mind always! Return calls or emails within 24 hours even if it’s to say, I got your message and I’m working on an answer. Send out a newsletter once a month and offer a special discount 4 times a year. Reward customers who give you referrals.

4. Create an office that’s productive – You’ll need

  • shelves for inventory or books
  • A desk with drawers for supplies and files
  • Open desk space for doing your actual work.
  • An “In-bin” or “TO DO bin” right on your desk so it’s always obvious what’s next on your list.
  • A bulletin board above the desk for urgent reminders or posting long term goals for motivation!

5. Track how you are getting your clients – A simple spreadsheet will do for keeping track of all your customers. Make a column for how they found you. This will help you evaluate all your advertising and marketing. If one has not brought results, drop it. If another brings you great results, keep going with it or increase it. Evaluate these at least every six month.

Finally, when you get in a rut in your office, take the time to clean it out & straighten it up. Don’t just close the door and move your stuff to another room. Take your laptop with you if you need a change of scenery. This may do wonders for your concentration. I often move my laptop when I am working on a creative project like writing or designing a new talk. But at the end of the day, it all goes back in the office and everything is in its place.

Do you have a question about organizing your home based business? Ask me here.

The Basement: The Last Frontier!

At one time, basements were the last frontier with regard to sprucing up a home. They were often damp, gray and only used to do laundry and store things that couldn’t possibly fit in your living space.

Nowadays, basements are often the focal point of a family’s living space. Newer homes are built with the intention that at least some portion of the basement will be used for a living, play or work area, but it’s often up to the homeowner to make it that way. If you find yourself in the position of wanting to refinish your basement, you must first organize what’s down there before bringing in a contractor to do the job.

 Step 1 – Sort It

The first step in any organizing project is sorting. That means looking at everything in your basement and putting it into a category. Depending on the amount of clutter in your basement, this could be an all day event, so engage the help of all family members.

Make sure you have big trash bags, empty boxes or plastic storage bins on hand to help you move things out of the basement. If you need to create some space to work, start with the biggest items first. For instance, you may have to make a decision about old furniture, exercise equipment, big tables, etc. Are you going to use them, donate them or sell them at a yard sale?

My rule of thumb for any cleaning-out project is to only keep what you use. If you’re not using it, someone else can. Take these big items and move them either outside or into the garage. Then continue to sort through all your other items, creating categories and purging as you go.

Don’t take too long on one item. If it’s obviously trash, then throw it out. If you have to think about it, put it into a category and move on. If there is paperwork in the basement, don’t get bogged down with reading every piece of paper. Put papers in their own category and go through them in detail at another time. The goal with the first step is to significantly organize, clear out trash and create space.

After moving out large items, clear out anything you have at the center of the basement floor. Next, sort through everything you have stored against the walls. To keep focused, pick a starting point and move clockwise around the room.

Typical categories of items found in basements include toys, laundry products, dry food, holiday decorations, tools, paint, big game tables, arts and craft supplies, memorabilia and old furniture. Everyone’s categories will differ, but make sure you label the box or area you are sorting into, so you don’t mix them up and have to redo the sorting. This is also helpful if several people are working together. What looks like a pile of toys to one person might actually be a donation pile.

When sorting, there are certain “no-brainers” you can throw out, such as expired food, games and toys that are broken or have missing pieces, broken furniture and anything that is moldy. Most people throw away more than half of the stuff they’ve been saving. It’s like the basement was a holding zone and these items were given one more chance to make it, but didn’t.

Step 2 – Purge

After you’ve sorted everything, it’s time to purge. That means remove everything from the basement that won’t belong in a newly-refinished basement.

One couple who refinished their basement said they could easily determine that everything they had stored down there was trash, so they simply rented a dumpster and that was the end of their organizing. A dumpster will cost between $300-400 a week to rent.

Another alternative to getting rid of a lot of junk quickly is to try PhillyJunk.com.. This company will pick up unwanted items and sort through them to donate what is usable and trash the rest for a fee. To calculate how much this will cost, first put all items in one spot and measure the cubic feet. Then go to the company’s website and calculate your charge. A full truck is about 400 cubic feet and will cost about $600.

