Saturday, December 6, 2008

Holiday Shopping Made Easier

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is shopping. I love walking around and looking at all of the holiday decorations, seeing the ornaments, and feeling the holiday spirit in the air. While most people put this off until the day after Thanksgiving (or worse, Christmas Eve) I usually start thinking about what to get people for Christmas at the first sign of fall. My holiday stress level is very low because I plan ahead and prepare for the holiday season.

The timesaving tricks I have mastered for holiday shopping are so simple. Usually by September I have created a gift list with the gifts I am giving to my family and friends. After I do some comparison shopping (usually online) I make a note of the store the gift is sold in and how much it costs. Then I use my gift list as my plan of attack for which stores I need to hit. Like I said, this is really easy. Instead of going to the mall empty handed with the intention of "spotting the perfect gift" you go to the mall with a plan and you will leave the madhouse sooner, and probably have more money in your pocket by having prepared your gift list ahead of time.

Many department stores offer complimentary gift wrapping on purchases made in their store. To cut down on your time spent wrapping gifts, consider dropping your gifts off to be wrapped while continuing on with your shopping elsewhere. For stores that don't have gift wrapping services, many do offer free gift boxes with your purchase. Even if you aren't buying a gift, consider taking the box - you never know when it could come in handy down the gift wrapping road.

Grocery shopping is not on my list of favorite things to do. It's time consuming, tedious, expensive and seems to happen too frequently - especially around the holidays. If there is one grocery store trip that you prepare ahead of time and make a list I suggest that you make that trip during the holidays. Generally your list is longer, more encompassing and much more specific than at any other time of the year since many people entertain or bake goodies for friends and loved ones. It is just as necessary to have a game plan to go to the grocery store as it is to go to the mall. Prepare your list (include quantities, of course), get your coupons ready, and plan ahead by creating your meals ahead of time and around what is on sale that week. Need holiday recipes? Look online, ask your family and friends for suggestions, read the paper, check out your grocer's recipe collection, or look on products in your pantry for recipes.

Happy holiday shopping!

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Holiday Wrapping Storage

It's that time to start bringing out the bows, half-used rolls of wrapping paper, un-sorted tissue paper, stray gift tags, and of course the yards and yards of ribbon. If you're like most people you probably have an area or maybe even a box that you throw all of your holiday wrapping paraphernalia into and forget about it until the next holiday season. I find that it makes it a lot easier to get motivated to wrap gifts if you have your gift wrappings in a more orderly way so that it takes less effort to get to everything.

Before I go any farther I must introduce you to my family's method of gift wrap storage as I was growing up. The method is/was: having an overwhelmingly enormous pile designated for gift wrapping. This drove me absolutely insane, as I am someone who is a bit compulsive when it comes to organizing. Every year around the holidays I would go into that bottomless pit and organize the wrapping paper to prepare to wrap my gifts, only to find that the next time I opened that door it was back to being a mess again. Needless to say, I soon became an expert gift wrapping organizer... Now if only I could have gotten my family to maintain an organized area.

I am a huge fan of clear plastic storage containers. My idea of a perfectly organized holiday wrapping storage area would be a whole bunch of different size storage containers with nice, neat labels. The separation of the larger items such as bags and boxes from the smaller items is one of the key points to take away.

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS: I would use smaller shoebox size containers (or even a shoe box would work!) to house my loose bows, spools of ribbon, gift tags and of course several rolls of tape and a pair of scissors (which always seem to disappear at the most inopportune times).

WRAPPING PAPER: I love the idea of a very large (long but low) container to store wrapping paper since it has kind of an awkward long size to it, but if that doesn't work for you consider a tall cardboard box where you can stand up your rolls of paper. I generally store my tissue paper with the wrapping paper.

BOXES: We've all got a collection of gift boxes that either came with purchases or gifts we have received. What the heck do we do with all of these boxes? I suggest you keep them because you never know when they'll come in handy to help you wrap gifts. I have boxes of so many varying sizes it's hard to keep them straight! I use another large container (consider doubling the wrapping paper container with the box container) and break down the boxes so they lay flat inside. For the nicer, decorative boxes that do not break down I stack them inside of each other to save space.

