Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Organizing Checklist for December

The end of the year is almost here but this is probably the busiest month of the year. Here are some final reminders to help you through the holidays.
  • 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.
  • If you have not done so already, immediately send cards, packages, newsletters and email messages.
  • 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.
  • 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 immediately 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.
  • Resist the urge to buy more holiday decorations just because they are on sale.
  • 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.
  • Keep the collection of all the lists, ideas, recipes, pictures, evaluations, etc. related to the holiday in a manila folder or create a folder for them on your computer.
  • Plan the holiday clean up when others are there to help you. Make it as much a part of the traditions as decorating.
  • As you take down the decorations, consider purging what you can. Eliminate as much permanent storage as possible. Make sure all items are clean and in good repair. Try to maintain only those things with special significance or that cannot be replaced. Donate or pass on the others. I offer items to my children and grandchildren as often as I can consider color coding holiday containers and label with the contents. Many stores sell
    containers and/or their lids in orange for fall and green and red for December holidays.
  • If you have space, hang bows in bags on hooks to maintain their shape.
Set a family goal to make the holidays even more meaningful next year. Adopt a charity, volunteer in the community, participate in your church. And if the holidays and your situation in general is more than you want to tackle alone, we are available to help you any way we can. Feel free to contact us through our website:  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Organizing Tips for November



Somewhere in cyberspace are the organizing tips for October.  They did not appear as they should have when I signed in today.  Perhaps they will appear as they were scheduled but just in case, I will post them again at the end of this post.  It would be good to check over it if you are planning any special holiday meals.

On to November! 
With such a dramatic weather event to end this October, it is hard to get in gear for the winter holidays that are just around the corner.  Inevitably they will come and planning ahead will make the tasks much easier.  Here are several reminders plus strategies for getting your kitchen ready for the holidays.

To begin the kitchen organizing, spend some time going through the kitchen equipment.  Now is a good time to donate or sell those pots, pans, small appliances, tools and utensils you do not use.  If you have not used an item in the past year, it should not be taking up valuable real estate in your kitchen.  Consider storing it in a more remote place in the house if you cannot part with it. 

Inventory the pantry.  If yours is normally full it will be difficult to add the special holiday items you need this time of the year.  Check the expiration dates on spices and some staple items you have not used in a long time.  Eliminate or use immediately all you can to make more storage space.

To organize it, use the trays, containers, turntables, and/or racks to help you group items in the same category together.  Keep items you use everyday in the most convenient spaces.  Small boxes, envelopes or packages should be grouped in clear containers so they are not lost on the shelving and can be easily accessed. If shelving is deep, use baskets or trays to hold items so they can be pulled forward to access items in the back.  Finally, try to leave a few inches of empty space between categories of food on the shelves.  This allows room for new items and also gives an appearance of order. 

Make a list of what your holiday recipes require and what you will need during the next few weeks.  Some special seasonal items will disappear from the grocery shelves before the holidays so shopping for those now will be advantageous.  Check off all ingredients you already have so you do not duplicate items that will take up valuable shelving.

Keep records of all you holiday planning, meals, events and reminders for future holidays.  It will make planning for next year so much easier.  I have a folder (on my computer) with the menus, grocery lists, guest lists, etc. that I update every year.  I print those out, take notes on the printed copies and then update my original files. 

Have packages for mailing out of town ready to send.  Some overseas deadlines occur in November.  Even packages to domestic locations should be ready to ship by the end of the month.

Now is the best time for online shopping.  Almost all stores are offering free shipping and the selection is better now than later.  Be sure to save receipts until after the holiday so items can be returned if necessary and to validate any charges on future credit statements.  It is a good idea to keep these in a special envelope, folder, box, basket, etc. designated only for them.

Last month we reminded you to purchase holiday cards if you are particular about them.  Now is the time to address and get them ready to mail.  Email greetings can wait until December.

And I can never stress this point enough:  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.