Where to Dispose of unwanted items:

For most of us, it’s not that simple. Trash and donations can also be broken down into categories. Here are some suggestions for disposing unwanted items:

Clothing and linens: Find a drop-off point in your area for Goodwill, St. Vincent DePaul Society, Leukemia Society or any charity. These usually look like dumpsters permanently placed in busy parking lots.

Arts and crafts materials: Donate to a retirement home, senior center, church, children’s hospital or school.

Big household items or furniture: Find a thrift store or consignment shop that offers pick-up.

Old paint cans: Let latex paint dry up and harden first before you put it in the trash. Speed up the drying process with Waste Paint Hardener™.

Broken or outdated electronics: Contact your municipality’s solid waste authority for places to drop off these items. Some even hold drop-off events a couple of times a year.

Step 3 – Rearrange

After you have purged all unwanted items, take a step back and look at what remains. It’s time to rearrange. Is there any category of items elsewhere in the house? For instance, tools and paint may move to the garage, holiday decorations to the attic and toys to bedrooms. Move those items and remember to keep like things together. Only keep things in the basement that will serve the new function of the room.

Step 4 – Store It

You’ll need to temporarily store items while refinishing takes place. I recommend plastic storage bins with lids that seal because they keep everything dry and dust-free and are easy to label. If you have a storage area built into your basement, you may be able to keep bins there and let the construction crew work around them.

If this is not possible, you may have to store these bins in a spare bedroom, attic or garage. Be careful not to put anything in the attic that will be damaged by extreme temperatures.

If your house is completely full, your last option is to rent a portable on demand storage (PODS®) container which will cost approximately $350 per month. This is a walk-in container, and although it’s not the most attractive thing to have in your yard, it will prevent basement items from cluttering up your whole house.

Once you have cleared and categorized your basement, you’re ready to start planning your new room!

Let Form follow Function

The most important question to ask yourself when you start to organize a room is, “What is the function of this room?”

If you don’t like the answer, then ask, “What would I like to use this room for?” Make sure that you’re not using it for more than 3 functions. Once you do, it begins to get cluttered. Just remember the power of 3! Same goes for a closet. Don’t store more than 3 categories in one closet.

Here’s a real life example from a couple who hired me to help get their home organized. One bedroom had been their daughter’s. She had moved away but left clothing and memorabilia in that room. The father was using the room for storage of books & paperwork but not really using it as an office.  The brother who was still at home was using it for electronic games and occasionally the family used it as a guest room. The mother also stored some memorabilia there.  Too much going on! So when we talked about what they wanted the function to be, it was decided that the room would stay a game room and guest room and because the family owned a lot of books, some books would stay there. With that decision made, it was easy to decide what should go out of the room and what should stay. Here’s what we decided:

Stay:

  • sofa bed
  • game console & games
  • book shelf
  • dresser

Go:

  • desk
  • nightstand
  • father’s paperwork
  • mother’s memorabilia
  • the daughter’s stuff

Also, to save the mom some trouble we decided to consolidate her daughter’s things on one side of the closet and let her decide on her next visit home what to toss. Sometimes grown children who have moved out just need a deadline. If they don’t take it, then parents have every right to toss it or donate their clothes.

Now, sometimes a whole house project requires that you move things to a different room, sometimes crowding that room. That’s okay, as long as you have a plan to continue room by room until the house is completely organized. Usually this happens until you get to the basement where odds & ends are stored. And then the basement becomes the “Final Frontier.” But in the process you will find a home for everything and set up functional areas so you don’t feel like everything is everywhere!

What room do you find the hardest to organize?

 

Are we having fun yet?

If the chaos of December is putting a “ba-humbug” in your holiday, it’s always best to start with a plan. There are little things you can do before, during and after the holidays to ensure you have it all under control.

 Before

    1. Start with a good list of who you need to buy gifts for and a budget for each person. Once you have gift ideas, make a list of stores where you need to shop so you can hit them each once.
    2. If you like to shop on-line, do it early and save the receipts in a folder marked, “Waiting On.” That way you can keep track of what should be delivered. It’s easy to forget in holiday rush!
    3. To budget your time, make a list of the eight most important things to get done for Christmas. Do two a week.