BAGS: My collection of holiday gift bags outnumbers my box collection by a lot. I keep my holiday bags stored either in my box container or my wrapping paper container and find that the combination works out well. Another alternative would be to use a very large gift bag and store the remaining smaller bags inside of it. I find this works very well and looks nice because you can always see the pretty decorative bag displayed on your shelf.

The key with this is to not let it get too unorganized. I mentioned when I was growing up how I was the only one who organized everything and no one seemed to put anything where it went. This is a real problem and leads to overwhelming clutter and can be very difficult to motivate yourself to create order in a space like that. My very best advice is that after you create an organizational system in an area to follow it. Just because you adopt a system to organize doesn't mean you are organized. You must follow your organizational system to maintain organization.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Cupboard Organization

Organizing your cupboards is really easy - you just have to do it and stick to it. With regard to food pantries or cupboards it is really easy to try to stuff things on the shelf to make everything fit. Doing this makes it easier for you to push other things to the back, only to forget about them and purchase duplicate items or let the food go bad. One thing I am in charge of in my house is organizing the newly purchased groceries. I actually look forward to coming home, unloading the groceries and finding a spot for them in the cupboard or refrigerator.

For those of you who are able to regularly take the time to keep your food nicely arranged some tips are: maximize your cabinet space by using elevated platforms so you can put things on top of the platform and underneath it, utilize the shelves that come in your cupboard or pantry and adjust them based on your needs; create zones on your shelves, such as a rice zone, a cracker zone, a pasta zone, a cereal box zone, and a canned food zone, or simply arrange by size and organize your food that way; use baskets or small plastic storage buckets to store things like treats, granola bars, bread, or single-serve oatmeal packets.

When organizing your other cupboards use the same general ideas that you would for your food storage areas, such as maximizing space and utilizing the shelves that you have. My bathroom cupboard has a lot of stuff in it, so I use an elevated platform to add to the usable storage space, in addition, I have a plastic basket where I put my hair products, and a small plastic divided bucket where I store things like headbands and bobby pins, I use a travel makeup bag to store my makeup, a beautiful ceramic bowl to store my lipstick, and a small basket that holds my perfume. I would go crazy every time I opened the cupboard door if I didn't have everything contained in its own area. These tips can work equally well for the cabinet under your kitchen sink, too.

The same rules go for cupboards in play rooms, entertainment rooms, bedrooms, offices and anywhere else you have a cupboard in your house. Utilize bins, buckets, tubs, baskets, etc. to store your objects. My favorite are either small baskets or small clear plastic stackable storage containers with lids.

Remodeling is a great time to re-evaluate the usefulness of your cupboards. I really love cupboards that have sliding shelves where you can pull them out and really maximize their usefulness, lazy Susan cupboards are great for using the corner space that would otherwise be wasted or nearly impossible to reach, and customizing your space to meet your needs. Meet with a custom cabinet designer if you're considering remodeling or adding any cupboards to your home. Explain your wants and needs and the designer should be able to create something exquisite that suits your style.

If you're interested in purchasing cabinet organization kits or supplies, my suggestion is to get creative and figure out your ultimate goal with the space, then visit a store that sells organizational tools or kits. Be creative here - there are so many things you can use to better organize your cupboards.

I really like to line the cupboards and drawers in my home with contact paper or a shelf liner. This makes it so much easier to clean - plus if you have really ugly cabinets this can bring some life to them. Underneath my glasses and cups I use a thicker shelf liner that has a sticky feel to help keep my glasses from chipping and adds some style in the process. You're not the only one who looks in your cupboards, after all... Why not have them look nice like the rest of your house?

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Preparing for Thanksgiving Dinner

There are several helpful techniques to consider when getting ready to host a Thanksgiving dinner. Many people shy away from inviting guests to their home for a prepared meal or event because they think that it will be too much work. On the contrary, in fact hosting a meal for your family can be as easy as pumpkin pie.

