Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ring in a More Organized New Year

We hope you're all enjoying the holiday season. Things have been busy around here and we've taken a bit of a break from blogging until next year (which means next week!). But we wanted to leave you with some helpful year-end advice, once again from Kate Altieri, one of our expert organizers. Here's Kate's annual New Year's Day ritual that starts her off on the right foot for the New Year...and the upcoming tax season.

New Year's Day is a good time to get paperwork in order for taxes and the upcoming year.  My annual clean-out and organization takes place every New Year's afternoon - here's what I do: 

  • Pull out all of my receipts for the year, set aside the ones for taxes and keep those that were for large purchases or electronics. The rest get shredded.  
  • Start new files for all of my regular and monthly bills; take out the previous year and include the necessary ones in the tax file. 
  • Sort through my ideas file and the one marked "items of interest" to see which still apply and determine what to keep or give up.  
  • Discard/shred any files that no longer need to exist and replace and label-well worn folders to keep everything looking neat.
  • Investment statements go into a binder and stored in archival files in storage areas.  
By purging this way, my current files only take up one half of a drawer and there is plenty of room for the upcoming year's paperwork. Performing this annual ritual on New Year's Day makes me feel remarkably organized and prepared for the new year ahead. I actually look forward to this project and the fresh start!!

Bottom Line: A little year-end organization can go a long way toward a fresh start for the New Year. So grab yourself a cup of hot cocoa and give Kate's simple steps a try for yourself!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Organized Holiday Decorating

It's that time of year - holidays lights, lawn decorations, and festive trees have popped up all around us. But all those holiday decorations can be a bit of a nightmare to keep organized if you don't have good systems and storage in place. 

I'm not an expert decorator myself and in fact don't have a very large stash, so I turned to our Organizing Boston resident expert, Kate Altieri, for some organized holiday decorating tips. Kate loves to decorate for the holidays and has a self-proclaimed rather large festive supply. Here's what she suggests to keep holiday decorating fun and spirited rather than cluttered and chaotic: 

  • As you unpack, take note of what needs better or new containers; purchase these as you do your holiday shopping.
  • Donate or throw away unused or broken items. Gather unused holiday cards from previous years; make a complete set for donation.
  • Take inventory of gift wrap, tags, ribbon, etc. before you purchase more. Be sure to have paper and gift boxes the size to fit odd shaped or large items.
  • If you have space, save some boxes from catalog/on-line shopping for shipping gifts or storing your decorations.
  • Before shopping for decorations, make a list of areas indoors and outdoors that you want to include. Choose a theme to keep you on track.
  • Remember to have proper hooks, ties and mounting tape on hand for attaching decorations inside and outside. This will reduce damage to walls and woodwork after they are taken down. 
  • Consider how you will store certain items off-season (i.e. large and delicate items) so that they will last from year to year. 
  • Take pictures of the current decorations while they are up so that you can repeat or change things for next year; especially outdoor window boxes, containers, and lights. 
  • As you put things away, be sure they are clearly labeled to eliminate blind searching next year.
I don't know about you, but I'm feeling inspired already. Thanks, Kate! 

Bottom Line: Being organized for the holidays doesn't mean shunning all decorations and festive traditions; it just means having systems in place and some annual maintenance so you can keep things festive, not frustrating!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Stay Organized During Holiday Shopping Season

Are you headed out to do some holiday shopping this weekend? If you are, or even if you're still making your list, we've got a few tips to help keep you organized as you hit the stores. So here's to happy shopping...

1) Start with a clean bag, wallet, and car. Do yourself a favor and empty out the contents of your bag or purse, toss the trash, return rogue items to their rightful homes, and put what you do need back in an organized manner. This might mean adding a pouch or toiletry case to contain loose items. Do the same with your wallet...and your car too. This process not only clears the clutter for an improved shopping experience, but also allows you to see what important items you don't have with you yet. To avoid crowding my wallet, I use a small coin purse to house store credit cards and rewards cards that I don't need on a daily basis. I keep it in my bag so it's there when I need it, but the items aren't cluttering my frequently used wallet.