If you begin your holiday decorating early, be selective as you pull out the boxes of decorations.  Pass on those items that you no longer like or use to save space and time.  Permanent wreaths for the door can have the bow and a few leaves or flowers changed each season and will not have to be packed and stored.  I purchase inexpensive wreath decorations for my permanent vine wreath each season and toss them after use.  They are normally dirty or faded anyway. 

Stand alone decorations specific to the holidays take lots of time in packing and unpacking each year and require more storage space.  By simply adding decorative bows, etc. to lamps, candles, house plants, etc., you can make your home festive without needing extra storage bins and space after the holidays. 

As I have advised every year, 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.  

After years of getting up before dawn to hit the sales, I have learned it is much smarter to just stay home that weekend, get more sleep and decorate.  If you love the adventure, if you only buy what you need and is on your list, and if you don’t mind crowds and insane traffic jams and parking, go for it and send me your stories! maryfrances@OrderlyPlaces.com

 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 season filled with decorating and entertaining.  This month we will concentrate on getting the dining room and/or eating areas organized and ready for holiday entertainment. 
  • If you have a dining room that is not used often, the table can become a dumping ground for items put there temporarily.  What starts out as the mail mutates into miscellaneous things coming into the  house.  Start today to make it off limits for the temporary put down.
  • 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.  If some are in need of repair, make the decision to take care of that or to move them on.  Remember removing those that you do not use will make more space for those that you love and use.
  • Look over your dinnerware and remove pieces that cannot be used because of chips or other damage.  If there are odd pieces that cannot be used with other items, move them out, too.  Complete sets that are stored in boxes and never opened should be sold, donated or given to someone who wants them.   As with your linens, move on pieces that are simply taking up space.
  • Provide adequate seating for all those eating together.  Folding chairs can be used and stored in a closet or other storage area afterwards.  Wooden posts located on the wall of the garage can be used to hang them so they do not take up floor space.
  • Cloth or paper napkins can be placed in an attractive basket, bowl or tray and serve as a centerpiece.
  • Placemats are more versatile to use than tablecloths and can be left on the table as decorations or stacked in the center with a napkin basket.
  • Dinnerware, flatware and serving pieces should be located in an area convenient to setting the table and replacing after clean up.
  • Special occasion or seasonal dinnerware or silverware should be kept only if used and you have sufficient space for it.  .
  • Table cloths can be stored in shallow drawers or hung over a dowel or hanger covered with the empty roll from wrapping paper or paper towels.  Slit the roll on one side and slip it over the rod.  Hang it in a closet.  This will prevent additional wrinkles.
  • Additional linens can be stored in the drawers or shelves of dining room furniture such as chests or buffets.  You may also use a linen closet if one exists.
  • Consider placing a clothing chest with drawers in the dining room if no longer needed for clothing.  It is ideal for linens.
Additional Activities to make the dining room more functional
  • The dining table may be a good choice for homework if the room is good for studying.  A tote with desk supplies may be used and then stored when the work is done.
  • It may also used for craft projects or other art activities.  Cover the table with a protective cloth, cutting board or plastic before using it. Portable storage for those supplies make it easier to clean the area when done.
  • If the family needs home office space, reserving a corner of the dining room for that activity is a good use of space.  Choose a table or desk that compliments the other furnishings.  Some items can be stored in the furniture already there or in rolling carts and file trolleys that can be moved to a nearby closet when not in use. 
  • If there is not space in the family room for board games and card playing, those items could be stored in the dining room for use there..
  • When not used, keep the tops of buffets, chests and china cabinets clear and free of clutter..
  • Keep the table attractive when not used with a centerpiece and/or tablecloth.
  • Use washable decorative fabrics on surfaces to reduce the amount of dusting.
The end of the month also brings Halloween and the Trick or Treat invaders.
·         First you want to be sure the pathway to your door is safe. Remember to clean the driveway, sidewalk, steps and porch while it is still daylight. Fallen leaves can be slippery especially when wet so they should be removed as well as any toys, twigs, etc. Make sure this area is well lit by leaving your porch light and any other light fixtures on during the Trick or Treat hours.
·        It is recommended that you give only individually pre-wrapped candy. Since this is the beginning of flu season, you should not allow each child to reach into your container to get the candy since each one could be contaminating the other pieces with his hands. Rather, you should choose and drop the candy into each child's bag yourself.
·        As an extra precaution, you may want to use disinfecting wipes to clean your doorbell or door handles if you keep it closed between visitors. This can be done periodically during the evening or at the end when Trick or Treating is over. Keep hand sanitizer near the door and use it yourself as often as you think necessary.  It is a shame we need to be so careful, but it is always better to be safe than sorry and we want to do our part in keeping our homes and neighbors as healthy and safe as possible.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Organizing Checklist for September