The biggest, most important thing to do when preparing for your family’s Thanksgiving dinner is to prepare for it! You must plan ahead. I’ve been checking recipes online from my favorite food websites, and I’ve been monitoring the sales at my grocery store to determine when it will be least expensive to purchase my ingredients. I started planning my meal by making a list of what food I want, such as turkey, potatoes, green beans, cranberry, pumpkin pie, and then I sought out recipes in each category. From there you can use the recipes to help you create your shopping list. Don’t forget to incorporate the number of people plus leftovers to your recipe and grocery list. You’re halfway there!

An old trick of organized people is to do things ahead of time. Several of my menu items can be prepared the day before, such as the brine for my turkey, my homemade rolls, and my delicious pumpkin pie. Preparing some of your food ahead of time will spare you stress and some space in your oven. One thing I don’t like about the holidays is the crowded supermarkets and malls. Consider shopping early in the morning or late at night to avoid crowds and lines.

After you decide what you are able to prepare ahead of time it is important to create a timeline for Thanksgiving Day, as far as when you need to put everything together and get it in the oven so it comes out at the appropriate time. It helps me to put this all on paper so I can have something to reference as to what I should be doing at what time. This technique will be your savior come Thanksgiving Day. When preparing your timeline, I would suggest that you decide what serving platters to use. Set everything out onto your buffet, table or counter where it will be on Thanksgiving to make sure you have enough space, and more importantly enough serving platters to put all of your food in.

Other things to consider are: having entertainment for children, set out a deck of cards or get out some board games so your family has entertainment too, purchase some extra reusable food storage containers to send your guests home with some delicious leftovers, get your cleaning done ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it on Thanksgiving Day, absolutely don’t forget to thaw your turkey if you purchase it frozen, consider making an extra pie or extra dessert so you can send that home as leftovers for your guests, too.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bill Pay Organization

Paying bills can be a thorn in your backside if you let it. However, it can be easy as pie if you allow it to be. My bill-pay system is SO easy and impossible to screw up. Here's what I do: I use a little Post-It note tab and write the name of each bill I have, then place it on my calendar on the date it is due. The bright color stands out against my white calendar so I notice it and remember to pay the bill. After I pay the bill I make sure to move the reminder to the next month so I know that the bill has been paid. I also have a mini dry-erase board next to my calendar with the names and due dates of my bills for the upcoming/current month, then make a note when I pay the bill. I also have a handy little bill organizer in my den that helps me to keep my invoices more orderly and not get lost, also it eliminates the piles that bills would make otherwise.

Organizing your bills and expenses is very easy. If you have a lot of documents to keep track of or to organize, my suggestion would be to purchase a file cabinet, otherwise it is just as effective to use a household file folder. Both methods allow you to use a file folder to organize specific bills, documents or expenses. After I pay my bills I put the statement or invoice in its respective folder and move on. I can always come back to it in case there is a discrepancy.

I do all of my banking online so I have very quick and easy access to my bills and my bank statements, but I have seen people develop very crafty techniques for organizing and monitoring their bills. This also eliminates the need for writing checks, which enables me to keep track of my spending online instead of having to constantly balance my checkbook.

My mom uses a bill book where she reserves one page for each month, writes the name of her bills in one column, the amount due, the due date, the date she paid the bill, and the amount she paid. Pretty simple, huh? Microsoft Excel has templates available for creating a budget or tracking expenses and bills. One new tool that we have been using is, which was designed to track your spending and help you stay on budget. It's a great website to use to help you get financially organized. It even sends you reminders about when your bills are due! There are so many easy and free ways to organize your bills.

Need I say this, but creating a budget is really a key part of organizing your finances. With the economy in its current state I think it wouldn't hurt any of us to re-evaluate where our money is coming from and going to. Then you can determine where you are able to cut costs and save more.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Photo Organization

If you’re like me and love to take photos to capture just about every moment on film you are probably in need of a system of organization to keep your photos from taking over your life. I bet I have enough photos to completely cover at least one room in my home from floor to ceiling; however, you’d never know that unless you peeked under my bed where I store my collection. I would love to have a crafts room in my house, but we don’t have any rooms to spare right now.