2) Keep your gift cards and coupons at the ready! There is nothing worse than ending up at a store, ready to buy and realizing you have a coupon or gift card you could've home. I prevent this problem by keeping coupons and gift cards for stores I frequent in a simple mesh envelope in my bag. It is comforting to know they're there when I need them and this slim, but durable way of storing them means they take up almost no room.

3) Get receipt ready. With shopping comes receipts, gift receipts, and returns. The only thing worse than not having a coupon or gift card with you, is not having a receipt when you need to return something. With holiday shopping, your wallet could get quickly overwhelmed with receipts, so I would recommend keeping a separate envelope (which could be similar to the one above) to house all holiday shopping receipts while you're out an about. Whether you use your wallet or a separate container, take a few minutes after each shopping outing to organize what you have. If you have a particularly long list, you may want to separate receipts by person, family, or store so it's easy to find something if you need it. You can even write the recipient's name(s) at the top. My mother-in-law uses a simple strategy for gift receipts - she tapes an envelope labeled 'gift receipt' to the box or item - you could do this right away so there are no mix-ups and no lost receipts.

4) Designate a gift zone. Before you head out, figure out where you're going to store your newly acquired gifts while they're waiting to be wrapped and delivered. This is ideally some place that's safe from pets, peeping eyes, and day to day activity. This will prevent gifts from being misplaced or damaged and they'll be ready to go when you're ready to wrap!

Bottom Line: Having a few simple systems in place and starting out with a clutter-free bag, wallet and car will help make holiday shopping a simple and stress-free endeavor this year. So turn on that holiday music and let the fun begin!

Photo Credit

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Get Organized to Get In Shape

When you think about health and wellness, an organized home may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But it turns out that there is a strong connection between the two. The truth is, it is difficult for most people to achieve their health and wellness goals if their homes, offices and lives are a mess.

What’s the Connection?
As a relatively new area of interest in both the wellness and organizing fields, this often-observed connection can likely be boiled down to a couple of basic issues – physical and mental clutter. It just makes sense – if you can’t find your gym shoes, you’re just not going to make it to the gym after work. Likewise, if your kitchen and refrigerator are a jumbled mess, the chances of you packing a healthy lunch are slim to none.

The mental clutter connection is a little less clear cut, but may be an important piece of the puzzle. For most people, a cluttered home (or office or schedule) causes feelings of stress, chaos and lack of control. Thoughts about how to manage the mess can feel overwhelming and may consume any extra mental energy. Exercise and healthy meals just may not make it to the top of the priority list. In addition, healthy habits are just that - habits – they require practice and having the right systems in place, which is tough to do when you don’t feel in control of your life. 

On an even deeper level, there are many things that clutter and extra weight have in common. 
  1. People often hold onto clutter for emotional reasons, just like extra weight. Addressing the emotional background may be key to making progress on either front.
  2. You have to decide that you are ready to free yourself from your excess stuff, just like you have to be ready to lose the weight. Professionals or family and friends can help support you, but it has to come from within.
  3. Drastic approaches to de-cluttering often fail in the long term, just like weight loss. Slow and steady changes definitely win the race.

The great thing is that just as clutter and weight often go together, the reverse is also true. People who have an ‘ah ha’ moment and start clearing the clutter from their homes, offices and schedules often lose weight as an excellent side benefit. This is likely due to the ‘high’ that comes along with taking back control and working toward the life you want.

Organizational Sabotage
But even if you or someone you know are not overwhelmed by clutter, chances are you have some piles and messes in your home or office.  Think about whether any of them are getting in the way of a healthier you. According to organizational expert Julie Morgenstern, one of the most common causes of clutter is what she terms a ‘technical error.’ In the organizing sense, technical errors are simple, mechanical mistakes that physically get in the way (i.e. you cannot get your bike out of the garage to go for a ride because it is stuck behind three bins of Christmas decorations). Technical errors can occur for several reasons including inconvenient storage, not having a specific home for each item, too much stuff for the space you have, or creating systems that are too complicated. 

Shape Up Your Home, Shape Up Your Life
Walk through your home and make a list of the organizing errors you find. You can even get your family involved in this investigative task. Likewise, involving the whole family in fixing the issues will help ensure that your new systems succeed so you can focus on bigger and better things like making healthy meals and enjoying healthy holiday fun!

