Sunday, March 30, 2008

Catching up and Rediscovering the Lateral

How did weekly planning go for you? If you’re still getting the hang of it, that’s fine. A good system will be able to change with your needs over time and you do have to find what works for you. As for right now, just try something anything that will get you moving towards less clutter and less stress.

By the way, we haven't talked about New Year's Resolutions lately. How are you doing? Are you sticking with it? Do you remember what it was? Make a plan and stick to it! I am 45% to my weight loss goal. The year is 25% over this week. You still have 75% of the year to catch up!!! Don't give up. You can do it!

Are you excited about Spring yet? Lots of Spring cleaning is going on in my corner of the world.

Spring is here! Take 15 minutes and… Clean off a flat surface. Pick one. Dresser top, dining table, kitchen counter top, desk, guest bed, floor (it really is NOT the largest shelf in your home) - Just choose one and GO! Sort into the main categories of Keep (find it a proper home), Belongs Elsewhere (put it there now), Trash (bye-bye). Wipe down the surface/change the bedding/give it a good vacuuming. Now you're all done!

Elli, I know I gave you a gardening tease, but (knowing that you are still under snow) it wasn't working for me. Tune in next week.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weekly Planning

Happy Easter Everyone!

Have you ever thought of the things you do around your home as little parties? The floors get to party when they are all clean. The kitchen is at its finest when everything is put away and the counter tops shine. Your clothes get a party every time they are laundered and put neatly away. Why don’t we set aside some time to celebrate our homes on a weekly basis? Let’s make a weekly PARTY plan. (No, I have not gone off the deep end. Stay with me for just another moment.)

Designate a certain time each week for “Putting Things Away Day”. I know many of you do easy Friday dinners, like take-out pizza. After the pizza is gone, turn on the music and get busy! Assign everyone a zone. When the whole family is done, have a snack or do a fun family activity together like watching a movie or playing family video games. Wii anyone? (This is the way we pick up our clutter so late Friday evening.)

Not only is this a great way to remove the physical clutter from your home and get the whole family involved, this is the start of a great weekly plan to tame your paper clutter, clean your home, stock your pantry, and regain some “ME” time and some family time.

Laundry Day vs A Load a Day! There is one day a week where I schedule nothing else but laundry and hanging out at home. I love this day. It is restful. There is no real agenda. We can stay in our pjs all day if we wish. When my son was a baby this was the Monday plan. Neither of us looked forward to Mondays. Weekends got us thrown out of our scheduled, routine groove. Daddy was gone back to work on Monday and that really upset the applecart. We refused to “do” Monday. For these reasons Monday was spent getting life as we knew it back to normal. Since there was such a strong pull towards regaining normalcy and being home, I decided to be productive while we were at it. If you are unable to have such a break in your weekly schedule, then strive to do a load a day. Start laundry in the washing machine before work. Toss it into the dryer when you get home. Fold the clothes while your dinner cooks. Put it all away when dinner is over. (This is the way we wash our clothes so early Monday Morning.)

Grocery Day! Personally, I like to do this early in the morning on a weekday -- Tuesday to be exact. I know that this is not feasible for everyone. I am blessed to have my Tuesday mornings free of other commitments. By the end of the workday most of us are too tired to get the weekly grocery shopping finished. As an alternative I suggest getting it done as early in the weekend as possible so that you will have the majority of your weekend free. Say “YES” to a scheduled grocery shopping date and you will be saying “NO” to the stress of last minute shopping and running out of essential items. (This is the way we shop for food so early Tuesday morning.)

Desk Day! Set aside one day to spend on the paper work maintenance for your home. Paying bills, marking important dates on the calendar, making phone calls, etc are all great items to save for Desk Day. Having one Desk Day allows you free time the rest of the week when you don’t have to think about office-y things. Unless it is a pressing matter, just put it in your ACT file and do it on Desk Day. (This is the way we fight paper clutter and make our calls so early Wednesday morning.)