During

  1. If you’re sending greeting cards it’s easiest to have a file with mailing labels on your computer.  Then, as you receive your holiday cards you can make note of any changes in people or addresses right on your file so you’re ready for next year.
  2. If you’re hosting the holiday dinner, make the entrée and one side dish. Ask those who are coming to also make a side dish or dessert or bring the wine. Everyone sharing the load makes it a lot easier on the host and most people are happy to oblige!
  3. If you’re going to grandparents’ house, bring something for the little ones to do: a craft, a movie or one new toy.

 

After

  1. After the holiday shopping is a great time to clear out your pile of catalogs and magazines. Scan the magazines for any great ideas and place those in a folder or binder.  Recycle the rest and get ready for a whole new year of new ideas and things to buy.
  2. As you are packing away the holiday decorations, take a look at what’s left in boxes. Toss or donate the decorations you did not put up this year. Places to donate: schools, libraries, senior centers or local theatre groups.
  3. Make a “use it or lose it” date for your left-overs. Sure those turkey sandwiches taste great but a week or two later all should be gone. Give your refrigerator a fresh start too. I recommend square & clear containers for the refrigerator.

What do you do to keep the holiday peaceful?

Buy Local this Christmas


Each year as the holidays approach, giant foreign factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods — merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This stuff will pile up in their homes with no place to be tucked away. Then in January, millions will make a resolution to get more organized this year. And so the cycle continues.

This year can be different. This year you can give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift-giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands.  Yes there is!
It’s time to think outside the box. Who says a gift needs to fit in
a shirt box, wrapped in foreign-made wrapping paper?

Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut.  How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?

Gym  membership?  It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.

Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed?  Small, American-owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

There are many family-run restaurants in your area– all offering gift certificates.  If your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half-dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint.

Remember, this isn’t about big National chains — this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom?  Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady or a professional organizer for a day. I happen to know one who is offering gift certificates in December!

If you were looking for something more personal, local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves.  They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes. Find a craft show near you.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner-operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip.  And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theater?


Honestly, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand lights for the house?  When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community.  Why not leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip instead?

The Christmas shopping season doesn’t have to be about buying more for less, it can be about encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams.  When we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine.  Besides, who needs more stuff? No one I know.

What are you planning to purchase locally this holiday season? Leave a comment below:

Scheduling Your Projects

Life is so busy these days with both parents working and kids involved in so many activities, how does anyone keep their house organized? you may wonder.  I believe that involving the family in the projects and the process is the answer and in the long run, being organized will save you,not cost you time. Here are 5 tips on how to get through all your organizing and home improvement projects:

1. Check the Project Plan weekly– If you have a “House Projects Plan” book or binder I suggest you keep it in a central location where you and your husband can easily access it.  As you plan out your week together you can refer to this book if your schedule allows for a home improvement project. Don’t wait for that one magic day when you all have noting to do.

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Absolute: If you don’t plan it, it’s not going to happen!

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2. Don’t leave all the home improvement work for the weekend either.  Sometimes a project may only take 2 hours and you could get it done together on a weeknight.  Or sometimes a big Saturday project may take some prep work that could be done on Thursday or Friday evening.  For instance, if you are going to paint the living room on Saturday, maybe the two of you could move furniture, bring in the drop cloth, and put up the painter’s tape on Friday night after the kids are asleep.  Then whoever is painting can jump right in on Saturday morning

3. Consider your kids – When scheduling projects think about what the kids will be doing at that time.  If one parent can tackle a job, then the other parent can help by taking the children out of the house.  If you both want to do a project, then maybe you can have the kids go to a friend’s or grandma’s house. If possible, plan projects for a weekday if all your kids are in school and you and your husband can take a day off.  When your children are old enough you can involve them in the family house projects. You want everyone in the family vested in the outcome.  Motivate your family with incentives like, “If you all help clean out the garage on Saturday, we can go out for dinner and a movie that night.”

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Where there’s a will there’s a way and where there’s not, there are excuses.