If you are overwhelmed by clutter, enlist the help of a trusted family member, friend, or better yet, a trained professional. If you want to make some changes on your own, there are plenty of books and on-line tips to help you improve your systems and change the way you think about your stuff. 

Bottom Line: You may be surprised at what a little organizational improvement can do to kick-start your health and wellness routine. Good organizational habits, healthy eating and plenty of exercise may just be the winning combination you need!

Recommended Reading: Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern, It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh

Friday, November 19, 2010

What to Do With Your Kids' Creations

Knowing how to manage all the wonderful artwork your kids create is certainly a challenge for any parent. You want to treat the art and the artist as special, but the new creations just keep coming in on a daily basis. Most families come to the conclusion that it's just not possible or practical to save it all. Some rely on refrigerator or wall space to give each piece its moment in the spotlight, but then what do you do with it all?! The key is to set up a system for saving a select number of pieces to treasure for the long-term. The pieces may be chosen to represent an age, a subject or a type of art, or simply the favorites. If the concept of a rotating gallery or special selections book is introduced early, it will become part of the natural routine. Here are some different approaches to displaying and preserving treasured works of art.

1) Hanging Art Gallery - Using a curtain rod with clips or a simple wire/cord attached to the wall, you can create a gallery space where favorites are displayed and then switched out for newer works periodically. The selection and easy switch process can be done by or with your children, allowing them to take ownership of the gallery. And if you still want to save one or all of the pieces that come down, you can keep a special box for this or follow up with the binder or photo book ideas below. Here are some great examples of galleries from and If you don't have a curtain rod with clips, you can simply use ribbon or string to tie clips or clothes pins to the rod. You can see my friend Melissa's simple and cute creation for her daughter's room in the picture above. 

2) Framed Gallery - Along the same lines as the hanging art gallery, you can use frames that are easy to switch pieces in and out of, such as those shown by or You can also use simple acrylic frames from an office supply store - either free-standing or magnetic. And speaking of magnetic, another great idea for a gallery pictured in the Makes and Takes post is to paint a wall section with magnetic paint - I love this one too because it would be super easy to switch and rearrange differently-sized works of art. 

3) Special Selections Book - Another idea especially good for 8.5 x 11 or smaller works of art is a simple binder with sheet protectors. You can use a fun, decorative binder, such as those available at Target, rather than an office-supply version. This is an easy way to preserve items for each child and can also be combined with special school projects for a year-long memory book. 

4) Photo Book - Another great way to preserve more in less space and with a "professional" look and feel is to take photographs of the works of art and create a photo book using any of the online photo sites (i.e. Shutterfly, Snapfish, Kodak Gallery). This is especially good for 3-dimensional works that are harder to display on a wall. Talk about a great way to make an artist feel special! This could be your first step or a follow up step from the gallery ideas above. Simply take photos of your rotating gallery art (to be included in a photo book) before it's taken down to make room for the next round.

Bottom Line: Don't let your child's artwork become a source of clutter and stress. Try out the above ideas for enjoying and treasuring their creations - a win-win situation for you, your artist and your home!

Photo Credit: Thanks to Melissa for sharing her art gallery inspiration!

Monday, November 15, 2010

NBC's Back to Basics Series

A couple weeks ago, we highlighted an evening news story on CBS about simplifying and downsizing your life. Well, it turns out that everyone is talking about this hot topic. In fact, NBC Nightly News recently aired an entire series on this topic, which they called Back to Basics. They provided insight on different ways and reasons why people are choosing to do more with less. While believers practice this culture of 'less is more' to varying degrees, the common theme in all of these stories seems to be fighting back against the culture of 'more is better.'

One of my favorite points covered in the series is that the more you have, the more you have to take care of. Think about it, if you have more clothes and shoes, you have more things to store, dry clean, and switch over when the seasons change. The more gadgets you have, the more cords, instruction manuals and passwords you have to keep track of. The more vehicles and big 'toys' you have, the more things you have to insure, maintain, and yes, use! That is, unless you don't use them, which is quite common. Just like you wear 20% of the clothes in your closet 80% of the time, the same is likely true for the rest of the stuff we own. So does it make sense to hang on to the other 80% for the rare occasion we decide to use it?