This month marks a shift in the thinking and planning for many of us. Summer vacations are behind us, we look forward to cooler temperatures and we plan for the upcoming holidays. Below are some strategies to help us make in organizing clothing and closets.
Most of us have attachments to our clothing, especially those that were expensive. I have had great success with a local consignment store and recommend them. It is less hassle than a yard sale and you will get some return on your financial investment.

Of course, I also recommend donating to worthy charities. Not only will you make your space more livable, but you will be helping those who simply cannot afford purchasing clothing otherwise. It will be a double blessing!
o In the closet, remove all empty hangers first. Look at each piece of clothing and make a decision to sort as follows:
o It fits, I wear it—leave it in the closet
o It does not fit—donate/sell pile. It will probably be out of style when it does fit.
o It needs repair--if it is useful, place in a repair pile. If not repaired in one month, remove it.
o I do not wear it or like it—donate/sell pile
o I am not sure--place in separate pile, label and date. If not worn in one year, donate/sell.
o Clean the closet area, and reconfigure the rods, shelves if needed or desired.
o Additional hanging space can be made by installing an adjustable hanging rod.
o Replace wire hangers with more suitable ones but save a few if needed in garment bags when traveling. Orderly Places has a tip sheet on types of closet hangers.
o On closet shelves, clamp on dividers can be used to separate clothing or they can be placed in suitable containers.
o Use hanging racks for the backs of doors or on rods to store bulky or specialty items.
o As you return items, sort the clothes you will wear and keep by type-blouses, pants, dresses, skirts, etc. Sub sort these by colors as much as possible. Place items worn together with each other. This makes it easier to know what you have and find items easier.
o Look at what you have and make a list of items you really need but are not there for future purchases. Determine to buy only what is on your list. One suggestion is to limit the number of prints and multi color designs and use mainly solids. This allows more flexibility in creating outfits and using accessories.
o Clothing in drawers or chests or on shelving should be organized with the same process as with closets. Use dividers or containers to separate categories, colors, etc. in the drawers.
o Some clothing can be rolled rather than folded to make sorting and access easier.
o Shoes can be stored on hanging sorters or under shorter clothing in racks or shelves. If they are stored in boxes, use clear plastic or label with pictures or descriptions. I also recommend sturdy under the bed containers for off season shoes.
o Evaluate the accessories you have to determine if they are still usable. I had quite a collection of scarves back when Oprah made them popular and finally gave them up after taking my own advice. They still have not made a comeback and if they do, they will be different, I am sure.

Additional unrelated tips:
In the next month or so, stock up on cold and flu products. It is often difficult to find those you prefer when they are needed most.

As much as I hate it, now is the time to plan for the holidays. Pencil in some activities, gifts, meals, etc. in your planner. More tips will follow in the months to come.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Organizing Tips for August

Illustration from marthastewart.com

There are two areas that benefit from organizing in August: school and office.

Many states have a weekend of freedom from sales tax to help with school supplies.  Many office and stationery supplies are covered, too.  These stores will identify covered items for you. In Virginia the tax holiday is the first weekend in August.
What's Exempt: During this three-day period, in general purchases of qualifying school supplies selling for $20 or less per item, and purchases of qualifying clothing and footwear selling for $100 or less per item will be exempt from sales tax.