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4. Leave yourself enough time – Having done this job for 10 years, I can estimate that in an average home you can organize a room thoroughly in one day. If you agree that an average size house has 10-12 rooms, that means you can organize your house in 2 weeks.  If you need to fix, paint and organize a room, estimate that it will require a week to organize. Then you’ll be finished in 3 months.  If your rooms each require a lot of work, let’s say one month per room, then you still can estimate that in one year you will have your home exactly as you want it. Not bad when you consider how many years it took to get it the way you didn’t want it!


Getting Beyond Overwhelmed

 

 

 

Where do I start? is one of the most frequent questions people ask when they start thinking about getting their home totally organized.

 

Create a “Home Projects Plan”

My answer is usually, “start with a plan.”  Sounds simple enough, but here are the specifics on how to create a Home Projects Plan for your situation. whether your plan will take a week or years to execute this plan will be there to guide you so you always know what the next step is.  The most important thing is to write it down. Don’ assume you’ve got it all up in your head and you’re ready to jump in. Use a simple copy book or a binder to keep everything in one place.

The Walk Through

First, go with you’re spouse (and maybe even the children) through every room in the house.  Discuss how your family will use each room.  In other words, identify the function of each room and try to limit the functions to three.  Any more than three functions, and the room often becomes chaotic and crowded. Write down everything you want to change in that room. I would include in this plan, not only organizational projects but also home improvements.  If you are browsing in catalogs or home improvement magazines, you can cut out pictures of what you like and put these along side your “to do” items.

Estimate your costs

After you’ve written it all down, estimate the costs.  This may be as easy as pricing something in a catalog or sales paper.  But for contracted services like plumbing and electricity, you’ll want to get a minimum of three quotes.  My husband and I tend to go with the middle range of costs unless one of the contractors is significantly better than the others in terms of quality or customer service.  Many times you just have to choose whomever you feel more comfortable with.   Consider purchasing items like lighting and plumbing fixtures yourself and just hire someone to install them.  This can often save you money. Once you have all your quotes, you can ballpark the cost of doing each room.

Know your budget

Budgeting is another step that I think many couples skip.  If you’re lucky enough that cost doesn’t matter, then you can just keep going until your whole house is done! But most families have to work within a budget.  You definitely don’t want to be in the middle of a big project and suddenly find that you’re out of money. When we moved into our new house, we knew there were some immediate fixes to be done.  We looked at our annual income and expenses and figured out how much we could put aside for home improvements.  When the money was gone, we had to stop. So we were realistic about how much we could do in that first year.

Another option might be to take out a loan.  Whatever your situation, it’s important that you and your spouse are in agreement with how much money can be spent in getting your home organized and updated. Decide on the total amount you can spend and then prioritize your projects.

 

Prioritize

The other purpose of the Home Projects Plan is to help you prioritize. There are different ways to prioritize and no way is right or wrong.  Some common ways to choose which room should be first are by using superlatives like:

* the worst room in the house,

* the most used room,

* the most visible room,

* the easiest room,

* the least or most expensive room to do.

Much depends on your personality.  Doing the worst room first has its benefits because all else will seem easy.  Doing the easiest room first might build your confidence to continue on.  Doing the most-used or most-visible room first may help you feel that “at least we’ll look organized when people come to visit.”  Whatever your motivation, choose the first room and stick to it until you’ve done everything you planned and can afford right now.  Roughly plan out the order in which you would like your rooms to be finished.  Of course this may change along the way, but better to have a plan of where you are going next and change it, than to have no plan at all!

Absolute of organizing:  Finish one thing before you start another.

 

5 Tips to Maintaining Your Home Office

Once you’ve set up the office of your dreams. How do you maintain it? Here are 5 suggestions for maintain order in any home office:

1. Consider the method

I believe the maintenance step of organizing can fall into two methods:

  • Routines – You create them based on your natural tendencies & out of necessity and then you just do it. For instance, checking your email, filing papers, sorting through mail, making phone calls and shipping out items all need to be done, so when will you do them? Daily, weekly, or will you delegate some duties?
  • The full barrel method – This is when you use a container to pile things like orders, filing, bills, etc. and you do them once the bin is full.

Nothing wrong with either method but I strongly suggest you don’t leave everything to the full barrel method. That is the point of overwhelming piles and that is when we professional organizers usually get the call for help.