While the answer to this question is very individual and depends on a variety of factors, there are a couple of guiding questions you can use to help determine if it makes sense (for you) to keep something:

1) Have I used it in that last 12 months? This is a good guide because many of the bulky items we tend to store are seasonal or associated with special events. If a whole set of seasons passed by and you didn't use an item, that's a pretty good indication that it's passed its 'use by' date in your home.

2) Do I have the space to store it? Having a place for everything is a must for an organized home. While you can get creative about where you store things, you can't change the laws of physics and create more space. Rental storage may be an option, but it can easily turn into a black hole of underutilized items, as well as a monthly drain on your bank account. If you have more stuff than can fit in your space, something's got to give. For example, if you live in a small city apartment and go skiing once or twice a year, it might make sense for you to rent skis at your destination rather than find space to store them all year.

3) Could someone else use it more than I can? Giving items to family or friends or donating them to a wide variety of charities is a great way to give your unused things new life. They're not doing anybody any good sitting in your closets while they could be enjoyed by someone else. Simply 'Google' charities or donation sites in your area to find out what they will take. Some will even pick up itemsIf you have items of higher value, you can also consider consignment or selling them yourself. 

4) If I decide to keep this, will I put it to good use and am I willing to store and maintain it? This is the key question. If the answer is 'no' or even 'maybe', then there's no point in keeping it. This doesn't mean you shouldn't keep any items for sentimental value that you don't 'use' in the traditional sense - these items in particular should be cared for and stored in a way that allows you to enjoy them when you want to. 

Bottom Line: If you have had it up to here with too much stuff, take some time to downsize and find the items in your home that you truly use and treasure. Chances are, you will enjoy what you own more once there is less of it to manage. 

To view the stories that were part of the Back to Basics series, check out the NBC Nightly News Facebook page - scroll down and look for the Back to Basics logo. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tis the Season...

Well, almost. The weather has returned to being somewhat seasonal (after an October heat-wave!) and November is just around the corner. That means that before we know it, it'll be time to start preparing for the holidays, which often means holiday shopping and gift-giving. To help us get our gift ideas going, The Container Store has just come out with its stocking stuffer guide filled with useful* gadgets for everyone on your list.

*A word of caution: stocking stuffers (or any holiday gifts) run a high risk of becoming unused clutter if not chosen wisely. So don't let yourself get swayed by the latest little gadgets if you don't have a pretty good idea that the recipient will indeed put it to good use. I have both received several destined-to-be-clutter items and have been guilty of giving some myself. Just be sure to think before you buy. If you don't know what's top on someone's wish list, ask for ideas or aim for something universally useful or appealing - think consumable gifts like wine or a gift card for a favorite store or activity.

Disclaimer aside, I think there are some neat ideas in this year's guide. I am personally thrilled that they are carrying lunchskins® Lunch & Snack BagsWe highlighted them on our green blog for back-to-school this year. And you can bet that several people on my list will be getting some this year - and I'll have to get some for myself too. I also really like the bobino® Cord Wraps and the Soggy Paws™ TowelLet us know your favorites!

Bottom Line: For an organized holiday season, start making your gift lists now. This gives you time to 'shop around' and figure out what makes sense for everyone on your list.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Organizing Makes the Evening News

I must say I was quite surprised to turn on the evening news with Katie Couric last night and hear a feature story about simplifying your life with input from organizing expert Peter Walsh. Americans are beginning to fight back against the overstuffed way of life we have gotten ourselves into.

The story highlighted one man who has taken the extreme but not unheard of approach of literally downsizing his possessions to less than 100 items. He said he really took at look at what he needed and used in his apartment and got rid of the rest. They also interviewed a woman who will probably never want to go that route - her apartment was filled with stuff - but she, too, is realizing that she probably has enough and doesn't need to keep accumulating.

Organizing expert Peter Walsh pointed out that this growing trend of simplification and downsizing is due in part to the economy. People are realizing that they just can't buy everything all the time anymore. They are also realizing that much of their hard-earned money has been spent on stuff they never use. The story quoted the often-used organization statistics that we never used 80% of what we keep in our homes and that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. That's a lot of unused stuff!

Aside from saving money and de-cluttering your home, another benefit of this trend is that people are thinking about quality rather than quantity. The process of de-cluttering often helps people rediscover what matters most to them and appreciate and use the belongings they decide to keep.