Cleaning Day(s)! (Kitchen Day, Bathroom Day, Vacuum Day/Floors Day)! I am here to tell you that it does NOT have to get done all at once friends! If you have been spending every Saturday as your own personal maid, STOP! Spend a little time each day doing some zone cleaning in your home and take back your Saturdays! Whether you take a few extra minutes in the morning or in the evening, it will be worth the time given to gain back your weekend. (This is the way we clean the house by making zones important.)

Following a weekly plan makes it easier to keep things put away on a daily basis. In the long run following a plan will keep things in your living space serene and clutter free. When done with the right attitude, it may even help your children learn valuable lessons like taking care of their own property and being a blessing in the home.

This week, take 15 minutes and… create a weekly plan to get on track for a clean and clutter free home. Really. Sit down with your planner, spreadsheet, whatever it takes. Just make a plan. Isn't it time for your home to party?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A rare mid-week post to share my joy...

On tackling the clutter which was my magazine basket. I could have sworn I just did this task, but here it sits again. This is where I started this morning. This is the "point of attack", if you will. Might I mention that my three and a half foot tall, 38 pound child can sit in this basket.

Surprisingly, It didn't take too long to weed out the non-essentials.

I bought this magazine when it first came out. And then got one two months later in my Christmas stocking. Why did I keep both? (For over THREE months?)

I didn't even remember having this. And I surely would not have looked in the mag basket for it. It is moving to the insurance file.

The packing from a toy. One of my son's books. Last winter's jacket that we offered to a friend (before Christmas!) and a brand new baby's first tooth brush for the same friend. (If ya still need them, let me know.) In the original picture you cannot even see a single part of this bag or the jacket. Note: none of these are magazines/catalogs. Why did they end up here?

This is hubby's stack. I think things go here straight from the mailbox and never get read. I could be wrong. I'm trying to decide if I should automatically recycle these or let him have a say. Will he really miss them? I will let him decide tonight. The recycle truck comes tomorrow.

And this? This is all the "trash". This is the reason the recycle guys will not be my friend after tomorrow. Toy catalogs from Christmas that I was sure I had already disposed of.... maybe there were more than I thought. I am SURE I threw out several after Christmas. Last season's (still wrapped in plastic) JCP big book. Home and clothing catalogs that have pretty things. I love the little inspirations, but I'm not sure I ordered from a single one. At the bottom of the picture is the stack of magazines... most of which have brilliant articles on organizing. I need to repeat these words to myself while in the checkout line "Save yourself, don't buy the magazine!" Magazine clutter is by far, one of my worst habits.

And this...

is the finished project. The current Big Book (unwrapped). A stack of unread Reader's Digest (thanks Papa) that I love to flip through. And some home catalogs of things that I actually plan to put into action! Now I can find my inspiration again. All is right with the world.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring is here!

I hope you have enjoyed spending time in your office this week. Isn’t it great to find a place for everything? I find it so calming and refreshing when office supplies, computer disks, and paperwork are all in order. If the RAFTS system is helping you, great! If it is not, let me know and we can work together to find a filing solution that does work for you. Helpful hint: Some people file by category. Some people file by month. You are your own person. Do what works best for you as an individual.

This week brings us the start of Spring! And Spring brings us egg hunts, the possibility of warmer weather, new wardrobe items, spring cleaning, and gardening. I have certainly caught the Spring Cleaning Bug myself. I have been re-organizing and re-ordering all around the house. The kitchen pantry, my baking cabinet, the office I share with a three-year-old superhero -- No cupboard is safe!

Hey, wardrobe and spring cleaning! That gives me an idea! Take a look at your closet this week. Are all of your clothes current? By current I mean the right size and style for your current body. How about the closets of your children? The average walk-in closet takes one person approximately FIVE HOURS to empty, sort and purge. Do you have it within you this week? I guess we know where I will be!

REMINDER: If you haven’t done so already, pick up items for Easter Baskets! Of course, edibles and things that will really get used are my favorite things to reduce clutter. You only have a few days left to shop before the Bunny arrives!