For those of you who do have a crafts room, not only am I jealous of your space, but I am jealous of your potential with this room. Since I lack space in my home I have to improvise and make do with what I have. Under my bed is where a lot of my storage items are kept, so I have to be very crafty when I utilize that space. I enjoy scrapbooking, though I am by no means a fanatic, so I have yet to accumulate too much “stuff.” All of my scrapbooking tools fit into an oversized under-the-bed storage container, then I store my scrapbooks or photo albums either stacked on top of each other under the bed or in a similar oversized under-the-bed container.

My photos are kept organized in chronological order in multiple photo boxes. Photo boxes can be spendy. If you’d rather spend that money developing more pictures I would suggest using a gift box (make sure it’s more than four inches tall and six inches wide, though!) instead. To better organize your homemade photo box, consider using a large index card with a tab (you can make the tab yourself) to separate photos by category/month/quarter/year, etc. I have some store bought and homemade photo boxes and love them both. In years past I had fun decorating the boxes I made myself. You can get your kids involved by asking them to decorate their own photo box.

Another alternative to photo boxes is to create a box of photos. If you have several envelopes of pictures that you would prefer to be kept in their envelopes then I would suggest writing the date/contents of the pictures and storing all of your photo envelopes in a large cardboard box together.

If you use photo albums as a means to your photo storage, consider placing the albums in a prominent place so you can frequently reminisce, like on a bookshelf in the living room, in your entertainment center cabinet, or place some on your coffee table in place of books. Otherwise, find a great, safe box to store the albums in.


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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Make it look nice AND organized

Organizing doesn't have to look boring and sterile. There are so many fun and creative ways you can make your spaces look really great AND organized. Bring the kids in for this one and ask them to help you create labels for boxes or storage items, use crafty design elements to make your space look like a professional design team renovated it or purchase nice looking storage containers for a very put together look.

For those of you who are using cardboard boxes, plastic bins or tubs or another type of box that could use a little pizzazz, grab your kids and some art supplies. The options are endless for designing crafty tags to make your boxes look more fun by adding a label. A simple idea is to use thick cardstock or an index card and write a label using a fun colored marker or crayon. Ask your kids to come up with a creative solution - use paint or finger paint, glue pasta noodles onto a piece of cardstock, draw pictures of the contents instead of writing the words, use stickers as labels, or make the label using glitter glue.

Buying or building excellent storage shelves is a fantastic idea and saves a lot of space and helps you bring an organized element into your home. One downside to this for some people is that you don't have a lot of space to work with, so there isn't a room you can dedicate as a storage room. Instead of having an unattractive shelving unit sitting in the middle of your living room, consider hanging a beautiful curtain or nice looking sheet to separate the shelves from the rest of the room. This can bring some great design elements into the room as well. Think about your organized space from a designers perspective - what would you do if you were trying to not only create a highly organized space but a well designed space as well?

One of my favorite storage containers are small, square, lined (or un-lined) baskets that are highly versatile and can fit just about anywhere and come in multiple sizes. These baskets are great for closet shelves, entertainment centers, bathroom or linen closets, under beds, mud room closet shelves, baby changing tables, or offices. Baskets come in various sizes and shapes, which becomes convenient for you when trying to maximize your space and find a place for random oddities around the house. I especially love using these baskets to arrange towels, lotions or shampoos, DVDs, as well as mittens and hats in the coat closet.

Using high quality or vastly creative solutions can always be a huge benefit to you when making your home look nice and organized. There are so many storage options at every price point you can imagine. All you have to do is find what works best for you and your family and make it look your own.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Organize Your Life

One of my favorite things to do, with regards to organization, is to make lists. Post-it notes have been my savior. Recently, I have been attracted to small notebooks that I can throw in my bag with me. Believe it or not, I am a very forgetful person without my notes. I always carry a pack of post-its around in my purse or bag so that I can jot down something to add to my to-do list.