As a professional organizer, I don't often work with people who want to take a 100-items-or-less minimalistic approach. But I do often work with people who are fed up with too much stuff. They are tired of wasting money in the form of unused items and wasting time in the form of overstuffed closets, kitchens and garages. Some people I work with simply want to pare down, discard and donate and neaten up the rest. This is a great start, but the people who have the most success and enjoyment of the process are those who have a light-bulb moment and start to think about their life and their stuff in a different way. They envision what they want their homes and lives to be like. They start using and appreciating what they have, they let go of items that aren't supporting their current goals and dreams, and they really think before they buy. I can tell right away when the switch flips by what they say and how they act when we are working together. It's very satisfying for me to see because it usually comes along with a huge sense of relief, joy, and a positive outlook toward the future.

Bottom Line: Last night's story illustrates that many of us are beginning to fight back against overstuffed and uninspired lives and homes. No matter where you are on the 'stuff' spectrum, we can all benefit from taking a step back and looking at our habits. Are you working on simplifying your life and home?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Organization All Around Us

This weekend, I was reminded that we can find examples of organization all around us. Some of these examples are the big ideas we take for granted, such as waiting in line at a store or parking lots with neatly painted spaces. But I was taking note of smaller examples, including the labeled 'Field Monitor' headphones the referee was wearing while reviewing a play during the Patriots game and the shoe store clerk noting how important it was for them to put the pens back in the pen holder at the counter, so they can find one quickly when it gets busy.

I was reminded that these are the types of examples that can give us good ideas for organizing our own lives if we just take the time to pay attention. So the next time you're out at a store or school or any other place that relies on efficiency and organization, take note of the little details and examples of organizing principles including labeling and 'a place for everything and everything in its place.' These organization details might seem so commonplace in an environment like an office or school, but there's really no reason we can't apply them in our own homes or lives.

If you're a non-traditional organizer (i.e. you get hives when you look at a filing cabinet), you can still find ideas and systems out there to help you. Ever notice funny reminder signs or pictures, items organized by color, or visual organizing systems like a giant white board for ideas or a literature sorter used as a horizontal filing system? People have great ideas everywhere and there's something out there for everyone.

Bottom Line: Instead of taking the time to stop and smell the roses, take the time to notice great examples of organization out there. Figure out why it works and why you like it and go ahead and try it out for yourself!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Warm up Your Closet for Fall

If you haven't noticed, we're definitely into fall - the leaves are turning, the temperatures are getting chilly and it's already snowed in Vermont! Unless you own very little clothing or have a very large closet, you probably need to store off-season clothing in a less-accessible location - such as under the bed or in the basement or attic. If you haven't done so already, it's time to make sure the seasons have changed in your closet as well as outside. Here's a simple how-to guide to walk you through this switch.

1) Review your spring/summer clothing and take the time to weed out anything that either didn't get worn this season or was worn so well it would not be worth storing and pulling out again next season. Have bags at the ready for donations and/or trash. The general rule of thumb is if it's stained or torn, it's probably best-suited for the trash, not donation.

2) Make sure the spring/summer items you want to keep and store are clean and dry before putting them away. Store these items in labeled plastic bins. If you use the same bins for winter and summer off-season storage, you may need to set aside your items to store while you unpack the colder weather items from storage. You will also need to re-label or have a very clear Winter vs. Summer labeling system. Labels are useless if they are incorrect. Using clear bins also helps for quick identification.

3) As you unpack and put away your fall/winter clothing, don't assume that just because you stored it means you're going to use it this season. Maybe your job or lifestyle has changed, maybe your weight or tastes have changed. Or maybe you put away something you had no intention of wearing again - it happens. Again, take the time to do a quick review before each item earns a place in your valuable closet real estate.

4) As you're putting the seasonal items in your closet and drawers, make sure there's some order to it (i.e. all pants are hanging together, all layering t's are in the same drawer). If you set up a system that makes sense to you, it will be far easier to maintain. Another key to keeping a neat closet and drawers is having enough room - if you're stuffing things in, you either need to eliminate less-than-favorite items and/or find more usable storage space.