Now it’s time to take 15 minutes and.... do some REAL cleaning! This week I do not have a “Clutter Sweep” task for you. This is REAL cleaning. I know; it isn’t my favorite thing to do either. BUT… Spring is here! Let the sunshine in! Set your timer for 15 minutes and start cleaning your windows and sills! You have too many to do all at once? That’s ok. Do a little each day until they are all done!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Paperwork, paperwork, and a little note on vacay planning

March sure is a long month! In honor of March feeling so long, I have written an exceptionally long blog this week. Don’t get used to it. I say that tongue-in-cheek, as many of you know I am a woman of few words.

You have voted and we are done in the kitchen. (For you, Bekah, we will do a "pantry revisited" segment soon.) I am getting lots of questions lately regarding paperwork, so let’s start there. I do have a feeling this is leading us back into the office. Paperwork is a challenging area. It is not something you can get rid of because there is a constant influx (shopping fliers, newspapers, magazines, school papers, mail).

Newspapers, Magazines, Catalogs and the like can be sent to the recycle bin as soon as they have outlived their usefulness. Let me stress that NEWS papers are meant to inform you of CURRENT events. (Can you see where this is going?) If it isn’t current, it is no longer news. Magazines also have a shelf life – usually monthly or quarterly. Catalogs and sales fliers are replaced by their next installment as well. However, if you do not plan to order anything from a particular catalog (or shop using the aforementioned flier) it can go out immediately. If you never plan to order from said catalog, call the 800 number on the back page to discontinue it. That was easy enough. Let’s move on to something harder like…

School papers. You all know of the precious artwork, genius academics, notes home, event calendars, and endless bureaucratic paperwork. What do you do with it all? Child creations: Each day/week that creations come home, place them in a special box to sort through later. If it is especially important to display some artwork immediately give it a place of honor -- like a special frame or a special spot on the fridge for ONE week. When the box gets full (ideally monthly), it is time to go through and sort. Keep only the most special pieces. You choose one and have your child choose one for each month. Any artwork that is extra special can be saved in a binder portfolio. If there are pieces you would like to remember, but are not necessarily attached to take a picture and store it digitally, add it to the portfolio of other artwork, or make a special scrap book.

I saved the best for last. Mail. This is my never ending nemesis. For sorting any paperwork, I like to use the RAFTS system. It is especially helpful for sorting mail. Mail will fall into one of these five categories: Read, Act, File, Trash, Shred (RAFTS). How do you decide? For simplicity of explanation, let’s work backwards.

Shred: Things that have personal information and account numbers need to be shredded before they are discarded. Credit card offers also fall into this category. Beware the glue and the plastic fake cards.

Trash: Ah, the junk mail. Advertisements of no interest, sales fliers for places you do not shop, coupon books, etc. this is the essence of junk mail. (Hint: If you never use your *Handy Shopper, go ahead and toss it when it comes in.) Junk mail, is by definition, junk. Please just throw it away. *Name changed for obvious reasons. You get the idea, right?

File: This is not yet the “Bills to Pay” category. These are things you need a record of, but do not need to do anything to - like insurance and bank statements.

Act: Things that you need to act upon. This is your “to do” group. Bills to pay, things to add to your calendar, calls to make, and correspondence to return - fall into this Act Category.

Read: Things that you need to read. Catalogs you enjoy, letters, cards, magazines - this one was rather self explanatory, wasn't it?

Two more options for limiting excess mail:

Many of the credit card applications not have an opt out 800 number listed at the end of the offer. It pays to give them a call.

Thanks to Aby Garvey of Simplify 101, I have stumbled upon a new service,, for limiting junk mail. I signed up this past week, but do not know yet how well it is working. Please enjoy this excerpt from Aby’s latest newsletter posted here:

Reduce paper waste. According to sources at , Americans receive more than four million tons of junk mail a year! As an organizer, I have to wonder how much of that junk mail is still piled high on the counters of America, wreaking unrest and overwhelm in the hearts of homeowners everywhere.