The concept of a to-do list in my opinion is a strategic plan on accomplishing your tasks. Take out a piece of your favorite type of paper, post-it notes, or use your computer to create a task or to-do list, then write out your list of things you need to do. My lists are always very long and overwhelming by the time I am done writing them. In order for me to feel as though I can accomplish everything I prioritize. It is helpful to use different color highlighters to differentiate the things you are going to do based on priority or what day you are going to accomplish the task. Another way you could prioritize is to assign each task a number, then work in a numerical order to complete your list. My favorite part of this is when I get to cross things off the list.

If I have a really busy day, this could apply to a work day or personal day, I like to layout my daily tasks in a timeline. Start with things, like meetings, which have specific times, then fill in the remaining time slots with the various duties you must accomplish that day. The prioritization technique works well in this situation if you don't have enough time in the day to get everything done.

I like to create timelines to help me plan out the stages of a project at work or school, planning a birthday party or event, or even a vacation. Use a paper calendar, your Outlook calendar or a day planner to look ahead to the due date or the date of the event and work backwards by planning when each task needs to be accomplished by. Mark your deadlines directly in your calendar, include them on your to-do list, and DO IT. No procrastinating. You have made yourself a timeline and told yourself that you are going to accomplish a task on a particular day - so get it done.

To play off of the timeline strategy, one hugely helpful suggestion is to plan your big organizational days. For many, doing the organizing is time consuming, tedious and difficult to get motivated to do. Make a plan for how you are going to tackle the space that needs your attention. Use the techniques from today to help you! Prioritize what space needs fixing first, then what is less vital. From there, you can create a schedule and allot time for you to accomplish your tasks. This will hopefully reduce some stress because you can break up your projects into several days or hours. If you can take a few hours each weekend to devote to accomplishing your tasks, by the end of the month you will feel like you have achieved something drastic.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plan Ahead

This may sound trivial, but planning ahead is one obvious technique of an organized individual. It is possible to plan ahead and be prepared for just about everything. You'll feel and be more organized if you prepare the night before, make shopping lists, check out sales ahead of time, and plan for any situation.

If you are a working family, especially with children, you know that mornings can be a huge hassle and a rush to get everyone out the door on time. Organizing yourself the night before can be your savior. Make everyone's lunch before bed, get the coffee ready for morning, set out your family's outfits and shoes for the next day, put out your running shoes and apparel if you plan to go for a jog in the morning, and of course pack your bag or your kids backpack the night before. The little things like setting out an umbrella if it is supposed to rain, or packing a sweater in your bag can really help you to be organized because you planned ahead for the rain or the chilly morning walk to the bus. Doing things like this will exponentially ease the stress of the mornings as well as allow you to maximize your time.

Grocery store and shopping trips can not only become easier but also less expensive by planning ahead. I have always been conscious of making a grocery list and planning my meals before doing my weekly shopping, but until recently it never dawned on me to plan my meals around what is on sale at the grocery store. If your grocer doesn't send out an ad in the Sunday paper or the mail, check out their website for the list of their sale items for the week. Plan your meals around the foods that are on sale. Don't forget to clip your coupons before your trip to the supermarket, too. This will save you a small fortune.

Aside from the mundane trips to the grocery store, it is always a smart idea to plan your other shopping trips at the mall, the drug store, or wherever else you need to go. Check for the sales here too to better prepare yourself for what to look for, where to shop and how to save the most. Don't forget to make a list. When I am aimlessly wandering through the mall without a purpose I always end up spending more money than I do when I go shopping for specific things.

Without my random lists I would be very disorganized. It helps me to create lists for things like what to pack for a vacation or weekend trip, a day at the beach, ski trips and tailgate parties. I feel like I am more organized by planning ahead and creating a list, which helps me to not forget things along the way.

