Thursday, January 29, 2009

Car Organization

I do not like riding in dirty, messy, trashy cars. Who does? I really actually don't understand how people can have fast food wrappers, pop cans, papers, clothes, mugs, and junk strewn around their car. Go figure, I like my car to have only the essentials and to be spick and span and regularly vacuumed. It's certainly not necessary to be as compulsive as I am, but at least have some common decency. Oh, and kids are not a valid excuse to having a messy car!

As with just about any other organizing endeavor there are tons and tons of different strategies and systems to use when organizing your car. What you use really just depends on how big of a disaster area your car is. Newer cars seem to come more equipped to help you stay organized in your car since they have larger storage compartments throughout. Minivans are a godsend to parents simply for the space and organizational capacities they provide. So, step one is to seek out what is already there. Use the pockets behind the front seats, use the glove box and center console, use the overhead storage compartments if your car has them, and use any of the compartments on the doors to store your stuff.

If that doesn't solve all of your needs, consider moving into the trunk. I have an emergency kit in my trunk that encompasses a lot since I drive through the mountains a lot. Instead of having a dozen random items in my trunk I keep everything nice and tidy in a duffle bag in the trunk. If you like keeping a spare set of clothing, your golf ball collection or all of your CDs with you in your car, consider storing them in a bag or a clear plastic container inside your trunk. In doing this, they are out of the way and collected together.

I love things like CD holders, garbage pouches that attach to the center console, storage compartments that fix onto the front seat, under-the-seat storage, extra cup holders and clear plastic bins in the trunk. There are several options for making your car your storage warehouse while still keeping it organized.

As I say for just about everything, maintaining an organized car comes from you following through with the organization of the space. Your McDonald's wrapper doesn't magically end up in your trash pouch, just like the mud from your kids' boots doesn't get vacuumed by the clean fairy. These things fall on you to stick with. Clean out your car, decide what is necessary to keep in there, implement your organizational system and stick with it. If you fall behind, it's okay to start over again!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hang it, Mount it, Get it off the Floor

I could go on and on about how much I love to use hooks to hang things from. Over-the-door hooks, closet hooks, hooks on hangers, 3M Command hooks, and key hooks are so easy, inexpensive and perfect for getting things off the floor and into a permanent place. The availability of some of these products makes the potential of an organized home right at your fingertips.

Let's talk about over-the-door hooks, as these are my favorite types of hook. You have an endless realm here with what you can hang on the back of your door. This is a fantastic space to utilize when you are creating your new organized life! The backs of all of my hinged doors are used (unfortunately I only have two, the rest are pocket or accordion-style doors), whether to hang shoes, purses or sweatshirts from, I take advantage of that from an organizational standpoint. A row of over-the-door hooks can be an inexpensive lifesaver for belts, purses, baseball caps, bags, jackets, scarves, towels, and so many more things I have yet to think of.

Another favorite of mine are those cool and innovative 3M Command hooks that you can stick just about anywhere you want (and they won't take the paint off the walls when you remove them!). These are so handy because they come in so many different sizes and can be used for various purposes, like hanging your keys on, hanging Christmas stockings from, guiding and securing your holiday light display around the house, displaying awards from (I'm talking gold medals, here), hanging your bathrobe or pajamas on, or hanging up your kids' backpacks from. Try mounting some hooks on your coat closet door or wall at a height your kids can easily reach to motivate them to hang up their own coat and scarf, and do this in their bedroom and bathroom so that they get the idea they can hang things from these nifty hooks.

There are so many different types of hooks on the market these days. Their purpose is endless, there's always something else that you could use a hook for - just be creative! Use a few hooks in a closet and hang different buckets on them to create a bin for your kids hats or mittens, trucks or trains, or even just hang their sand pail and shovel!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Mail buildup

I've noticed that many families have a mail pile. They let their mail sit in a pile and rarely get around to it. First of all, this is a bad idea because bills can become lost and overdue, and important mail may never get opened. Second, there's no need for more clutter caused by mail.

My solution for this is to get a bucket, basket, mountable mail/magazine organizer, or an actual mail filing system and place it in an appropriate spot where you can walk in the door and plop the mail in its spot. If you go this route, at the end of the week it is important to go through all of the mail and deal with it by reading your magazines and putting them away or recycling them when you're done, putting your bills in your bill pay organization system, filing your bank statements, shredding confidential documents, and addressing all other mail you receive.

What to do with junk mail and excessive credit card offers? Recycle them immediately (after shredding or ripping up). These should never even touch your mail bucket. Never ever.