The formula here is simple: less paperwork coming into our homes, means less paperwork to deal with and organize. Plus, you'll help reduce the million tons of junk mail landing in mailboxes, and ultimately landfills, each and every year.

But how to do it? There are services available such as which charge a fee to have your name removed from mailing lists. I also recently learned of a new website that is a free service designed to reduce unwanted direct mail by removing your name from mailing lists. In some instances they take care of it for you (with a simple click of a button) and in other cases, they make the process super simple by giving you a pdf to print, fill out and mail in to remove yourself from the list.

By the way, I removed this tip for the flow of the newsletter because I haven't tried and tested one of these services yet. I just signed up for an account on this week and found the process to be super simple. At this early stage, I can't vouch for the effectiveness of the process. But, with over 100 million trees being used for junk mail every year in the U.S. alone, I wanted to include this topic in this green organizing newsletter.

If you have participated in a service to remove your name from marketing mailing lists, please tell me about it on my blog. I'll summarize your findings, the findings of others, and report on my own experience in a future newsletter or blog post. Thanks so much!

Aby Garvey is a professional organizer and the founder of simplify 101, inc. Her mission is to help you create time and space for what matters most in your home and life. Aby is the author of the e-book "the happy scrapper - simple solutions to get organized and get scrapping!" Visit the simplify 101 website for organizing ideas and to subscribe to Aby's organizing email newsletter.

Share with me this week:

What is your biggest paperwork challenge?

Let’s take 15 minutes and…. Talk about summer vacation. Yes, I understand it is not yet the first day of Spring. Summer hot spots will be filling up sooner than you can say “Pass the sunscreen.” so get your reservations made now. At least get those you will be vacationing with talking about: who, what, where, when and how of traveling. Who is going? (Is the pet going to be included?) What do you want to do for your vacay? Where do you wish to travel? What dates work for everyone involved? How do you plan to get there (plane, train, automobile, cruise ship)?

This is my personal one. Who? Just the 3 of us. What? Fishing and other outdoorsy stuff, possibly a festival, shopping. Where? Mountain Cabin. When? The date is now set. How? The wheels on the car go around and around.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

It's Kitchen Week!!!

Let’s mix things up a bit and start with the now famous


Set your timer for fifteen minutes because it’s time to… Tackle that plastic ware. That right folks, find the lids that match the containers. Find the containers that match the lids. Throw out the ones that are broken or have no mate. If you can’t freeze AND microwave in it - consider discarding it, donating it, or replacing it. If it is a take-out type container consider whether it is really serving a worthwhile purpose for you. (I say pitch it!) By keeping the few things that you do use and donating the unused you will free up an amazing amount of space in your kitchen.

Personally, I have fallen in love with the new Rubbermaid line with easy find lids.

Oh, and the produce savers (which live in the fridge) really are working great!

I get nothing for promoting those. I just like to share with you products that make life easier.

Since we’re already talking about the kitchen… Look at your counter tops. Are there appliances sitting out that are rarely used? The toaster that is used once a month. The waffle iron that only gets hot on special occasions. The coffee pot used only when company is in town. These are items that are robbing you of clear space in your kitchen and calm in your life. I just realized that my toaster was out creating counter clutter in my kitchen. It has been months since my son has had his beloved (yet sadly, milk-laden) toaster waffles… so why was this contraption still in my way? No reason other than it had just been overlooked.

I am by no means saying that if you use your toaster and coffee pot daily you should move them in and out of a cabinet/pantry for each use. Heaven forbid I deprive any one of their daily caffeine fix! But take the time to put lesser used items away. No cabinet space you say? How about the pantry, nearby closet, or laundry room shelf? Now we’ve got those wheels turning!

There has been a lot of buzz about office organization and about paperwork issues coming from you guys as of late. Should we continue in the kitchen next week or move on to the office?