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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