Going Vertical

By Naomi Cook

Ah …college graduation time – no more classes, no more books! I remember what a great time in life that was – no obligations (for the moment, anyway) and lots of celebration! Plus, I was finally able to check out of that cramped concrete cube that was my bedroom, closet, office, living room and kitchen all rolled up into one! Add in a roommate and I think to myself now, “How did I ever survive?!”

Wherever you live now, when it comes to organization, go back to thinking like a college student. Floor space is limited, but as the typical ceiling height of most rooms is 8 feet (at least!) take a look at all of the available wall space in your home.

Yes, walls aren’t just for artwork and tiny shelves holding grandma’s knick knacks…they are valuable real estate in any home. One of the first things I bought for my apartment after college was a 6 foot by 6 foot bookcase, which is divided up into 25 cubbies. It is still the best investment I ever made.

fpQT15K3The bookcase is now in my dining room and it has become invaluable for holding books and magazines, light bulbs, office supplies, and much more! Some of these items don’t need to be seen and are covered by 3 table runners to add visual interest and a pop of color. All that and it takes up barely any room!

Technology has helped tremendously and now laptops don’t require desks, unlike the big old desktop computers (a.k.a. beige dinosaurs!) of years ago. Stereo systems have been replaced by iPods, and tube televisions have given way to wall mounted flat screens. Here are some other inexpensive ideas for going vertical throughout your home:

Shelves are one of the simplest ways to go vertical. Use them for media in your living room, cookbooks in your kitchen and spare towels in the bathroom.

Hooks are another great idea, and these days you can find plenty to fit your style and color scheme. Use them to display your costume jewelry and handbags in the bedroom, mugs in the kitchen and hair dryer in the bathroom.

Door Organizers are perhaps my favorite way to go vertical. Without any need for power tools, you can slip them right over a door! Use ones with pockets for belts and shoes in the bedroom and small items in the pantry and bathroom. Use ones with hooks to set out your clothes for the next day in the bedroom and extra coats and umbrellas in a closet.

Whatever methods you choose, enjoy your home and design it as a reflection of you…and for goodness sake please throw away that blacklight poster!

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Clean Out Your Car in 7 Simplified Steps!

By Naomi Cook

When was the last time that you took everything out of the trunk and off of the floor of your car and really explored what is hanging out in there?  Maybe you have some store returns to make that happen to be intermixed with escaped french fries, crushed soda cans, and smelly gym shoes…ick, it sounds like a scenario for those Febreze Car Fresheners!

On the next nice day that you can dedicate a few hours to, head out to your car and follow these steps…

1)  Remove EVERYTHING – Yes, I said everything!  Get the bigger items from the floor first and then go through your glove compartment, center console, door pockets and trunk.  Don’t forget to look in all those other nifty hidden compartments in your car as well!  For now, keep these items in neat (or as neat as possible) piles in your garage or patio.

DSCN81712)  Clean – Clean your interior windows, including the front windshield and the rear window and your gauges.  Next, dust and clean your dash and finally vacuum the floors and seats.  If you haven’t done this process in a while, you may just prefer to head to the car wash and let them take care of it for you.  A good car wash may be something worthwhile as well, to get rid of that pesky pollen!

3)  Trash/Recycle – Get a trash bag and recycling bin handy.  Toss any items that are immediately recognized as trash, i.e. those fries!  Recycle any maps or papers that aren’t in need or are out of date and any soda cans and water bottles.

4)  Sort – Go through the other items that are left and make the decision of where they need to go.

5)  Organize – Keep some of those handled fabric storage bins in your trunk and backseat.  They are inexpensive and can surprisingly hold a lot!  Five bins should do it; you don’t want to fill up your entire car with them.

In the trunk:

* Use one to stash snacks like granola bars and crackers for that on-the-go hunger.

* Use one to hold car cleaning supplies and a first aid kit.

* Use one to hold those miscellaneous items that accumulate daily all over the car!  Bring this bin in once a week and put the items where they belong.

In the backseat:

* Use one lined with a plastic grocery bag as a mini trash bin.

* Use one lined with a plastic grocery bag as a mini recycling bin.

Also consider those seat back car organizers if you have kids.  This will allow them to keep their belongings together, like magazines, books and headphones.

6)  Maintain – Whenever you stop for gas, pop the trash bag out and toss it.  Save the recycling items for home if you don’t see a recycling bin.  Keep some additional plastic grocery bags folded flat at the bottom of each bin once one is used up.

7)  Rejoice! – Look inside your newly cleaned car and get ready for those road trips.  Then, if it still stinks, quickly proceed to the nearest store and buy yourself an air freshener!

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Teaching Children to be Organized

By Naomi Cook

“Give a Man a Fish, Feed Him For a Day. Teach a Man to Fish, Feed Him For a Lifetime.”  This Chinese proverb explains the importance of education and in turn the value of responsibility and accountability for one’s self.

Kids learn by example when it comes to actions.  Walking, talking, laughing and more…Have you thought about how the state of your home can impact a child’s organizational skills as well?  Since television shows on hoarding have been appearing, the world has learned how impactful the disease really is, especially on children.

On a lighter note, children are visual creatures, and that is something good to understand when it comes to helping them get (and stay) organized.  Read below for ideas that can help at any stage of life.

Preschool aged children – These little guys will need your help.  Appeal to their visual senses, while also turning clean up into a game, and they should easily grasp organizing fundamentals such as:

  • Using Simple Storage: Those fabric cube bins with handles seem to come in every color these days and are appearing in more and more stores.  They are also soft and easy for little hands to carry around.  Better yet, they can slip into most bookcases easily.
  • Using Pictures: For toys small enough to fit into the bins, attach pictures of the toys, showing which items go in which bin.  For bigger items, attach pictures to the wall over its “parking spot”.
  • Using Size Arrangement: For books, dolls, and game boxes.
  • Using Color Arrangement: For stuffed animals, construction paper, and art supplies.

Elementary school aged children – These guys are learning independence through a full day at school, but will still need your help.  Let them continue to build on the fundamental organizing skills and let them input fun new ideas.  At this stage, arrange the bars and shelves in their closet for them to be able to pick out their own clothes.  Work with them to group like items together by size, like short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, jeans and pants.  After that, if you’re really adventurous, work on arranging each of those groupings into color order.

You can also introduce them to one of my favorite tools…the Label Maker!  Let them have fun labeling where everything goes.  Choose tapes in their favorite color and a fun font!  Warning…labeling can be addictive!  Supervise them or you will be going to your local office supply store every day to buy more tape cartridges!

Middle school aged children/ High School Aged Children – These guys have reached independence yet their schedules are filling up at this point and organizing may not be a priority.  Build on the fundamental skills by introducing magnet boards, dry erase calendar boards, and assignment/activity planners.

At this stage in life, most parents will implement an allowance in exchange for doing chores around the house, including keeping their rooms organized.  Money talks, so any other form of bribery isn’t really necessary!

Ultimately, you want to give your kids an appreciation for their belongings, as well as your home.  By following the organizing fundamentals and building upon them gradually, you will set them off to become organized adults.  In turn, they will teach their children, and when those grandchildren come to your house notice if they are sprouting buds of understanding organization.  If not, tell your children that you want their years of allowance back!

