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.


Read More!

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.

Read More!

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.


Read More!

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.

Read More!

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.

Read More!