Most stores have increased their inventory of school and office supplies.  You can find a better selection and better prices this month. Make a list and try to find those things you need while there are good choices.   Plan ahead for consumable items like printer paper, notepads, etc.  Be sure you have room to store these items.  For children, check the supply list created by the specific school or teacher. 

Clean out stationery and office items that are no longer useful or in disrepair.  Organizing your files is a great indoor activity when the weather is too hot for outside work.   Look for free shredding events in your area to dispose of confidential papers without burning up your shredder.  We have personal experience in that activity!

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 long 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 on those sites 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.  Remember, you can always donate items to a local thrift store or charity and possibly bless someone less fortunate.  It is good to pay forward.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Organizing Tips for July

Elfa Over-the-door Media Storage Rack
from The Container Store

      It is July and it is hot and humid, no surprise there.  I wonder if we spend as much time in air conditioning in the summer as we do the heated rooms in the winter.  Since we are enjoying our living rooms, family rooms or dens, let’s get them organized this month.  Here are some tips that might be helpful to you.

  • Arrange electronic items such as televisions, CD and DVD players and video games in one area so the wires and cables can be contained together.
  • Label each end of cables and wires related to the computer and other electronic equipment.  It will save much time in connecting or reconnecting
  • Use wire baskets that can be mounted under shelves or cable ties to contain wires.
  • Purge videos, CDs and DVDs that are no longer used.  Sell or donate them to a local charity, nursing home or hospital.  If you want to locate one again, they can be rented or borrowed from local libraries.
  • Renting or borrowing movies and games is an excellent organizational choice and sets a good example for your children in managing finances and spaces.
  • Store CDs and DVDs in their case vertically on shallow shelves or if space is limited, they can be removed from the case and placed in notebooks or cases with plastic sleeves.  Sort and arrange by category.
  • Videos can be stored vertically on shelves or in shoe box type containers.  Do not stack flat as accessing those on the bottom is more difficult.
  • Remotes and game joysticks should be contained in a basket, decorative box or container designed specifically for them.  Keep them within easy reach of the chair or sofa.
  • Place a table or shelf near every seating area.  Large coffee tables can take the place of several small end tables.  Choose one with storage shelves, cabinet doors or drawers.
  • Provide an area for playing with toys if you allow that activity.  A lower cabinet can be used to store those items or they can be taken back to the bedroom in a tote box or rolling crate.
  • For reading areas be sure to have a comfortable chair with adequate lighting and a place to store books, magazines, newspapers, etc.
  • Books should be purged from bookcases.  Keeping fiction books that you have read serves no purpose except to prove you own them.  Sell or donate them knowing you can borrow it from the library if you have time to read it again.
  • Non-fiction books should be grouped by category.  Since information is always changing, using older books as reference many not provide recent findings.  Let them go and use the Internet to find the latest information.  The books are not your brain and letting them go will not cause you to forget what you have learned.  (Old age, however, may cause you to forget.  I speak from experience once again.)
  • Sets of encyclopedias are dated the moment you get them.  Use the Internet or library for research.  Use their encyclopedias if you want to teach your children how to use them.
  • Make friends with the library.  It is a wonderful place of knowledge and entertainment for your children and prevents book clutter from residing in your house.  Most offer excellent programs for adults and children.
  • Mix books, plants, attractive storage containers or photographs on bookshelves for more interesting arrangements.
  • Upper bookcase shelves and over the window shelving can be used to display collectables and photographs.
  • Collections of similar items are more attractive when grouped together in displays.
  • Keep an attractive container with pens, pencils, note pad and scissors in a convenient location in case they are needed.
  • Card tables can be used for board games, craft activities or other projects.  When you are finished it can be folded and stored under the sofa, behind large furniture or in a nearby closet.
  • If the family office is located in this room, reserve a space for a table or desk.  A drawer or attractive containers can hold desk supplies. 
  • If a computer will be located in this room, consider placing a wireless system in your home to eliminate having to connect all of the components with cables.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Organizing Tips for June

Illustration from RealSimple.com
June is filled with activities and it is difficult to think about organizing.  The best approach is to work in the areas that are already requiring time.  Since it is the end of the school year and the children or grandchildren will be around, one subject to consider is their spaces and the keepsakes you have been saving for them.  Of course travel is on the mind of most of us, too.