 

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How to Prepare Your Planner for a New Year

By Naomi Cook

Can you believe that 2015 is right around the corner?  Are you ready for it?  Better yet, is it ready for you and all that you have to do?!   Now’s the time to figure out your plan for your planner, and what better place to start than FranklinPlanner, where you can find a variety of paper planners to create your own unique system!

Do you prefer a paper planner, or do you favor having an electronic planner on your phone/computer?  Maybe you have taken on a hybrid of both, where you write down personal appointments in a paper planner, but add work appointments into your electronic planner.  I have gone through stages where I prefer one over the other, but have found that a paper planner is the right fit for me, because I am a fan of check marks and crossing off tasks.  Yes, I am a professional organizer and a perfectionist, and I’m proud of it!

Here are some simple steps that you can take to prepare your own perfect paper planner for the new year!  Can you say that 10 times fast?!

–     Things you will need: a mechanical pencil, an eraser, pens in different colors, paper clips, one brightly colored binder clip and a warm drink. Are you asking why you would need a warm drink? Well…it’s because you may be getting hand cramps from writing so much, and therefore it will come in very handy!

1)       Get out your 2014 planner, don’t toss it yet!  There is a lot of valuable information in there that will be repeated in your 2015 planner like birthdays and anniversaries.

2)       Ok, well you know what I’m going to say next…add in those birthdays and anniversaries to your new planner.  Use one color pen for birthdays and another for anniversaries.  As a quick trick to always remember how old someone is or how many years they have been married, add in parentheses after the name(s) that age of the person or number of years of marriage, and increase it by 1 every time you update to your next yearly planner!

3)       As you are scouring your 2014 planner look for any other pertinent information like any tasks that never got done, and any phone numbers or e-mail addresses that were quickly jotted down.

4)       Gather all of your new appointment cards and invitations and start entering those.  I like to use pencil for these dates in case any get rescheduled.  It looks cleaner to erase than cross out.  Once I’ve jotted those down, I like to staple the appointment card or clip the invitation to its coordinating page.  It may make your planner a bit thicker, but you’ll be able to see when an event is coming up.  Once the date has passed take out the appointment card or unclip the invitation and toss it.

5)       Add the brightly colored binder clip (so you can differentiate it from the paper clips) as a page marker so that you always open it up to the current week.

Now that you’re done, put the planner aside until January 1st, celebrate the end of 2014, and get excited for the beginning of an organized new year!

Until next time, stay neat people!

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Business Card Bombardment!

By Naomi Cook

As a self-employed business owner, aside from working with clients in their homes, I spend a lot of time in my home office. It’s wonderful to get out of the office and network with new people who can help you and your business grow. However, while a lot of networking can help both you and your business grow, it can also create a dust covered growth on the corner of your desk…yes, stacks and stacks of business cards!

It’s not atypical to arrive home from a networking session with a dozen to a couple dozen business cards. Don’t panic…we can work through this together! Follow these simple steps when you get home from your networking event, so you have the people that the cards belong to fresh in your mind. Don’t stress about this too much, the process should be quick and painless!

1) Lay out the cards in front of you and first pull the ones that you want to take immediate notes on, if you haven’t had the opportunity to do so at the event. Write down anything of interest that you talked about with a person, even if it’s a hobby that the two of you share.

2) Take 3 sticky notes and jot the following three words down, one on each. Grab 3 rubber bands as well to group the cards together in each category.

  • Contact – If they are someone to call or e-mail about an upcoming opportunity.
  • LinkedIn – If they are someone who you don’t need to talk to about anything at this point but simply want to add them to your LinkedIn account to stay connected.
  • Referral – If they are someone who you think could help another one of your contacts.

business cards

3) Set up time in your schedule within the next few days to focus on each group.

So what is there to do now, now that you have gone through them? How do you go about storing them? Well, that depends on your personal preference. Consider the following options:

If you and your smart phone are attached at the hip, then consider one of the business card scanning apps out there. There are so many, so it’s best to check out the ones available to your phone, read the reviews, and decide which one is best for you. After you scan all of the cards, you can toss them in the recycling bin if you so choose!

If you would like to keep the cards (some of them are really great looking!), then consider filling any binder with plastic business card pages designed to hold business cards. You should be able to find these in any office supply store. Or, go old school and get a Rolodex! Keep either in order alphabetically or by occupation.

However you decide to handle your business cards, remember that the main point of collecting them is keeping in contact with new people who can help you. Oh and don’t forget to dust your desk once in a while!

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Beachy Keen!

By Naomi Cook

Ah…summertime is officially upon us…the warmer weather, the longer days and… the prep for a day at the beach! Do you struggle keeping your beach bag organized? You don’t need to sheepishly hold up your hand. It’s not that hard for it to become a bottomless pit! Most beach bags like mine have some pockets on the outside, but only a few on the inside, leaving most of your belongings in a jumbled state. Read along for some tips on how to organize your beach bag so that you’ll be able to quickly find that money when the ice cream man walks by!

Let’s start by thinking of all of the things you might keep in your beach bag.

You’ll have:

•Your towel.
•Your beach tag.
•Your sunscreen.
•Your drinks and snacks.
•Your book or magazines.
•Your keys and some money.
•Your electronics like your phone or e-reader.
•Your change of clothes for the end of the day.

Now you have a couple of options to organize those items. Go the inexpensive route or invest in some organizers that will help you for years in the future.

For an inexpensive way of organizing, get a variety of sizes of Ziploc bags from small to large. You may have them in your kitchen already. Another option is to use Ziploc containers. Start by putting your beach tag directly onto your beach bag. Fill up smaller bags/containers with your keys, money and phone. Fill up larger size bags/containers with your book or e-reader. Use a Ziploc Big Bag to hold your change of clothes for the end of the day. It can be used to hold your wet bathing suit and towel after you change.

Or you can spend a little more money and buy organizational products that will last you for years. Instead of Ziploc bags, there are waterproof pouches that house your phone, your money and your e-reader. Next, look to travel packing cubes to hold your bigger items like your books and change of clothes. These are designed to help you stay organized while packing your suitcase, so why not your beach bag too!

For magazines, I’ll usually wrap them up in my towel when I go to the beach. By the time the day is over, they may be in rough shape because of the combination of sunscreen, water, and sand, so you can just toss them!

Finally for snacks, consider a soft sided cooler that you can carry like a bag. Think about putting your sunscreen in a Ziploc bag in the cooler so that it will keep you protected and offer some cooling relief at the same time!

Enjoy your day at the beach and have an ice cream sandwich for me!

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Car Cleanout!

By Naomi Cook

When was the last time that you took everything out of the trunk and off of the floor of your car and really explored what is hanging out in there?  Maybe you have some store returns to make that happen to be intermixed with escaped french fries, crushed soda cans, and smelly gym shoes…ick, it sounds like a scenario for those Febreze Car Fresheners!