The plan ahead technique can really be used in most situations, not just getting ready to get out the door in the morning. One thing that differentiates someone who is very organized from someone who is not is her mindset. Someone who is organized is always aware of the little things and the details, she plans ahead for everything and is focused on leading an organized life. It's all about how you think about it. I believe that if you have a disorganized mindset or lead a disorganized life that you can turn it around.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cheap Tricks for Organizing

With the economy in its current state, we could all use some free or inexpensive ideas of how to better organize our home, office or other space. The best thing about being organized is that it doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. Though, if you don't plan ahead and search for sales or use your creativity it certainly can become an expensive habit. Cardboard boxes, reusable food storage containers and do-it-yourself storage systems are just a few tricks for creating an organized home without an enormous price tag.

Cardboard boxes can easily replace big plastic tubs, bins or boxes, and if you visit your local grocery store or liquor store (or better yet, stop by a paper company - they have the best boxes) you can usually walk away with an armful of free boxes that would otherwise be thrown away. Fill your cardboard boxes, label them clearly and store them in your storage closet. Cardboard boxes can double as file cabinets, too, so don't overlook that.

File folders are great for organizing papers, documents, bills and other important files. Office supply stores carry wide varieties of file folders that can be very beneficial. I have found them to be rather inexpensive. An even less expensive trick would be to use regular two-pocket folders (about ten cents each) to store your files. Another alternative to filing is to purchase stackable file shelves like many of you have in your office. These can be incredibly inexpensive, unless you get the top-of-the-line brand, and can really help you to better organize your papers. I use these to organize various kinds of paper, such as printer paper, loose leaf paper, cardstock, construction paper and my unused file folders.

Building your own storage systems can often be a less expensive option to purchasing shelves and workspaces; however, before you head to the lumberyard make sure you do your research to see what else is out there. Inexpensive shelving systems are widely available and sometimes can save you money, and definitely time. If you do choose to build your own storage and organizational systems make sure you plan ahead and purchase the correct materials for the job. Work with your kids to make this a fun, creative project or craft. Ask them to help you decorate or paint the cardboard boxes or shelves.

Instead of going out and buying plastic reusable hooks to mount from your wall, get out your hammer and nails to create a place in your closet to hang your handbags, belts, scarves or baseball caps.

School teachers are notorious for using this trick: purchase several disposable food storage containers and not only use them for storing food, but other small things like your children's toys or trinkets, buttons and sewing supplies, school and office supplies, first aid supplies, as well as beauty and personal care products. I really like the kinds with the interlocking lids because they are easy to store. A cheaper alternative to this is saving plastic tubs, such as margarine or sour cream containers, and using them for this storage purpose.

Before you run out and buy a new organizational system don't forget about the storage spaces you already have. Take a look at them and make sure they are being used to their full potential. If not, don't wait around for them to organize themselves.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Garage Organization

Garages have such great potential to be the most fun space at your house to organize. I think so, anyway! Regardless of the size of your garage or the amount of things contained in the area, you have so many options to maximize the space in this area.

Tools and miscellaneous items that are cluttering the floor, workbenches or surfaces need to find a home. One thing to consider with tools is that they need to be easily accessible. It drives me crazy when I have to go digging through a tool box or drawer to find the screwdriver I am looking for, so remember to maximize accessibility as well as space. The options for creating an organized tool area are never ending: purchase a tool box; purchase a stackable tool drawer cabinet, such as a Craftsman 10-drawer combo; utilize current drawer space in the garage; use nails or hooks in the wall to mount your tools and hang your tool belt from; build shelves to display tools and get them out of the way; use a magnetic wall panel to hang your tools from; buy or build a set of cupboards; mount baskets from exposed beams or the wall itself; obtain a small drawer storage kit for smaller parts, a larger drawer storage container for larger items or tools, or a storage cubbie for larger tools like saws or drills. The organizational "tools" are endless. Visit your local hardware store to shop for these items. Please note that you can build many of these items! Organizing your space does NOT mean you have to spend a fortune.

If your garage is small or if you are looking to maximize your space in an effective way, consider buying or building shelves or another surface table, elevated platforms or hanging a piece of plywood from the rafters. These options allow you to use the vertical space of the garage, as opposed to storing everything on the floor. A unit of large drawers can be very effective for storing numerous things, such as bird seed, your children's hats and mittens, tools, car washing cleaners and other cleaning supplies, or your children's smaller outdoor toys. Other alternatives to drawers are stackable bins, buckets or plastic tubs.