 

2. Don’t let the kids touch

If your home office is going to be used by your children because there is only one computer in the house, make sure your work and important papers are filed away and maybe even locked away when you are finished working.  This is a great motivator for keeping your desk top clear!  When the children use the computer or materials there, make sure they only have access to what they are allowed to use.

3. Set a schedule for working your home-based business

If you’re lucky enough to have your own office with a door, then it’s easier to be disciplined about your starting and ending time.  When you finish for the day, have everything you need to do tomorrow in your “To Do” bin and written in your daily planner, then close the door.  If you don’t set up boundaries and routines when working at home, it is too easy to let your work time spill into family time.  If you work while the children are home, communicate with them about when you are working and what’s expected of them. You may want them to play by themselves, watch a movie or you may have a babysitter there that can attend to their needs instead of you.  Make sure when you finish working and switch back to your mommy job, you give them your full attention.

4. Set time in your daily or weekly schedule for managing the necessities:

  • When it comes to the day-to-day management of a family, it’s best to do it every day so it doesn’t pile up on you.
  • Paying bills is a top priority so it’s worth the effort to schedule it and write it in your planner or set up an automatic bill payer. You can write it down as soon as you receive a bill, such as “Send Visa bill” on the 10th if it’s due on the 17th.  You can set a specific day of the week when you pay them.  Do this weekly, bi-monthly or monthly if you coordinate the due dates with your utilities and credit cards.
  • Phone calls can take up a lot of a mother’s time in any given week.  Instead of just calling someone when you think of it, make a list on a daily or weekly basis of who you need to call.  Then you can be efficient about your time, call when the house is quiet like when the kids go off to school or when the baby is taking a nap.  You’d be amazed how many calls you can make in a half hour when you have focused time.   Even if you’re just leaving messages, you can get your calls out there and only answer the ones your are expecting back throughout the day.  If you’re in the middle of doing something else, use the caller id or answering machine to screen your calls.  Only answer if you have the time to talk.
  • Filing is something you can do in about 5 minutes per day.  If you don’t receive a lot of papers to file you may be able to wait and do it once a week.  This is one instance where the “full barrel” method can apply.
  • Reading may be another function that can take place in your office area.  These would be periodicals for your business, information from school or kids’ activities.  Again, make room in your schedule to read your incoming papers every day and it’ll only take 5-10 minutes.  If you let it pile up, not only does it take longer but you’re less likely to want to tackle that pile.
  • When you have special projects you’re working on, these should be considered when you are using your daily planner.  Try to work on one project per day if possible.  Create an action file for each project and pull that file out when you’re working on it, then put it away when you’re finished for the day.

5. Clear out your office each year

  • Pull out your tax related info, total up expenses and income for both personal and business tax forms.
  • Empty your “Charitable Contributions” folder with all those receipts and total them up too.
  • If you’re someone who likes to have an idea of where the money went this year, take credit card statements and your checkbook log and categorize your expenses in a simple spreadsheet.
  • If you use Quick Books® or similar software pull an end-of-the-year report for your budget totals.
  • For any reference files you have, take a look through each one and toss what is outdated or unnecessary.
  • Clear out your children’s school files at the end of the school year.
  • If you have a business that requires you to keep inventory, tally up the cost of that inventory for your taxes.  In some cases you may want to have an end-of-the-year sale to clear the shelf.

The secret to maintaining an organized office is to keep all your office materials in while keeping toys, food, and extraneous stuff out!  Do this on a daily or weekly basis so it doesn’t pile up and you’ve got a functional home business – even if that business is simply managing your home and family.

If you like my tips, please share on Facebook or Twitter!

FORGET THE CROWDS ON BLACK FRIDAY!

Maybe I’m getting old, but I have no desire to face the chaos of Black Friday. There is nothing I or my family wants that badly. So I shop for most of my Christmas gifts from the comfort of my own home, right here on my computer. Shopping on-line is more efficient – you can do it anytime you want. And it saves you time and stress. I’m all for that! So the way I organize my Christmas shopping is to browse catalogs, circle what I want and then log on to the computer and start. Before I check out, I always check retailmenot.com for coupons or free shipping codes. Sometimes they are posted right on the hard copy of the catalog.

