Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Organizing Checklist for December

This month I have edited what I wrote this time last year. It is a busy time for all of us and having a master checklist as well as more detailed to do lists will help keep you organized. This checklist is more detailed and longer than most monthly posts because of the importance of this time of the year.
  • Children and adults should take time to donate any items that are no longer useful. Many families will be forced to shop at thrift stores for holiday gifts and donating toys and clothing can be a blessing you will never see. 
  • Finish that Christmas newsletter and get those cards in the mail. Purchase "Forever" stamps rather than Christmas stamps. They can be used even when postage goes up. Better yet, try sending an email message saving time and money and not adding clutter to the receivers. 
  • Most online stores have sales and purchases will have free shipping now . Be sure they will be delivered in time.  
  • Keep all receipts in one special place for easy access if needed later on. 
  • Purge the refrigerator and freezer of as much as you can to make room for holiday items. Make a grocery list of what you will need for your holiday events or feast. Keep the list, recipes and menu close at hand. 
  • Begin decorating as soon as convenient. The best time is when you have help. Make the most of what you already have. Basic wreaths that can have the bows and decorative items changed with the seasons never need storage. Adding holiday bows or greenery to other permanent accessories in your home (such as candles, lamps, plants, etc.) are a festive touch that can be tossed afterwards. Avoid purchasing items specific to any holiday as they require storage space the remainder of the year.  
  • Wrap packages as soon as you have them. If you decide to set aside a specific time, be sure you don't forget where they are hidden. (I have done that more than once!) Keep wrapping papers to a minimum. One or two plain colors and assorted colorful bows are best. Children can decorate brown paper or white papers with colorful markers, stamps, etc.
  • Begin traditions with your family if you have not already begun them. For young children, simple activities such as baking cookies or decorating packages are best. Older children can help with community or church events. The family can purchase gifts for an "Angel Tree", read the Christmas story together, watch a favorite Christmas movie, etc. Keep it simple.
  • Make a detailed schedule of what needs to be done before the big event. Work backwards in hourly increments on the big day and daily for a few days before. 
  • Take pictures of family and friends and the decorations you chose as a keepsake and reminder for next year. 
  • Be flexible on the big day and welcome any help offered. Don't sweat the small stuff and keep the mood light and happy.
  • Avoid the after Christmas sale unless you absolutely need the items. Avoid the long lines, parking problems and traffic jams. Items that need to be returned can usually wait for a few days. 
  • Keep a journal of what worked and what didn't, the gifts you gave and any changes you would make in the future. Keep a list of clutter free gifts you can give next year. (A list can be found in my book on pages 103-105.) Keep the collection of all the lists, ideas, recipes, pictures, evaluations, etc. related to the holiday in a manilla folder or create a folder for them on your computer. 
  • As you take down the decorations, consider purging what you can. Eliminate as much permanent storage as possible. Try to maintain only those things with special significance or that cannot be replaced. Donate or pass on the others. 
  • Set a family goal to make the holidays even more meaningful next year. Adopt a charity, volunteer in the community, participate in your church holiday program, etc. Write down your decision and make plans for it next year.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Organizing Tips for November

Ready or not, the winter holidays are coming quickly.
  • If you send holiday cards, buy, address and get them ready to mail. Consider creating an attractive e-mail card wherever possible and save the environment, time and money. You can even include pictures, etc. If the recipients love paper cards, they can print it.
  • If you choose to send a holiday newsletter, remember to keep it short and sweet. The shorter, the sweeter. No bragging is allowed; keep it newsy with love and appreciation for the input the recipients have had in your lives.
  • Have packages for mailing out of town ready to send. Some overseas deadlines occur in November.
  • Now is the best time for online shopping. Almost all stores are offering free shipping and the selection is better now than later.
  • Send out “save the date” or invitations for holiday gatherings. The earlier the better as this is a busy time of year for everyone.
  • Maintain a current inventory of food supplies. Check the pantry often to be sure you do not get caught short as grocery store shelves get depleted quickly. I have already purchased my frozen pumpkin pies and Pillsbury All Ready Pie Crust. (Please don’t cringe; my family doesn’t know the difference!)
  • Create a holiday folder on paper or on the computer. Include your calendars, schedules, gifts, menus, decorations, invitations and invitees, etc. I even make notes of how much food I prepared and how much was left over. This makes planning the next year so much easier.
  • Avoid shopping on Black Friday unless you absolutely must go and be sure to stick to your “needs” list. Going into the stores with their displays of special pricing, etc. is an emotional trap waiting for your hard earned cash. And all that stuff you don’t really need will clutter your house. If you love the adventure, you will only buy what you need, and you don’t mind crowds, go for it and send me your stories!