5) Whatever you do - don't go shopping before you've completed this seasonal switch and review! You will definitely unearth items you forgot you had. Shopping before you know what you have and need is a clear path to closet clutter and redundancy...not to mention wasted money and time!

Bottom Line: If you follow this process twice a year, you stand a good chance of keeping an organized closet. Routine weeding throughout the year, following the one-in-one-out rule, and being disciplined about putting your clothes away will keep you on the straight path to closet bliss. Wouldn't you rather think about which of your favorite cozy sweaters to wear rather than diving through a pile of flip flops and beach towels hoping you find a pair of boots when the first snow falls? You tell me...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Top Ten Time Management Tips

And we're back! The last few weeks have been a great example that sometimes life just gets in the way of getting everything done...even for professional organizers! But the key to making progress is to get back on the horse and keep going. On that note, this seems like a perfect time to review the ten time management tips we've highlighted over the last several months. I can't believe it, but the holiday season is just around the corner, so what better time to reclaim some precious time and figure out how to get things done without feeling crazy!

So if you've been following us, this will be review, and if you've missed the tips, here they are in one place. Check out the full post for each tip for more explanation and inspiration. And if you're feeling overwhelmed, remember to start small - incorporate one tip at a time. The beauty is, it'll get easier as you go!

Top Ten Time Management Tips

I'm focusing on #1, 4, 5, and about you?

Bottom Line: Fall is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf and try out or recommit (that would be me) to these simple tips for streamlining your life and routine so you have time to get to (almost) everything you want to!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Information Overload

As professional organizers, we often work with people who struggle to let go of magazines and newsletters, typically because they haven’t had time to read them or believe the information might be useful again. I have come to the same conclusion many times - there is so much information out there, and it’s simply impossible to take it all in, even if you limit yourself to topics that are of great interest or use to you. Knowing what your ‘go-to’ information sources are (think quality, not quantity) and not kidding yourself into thinking you need to read the rest can help you avoid information overload!

Time-Saving Tip #10: Downsize Your Inbox - limit your incoming email and mail to items you need or want to receive.

Let’s face it, there’s only so much information we can take in and process. With so much information out there, you will do yourself a huge favor to put some limits on what you let into your mailbox or inbox...especially if you’re someone who feels obligated to read potentially useful know who you are. We all inevitably end up on mailing lists we don’t want to be on or that seemed like a good idea at the time. Next time you get something that falls into that category, go ahead - click the unsubscribe link! If you don’t love it and read it right away, it’s probably not worth your time.

When it comes to snail mail, if you find yourself spending lots of time getting rid of junk mail (or worse, not getting rid of it), it might be worth your time to spend a few minutes getting yourself off the major mailing lists that are contributing to your mail clutter. For more information on reducing junk mail, check out our post Less Paper, Please on our other blog, Get Organized and Go Green. Also take a look at your subscriptions - if you don’t have time to read and enjoy all the magazines, papers and newsletters you get, you are wasting money and paper. Consider paring down what you get delivered - you can always access information on-line or add back in others down the road. And if you find yourself backed up - either with paper or electronic FYI material - cut yourself some slack, declare information bankruptcy, recycle or delete what you haven’t gotten to and start fresh with the new material. Spring gardening tips won’t do you much good in the middle of fall anyway!

Bottom Line: Save time and money by limiting your mail and email to what matters most and cutting out the rest!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sarah Buckwalter on TLC's Hoarding: Buried Alive

Episode: “The Scariest Place on Earth”.
Tune in to TLC on Sunday, September 26th at 8:00pm to watch Sarah Buckwalter transform a hoarding disaster zone into
a clean, comfortable home.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sarah Buckwalter on TLC's Hoarding: Buried Alive

Tune in this Sunday, September 19th at 9:00pm EST to watch Sarah Buckwalter transform a hoarding disaster zone into a clean, comfortable home.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Just Get It Done!

Happy Monday! The fall weather seems to be here in Boston. Just like in spring-time, getting back to the fall routine and thinking about getting your house, yard and storage spaces ready to keep everything safe and warm for the upcoming seasons, fall seems to bring a renewed urge to get things done around the house. If you’re like most people, you have an on-going ‘unfinished project list’ (even if it’s not actually a list). Today’s time-saving tip is in the spirit of just getting things done...