I like to use a "three slot mail holder" to sort my mail - one slot for his stuff, one slot for my stuff and one slot for our mutual bills. This helps all of my mail to remain in one area and I can easily track it down and get my bills paid on time. It also eliminates a huge stack of unread mail on the front table.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Calendars, Planners, Organizers

The new year has come, and its emergence has dramatically reduced the price of 2009 calendars. This is perfect because now you have fewer excuses to organize your days! There are so many daily organizers out there, like daily planners, a pocket sized calendar, wall calendars, desk-size calendars, cell phones and PDAs, and not to mention your computer and the Internet house several different ways to organize and manage your daily tasks.

Organizing your life and what's going on each day is just as important as organizing your junk drawer. Tardiness, forgetfulness and missed appointments are a product of disorganization.

The overall point is that in order to live an organized life, you have to organize your life, not just your stuff. This starts by keeping track of what needs to be accomplished each day and making sure you are fulfilling your commitments. Whatever method helps you to organize your days is fine by me!

Though my Outlook calendar can be uploaded to my cell phone I prefer to use a day planner to keep track of my appointments. Just as easily I can write in my planner and keep track of my meetings and appointments. This route allows me to put sticky notes on dates with to-do lists or other reminders, which I frequently do. I also like having a day planner because I can stick a map or an invitation in my planner to reference it later on.

I do love the great features that Microsoft Outlook boasts. The program provides an easy way to lay out your tasks in several different views and colors, allows you to create recurring events, and gives you a reminder before you have a meeting or if its someone's birthday. There are several other electronic organizers worth looking into if you're up for trying something new.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Preparing for a Trip to the Grocery Store

There are many right and wrong ways to tackle your weekly, daily or even bi-weekly trip to the grocery store. I like to think that my way is the right way, but I guess that's up to the judge. Like most things I get myself into I take the time to plan ahead and make sure I am prepared to go to the grocery store so that I don't forget anything or miss out on a great bargain.

I am new to the world of coupons at the grocery store and don't find myself utilizing them too much. I buy a lot of meat, produce and dairy which is hard to find coupons for - I just look for the grocers sale. One of my newest and biggest secrets of grocery store success is to plan out your meals based on what is on sale at your grocery store. Instead of spending extra on chicken during the week it's not on sale, I stock up on it during the week that it does go on sale. Check out the grocer's ad in the paper or mail and search their website too. If you can find a use for coupons definitely check out some coupon websites and buy a Sunday paper. Roughly 80 percent of coupons are found in the Sunday paper.

Since you're planning your meals based on what's on sale, that means you have to plan your meals ahead of time. When I get the grocery store ad I pull out my recipe books to search for some great meals to prepare. I always plan ahead what I am going to cook for the week just because it makes grocery shopping easier since you are bound to have the ingredients the recipe calls for.

Keep a pad of paper on a magnet on your refrigerator or keep a grocery list somewhere that you can access at the blink of an eye in your kitchen to write things that pop into your head when you open the pantry. My refrigerator has a really neat grocery list stuck to it. The note pad already has the foods written on it, I just check it off when I run out or think of something that I need. It's really fast and helpful to have on the fridge. It also makes shopping easier because it is broken down into category based on the layout of the grocery store.

Before you head to the store, do a quick inventory of your refrigerator and pantry. Don't forget about looking in your spice or baking cabinet either. Get in the habit of adding things to the grocery list that you are running out of, but are not quite empty yet. One thing that sets me apart from others is that I foresee running out of something before it happens. Before I use the last of something I almost always have a backup on hand. You don't want to be in the middle of making cookies and run out of butter or flour, just like you don't want to have a full dishwasher in dire need of being run only to find that someone used the last of the dishwasher detergent without letting you know.

So, grab your list and your coupons and head out the door!

As an aside: there's a great cooking show on the Food Network (Robin Miller's Quick Fix Meals) that I watch sometimes for tips on how to plan my meals ahead of time by cooking ahead of time. The chef shows you that you can cook say, double chicken to use for two separate meals instead of cooking chicken two separate times in the week. She shows you how to prepare yourself in advance for the busy weeknights.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Combat Clutter

When I walk into someone's house and it is filled with clutter I get anxious, mostly because I want to organize it and make it look nice. As far as I'm concerned, nobody likes clutter. There are so many tricks and tips to getting rid of clutter, but really, all you have to do is follow through and not allow messy build up in your home.

Take a gander around your home and notice all of the clutter, whether it is piles of papers, mail buildup, or junk drawers. Think about your habits with regards to why this clutter exists. Are you too lazy to put something in its proper spot? Do you enjoy looking at a mountain of unpaid bills? Why do you allow clutter to occur? That's your first step to addressing the clutter in your home. Now it's time to get rid of it once and for all!

