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?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Save Space with Creative Kitchen Basics

Kitchen cabinet clutter is a common problem and stems from the wide variety of appliances and gadgets supposedly designed to make our lives easier. Why cut an onion with a knife when you can chop it with the Slap ChopTM? Just ask anyone who’s recently registered for a wedding or purchased a gift from a wedding registry - you can fill your kitchen with things that seem like a great idea (think seasonal cookie cutters, waffle irons and apple slicers) at the time, but you don’t actually have space for or use. These specialized kitchen items can be great if you use them, love them and have the space for them, but let’s face it, most of us have things that don’t meet those criteria.

You can reclaim your kitchen cabinets by going back to basics. Clear out your cabinets (or one at a time if you don’t have time or space to do the whole kitchen), sort like with like and weed out the items you don’t use or love. Alternatively, you can take the opposite approach and set aside the items you use regularly, at least once a week. Allocate prime cabinet real estate for these items to make meal preparation easier. Then pick out the items that you use, but less frequently - like cake pans or a stand mixer - and store them in less accessible kitchen cabinets or additional storage space, like the pantry or basement. As for the rest - the items that you really don’t use - sell, give away or donate them. Whatever you do, get them out of your space ASAP.

If you are lacking some versatile kitchen basics, the good news is that there are a variety of nesting and multitasking items that provide more function in less space. One example I love is Nest 8 by Joseph Joseph. This set of fun-colored, dishwasher safe nesting kitchen basics includes 2 mixing bowls (large & small), 4 measuring cups, 1 colander, and 1 sieve. How neat is that?! Other great examples of kitchen basics are a great set of knives, sauce pans or pots with self-straining lids, and adjustable measuring spoons.

Bottom Line: Resist the temptation to fill your kitchen cabinets with lots of specialty gadgets and appliances and instead focus on making sure you have versatile space-saving basics.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Purge Your Pantry & Plan Your Meals

It’s a cool and rather gloomy (weather-wise) morning here in Boston, but we’re back with another time-saving tip. I chose one that makes me think about warm and comforting things - like home-cooked meals.

Time-Saving Tip #6: Purge your pantry and plan your meals.
Having a streamlined yet well-stocked pantry along with 15 minutes of weekly meal planning can save lots of time and stress, not to mention money and your waistline. Whether you’re cooking for one or have a houseful of picky eaters, following some simple strategies can ease meal-time stress and streamline your routine.

1) De-clutter your pantry and fridge. Having an over-stuffed pantry and fridge leads to wasted money and food and also makes it harder to decide what to cook or eat. Make time to pull everything out and give your pantry and fridge a quick cleaning. You will feel so much better with a clean, fresh, and pared down pantry. So get in there and toss these items right away: 1) anything expired and 2) anything your family does not like. When you put things back, remember to put like items together, so you can easily find what you need. To take things a step further, get rid of foods that don’t fit your health and wellness goals and put things that have been hanging around for a while (but are still good) ‘on probation’ - use ‘em or toss ‘em within the next month. Most of us live close enough to a store that we don’t need to stockpile weeks worth of food. And remember, it’s okay to run out of something - variety is the spice of life!

2) Decide when it makes sense for you to food shop. Try to pick a consistent day/time (or a couple days/times) and put it in your calendar just like an appointment. Pick a time when your store is less crowded and well-stocked. Ask a store clerk or manager if you’re not sure when the quiet times are. Having a routine will help structure both your shopping and your meals. And don’t forget to keep your re-usable shopping bags in your car so you don’t come home with a new supply of plastic bags every time you shop!

3) Plan your meals. We have many clients who are over-run by saved recipes. Go through them with a critical view and put the ones you might actually make in a simple binder using sheet protectors. Use your recipes as a source of inspiration for your weekly planning. The day before your scheduled shopping trip, pick 2 or 3 dinners to make between now and your next shopping trip and write down the ingredients you’ll need on your shopping list. If you are clearing out a packed pantry, plan your meals based on ingredients you already have and only buy any extras you need. If you’re working from a streamlined pantry, you can still use what you have as a starting point. Also pick recipes/meals that share at least 1or 2 common ingredients. For example, if your dinner tonight calls for half a red bell pepper, plan a stir fry or fajitas for another night to use the rest of the pepper. Fill in the rest of your shopping list with any snacks and staples you are out of. If you shop more than once a week, remember - you don’t need to get it all on the first trip!

Bottom Line: Streamlining your pantry and your shopping routine will help save time and money and keep your food choices and stress levels in check.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Magic Productivity Boosters

It’s been a couple weeks – where does the time go?! On that note, we’re definitely due for another time-saving tip. Unlike other tips that focus on stream-lining your routine (i.e. automating your to-do’s when possible) or taking things off your list altogether, this tip focuses on doing more of two things that can actually boost your productivity…saving you time and reducing stress.

Time-Saving Tip #5: Get enough sleep and exercise!

While many people let these two important activities slide when times are busy, this can actually be counter-productive. Both sleep and exercise have so many benefits, from increasing energy and productivity levels to enhancing immunity (which helps prevent sick days) and even helping maintain a healthy weight. So next time you think about skimping on either one due to a tight schedule, realize you could be sabotaging yourself in the end. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night and 30 minutes of moderate-vigorous exercise on most days of the week. If you’re not there yet, work toward it by thinking of ways to make small changes. Can you shut down your computer half an hour earlier so you’re more likely to meet you bedtime goal? Can you walk to accomplish any of your daily errands if you can’t fit in a trip to the gym? A 15-20 minute walk at lunch time can do wonders for your afternoon productivity. Please share your tips (or challenges) for fitting in these magic productivity boosters!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Set Time Limits for Time-Wasters

Happy Monday! We’re back with another time-saving tip:

Time-Saving Tip #4: Set time limits for time-sucking activities like Facebook :), email, surfing the web and TV. And yes – this includes reading blogs, which I hate to say. Sure, there is a lot of valuable information out there (and even more not-so-valuable), but it can take hours out of your day if you try to view/read/absorb everything you want to. Focus on the activities and information sources you find most valuable and enjoyable and ditch the rest. I recently cut a few TV shows off the DVR that I realized were not improving my quality of life.

If you follow several blogs, I recommend using something like Google Reader to catch them all in one place for you – you’re less likely to get distracted by other links, etc. Also, if you get behind on reading, it’s ok to declare blog bankruptcy – mark all the accumulated posts as ‘read’ and start fresh with the new content – you can’t and don’t have to read and know everything!

It can also help to set a time limit – i.e. allow yourself 10 minutes to look at Facebook at lunch. You know how it goes - if you don’t set a limit, you could be sucked in for hours looking at pictures of a friend of a friend you don’t even know!

In addition to per session limits, having a set number of times for these activities helps too (i.e. only check your email 3 times per day). While you may think this isn’t realistic for your job, do what you can to set some limits so you can get other tasks done. If you don’t, you may find that you get to the end of the day and the only thing you can say you accomplished is email! One strategy is to tackle your toughest task for the day first, before you even open your email. Or try a 15 minute scan to catch the important stuff first thing, followed by completing a few key tasks. Then you can allow yourself a block of time (say 30 minutes) to respond to some of the less urgent messages.

Getting a handle on your electronic activities can be a great way to reclaim some valuable minutes, and for many people even hours, in your day. Try out these tips and let us know what you think!