On the next nice day that you can dedicate a few hours to, head out to your car and follow these steps…

1)  Remove EVERYTHING – Yes, I said everything!  Get the bigger items from the floor first and then go through your glove compartment, center console, door pockets and trunk.  Don’t forget to look in all those other nifty hidden compartments in your car as well!  For now, keep these items in neat (or as neat as possible) piles in your garage or patio.

2)  Clean – Clean your interior windows, including the front windshield and the rear window and your gauges.  Next, dust and clean your dash and finally vacuum the floors and seats.  If you haven’t done this process in a while, you may just prefer to head to the car wash and let them take care of it for you.  A good car wash may be something worthwhile as well, to get rid of that pesky pollen!

3)  Trash/Recycle – Get a trash bag and recycling bin handy.  Toss any items that are immediately recognized as trash, i.e. those fries!  Recycle any maps or papers that aren’t in need or are out of date and any soda cans and water bottles.

4)  Sort – Go through the other items that are left and make the decision of where they need to go.

5)  Organize – Keep some of those handled fabric storage bins in your trunk and backseat.  They are inexpensive and can surprisingly hold a lot!  Five bins should do it; you don’t want to fill up your entire car with them.

In the trunk:

* Use one to stash snacks like granola bars and crackers for that on-the-go hunger.

* Use one to hold car cleaning supplies and a first aid kit.

* Use one to hold those miscellaneous items that accumulate daily all over the car!  Bring this bin in once a week and put the items where they belong.

In the backseat:

* Use one lined with a plastic grocery bag as a mini trash bin.

* Use one lined with a plastic grocery bag as a mini recycling bin.

Also consider those seat back car organizers if you have kids.  This will allow them to keep their belongings together, like magazines, books and headphones.

6)  Maintain – Whenever you stop for gas, pop the trash bag out and toss it.  Save the recycling items for home if you don’t see a recycling bin.  Keep some additional plastic grocery bags folded flat at the bottom of each bin once one is used up.

7)  Rejoice! – Look inside your newly cleaned car and get ready for those road trips.  Then, if it still stinks, quickly proceed to the nearest store and buy yourself an air freshener!

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9 Steps to a Tidy Coat Closet!

By Naomi Cook

Yes, winter is here, and it seems like it is here to stay!  We learned from Punxsutawney Phil (a groundhog in Pennsylvania, who makes predictions on the length of winter) on February 2nd (Groundhog Day) that we are due for another 6 weeks of winter!  I’ve just come in from clearing snow off of my car…again.  If we can’t control the weather outside, at least we control how things look when we go inside.  This leads to the question, how is your coat closet looking?  Is it jammed full of coats for all seasons?  Do things fall from the top shelf when you open the door?  Are there items inside that shouldn’t be in there?  If you answered a resounding “YES!”,  to any of these questions, then you are in need of a closet cleanout!  Follow these simple steps and you’ll be there in no time!

Step 1 – Remove everything from your closet, even from the floor, and give it a little dusting/mopping from possible mud-caked boots that have been hiding down there in the back corner.

Step 2 – Sort coats into several piles.  One pile for winter coats and another pile for spring/fall coats, for each member of the family.

Step 3 – Pair up gloves by tucking the wrist material together, just like you might with socks.  If you have single gloves without a match, then just toss them, unless you like that quirky mismatched look!

Step 4 – Gather together scarves, hats and umbrellas.  Check for any tears in the scarves and hats and also check your umbrellas to make sure the spokes aren’t broken.

Step 5 – If you don’t already have the following storage items, then consider getting them:

1)  Wooden Hangers for heavy wool winter coats.  Take a count of how many you will need.  Add a few more to that total to accommodate guest’s coats.

2)  Velvety Hangers for lightweight coats.  Again take a count of how many you will need and add a few more to that total to accommodate guest’s coats.

3)  Expandable Closet Rod Doubler to gain an instant extra level of hanging space, if you have mostly short coats.  No tools necessary, just hang it on your existing rod!  Even if you have one or two long coats, you can still use this if the rod doubler to condense down to just a portion of the existing rod.  Important tip!  Make sure you measure the width of your closet rod before you go shopping.

4)  Expandable Shelf/Shelves to organize and maximize your storage capabilities on and above the top shelf.  You can find these in the kitchen and/or closet sections of your favorite big box retailer.  For these, you will also need the width measurement of your closet.

5)  Bins with Handles for the top shelves. Look for lower height bins, as the space left underneath the expandable shelf/shelves will only be about 5″.  Look for standard height bins for above the expandable shelves, assuming you have enough height in your closet.

6)  Boot Tray for the floor of the closet to keep boots and shoes contained and the floor dry.

7)  Over-the-Door Shoe Pocket Holder in clear to hang on the inside of the closet door, assuming you have a swing out door and not a folding one.

Step 6 – Place the expandable shelf/shelves onto the top shelf of the closet.  Neatly fold Spring/Fall coats into the upper bins and stash them up top.  Then pair flip flops or sneakers in the lower height bins and put them up on the top shelf below the expandable shelf/shelves.

Step 7 – Hang winter coats onto wooden or velvety hangers, and then onto the closet rod doubler or existing rod. Hang thicker scarves or ones that coordinate with a certain coat on that hanger as well.

Step 8 – Put down the boot tray on the floor of the closet, wipe down all the boots, and place them on top.

Step 9 – Hang the over-the-door shoe holder over the door and stash your mated gloves, hats, thinner scarves and small umbrellas in the pockets.

….And you’re done!  How simple was that?  Even better, you’ll easily be able to change things around when springtime finally makes its appearance!  Move the winter coats up to the bins and bring the spring ones down. Also move the gloves, hats and scarves up and move the flip flops and sneakers down into the shoe holder.

Until next time, stay safe and warm!

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6 Things to Say Goodbye to in the New Year

By Naomi Cook

There are many things to say hello to this New Year, like fun new calendars and planners (which you can find plenty of here at Franklin Covey)!  However, there are also some things in your home that you should say goodbye to.  Check out this list of 6 cluttering culprits that may be in your home!

1)     Coupons – Are grocery and holiday store coupons lingering on your countertops?  Don’t spend more time than a quick skim, because chances are many of them expired at the end of December.  Then toss them all into the recycling bin.  *How can you organize them in the New Year?  Pick up a coupon organizer for your grocery coupons, and larger poly zip envelopes for larger store coupons, like my favorites from Bed Bath & Beyond!  Both items should be found at your favorite office supply store.

2)     Magazines – Are stacks of unread magazines sitting on your bedside table, some with the plastic covers still on?  Just keep the last several issues and recycle the rest.  Don’t feel like you’re missing something, because most magazines will cover similar timely topics in the next year.  *How can you organize them in the New Year?  Consider dropping some subscriptions or switching to online subscriptions, if your favorite publications offer them.

3)     Catalogs – Are piles of catalogs taking over your coffee table?   They can be enjoyable, but getting one a month…every month…from many companies, can really add up!  *How can you organize them in the New Year?  Did you know that it is so simple to stop them from coming to your home?  Opt out of ones that you really don’t care to receive anymore at www.catalogchoice.org.  Remember that you can always check things out on their websites.  It’s ok to keep a few of your favorites coming; I always hang onto my Container Store catalogs!