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.  Give one to each child and let it be the only place for special saved items.  If it gets too full, let the child decide what to keep and what can go.  Resist the urge to get more or bigger boxes.  Think about how many things you really need from your childhood to remember the good times.  Of course there are items they have made that you will store with your keepsakes, but be selective. 

Children now have time to go through their rooms and eliminate items they have not used or no longer want or like.  Clothing that no longer fits can be sorted for sale or donation.  Children grow quickly and by fall most of what they wore during the past year will not fit.  Thankfully not much variety in clothing is need for the summer months.  If you are storing them for younger siblings, remember to label them as to sex, size and season.

Children need limits on everything except love and affection.  They should not be allowed to collect an unlimited amount of matchbox cars, Barbie clothes, t-shirts, flip-flops or anything else.  Let the space determine how much can be easily organized in the given space and draw the line there.  You will be teaching them good organizing habits and a lesson that there are limits in life.  Should they want a new item, remind them something they already have must go.  This is the “one in—one out” rule that we all should follow.

Too many of anything means none of them are special.  This includes collections such as china, dolls, salt and pepper shakers, stamps, etc.  If space is limited and many of these items are stored in the attic or closets, consider saving only those that have special meaning and letting the remainder go to other family members or donate or sell them to anyone else who will appreciate them and has room for them.  Storing keepsakes out of site does not honor or respect the memories that go with them.  Put those that you choose to keep in a place where they can be enjoyed and given the honor and respect they deserve.

Photographs are another source of keepsake clutter.  Save only the best from each activity.  No one needs 100 pictures of the beach vacation.  A few special pictures are all that is needed to capture that special time.  There are lots of ways to sort and save them in colorful scrapbooks and online in creative formats.  I am not a scrapbooker, but I do admire the projects and products available from Creative Memories and other sources.

Make a point of enjoying the outdoors while the weather is nice.  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.

And speaking of storms, this is the beginning of hurricane season.  If you live in an area affected by hurricanes, high winds or rising waters, you should review the list of necessary emergency items and secure those now.  Be sure to update your household inventory.  More information on it can be found on a previous Blog I posted: Click here.

If you will be traveling this summer, create a permanent travel kit with activities for yourself and family.  If it is only used for travel, the items will appear to be almost new and more interesting. 

 If you travel often and if you have storage space, 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 but you will not need to disturb those.

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! 

For information on organizing your suitcase, check out this article I posted for the local newspaper:

Enjoy this month of weddings, graduations, flowers and outdoor opportunities.  June is special in many ways.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Organizing Tips for May

No one wants to be inside in the month of May.  Flowers have been blooming, the weather is mostly nice and we are tired of being in the house.  This is a good time to work on organizing the garage and getting the outdoors ready for summer activities.

Since the Garage is never first on our list of projects, let’s begin there.  During the winter it often becomes a temporary dumping ground for items.  If this is the spouse’s territory, be sure to work together as a team.  God forbid that you should purge or arrange items that were “special”.  I have found the most effective way to motivate a spouse is to begin purging and organizing your things.  Sometimes the guilt factor is motivating.  Sometimes.  Regardless, you never really can win a battle with a spouse.

Take advantage of systems that will allow you to organize your items off the floor.  It is much easier and faster to clean with fewer items on it.   For pennies or hundreds of dollars, you can invest in organizing solutions that will work for you.  Check out the home improvement stores for hooks, peg boards or shelving units to hold items that are now stacked on the floor. Be sure to label bins and cardboard boxes used for storage. 

Move out items you no longer need.  Only things you continually use should be kept.  Boxes of old magazines, newspapers, etc. should be recycled.  Let’s face it.  You didn’t have time to read them before and you won’t later on.  There are too many new ideas coming at us everyday and those articles are outdated.