I thought I would share with you my “favorite things” which include organizing products and unique gifts that you can give this year or just buy for yourself. These are all from a amazingly priced catalog called Lakeside Collection.  It has served my family well for the last several Christmases.

 

Over the door jewelry valet – for your daughter or decorative friend      $14.95

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revolving Jewelry Stand – another option for jewelry, smaller but nicer display $8.95

 

 

 

 

 

Heirloom Recipe Binder – for the saver of recipes on your list     $7.95

 

 

 

 

 

21 Photo Collage Frame – for the saver of pictures who has no frames   $16.95

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three pairs of touch screen gloves – know any texters?:)                          $6.95

 

 

 

 


 

 

Easy Change Artwork Frames – fill with art from your kids for a great grandparents gift   $8.95

 

 

 

 

 

Color coded Dry Erase Calendar Set – This one’s for you to start the New Year off right! $8.95

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set of 4 magnetic bins for your kitchen, bathroom or file cabinet   $6.95

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decorative Bench & Mirror for your entryway – A simple way to decorate and organize $12.95-$39.95

 

 

 

 

 

Toy storage net – get those stuffed animals off the bed an up in a hammock       $6.95

 

 

 

 

These are my favorites, check out the site and find yours!  www.lakeside.com

 

Organize Your Odds & Ends

Sometimes those odds and ends can accumulate all   over the house, and we just don’t know where to put them!  In order to truly have a “place for everything” you must identify those items in your house that don’t have a permanent home. To do this, take a walk through your house and play the game of “one of these things is not like the others…” This will help you identify what’s in a room that doesn’t really belong there, like a sewing needle and thread in the kitchen, or a vacuum in the bedroom, or gifts that need to be wrapped on the office floor.  Gather those items together and think about the most logical place to keep them. Here are some examples of mini-categories you might encounter and some options for where to keep them.

Wrapping Paper/ ribbons

Most moms have wrapping paper and ribbons on hand at all times because you never know when someone will need to go to a birthday party. There are several products on the market now that are made especially for these items. There are hard plastic stand up bins or soft vinyl tote organizers that will help you contain all the wrapping items in one place. Some stores who sell these are: Rubbermaid, Lillian Vernon and Improvements Catalog.

You could also create an organizer for yourself out of a box from the liquor store. These boxes usually have dividers for bottles that work just as well for large rolls of wrapping paper. You can remove some of the dividers to make space for ribbons, scissors and tape. Either way, you need to assemble and contain your wrapping materials and find a home for them. Think about where you usually do the wrapping. Is it in the den, your bedroom or in the living room? Find a closet in or near that room that has enough space for whatever container you choose. Make the decision to keep wrapping paper there and let the whole family know where it belongs.

Extra gifts

If you have the luxury of a completely empty closet or empty shelf in your home, you can shop in advance to have gifts on hand, ready to be wrapped. One client I had devoted an entire custom closet in her office for just this purpose. Another client I had used one shelf in her linen closet for extra gifts. With this category, you really need to adapt to your living space. No extra room in the house — no extra presents. You will have to shop for gifts as needed. However, it is a good idea to look at your monthly calendar and consolidate your gift shopping for that month. If you only have a handful of presents to buy, you could probably find somewhere to stash them before the event. With little children in the house, it’s best to keep these out of sight so curious hands don’t open the gift prematurely! Like any of the big categories, have all the gifts in one place so you remember what you have! Decide where this will be: your linen closet, an empty closet, your bedroom closet or in the attic (if it’s climate controlled) and don’t tell the family! Let this one be your little secret place.

Items that need to leave the house

This category could include mail, donations, things that are going to a friend, or items you want to return to a store.  After seeing many clients of various income levels, I have come to this conclusion: the more you shop, the more you return.  Piles of returns might start to grow in your garage, your car or your bedroom. If you are returning household things for size, make sure you measure next time. If you return things for color, maybe take a sample of what you are trying to match. If you are returning a lot of clothes, make note of the new size you or your children need. A little planning ahead can save you a lot of time on returns! If you do need to take something back, make sure you keep the receipt with it until that decision is made.

To keep the return piles out of your living space, try these options:

1. In your car – There’s nothing like going right to the finish. Put the items on your passenger seat so you see them every time you get into the car. Visual reminders are great.