4)     Broken Electronics – Are bags of old and non working electronics, like your old hairdryer or blender, hanging out in your basement because you didn’t want to throw them in the trash, but you didn’t know what to do with them?   *How can you organize them in the New Year?  No need to organize these, get them out of the house!  Head to your local township’s website to look for any upcoming e-recycling events, where collections of anything with a plug are taken.  Or sign up for community pages on Facebook, like the Patch, where they may be listed.

5)     Change – Are your coins accumulating quickly, leaving little room for more in the jar?  *How can you organize them in the New Year?  First, dig out the quarters for the parking meters and put them in your car!  Then check to see if your bank has a coin to cash machine, or look for a local Coinstar machine (www.coinstar.com) near you and get some crisp new bills or gift cards to your favorite stores!

6)     Product Boxes – Are big boxes from items like your TV or microwave still fully intact, and taking up precious space?  *How can you organize them in the New Year?  Break them down, and recycle them, especially if the warranty is up.  All you really need to keep are the manuals, but you may not even need to keep the paper copies!  Check the website for the manufacturer to see if there is a downloadable version there for your product, and you can just save it onto your computer!

Have a wonderful January and a Clutter Free New Year!

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Gifting Organizational Twofers

By Naomi Cook

Never heard of a Twofer?

It is defined by Merriam-Webster as “something that satisfies two criteria or needs simultaneously.”  Um…what’s better than that!  This holiday season consider gifting a twofer with organization in mind.  Bath salts and soap gift baskets are nice, but how many have you received that have gone unused and sit in the back of your linen closet, just taking up space?  Here are some practical and reusable gift ideas for some of the people in your life that they are sure to love:

For the Bookworm:

  • Give a stair basket filled with things to keep warm in the winter – like cozy winter socks and a bestselling book.  Afterwards it can be used to help bring items from upstairs to downstairs and back up again!

For the Fashionista:

  • Find a nice jewelry display or holder for necklaces, bracelets or earrings and surprise them with a piece already on it or tucked inside!

For the Foodie:

  • Make homemade presents like filling a jar with cookie ingredients.  The jar can be used afterwards to hold the extra buttons that come with your clothing, or in the laundry room for items pulled out of pockets before washing!  Remember that whoever does the laundry gets to keep the money!
  • Head to a pottery painting store and work your magic on a serving bowl, adding some nice seasonal fruits onto it.

For the Gaming Enthusiast:

  • Find an inexpensive storage ottoman and fill it with a couple of the hottest new games.  They can keep all their gear and games inside and then have an extra seat!

For the Hobbyist:

  • Give a gift certificate to a store where they can buy items to pursue a passion.  Put that and a few small supplies in a multi-drawer plastic bin for the crafter on your list.  Or for the fix it guy or gal, put a gift card and a few tools in a tool box.

If all else fails and you are not sure what to get someone, give a gift card to a restaurant.  The twofer here can be the leftovers in a box, which you can reuse for leftovers at home!

Happy Holidays!

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Stressed Spelled Backwards is Desserts!

By Naomi Cook

Ok, so we haven’t reached the holidays yet, but have you looked at the calendar lately!  We are only about 2 weeks from Thanksgiving and then the madness starts!  Let’s take a crack at some of these things now, so that you have time to enjoy your holidays – imagine that!  Here are some ways to relieve some of the stress before it starts!

For now prepare for…

Feeding Time!

If you are hosting…

* Find your favorite supermarket’s circular (either paper or online), and do your holiday homework!  Online circulars are great in that you can create a printable shopping list of the sale items that are offered!

* See if they offer a free turkey (or alternative) when you spend a certain amount there before Thanksgiving.

* Look on your last store receipt to see how far away you are from that amount.

* If you still have a ways to go, then get all of the ingredients for the fixings now, because you don’t want to have to run out at the last minute and risk finding the shelves bare!

* You’ll find that a lot of those ingredients are on sale anyway and with store coupons and manufacturer coupons your savings can add up!

 

If you are a guest…

* Remind your host about any dietary restrictions you have.  Offer to bring something for yourself, like I do with my Tofurky!  Ok, don’t say ewww…it is actually quite delicious!

* Offer to bring a side dish or dessert and it can become a potluck affair!

 

Shopping Time!

* If you don’t normally buy the local Sunday paper, buy it for the next few months.

You’ll find ads for your favorite local stores with items on sale and can also

get thoughts on presents for friends and family.

* The Sunday paper is also where you will also get your manufacturer’s coupons for

your holiday ingredients!

* Flip through the magazines you subscribe too, sometimes they have valuable store

coupons on perforated cards.

* Check the covers of catalogs that come in the mail for Free Shipping deals.  Also

check around the order form to find out when you can expect delivery.

* Check your e-mail inbox for deals from your favorite catalogs and stores (that

you are subscribed to) as well.

* On a notepad jot those offers and dates down (of the catalogs you are interested

in) so they will be in one place.

* If you must, go shopping on Black Friday (although that can cause even more stress!)

or better yet partake in Cyber Monday.

* When you have found everything for everyone, consider opting out of receiving

paper catalogs (as well as other junk mail) and instead get their e-mail alerts.

Head to Catalog Choice (www.catalogchoice.org) for what to do!

* If you are concerned with receiving too many store e-mails, designate another

e-mail address just for them or just opt out.  Sometimes at that opt out point they

will ask you if you want less frequent e-mails.

 

Crisis Time!

* The inevitable may happen, and If your package has not arrived in time and you

are freaking out, get in touch with the company.

* If you get the voicemail run-around, log onto Get Human (www.gethuman.com) for how

to actually reach a human being!

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Gussy Up Your Guest Room

By Naomi Cook

You may have seen or read about Kmart’s latest commercial for the holidays…no, not for Halloween, but for Christmas!  Airing in Mid-September, it touts that now is the best time to start buying those holiday gifts through their layaway program.

Taking their cue, let’s talk about getting your home ready for those overnight guests that will most likely be starting to arrive around Thanksgiving.  You have the time now to get that guest room ready and not be rushing around.  Perhaps your guest room performs multiple duties as an office, an extra closet and general catch-all area for things that you don’t know what to do with at the time!  Take a bit of time each week to get things cleared out and organized and you’re guest room will be sitting pretty, just waiting for that first guest to arrive.

Don’t worry about perfection; just consider the needs of your guests and follow the 4 easy steps below:

Clear the surfaces – If you have a dresser in the guest room, take off all of the tchotchkes and either store them temporarily away in one of the drawers, or consider if any of them can be donated.  Go through the drawers as well; keeping a drawer or two empty for your guests, keeping their pajamas and socks in mind.  If you have a desk in the guest room, gather up your papers and file them or if they are no longer needed, shred them.

Clear the closet – As this may be a space for storing clothes overflowing from your main closet, take a close look at these items and figure out if you really wear them anymore.  By parting with some pieces, you will automatically have left some inches on the closet rod for your guests to hang their dressier items.

Clear the bed – Of course your guests will need a place to sleep, so take everything off of the bed.  If there are items like boxes from small appliances that were just tossed in the room, break them down and put them in the recycling bin.  For everything else, take the items to the room that they belong in.  Of course you will want to wash the sheets and blankets too!