Time-Saving Tip #9: If it’s only going to take a few minutes, just do it!

Sometimes we waste a lot of time thinking about what to do next - this applies at home and at work. Most of the time, we would feel a lot better (and get more done), if we just channelled our inner Nike and ‘just did it.’ Getting things done tends to build momentum. So open the pile of mail, take the trash out, put the donation items in your car, make that phone call. You get the idea. Those small household and work tasks can weigh us down when they start to multiply. Keep them at bay by keeping up with them. Try to schedule yourself 15-30 minutes daily just to tackle some of those little unfinished projects before they turn into permanent fixtures on your unfinished project list. I’ll admit, I’ve got a few of those on my list, so let’s all start a productive week and just get it done...whatever it is!

Bottom line: Tackle those small projects before they add up with just 15 minutes a day of ‘getting it done.’

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fall into Organization with a ‘Playbook’ for Your Team

Hopefully you enjoyed a relaxing and recharging holiday weekend spending time with family and friends. Now that school is back in session and work is in full swing after the summer vacation season, fall is the perfect time to get your household routines and family schedules in line.

Time-Saving Tip #8: Streamline your routine with a simple household binder.
All you need is a small binder- use a spare one you have around or try these eco-friendly binders from greenroom, available at Target - some sheet protectors or a 3-hole punch, and some dividers. Simply hole-punch (or slip into sheet protectors) all those important papers, schedules, pieces of information that might otherwise get lost in a pile on the kitchen counter. This might include extracurricular or daycare schedules, important contact info, including babysitters, tutors, and coaches, upcoming events, and more. You can even step it up a notch and include a family chore chart, a master calendar or extra features like lunch-box ideas so these tasks can easily be shared among family members or helpers. Use the dividers to separate types of information or create a section for each family member - you can customize your binder to meet your family’s needs.

Get everyone involved in the binder - gathering information, deciding on what to call it, and most importantly, where it will live. If everyone in your house knows about the binder, you stand a fighting chance of being on the same page. Now wouldn’t that be nice?!

Bottom Line: Create a simple household binder as a place to store and organize your family’s activities and you’ll have your playbook prepped for a winning team!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Closet Clutter: Less is More

I’m sure many of us have had the experience of having a closet full of clothes and feeling like we have nothing to wear! The truth is, clothes closets are a classic case of ‘less is more.’ Just like the refrigerator, we tend to glaze over when there is too much to choose from and everything is jumbled. And with the change of seasons just around the corner, Labor Day can be the perfect time to declutter your closet.

Time-Saving Tip #7: Streamline Your Closet
Reserving closet “real estate” only for in-season items you love and wear will save you time and stress on those busy mornings...which might be every morning! Here are some tips to help you stay in line:

1) Get rid of your ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’ clothes. Instead, focus on the items that make you look and feel your best now! If your weight changes, you will likely want to update your wardrobe with the latest styles.

2) Keep only the clothes that suit your current lifestyle and job. Similar to the weight issues, if your situation changes, you will likely want to refresh your closet with current trends.

3) Weed regularly! You’ve heard the rules, if you haven’t used it in a year, it’s time to move it along – donation, consignment, or swaps with friends are easy ways to do this. Review your closet twice a year (at the season changes) – if you went through an entire season and didn’t wear something, it’s time to go. This may seem scary at first for you savers out there, but you’ll be amazed at how much more enjoyable an uncluttered closet is.

4) Follow the “one in, one out” rule. Closets follow the basic laws of physics - stuff just doesn’t disappear and space can’t be magically created. To maintain order, the best policy is to discard something that has fallen off the favorites list when you get something new.

5) Store like with like. For most people this means sorting your closet by type of item – shirts with shirts, pants with pants, etc. Do what makes sense to you (some people like to sort by color) and maintain the system so you know where to find things and where to put them away. This will also help with regular weeding since you’ll be able to see items that may be redundant.

6) Try not to save clothes for sentimental reasons. Take a picture of the item or find a picture of yourself when you were wearing it to keep the memory alive. If you simply cannot get rid of an item but you are not wearing it, find another place to store it and reconsider your decision in 3-6 months.

Bottom Line: Maintain a clutter-free closet containing only items that you currently love and wear and you’ll have more morning time for the good stuff - coffee anyone?