Friday, October 1, 2010

Organizing Tips for October

Fall is officially here. In some parts of our country the weather may not show it, but it is time to get moving towards the holidays.
• Remove the remaining summer decorative items and toss those that are faded or in disrepair. Pull out the fall decorations and donate those that are no longer useful or you no longer like.
• Inventory your linens and purge what you haven’t used in years. If some hold sentimental value, see if someone in your family can use them and give them the honor they deserve.
• Look over your dinnerware and remove pieces that cannot be used because of chips or other damage. As with your linens, move on pieces that are simply taking up space.
• If you send holiday cards and are very selective in what you prefer, purchase them now while the selection is good. You can find good sales on them later on, but the selection will not be as favorable.
• Inventory your spices, extracts and specialty kitchen gadgets before the holiday rush. Remove those that have expired or no longer useful and make a list of what you will need for holiday cooking. Be careful not to purchase items that you will not have room to store the rest of the year.
• Continue sorting summer clothing and other hot weather items. Donate or sell those you no longer want or need.
• Begin the purge of toys that children have outgrown so there is room for new items that arrive during the holidays.
• Remove old magazines and catalogues. Resist the urge to replace them with holiday issues. The temptation is great, I know.
• Clean the windows, inside and out. Most of the summer grasses have shed their pollen, the weather is good for outdoor work and the busyness of November and December will make the task more inconvenient. For a review of Windex Outdoor, check out the posting for August 17, 2010 on my special tips blog. http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=7640181261458137999&postID=3051892184347792985

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Organizing Tips for September

With Labor Day we usually see the pool closings, the end of family vacations, less daylight after work and goodbye to summer fun. Begin the fall and holiday season with some good organizing strategies.
  • Coordinate fall activities on your calendar. Consider state fairs, apple and pumpkin picking, fall festivals, new community classes, etc. Send out “Save the Date” for any holiday activities you are hosting.
  • Clean out the old sunscreens, summer make up and lotions.
  • Purchase cold and flu preventatives, remedies and medications now. They will be harder fot find with the onset of flu season.
  • Cull the magazines, save only needed articles and recycle the remainder. If you must purchase holiday magazines, be selective and recycle after reading.
  • Donate summer gadgets you did not use this year. If you ever need them again, you can get them at that time. Don’t let them take up valuable storage and work spaces.
  • Begin kitchen organizing and planning for the holidays. Uncover holiday baking items so you do not purchase duplicates this fall. Make a list of items and supplies you may need.
  • If you plan to make holiday gifts, plan and start now or you may not have them ready in time.
  • Your best choice for 2011 calendars and planners will be available beginning this month. If you are particular in style, theme, or colors, keep your eyes open for good selections.
  • Take advantage of paper, office and stationery sales of items left over from the Back to School supplies. These will often be found in the clearance isles and bins.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Organizing Tips for August

This month brings us the back-to-school events, the end of summer sales and final trips to the beach and other vacation destinations. Planning for fall activities is a good idea, too.

There are two areas that benefit from organizing in August: school or office supplies and clothing closets.

Most stores have added inventory of school supplies for the little ones as well as teens and college bound students. You can also find a better selection of some items for your home office. Clean out items that are no longer useful or in disrepair. Make a list and try to find those things you need while there are good choices. For children, check the supply list created by the specific school or teacher.

Many states have a weekend of freedom from sales tax to help with school supplies. In Virginia, this is August 6-8, 2010. Many stores will identify covered items for you. There is a link for those items at the end of this post. Use Google to see if your state also participates.

Think ahead in purchasing children’s clothing. My oldest child grew 3” the first two months of his 9th grade year. The clothes I purchased early in August to get the best selection were too small in October. (This was before baggie pants were acceptable.)

If you plan on having a yard sale in the fall, begin planning now. Start gathering items that you need to move on, clean and price them. Young children have probably outgrown last year’s school attire. Take an inventory to see what you can sell or donate now. As colder weather and winter approach, you may need to take another look at heavier clothing to see what can be eliminated.

Go to Craig’s list or Ebay to determine a reasonable price for selling your items. In fact, you may want to put some of the items up for sale there now so they won’t take up storage space in your home. If you want to join with others in a sale, pick a date now that is good for everyone.

Update the family calendar with upcoming school and fall events. Create a file, folder or notebook for keeping the details.

Link for items included in the Virginia Tax Free Holiday:



Saturday, July 3, 2010

Organizing Checklist for July

Avoiding overheating becomes a concern in the hot summer months and good organizing strategies can help keep you cooler.

• Deal with clutter. Cleaning around it adds to housekeeping time and energy.