Clear the floor – Pick up anything that has landed on the floor like grocery bags or paper clips and give it a good sweeping or run with the vacuum.

Now that wasn’t too hard was it?  Finish the room off with a nice basket including sets of rolled up towels, travel size toiletries like shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste and leave a mint on the pillow!   Offering turn down service is up to you!

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Prepare Your Perfect Paper Planner!

By Naomi Cook

Can you believe that 2013 is right around the corner?  Are you ready for it?  Better yet, is it ready for you and all that you have to do?!   Now’s the time to figure out your plan for your planner, and what better place to start than FranklinPlanner, where you can find a variety of paper planners to create your own unique system!

Do you prefer a paper planner, or do you favor having an electronic planner on your phone/computer?  Maybe you have taken on a hybrid of both, where you write down personal appointments in a paper planner, but add work appointments into your electronic planner.  I have gone through stages where I prefer one over the other, but have found that a paper planner is the right fit for me, because I am a fan of check marks and crossing off tasks.  Yes, I am a professional organizer and a perfectionist, and I’m proud of it!

Here are some simple steps that you can take to prepare your own perfect paper planner!  Can you say that 10 times fast?!

–     Things you will need: a mechanical pencil, an eraser, pens in different colors, paper clips, one brightly colored binder clip and a warm drink. Are you asking why you would need a warm drink? Well…it’s because you may be getting hand cramps from writing so much, and therefore it will come in very handy!

1)       Get out your 2012 planner, don’t toss it yet!  There is a lot of valuable information in there that will be repeated in your 2013 planner like birthdays and anniversaries.

2)       Ok, well you know what I’m going to say next…add in those birthdays and anniversaries to your new planner.  Use one color pen for birthdays and another for anniversaries.  As a quick trick to always remember how old someone is or how many years they have been married, add in parentheses after the name(s) that age of the person or number of years of marriage, and increase it by 1 every time you update to your next yearly planner!

3)       As you are scouring your 2012 planner look for any other pertinent information like any tasks that never got done, and any phone numbers or e-mail addresses that were quickly jotted down.

4)       Gather all of your new appointment cards and invitations and start entering those.  I like to use pencil for these dates in case any get rescheduled.  It looks cleaner to erase than cross out.  Once I’ve jotted those down, I like to staple the appointment card or clip the invitation to its coordinating page.  It may make your planner a bit thicker, but you’ll be able to see when an event is coming up.  Once the date has passed take out the appointment card or unclip the invitation and toss it.

5)       Add the brightly colored binder clip (so you can differentiate it from the paper clips) as a page marker so that you always open it up to the current week.

Now that you’re done, put the planner aside until January 1st, celebrate the end of 2012, and get excited for the beginning of an organized new year!

Until next time, stay neat people!

Thanks Naomi for sharing these great ideas!  I look forward to getting a new planner every year and your tips will certainly be helpful. 

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What’s Cooking, Good Looking?!

By Naomi Cook

Ok, here’s a little quiz for you all!  Don’t worry, there are no essay questions – just a simple yes or no will suffice!

  1. Do you like to cook and/or bake?
  2. Do you have some recipes bursting out of a folder in the kitchen, some on documents on the computer and still yet, others pulled from magazines that are somewhere in the abyss of paper piles throughout your home?
  3. Have you spent hours looking for a certain recipe and not been able to find it?

If you said No to all of these, then what are you reading this blog for?!  Just kidding!

If however, you said Yes to one or all of these, then you are in need of a recipe storage renovation!  No need for anything complex, just look through some of the options below and find out what might work best for you!

Go Old Fashioned

Maybe you have a nice recipe box that has been passed down along the generations in your family.  No worries if you don’t!  Find a nice wooden box (sized to fit 4 x 6 index cards) and some decorative index cards like the ones here at FranklinPlanner!  Or choose a simple index card case (divider cards often already come with them) from your local office supply store and some index cards that will fit inside.  I like 4 x6 rather than 3×5, just because they give you more space for writing.  Decide then if you would like to type up the recipes on the cards (via your printer of course, not an actual typewriter!) or if you or a friend has nice handwriting then write them out yourself or commission him or her to do it!  To keep the cards clean, consider getting them laminated and then you won’t have to worry about any spills!  Keep the process inexpensive by looking for self adhesive laminated sheets, again at your local office supply store or online, and you won’t have to worry about dealing with the expense of a heated laminating machine.  Another option is to look for a nice photo album that matches your kitchen décor.  Plus, albums come with divided sheets to hold multiple pictures; and as pictures are most commonly developed in the 4X6 size and coincidentally a lot of recipe cards are this size as well, everyone will think you’re so clever!

Go Modern

If you haven’t yet heard of Pinterest, it is a growing online phenomenon in which you can “copy” pictures of your favorite items, ideas and yes, recipes onto “boards”.  It also gives you the opportunity to peruse recipes from its thousands of users and it’s free!  Best of all, your recipes will be safe there even if your computer has its issues.  And if you are out and suddenly realize that you need ingredients, then you can access the site on your smartphone!  Another option is to make your own family cookbook.  Create a book with recipes and pictures of family favorites on a book making site such as Shutterfly or Snapfish.  Even Walgreens and Walmart are now offering these services online as well!  Make it fun by interspersing pictures from an event in which you had that delicious cookie or hearty casserole.

Once you have the option that works best for you, take a look through your favorites, make a list of ingredients and stock up your pantry.  Purchase non-perishable items, enough for making that recipe a couple of times, so that you can have everything, if not all, for your recipe in a pinch.  You’ll appreciate this most of all when winter is here and you won’t have to trek out to the store for the ingredients to make cookies…um, but you’ll still have to go out to get some milk to go along with them!

Until next time, stay neat people!

Thanks for the clever organizing advice Naomi!! Recipe organization can be challenging.  

 

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Trick Your Kids Into Earning Their Treats!

By Naomi Cook

You will see lots of ghosts, princesses and superheroes roaming around your neighborhood on October 31st, but do you see lots of clutter around your home every day of the year?  Add piles of candy into the mix and the clutter may just end up intermixed with candy wrappers!  But wait!  You parents can gain the upper hand when it comes to doling the candy out and attempt to control energy intensified sugar highs!  Try the methods below; after all a little bribery never hurt anyone, and rewarding hard work (think going to the gym) with a treat (think buying a cute new workout outfit) keeps productivity levels consistent.

If you are still feeling the stress from back-to-school time, try incorporating a new routine for your family, including candy (yes, I said candy!) into your daily schedule.  Starting at Halloween, get your family involved in keeping your home less cluttered by:

  1. Dumping out each child’s stash on the kitchen table and looking for any candy that is not wrapped, has a torn wrapper or a hole in the wrapper.
  2. Repeating the process with each child.  You do not want to mix any of their candy up!  Kids are territorial when it comes to their treats!
  3. Allowing for trading between siblings, because one may have candies that they don’t like and the other one does.
  4. Storing the candy in larger kitchen plastic containers; think inexpensive ones like from Ziploc or Glad, which can be used again for storing cookies, etc. later on.
  5. Heading online and doing searches for Halloween images and free Halloween fonts, and letting the kids cut them out and tape them on to decorate their container or containers –depending on the size of their haul!
  6. Creating a simple chore chart, to encourage your children to help around your home with tasks that they can handle.   Then for each task they complete they get a piece of candy!  How do you make a chore chart, you ask?  Well, let me tell you!