Utilize your shelves, drawers, cupboards, and other built in spots in your home to help you stay organized. If you need more places to put things, turn to file cabinets, stackable file trays, buckets, bins, tubs, stackable drawers, more shelves, and other organizational systems designed to keep you in order. These ideas will help you find a permanent place for your things, but you must change your way of thinking in order to make it work for good.

An important thing to note here is that just because you get excited and implement a new storage or organizational system doesn't magically mean that you are now organized. Staying organized requires time, patience and follow through. To really, truly eliminate clutter from your home you actually need to follow through and put things away instead of throwing them in a pile somewhere. It is much more easy to just pile up your papers, mail and magazines than to take the time to put each thing where it belongs; however, taking the time to be more organized is a vital step towards leading a more organized life.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Use What You Have

These days everyone seems to be pinching their pennies and holding their pocketbooks a little bit closer. I believe that you can be just as organized with what you have now as you could be after spending hundreds of dollars on an organizational system. Most of us have random things laying around the house that can help us to become more organized. All you need is your creative thinking cap and some motivation to get started!

Depending on what your organizational goals are in your home will depend on what you should be seeking out. Some of my favorite things that I always have around the house are: reusable plastic containers, shoe boxes, gift boxes, wood, random sized buckets, nails, planter pots, ceramic bowls that my brother made me, and coffee mugs. These various types of containers or what have you are perfect storage spots for the random things sitting around that need to find a proper home.

Look in your cupboards - I have about 17 times more mugs and cups than I will ever need, these are perfect "stuff cups" for pens and pencils, pocket change, kids markers or dry erase pens; a shot glass is the perfect container to hold your paper clips.
Now, let's be honest, most of your "stuff" doesn't belong in a box or a bowl or hanging up in your garage. Think about your closets, cupboards, drawers and your desk, as these are generally the "problem areas." What can you do to make them more organized? The most common answers are: rearrange them and stop adding to the disorganization in the first place by putting things back in their proper spot after you are done using it. What are you waiting for? You don't need to spend a dime, you've got everything you need right in front of you.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Preparing for a party or company

Having guests over to your home can often times create unnecessary stress on you and your family. There is a lot to do to get ready for their arrival; however, if you are properly prepared, it will be a breeze. The more on-top-of-things you are the more relaxed you'll be, which ultimately will lead to a better time for both you and your guests. Plus you can show them how care-free and organized you are.

After you nail down a guest list and a time for the event you should begin preparing yourself for the party. It is difficult to determine quantities and portions until you know for sure how many guests will be in attendance. So skip that until you have a concrete answer on who will be there. But, you can start planning what to eat and drink, where people will sit or mingle, orchestrate decorating details if desired, hire a babysitter if needed, and tend to other logistical planning.

An important part of preparing to cook for a large or small crowd is planning out a timeline. Determine the length of time it takes to cook everything and at what oven temperature then work backwards to figure out when everything needs to go in the oven based on what time you want it all to come out of the oven. When you know how many people to expect you can use that number to calculate the food and drink quantities to prepare, which will help you plan out your serving timeline. Another part to this process is determining what serving dishes to use for your cuisine. Do you have enough serving utensils and platters and casserole dishes, or do you need to borrow some from a friend or relative? It helps to physically set everything out where you plan to use it the night of your event to make sure that you have enough space. Planning out these small but important details can make the event run ever so smoothly.

When I am in a hurry trying to get everything done on time before my guests arrive I can often overlook the cleaning. That is one thing you should never forget, because your guests will not overlook a dirty house, especially a dirty kitchen. Split up the cleaning among your family, or if you hire a cleaning service make sure they come either the day of or the day before your party so everything is spick and span when the guests make their appearance. Cleaning can certainly be done the day before your event, which may be helpful in reducing your day-of-event stress and workload.

Don't neglect the little things. Plan for everything. Do you need a coat rack or a place to store people's jackets and purses? What about parking for your guests - do you have easily accessible parking? Did you remember to put extra toilet paper and hand towels in the bathrooms that your guests will be using?
Should you offer to have a babysitter on-site for your guests to use? If you're thinking of sending your guests home with some leftovers do you have food storage containers for them to use? Of course these obstacles will be more prevalent the more people you invite, but they are certainly plausible things to consider even if you're having two couples for dinner. Planning these steps ahead will save you a lot of stress come dinner time.

For an extra touch, include holiday decor throughout your house, utilize your candle stash to give a festive holiday glow, consider using luminaries to light your sidewalk and driveway and welcome your guests (to make your own: use several white paper lunch bags, cut some holes in the sides, stick a scoop of sand in the bottom and top it off with a tea light), ask your children to greet company at the door and offer to take their coats, make name cards for the hors de oeuvres or entrees, play fun music throughout your home, and some fresh flowers for a nice aroma and clean finish.

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