• Remove as many stored items as you can from the floor. Bags and boxes that sit on the floor or against walls for months or years can harbor mold and mildew, especially in hot, humid summer months.

• Make the most of local fresh vegetables and fruits. Process them as soon as you purchase or pick them to maximize flavor and nutrition.

• Change the filter on the a/c unit. Spring and summer pollen can accumulate quickly as doors and windows are opened more often.

• Clean around the refrigerator and other major appliances to keep them running cooler. Try not to store items around or over them that would block proper ventilation for their motors.

• Run the dryer late in the day or evening if it is located in the house. Better yet, use clothes lines if you have them for larger or heavier items.

• Schedule outside activities or workouts early in the day or after sundown. Better yet, begin an indoor routine. Malls open early for walkers.

• Begin or continue indoor hobbies during scorching temperatures: scrapbooking, reading, computer programs, sewing, etc.

• Set a goal to clean/organize one drawer a day, one closet a week, one room a month, etc. Put it on your calendar.

• Keep notes and records of vacation tips you learned from experience this year.

• Keep a happy attitude. Remember we were looking forward to July last January.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Organizing Checklist for June

School will be over for the summer; the children or grandchildren will be around and now is the time to prepare for the summer months ahead.

An avalanche of school papers may be arriving for you to handle this month. My best advice is to let the child decide which to keep. Keepsake boxes or binders can be used for these. My daughter has those special papers for the year inexpensively spiral bound by a local printing company.

This is the beginning of hurricane season. If you live in an area affected by hurricaines, high winds or rising waters, you should review the list of necessary emergency items and secure those now.

Outdoor furniture can become havens for insects. Check over each piece every time you use them.

Consider using a leaf blower to clean debris from patios, decks, porches and outdoor furniture. It is fast and effective.

Keep outdoor umbrellas closed when not in use. It will extend their usefulness and prevent damage during high winds or thunderstorms. I have personal experience with this one.

Evaluate your outdoor art and keep it to a minimum. Too much is clutter. Colorful flowers are the best accent to the outdoors.

If you are gardening throughout the summer, consider replacing gardening chemicals with safer and more environmentally friendly choices.

If you will be travelling with kids while school is out this summer, create a permanent travel kit with activities for them. If it is only used for travel, the items will appear to be almost new to them.

For your travelling convenience, create a permanent supply box or bag with items you always need. Some of these may be duplicates of items you use everyday at home.

A permanent travel checklist that you keep on your computer or in a convenient notebook is a great strategy to prevent forgetting items you always need. I keep one just for quilt retreats, my favorite travel experience!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Organizing Checklist for May

Flowers are blooming, birdsare nesting and most of the pollen is gone. Now is the time to take care of those things we put off during the winter.

Clean and organize the garage. During the winter it often becomes a temporary dumping ground for items. Plan ahead so you can make room for the car if you have not already done this. Your automobile is probably the second most expensive investment you have made so take care of it. Take advantage of shelving and hooks that will allow you to organize your items off the floor.

Make a final check of clothing to be sure the heavier items are moved so there is room for the lighter weight summer clothing to be convenient.

Have a yard sale before the weather gets too hot to stay outside all day. Now is the time to unload all the things you removed during the past few months.

Plant flowers or hang flowering baskets. I vote for perennials although many do not continue to bloom through the summer months. Since they will come back each year, it saves time and money.

Update garden accessories. Remove rusted, broken or stained plant containers, stepping stones and other garden fixtures. Add outdoor furniture and children’s outside toys to the checklist.

Change the a/c filter and have a routine inspection of all its components before the scorching days of summer arrive. Clean ceiling fan blades and give other fans an inspection.

Clean the carpets and floors. They were used and abused all winter and deserve a thorough cleaning. If piles of clutter or stacks of items are on them, consider moving the items to shelving, cabinets or tables. Floors are easier to keep clean when only furniture is on them.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Organizing Checklist for April

With warmer weather definitely replacing colder days, it is time to finish up all indoor activities so there will be nothing keeping us from enjoying the outdoors.
• Organize your wardrobe so spring and summer clothing is more convenient to reach and use. The back of the closet, a spare closet, attics, basements, garages or under the bed are all options for temporary storage. As you do this, check clothing for repairs or necessary cleaning. Move out all the items that are no longer useful to you. If you are unsure of moving it on, pack it in a dated, labeled container and if you need it in the next year, you will know where it is. If you don’t use it in a year, move the contents of the container to a higher use or purpose by donating or selling them.
• As you change over the clothing for children, pack the too small clothing in containers that label the sex, size and season of the items in it. It will be easy to identify for a younger sibling later on or for a family member or friend who can use them.
Organize the foyer or coat closet in the same way as your wardrobe. Lighter jackets should replace the heavier coats. Be sure the coats are cleaned and ready for use next fall.