2. On a table near your door –Let them stick out like a sore thumb so you’ll return them soon. You might even designate a “going out table” that is just for this purpose. If you tuck them away, you’re more likely to forget about them.  Also, write it in your planner to “do returns.” And then you can have the satisfaction of checking it off your list.

Gift certificates and gift cards

One of my pet peeves is people who never use their gift certificates! Why don’t they use them? Usually because they can’t find the certificate or they don’t make a plan to use it.  There’s a couple of ways you could remind yourself to use these.

1.  If you think of gift cards as money, put them in your wallet. When you go to that store and open your wallet to pay, you’ll see the gift card and use it.

2. Keep gift cards and certificates for on-line shopping in your top desk drawer.

3. Keep retail gift cards in an envelope in your car. If you forget to bring them in, you can at least run back to the car before you check out.

4. Keep certificates for places that need reservations in your planner.

What odds & ends are cluttering up your home? Leave a comment or question.

 

I’m learning!

Ok, so here’s what I’ve done with my smartphone today. I took pictures at a fun event this morning. The NAPO Philadelphia chapter volunteered to help with NPR’s fundraising campaign on the radio – 90.9 FM in the Philadelphia area. We got there at the crack of dawn – 6:30 am and stayed til 10. We had a great time answering phones, meeting our goals, (some of us can get very competitive) and chatting during slow times.  The staff at WHYY treated us very well with coffee and breakfast and even took us on a tour of the station. So I took pictures with my phone for the first time, AND posted them to Facebook! I also tweeted while we were there to get more people to call the donation line.  It was all happening so quick and I finally felt like I could keep up with the speed of social media.

Now, do I want to stay on this treadmill? I’m not so sure. But when I want to slow down, I can always silence my phone and tuck it away in the pouch of my handbag and get back to real life.

So check out my Facebook Page to see the photos!

Follow me as I take the leap!

Many people were excited about the roll out of the IPhone 5. I was too, but not for the same reasons. I was waiting for a free IPhone 4 because I have yet to take the leap to a smartphone. My husband and teenage daughter are still working the IPhone3 so they are contemplating an upgrade.  The commercials would have you believe it’s easy – free IPhone 4 and $30 a month for data plans.   Well, lucky for me I have a husband who very thoroughly investigates every nook & crannie of new technology before he purchases.  We use Consumer Reports like an Encyclopedia at our house.  So for the next few weeks I will be blogging aobut my transition from an old-fashioned phone, and a paper calendar to my smart phone. As a tactile person, I’m hesitant to say the least. But as an organizer I know there must be a better way to keep track of a business, three kids and an active social life.  So first things first. I am getting the phone this weekend.

Here are the different topics we needed to consider before making my purchase/leap to the world of constant information:

1. Our cell service – When my husband & daughter purchased their cell phones years ago, the only carrier was AT&T. We had Verizon, so we switched.  Now Verizon offers the IPhone so do we switch back? That would mean 4 new phones for our family and $10 more per month than going with AT&T.  We took into account that sometimes with AT&T there are places in my own home where I can not get cell service. But Verizon has their dropped calls too, so we decided to stick with AT&T.

2. Our calling plan – We have such an old plan, they don’t offer it anymore but have allowed us to grandfather it. We get 700 min, unlimited data for $30/month per user and unlimited data for the family at $20/family. We considered the Share Plan where you purchase an amount of data for a certain amount of devices. Then pay $40 per device.

3. Finally the phone – Do I go all out and get the new IPhone5 for $199? It does have a faster keyboard, new earphones, and the fastest operating system. Or do I take the 4S for $99, it’s has Siri (not that I really care about talking to a robot) and a double sided camera which might come in handy. Or do I ease into this whole thing with the free IPhone 4 (no S) I’m told it has 8 gig, the old 4G operating system. Mind you, my kids had to explain to me that the G does not stand for gig when I said, “I thought it was 4G not 8?” Could they make this more confusing? I mean why is the IPone4 not Iphone 5 and everyone would be getting excited about the 6! So as I’m discussing this, a commercial comes on and says, “The Next Thing is Already Here” it’s the Galaxy. Oh no.

 

If you have questions or suggestions about this whole process, I welcome them. Leave a comment!