Kids toys can be quite cumbersome, especially if they don't belong in a specific spot. Consider mounting hooks on the wall or from the ceiling to hang your family's bicycles, sleds or jump ropes. Utilize shelving units, stackable bins, buckets or plastic tubs for easy access to the kids' outdoor toys and games. Target and the Container Store sell countless storage containers that will perfectly suit your needs and maximize your space in the garage.

Creating zones in your garage can be helpful as well. If you have a space that is full of random items, I would suggest zoning off the garage. Have a kids zone, a tool zone, a car zone and a storage zone. This way, you can focus on maximizing the space of the entire garage, but narrow in the focus to target the specifics of each zone to better suit your needs.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Seasonal Organization

Winter is on its way. Snow has already made its way to the Rockies and the Cascades, here in Washington. As I am preparing myself for ski season, many of you should be winterizing your homes, pulling out your parkas and mittens, digging out your sweaters and long johns, and doing a winter clean sweep of your house. I am a firm believer in cleaning out your "stuff" as the seasons transition. Not just spring cleaning, but summer, fall and winter cleaning, too! It is so easy to shove stuff in the corner, create piles to "come back to," have messy build up or an overflowing junk drawer. By cleaning out your piles and stashes quarterly this will help to reduce clutter in your house, ultimately leaving you more organized.

My greatest suggestion for seasonal cleaning is to do a seasonal swap. In other words, put away the clothes, tools, toys and miscellaneous things from the previous season that you don't need to get to for a while. Finding a permanent spot for out-of-season belongings you will create more room for your in-season belongings. Now, this permanent spot can certainly be a place on a shelf or inside of a box, you just need to determine what works for you and your needs.

I keep my out-of-season belongings in clear plastic Rubbermaid tubs from Target, which are then stored in our storage closet. I like the idea of the clear plastic so that I can easily identify what is inside of the box. It is just as easy, though, to get a cardboard or colored plastic box and write the contents on a piece of masking tape or directly on the box. Rubbermaid also manufactures various colored storage bins, namely for the holidays. Target has orange and black boxes for sale right now, and soon it will be green and red. Those bins are also a good way to help you to stay organized using a color-coding system. Switching out your shovel or snow blower for your lawnmower is also something that needs to happen at this time. Ideally you have a shed or garage where you can easily store your summer maintenance equipment. It is important to keep this space organized for accessibility.

Seasonal cleaning is a perfect time to take inventory in your house to determine what you have and what you no longer use or need. If you didn't wear it last season, or within the last six months, it is time to donate it. You probably won't wear it within the next six months. It's taking up space, and if you aren't wearing it, there certainly are other less fortunate people who would love to.

If you have kids I am certain that they have toys and clothes they are outgrowing. A good seasonal cleaning tip for dealing with your children is the same as I would suggest for you. Take an inventory of their clothing and donate whatever they have outgrown. Now, it makes perfect sense to save the clothing if you have younger children who can wear these garments as they grow into them. The trick is to use one of those handy bins, clearly mark it by size, sex and season, and put it in your neatly arranged storage area. The key is to actually come back to it once your younger children grow into that size. Then, tackle the toys. If your kids have broken toys that they are deeply attached to - fix them or dump them. If there are toys they no longer play with, donate them, same goes for stuffed animals that just sit around collecting dust. Find a home in your storage area for their out-of-season toys, and bring out the newly seasoned novelties.

Growing up, there was always one spot in my house where we would put things that didn't have a certain place. The closet at the top of the stairs. It was a bottomless black hole. I am guessing that my family isn't the only family that has the bottomless closet or room. If this sounds like an area of your house, there is no better time than now to create an organizational system, or at least go through whatever it is that is inside that room and get rid of some stuff. It will make you feel so much better every time you open that door to see a clean, organized space.

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