Replace heavier bedding with lighter weight items. Some quilts or comforters need only to be put through the “air” cycle on the dryer to remove dust. This is a good time to organize the linen closet and move out the towels, sheets and blankets that you no longer use.
• Set the crock pot aside and get the outdoor grill ready for use. Pull out your favorite grilling recipes and your favorite grilling utensils and put them in a convenient location.

• When the heavier pollen season has ended, clean the windows so you can enjoy the beauty of the spring flowers and birds as they arrive.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Organizing Checklist for March

Spring arrives this month, at least on the calendar. For those living in 4 season zones, it may be too cold to think about outdoor activities, but when the warm weather does arrive you want to be ready.
This is the time to get indoor tasks finished so you can enjoy the outdoors as soon as the warm weather is here. Whatever the project, do not let it drag on or remain unfinished until next winter.  You may want and wait on cleaning windows until after the spring pollen has subsided.
Review the attic space and determine if any items can be removed to sell, donate or pass on to family or friends. The rush to clean up after the holidays is usually not a good time to purge that space but you should do it before the summer sun makes it impossible.
It is best to store items in air tight containers in order to discourage pests from getting into them. Do not store photographs, candles and some plastic items as the attic heat will ruin them
• Clean out the garage. Hopefully you have made room for probably your most expensive investment other than your children or house—the automobile. If not, consider a renovation that includes space to park it there.

Create zones for the items you store in the garage and keep as many off the floor as you can. Separate sporting equipment, gardening items, cleaning supplies, tools and other hobby equipment.
• Get your summer furniture clean and ready to use. As soon as warm weather arrives, you want to be able to enjoy it. If you do not have a covered deck or porch, cover it after cleaning in the event an early spring storm should arrive.
This is a good time to consider the possibility of having a yard or tag sale. It is never too early to plan and prepare for one. As you clean these areas and move out winter items later on, you have the opportunity to sort and price items that would be good to sell. Any items that remain after the sale can be donated to a local charity or thrift store.
• As the the month comes to an end and days are longer and warmer, remove the heaviest clothing, bedding, etc. for summer storage. This may mean to the back of the closet, to another closet or storage area, or out of the house permanently. If they will be part of a future yard sale, store them in the area set aside for that.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Organizing Tips for February

After the holiday clean up is past, it is time to look forward to the new year.  Here are some tips for this month.

• After gathering tax related papers, store necessary papers from last year and remove all of previous years that have been updated.
• Create a filing system that is easy to use and keep updated.

• Update the home inventory. Take pictures, a video or checklist of everything in your home.

• Update the yearly budget.

• Make the most of indoor time by finishing up indoor decorating projects.

• Remove never or rarely used kitchen utensils and equipment.

• Clear the bookshelves of fiction you have already read and reference books. It is unlikely you will reread fiction and reference books become outdated quickly. Use the Internet to keep up to date on those topics.

• Cull the cookbook collection and consider online sites for new recipe ideas.

• Begin planning for early spring activities. Buy seeds, sharpen garden and lawn tools.

• Make preliminary plans for spring or summer vacations. Early reservations are usually less expensive. Insure all travel tickets.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Organizing Tips for January

A new year and decade has come with lots of challenges.  You probably have lots of ideas and goals swimming around in your head.  Here are some tips to get them organized.
  • Take time to write down the things you would like to do this year and then break those down by months.  You have a better chance of them getting done that way.
  • After the holiday clean up, you will probably find lots of things that were misplaced in the busyness of the holidays.  Take time to put those items back where they belong.
  • Get rid of all the trash and recycle items that accumulated during the holidays.  Remove the catalogues and sales flyers that were in abundance.
  • Pick out a calendar, planner or time organizational tool that you like and commit to using it.
  • Make paper management a top priority this month.  Clean out your files, prepare your papers for tax filing time, set up an incoming paper sorting system and update your reference files.  This could take the entire month if done properly.
  • Learn to use the slow cooker if you haven't already.  It will cook your food while you get the other items done.
  • Update the chore chart so that everyone in the house takes part in its management.
  • Pick an indoor maintenance or decorating project.  Do it while the weather prohibits outdoor activities.
  • Try one new recipe each week to prevent the Winter blues.
  • Clean, add or replace light bulbs to make the shortened days seem longer and the evenings brighter.
  • Invest in yourself by taking a class, reading a book or learning a new skill.
There are chapters devoted to paper management and organizing time in my book.  If you need more ideas or detailed information on how to get started with simple and easy strategies, you can order it from Amazon.com or my website through PayPal.  I would be happy to answer any questions, and read your ideas or comments.