Creating a Chore Chart

  1. When shopping, look for packs of Halloween stickers.  You may want to get several packs depending on how many children you have.
  2. Head to your printer for computer paper, and take out one piece of paper for each child.  Assuming you already have markers and a ruler, that’s all your really need!
  3. Arrange the paper, so that the long side is parallel to your table.
  4. On the far left vertical side create a block with the child’s name, while on the horizontal side, create a block for each chore.  Use the ruler and markers here to make the blocks.  The more chores you can add on, the better, as it is another opportunity for them to get another piece of candy!  For lists of household chores for children ranging in ages from toddlers to teenagers, do an online search; there are a lot of sites out there on this topic!
  5. As your child completes each chore, simply have them put a sticker in the box referring to that chore!
  6. Consider creating a new chore chart for each month, and add on chores specific to the holidays of that month.  You can find stickers for nearly every holiday, so you can keep the process fun all year round!

By incorporating a chore chart around Halloween, like this, children of a young age will learn responsibility and gladly receive one piece of candy for doing a task.  For other months, you can have them “earn” a certain amount of stickers to exchange for a small prize – think the dollar aisles at Target.  However, as they grow older, that won’t cut it, and they will be looking for an allowance.  Yet, by the time they are teens, if they are still trick or treating, let them deal with their own candy…and maybe sneak a piece once in a while for yourself…

Until next time, stay neat people!  

Naomi, thanks for the clever Halloween inspired organizing tips.  Now I just have to remember not to eat all the candy myself.  

 

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School’s Back… Keep Your Home on Track!

Time for teachers, time for books, time for teacher’s dirty looks (ha ha!)…and it’s also time to set up your home with an organizational system that will keep your family members on track, without cluttering it up!

Where is the main hub in your home?  For most, especially families, it is in the kitchen.  Have you noticed the growing trend of incorporating a built in desk area into kitchens?  Different from a home office, this area is a quick spot to pay bills, keep track of appointments and sort through mail. 

In September though, for families, there is often an explosion of activities and school field trips, and suddenly that small desk area may seem to get smaller and smaller and smaller.  So why not set up a Command Center, one that is both effective and creative and best of all inexpensive! 

Here are some suggestions of things to look for to create your very own Command Center:

1.  Large Paper Monthly Wall Calendar – Look for a basic one that has multiple lines printed in each date block, which can be hung by a nail on a free wall in the kitchen.  A Large Preprinted White Board Calendar, with Dry Erase Markers, is an alternative, but it limits you to notating events and activities one month at a time, and it also can be costly. 

2.  Colorful Gel Pens – These tend to come in a variety pack of bright colors and also write very smoothly.  Let each member of the family pick one color that will then be designated for all of their activities.

3.  Wite Out™ Tape Cartridges:  Use these for those inevitable schedule updates and changes!

4.  Bulletin Board Cork Tiles with Pushpins – Use 1 or 2 or even 4 per person…they are that inexpensive!  Since these aren’t very heavy, try Mounting Tape to attach them to the wall.  To give them a fun look, create a 1” border using Colored and Patterned Duct Tape, which is all the rage with kids now!  Aim to find the Duct Tape and Pushpins that coordinate with their chosen gel pen color. 

5.  Small Markerboards – Placed next to the each individuals Cork Tile(s), these allows for quick phone, or other reminder messages, to be jotted down.   A lot of these come with a dry erase pen already! 

6.  Hanging Wall File Pockets – Find one with a pocket for each person and label them accordingly.  Use these as an in/out box for permission slips and notes from teachers.

7.  Memory Boxes – Find inexpensive large, but shallow boxes to keep children’s artwork, and other prized tests and reports in, for during the school year.  Look for them to coordinate once again with their chosen Gel Pen color.  Better yet, do you have any tall boot boxes?  Cover the lid and base with the Colored and Patterned Duct Tape and you have an inexpensive but custom made and cool looking box!

8.  File Box – A portable file box will come in handy for school directories and any other information that isn’t necessary to keep out.

Once you’ve set up your Command Center, grab those multitudes of papers that have accumulated and put your new project to the test!  Fill up the calendar as far in advance as you can, post birthday invitations and school menus on the cork boards, breathe a sigh of relief at your accomplishments, and get ready for a fun new school year!

Until next time, stay neat people!  


Thanks Naomi for these great ideas!  Make sure you check out file boxes, memory boxes, marker boards and other organizing tools available on FranklinPlanner.com.  

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7 Simple Steps to Keep Your Bathroom Spick and Span

By Naomi Cook

In preparing my thoughts for this posting about organizing the bathroom, I started to realize that the steps sounded vaguely familiar to my last posting about organizing the pantry in 7 Simple Steps to a Picture Perfect Pantry.  Hmmm…that makes this a bit easier to write for me, but what’s in it for you, you might ask?  Well, if you completed my mission for the pantry, you will already have the innate skills needed to work on this bathroom challenge!

Step 1 – Categorize:  Start by taking everything out of your medicine cabinet and/or your vanity and place items in categories on a countertop or even on the floor, i.e. hair care, medicines, facial care.  

Step 2 – Clean:  Wipe down all of the shelves to remove any spilled over products.  This is also a good time for you women out there to clean your makeup brushes and toss any overused makeup sponges in the trash. 

Step 3 – Toss/Recycle:  Now’s the time to trash any products that have expired, like cold medicine or products that you didn’t like, like the body wash which you swore smelled nicer in the store!  Pour out the liquid medicine from bottles into the sink and put them in your recycling bin.  Take medications in pill form to your pharmacy for disposal or put them in with the used kitty litter…no one is going to go after those…trust me!

Step 4 – Make a shopping list:  Write down items that you have disposed of, on a shopping list.  It’s a good idea to have your favorite pain reliever, nausea medicine and cold medicine handy.  It’s also great to have backups of your daily essentials on a shelf in a nearby closet.  If not, buy some storage drawers to set on the floor or on an upper shelf and stash the items in there!  Also, before you recycle your empty shampoo bottle, etc., write it down on your shopping list so you will always have an extra on hand.

Step 5 – Implement tools (Optional):  Does your bathroom storage capacity include only a medicine cabinet and a single sink/vanity with 2 doors?    No problem – mine does too!  There are many inexpensive solutions out there for extra storage and they aren’t always located in the bathroom storage section of your local home store – just be creative!  Here is what I use:

– Mesh / Clear Plastic Over-the-door Shoe Holder – I use this for hairsprlotions, hair accessories and more, that can’t fit on my countertop.

– Stackable Shoe Bin Size Drawers – I fit 2 stacks of 3 in my vanity and there is still room in the center for some backup items like extra shampoo, conditioner and body wash.

– Decorative Shelf/Hutch – I have a decorative shelf over my toilet for my perfumes and a clock radio, but a hutch is another great way to get a bit more closed storage in your bathroom!