Fall is a Great Time to Organize Your Garage!

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

  1. They’re not just for keeping cars – we use garages to store bikes, lawn equipment, sports equipment, extra raw materials (like pieces of wood…)wood for fireplaces, tools – all kinds of stuff.
  2. For a lot of people this is our entrance way into our house – so we might keep shoes, recycles, trash, And this might be our motivation for trying to keep it organized! Because we walk through it all the time. And it bugs us if it’s a mess.
  3. It’s usually one big room when we move in and that’s hard to organize because there’s no pre-determined place to put things.  We have to do it from scratch.

So if you’ve decided it’s time to tackle the garage, here’s my CPR process that I discuss in my book ABSOLUTELY ORGANIZED. And this can be used for any room in your house by the way:

  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 (pizza & beer works well for my friends)

(That’s one of my absolutes or rules: If you don’t plan it – it’s not going to happen)

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. 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 we use colorful plastic tubs on the floor.  For our lawn chemicals we 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 where you want them by the end of your organizing session.
  4. Now you can go shopping for what you need:  industrial shelves, wall cabinets, racks, etc. There’s a range of products for garages and you can spend thousands of dollars on a garage 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 seem people put up old kitchen cabinets in their garage for storage.
  5. To keep it that way, you have to straighten it on a weekly basis – teach your kids where things go.  And then clean 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 accessible and then once in the fall to put the pool stuff away and get the winter supplies out (shovels, rock salt, sleds). Because we do this twice a year we can do it now in LESS THAN 2 HOURS.   The kids complain…we put on music…let them play a little; give them little jobs and then we take them to McDonald’s afterwards. Everybody’s happy and it’s a great way to spend a little family time on a nice day.

 

Spring is in the Air

Well it’s almost the start of spring here in the Northeast US.  In my area we never really got a good snow storm. Lots of cold rain and grey days. Like the kids, I was hoping for at least one day off where we could shun our responsibilities and just go to the big hill and sled! Then we’d come home to hot chocolate & a fire. It was not to be. So I say, bring on the spring! And with that comes Spring Cleaning and airing out the house.  Wondering where to start? Here are a few ideas for projects that fall under the topic of “Seasonal Clean Outs.”

1. Put the shovels & salt away –  Re-arrange your garage or shed on a nice warm Saturday. Make sure the winter stuff is tucked away and the spring gardening materials are close at hand. Before you know it, you’ll be planting flowers, fertilizing and cutting the lawn. You might also want to uncover lawn furniture and get out the planters for outside. Use Easter as a deadline for having some spring items around the house.

2. Check the coat closet – Make sure everyone in the family has windbreakers and rain gear. Clean the winter coats, hats & gloves and tuck them away if you need to. Get a nice bin for each family member to put their hats & gloves in. Label it and place on the shelf in the closet. Break out the baseball caps, and if they need  a cleaning – the top rack of the dishwasher works well! Let them air dry.

3. Dump your digital pictures – Whether you have videos or still pics, this is a great time to clear the deck. Put all your pictures from the winter & holidays in a file called “2012 Winter” then order prints if you like.  With digital video cameras you can often load right to a DVD through your computer. Again, mark the DVD “2012 Winter” so you can re-live the fun any time you want. Once all images have been transferred, delete them from your camera and have a blank slate for the new season.

4. Make your “honey do” list – Ok, that’s a little sexist, but maybe it’s a “Sweet Spring Projects” list instead. Take a walk around your house and see what needs to be done for up-keep this season. Post it where you will be reminded to act on it. I like to put mine on the kitchen bulletin board.

5. Post a family chore schedule–  If special cleaning projects need to happen, get the kids to help at least with their own bedroom. Work with one child per day to clear out their clothes, clean the windows and then dust & vacuum. You may even want to change the sheets to crisp cotton. For the common areas like the living room, kitchen or play room, divide and conquer. Maybe Dad or mom takes care of dusting off wall pictures, high shelves and curtain rods. Let the kids take the jobs down low like wiping baseboards, vacuuming under sofas and clearing out toy bins.

At the end of a busy Spring Cleaning day – make sure you celebrate as a family.

What projects do you like to tackle in the spring?