– Wall Hooks – I installed a double wall hook to hide behind the door when it’s open.  It’s a great spot for a robe or drying towel.

– Acrylic Medicine Cabinet Organizers – I love mine to keep my makeup in order, especially the slots for mascaras and lipsticks so they don’t keep falling over and rolling out of the cabinet!

– Shelf Liner (Nonstick) – I cut strips to fit the length and depth of my cabinet.  It’s much easier to remove these and clean them once in a while rather than scrubbing those narrow spaces!

– Toilet Tank Toilet Paper Holder – Why take up space in your vanity when you can just hang your back up roll here!

Step 6 – Put back mindfully:  Separate your medicine cabinet/ vanity into sections for different members of the family or for items that should stick together, like first aid and dental supplies. 

Step 7 – Set up a dry erase board:  Just as you did last month with your pantry, establish a rule for those in your household, who can write, that if they use up say the rest of the shampoo, it get’s written on the board.  This can also be used for your general shopping list and transferred to paper when it’s time to go to the market.  Keep this in proximity to the bathroom and linen closet. 

Up for some extra credit and feeling ambitious? 

Also, as you did last month with your pantry, create an inventory of items that are ready to go back into the medicine cabinet/vanity on a master list.  Update it frequently on a document in your computer so you know what’s in there.  Also, think ahead, and stash all of your hotel toiletries in a small basket for any unexpected overnight guests!   They can use them after they eat their angel food cake that you made sure you got for your pantry last month, right?!

Until next time, stay neat people!  

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7 Simple Steps to a Picture Perfect Pantry

By Naomi Cook

Has the inside of your pantry become like the Bermuda Triangle?    Have you ever looked for something, say a cake mix for your child, who just told you at 9pm that there is a bake sale tomorrow morning and she needs 3 dozen cupcakes?   Have you sworn you had several mixes…scoured the pantry, but couldn’t find them, and rushed out to the store all frazzled, only to find out later that you have 5 boxes of cake mix at the back of the top shelf behind that mega pack of granola bars that you couldn’t pass up at Costco?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then it’s time for a food intervention here, people!  I invite you to clean out your pantry and follow these 7 simple steps to get it to be a help and not a hindrance. 

Step 1 – Categorize:  Start by taking everything out of your pantry and place items in categories on a nearby table or countertop, i.e. baking supplies, snacks, breakfast items.   

Step 2 – Clean:  Wipe down all of the shelves to get rid of those cracker crumbs and cereal flakes…and hopefully that is just a raisin in the corner of the floor…

Step 3 – Toss/Recycle:  Now’s the time to trash any products that have expired, like the cereal you hated after eating it just once and has been crammed in the back ever since!  Break down cereal or cracker boxes after removing the bags inside, pour out expired spices from bottles in the trash and put them in your recycling bin. 

Step 4 – Make a shopping list:  Write down items that you have tossed in the trash, on a shopping list.  However, you should only limit it to staple items like oregano or cinnamon or your child’s favorite cereal.  If it’s something you’ve only used once for a recipe you made a year ago, it’s not that important.  Decisions like these will allow your pantry to have more breathing room!

Step 5 – Implement tools (Optional):  Do you have adjustable shelves in your pantry?  If you do, that’s great.  If not, you may have some vertical spaces that are being wasted between the shelves.  Expandable shelves are a great solution to this problem, and you end up with double the shelving!  You’ll notice that canned items will fit nicely underneath the expandable shelves.  Use this small space also by putting boxed items away horizontally or on their side.  Another good tool to have in your pantry is a packet holder for all of those seasonings and sauce mixes. 

Step 6 – Put back mindfully:  Separate your pantry into sections for different members of the family or for items that should stick together, like baking supplies.  For example, keep the kid’s snacks on the shelves that are most accessible to them. 

Step 7 – Set up a dry erase board:  Establish a rule for those in your household, who can write, that if they use up say the rest of the cereal, it get’s written on the board.  This can also be used for your general shopping list and transferred to paper when it’s time to go to the market.  Keep this in proximity to the pantry and the fridge. 

Up for some extra credit and feeling ambitious? 

Create an inventory of items that are ready to go back into the pantry on a master list.  Update it frequently on a document in your computer so you know what’s in there.  Also, think ahead and by several cake mixes (especially angel food cake since you only need to add water!) and a few cans of frosting.   You will have something for unexpected company, and you will never need to run out at 9pm for cake mix again! 

Until next time, stay neat people! 

Thanks Naomi!  Your tips will most definitely be helpful.

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Organizing a Staycation

By Naomi Cook

With today’s gas prices and flight costs rising, taking a simple summer vacation has gotten to be a lot more expensive.  Add in paying for meals and entertainment and say goodbye to even more of your hard earned money.  Oy vey…what a headache!  Why not forgo all that stress, save some money, and instead have a Staycation in your very own home!

Merriam – Webster defines a Staycation as “a vacation spent at home or nearby”.  Turn your home and backyard into an outdoor oasis that everyone in the family will enjoy. Think about how a hotel is set up and organize your home as such, for the whole summer or even just a week!

Start in the kitchen:  Set up an island or part of a countertop for a breakfast buffet/snack bar like you would find in a hotel chain.  Set out those single serve cereal boxes, some fruit and granola bars; maybe even whip up a large amount of pancake batter.  Buy an inexpensive waffle maker and you can have fresh waffles every morning!  Since you are saving money by staying at home, splurge a little here.  Find melamine dishes and bowls and acrylic cups, and stash your everyday dishes and cups up on a higher shelf.  Tie them together with a bright tablecloth and you have a fresh new look.  When you decide to eat al fresco, just take those items outside! 

Head into the great outdoors:  After a nice breakfast head outside for the next phase of the day.  If you are in the mood to relax then set yourself up on your patio or lawn.  Put on some music, bring out your favorite books and/or magazines, and even work on a hobby that you’ve been neglecting.  Keep a cooler filled with your favorite beverages and you’ll be set!  If you are in the mood to get out of the house, then use those at home days to figure out where to go.  If you don’t have a pool at your home or community, consider a membership to a local pool.  Or maybe you’d rather go shopping; an outlet center is a great way to spend a day and most offer coupons for additional savings.  Another idea is to become a tourist in your own city.  So often, our lives get so busy that we can’t appreciate the historical areas and landmarks that our own city has to offer.

End in the bedroom: Use as a sanctuary to rest and recharge after a busy day outdoors.  Put crisp linens and a light comforter on the bed in soothing beach colored neutrals.  Try to keep it as a technology free area, which shouldn’t be too hard, because most TV shows are on reruns!  Keep a book on your night table and read that instead. 

However you decide to spend your Staycation, take the time to savor every minute of the day.  Push aside obligations and expectations and put the focus on you.  You deserve it! 

 

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Teaching Children to be Organized

“Give a Man a Fish, Feed Him For a Day. Teach a Man to Fish, Feed Him For a Lifetime.”  This Chinese proverb explains the importance of education and in turn the value of responsibility and accountability for one’s self.

Kids learn by example when it comes to actions.  Walking, talking, laughing and more…Have you thought about how the state of your home can impact a child’s organizational skills as well?  Since television shows on hoarding have been appearing, the world has learned how impactful the disease really is, especially on children.

On a lighter note, children are visual creatures, and that is something good to understand when it comes to helping them get (and stay) organized.  Read below for ideas that can help at any stage of life.

Preschool aged children – These little guys will need your help.  Appeal to their visual senses, while also turning clean up into a game, and they should easily grasp organizing fundamentals such as:

  • Using Simple Storage: Those fabric cube bins with handles seem to come in every color these days and are appearing in more and more stores.  They are also soft and easy for little hands to carry around.  Better yet, they can slip into most bookcases easily.
  • Using Pictures: For toys small enough to fit into the bins, attach pictures of the toys, showing which items go in which bin.  For bigger items, attach pictures to the wall over its “parking spot”.
  • Using Size Arrangement: For books, dolls, and game boxes.
  • Using Color Arrangement: For stuffed animals, construction paper, and art supplies.

Elementary school aged children – These guys are learning independence through a full day at school, but will still need your help.  Let them continue to build on the fundamental organizing skills and let them input fun new ideas.  At this stage, arrange the bars and shelves in their closet for them to be able to pick out their own clothes.  Work with them to group like items together by size, like short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, jeans and pants.  After that, if you’re really adventurous, work on arranging each of those groupings into color order.

You can also introduce them to one of my favorite tools…the Label Maker!  Let them have fun labeling where everything goes.  Choose tapes in their favorite color and a fun font!  Warning…labeling can be addictive!  Supervise them or you will be going to your local office supply store every day to buy more tape cartridges!

Middle school aged children/ High School Aged Children – These guys have reached independence yet their schedules are filling up at this point and organizing may not be a priority.  Build on the fundamental skills by introducing magnet boards, dry erase calendar boards, and assignment/activity planners.

At this stage in life, most parents will implement an allowance in exchange for doing chores around the house, including keeping their rooms organized.  Money talks, so any other form of bribery isn’t really necessary!

Ultimately, you want to give your kids an appreciation for their belongings, as well as your home.  By following the organizing fundamentals and building upon them gradually, you will set them off to become organized adults.  In turn, they will teach their children, and when those grandchildren come to your house notice if they are sprouting buds of understanding organization.  If not, tell your children that you want their years of allowance back!

 

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Holiday Stowaways (don’t worry… they will soon go away!!)

By Naomi Cook

It’s that time of year, and Santa is not the only one who will be slipping into your house. Yes, I am talking about friends and family descending into your home…hopefully not via the chimney!

Get a head start on organizing your home now, so that you can enjoy your home, and allow both you and your guests the ability to move about the house with relative ease.

Here are some suggestions that may help relieve your stress and allow you to hang onto your sanity!

  1. Move out-of-season coats out of the entry coat closet. For now, each coat can go to the top of its corresponding family member’s closet. Then the bedrooms you assign as rooms for your guests won’t become the dumping ground for coats. If kids are staying over, and assumingly go to bed early, they will need a clear bed to sleep on!
  2. Empty a drawer or two from the dresser in each of the guest rooms and temporarily keep those items in shopping bags, on a shelf or floor in the closet. Now your guest(s) can unpack, and suitcases can roll away under the bed or in a corner.
  3. Buy some over-the-door hooks for every guest’s bedroom and/or closet door. These are inexpensive, take up virtually no room at all, and can accommodate guest towels, robes, and suits or dresses. Remember to make room for those guests that are banished to the sofa bed too!
  4. Clean the linens and make the beds in each room, including the sofa bed. Leave a mint on the pillow!
  5. Create bins with items just for them. Buy some of those fabric handled bins, one for each guest. Use a hanging gift tag to personalize each one. Inside, roll up a set of towels, travel size toothpaste and toothbrush, shampoo and conditioner, soap, etc. Your guests can carry their bin to the bathroom with them much like a college student does with a shower caddy. Toss in some candy for munchies and a water bottle for when they need to quench their thirst in the middle of the night.
  6. Fill a small area in the pantry with snacks and the fridge with drinks for your guests, and let them know to help themselves.
  7. Use additional fabric bins to house small gifts, and if you have folding chairs set up in the living room, they can be slipped under. Again, add a hanging gift tag to personalize each.
  8. Place thin blankets on the seats or backs of the folding chairs to act as cushions, and your guests will always have something to keep them nice and toasty.
  9. Unpack the holiday decorations, and using the same (now empty) boxes and containers, store items that are not necessary to leave out, like tchotchkes, books, magazines, and piles of your kid’s artwork! When it is time to put the holiday decorations back away, just do a swap!

Using these 9 tips will make your guests feel at home and keep your peace of mind.  Happy Holidays!

Thanks for the clever pre-holiday-hosting organizing advice Naomi! If anyone else has some organized hosting tips or tricks, feel free to share in a comment.

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Going Vertical

By Naomi Cook

Ah …college graduation time – no more classes, no more books! I remember what a great time in life that was – no obligations (for the moment, anyway) and lots of celebration! Plus, I was finally able to check out of that cramped concrete cube that was my bedroom, closet, office, living room and kitchen all rolled up into one! Add in a roommate and I think to myself now, “How did I ever survive?!”

Wherever you live now, when it comes to organization, go back to thinking like a college student. Floor space is limited, but as the typical ceiling height of most rooms is 8 feet (at least!) take a look at all of the available wall space in your home.

Yes, walls aren’t just for artwork and tiny shelves holding grandma’s knick knacks…they are valuable real estate in any home. One of the first things I bought for my apartment after college was a 6 foot by 6 foot bookcase, which is divided up into 25 cubbies. It is still the best investment I ever made.

The bookcase is now in my dining room and it has become invaluable for holding books and magazines, light bulbs, office supplies, and much more! Some of these items don’t need to be seen and are covered by 3 table runners to add visual interest and a pop of color. All that and it takes up barely any room!

Technology has helped tremendously and now laptops don’t require desks, unlike the big old desktop computers (a.k.a. beige dinosaurs!) of years ago. Stereo systems have been replaced by iPods, and tube televisions have given way to wall mounted flat screens. Here are some other inexpensive ideas for going vertical throughout your home:

Shelves are one of the simplest ways to go vertical. Use them for media in your living room, cookbooks in your kitchen and spare towels in the bathroom.

Hooks are another great idea, and these days you can find plenty to fit your style and color scheme. Use them to display your costume jewelry and handbags in the bedroom, mugs in the kitchen and hair dryer in the bathroom.

Door Organizers are perhaps my favorite way to go vertical. Without any need for power tools, you can slip them right over a door! Use ones with pockets for belts and shoes in the bedroom and small items in the pantry and bathroom. Use ones with hooks to set out your clothes for the next day in the bedroom and extra coats and umbrellas in a closet.

Whatever methods you choose, enjoy your home and design it as a reflection of you…and for goodness sake please throw away that blacklight poster!

Please join us in welcoming Naomi to the GO Community. Give her a cheer and check back later for more great ideas for organized interiors. If you’re in the greater Philadelphia area, take advantage of her professional organizing skills http://itlooksgoodinside.com/
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