Review the sporting equipment to see if it is still needed.  Move on any you no longer use.  For those you save, look for specialty hooks, bags and shelves to store those.  Be sure to keep children’s things at lower levels so they can access them without your help.

A great plan would be to 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.  Mark off a space for it on the floor.  Identify a wall item or hang a string or chain from the ceiling as a marker for how far you should pull forward.

If outdoor, yard or garden items are kept in the garage, garden tools and accessories, look over each one.  Remove rusted, broken or stained plant containers, stepping stones and other garden fixtures.  Create racks or hooks for the tools and locate them together in one area.  Specialty items are also available to hang rakes, shovels, etc. so they do not get tangled together or take up floor space.

Outdoor furniture may need to be cleaned before using, so check over each piece.  Toys that are outgrown or no longer needed can be moved on.  If you have water sports equipment or pool accessories, try to store those in good condition in their own area for convenience when they are needed. 

Yard art is becoming very popular but be careful you do not allow it to take over.  It can become clutter just like anything else.  There is nothing more beautiful then flowering or luscious plants, shrubs and trees, so make them your focal point.  Adding hanging baskets or a border of blooming flowers can make a significant impact.

Once your garage is cleaned, you may consider a Garage or Yard Sale.  Here are some reminders.
**Collect, clean and repair items weeks ahead as you purge spaces. 
**Check prices of similar items.  Put on price tags and store in a common area.  (Preprinted price tags can be found in some stationery stores, dollar stores, etc.)
**Choose a sale date.  Join with neighbors if possible for a common date.
**Check community rules and get permits if necessary.
**Arrange for charity pickup or make plans for items not sold.
**Write ad for newspaper, Craig’s List, newsletters, etc.
**Make signs and flyers for bulletin boards and curbs where allowed.
**Obtain sufficient tables, racks, etc. for items to be displayed.
**Get change for large bills and newspaper, bags, etc. for fragile items or large sales.
**Use extension cords for testing electrical items.
**Place pens, paper, calculator, extra price tags, tape, and stapler at check out table.
**After sale, remove signs, clean area and dispose of unsold items as planned earlier.

A few other reminders for May:

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. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

One reader's response this month

In addition to this blog, I have my articles published in several places including a newsletter I send to a distribution list of tolerant followers.  One of them has sent the following response that is priceless. Everytime I read it I laugh until there are tears rolling down my face.  She has given me permission to reprint it. I know some of you will identify with parts of it but all of you will enjoy it.  Thank you Diane  Kniskern for making my day!

"WHAT?!!! You mean I don't need 8 pillows/4 sets of sheets for guests, even though no one has spent the night with us in over 6 years? What if they all show up at the same time??? Oh, yeah, we don't have any extra beds. Well, we had an overstuffed couch and love seat that I bought for $150 at a yard sale in 1992 at Ft. Sill. I was saving the bedding for those. But they took up almost the whole bonus room and there was no room for the $10 recliner I got for my husband's knee replacement 2 years ago, so I called Good Will to come get them.

Unfortunately, the 300 lb man with breathing problems and the 85 lb teenage driver were unable to lift the couch over the back stair railing to the large front stairs, so the larger man held it while the younger one ran down and around to the bottom of the back stairs. Then the big one let go and the little one almost got crushed at the bottom of the stairs, as the doorway was too small (as I had previously suggested to them...). Well, they finally managed to get it back up to the top and by then, the large man was panting and drenched with sweat. I took his pulse and, fearful he might have a heart attack, told him to lie down on the couch while I got some water for them. Then, I went to garage to get my handy dandy chainsaw and I cut that sucker in half. The couch, I mean! I told the man to get on the love seat. So, they were able to get the couch out in two pieces and the love seat onto their truck. They didn't even take the couch! (They don't take calls from me anymore, either.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the 8 pillows/4 sets of sheets. Well, I might make a dog bed some day. I've been saving some big pieces of foam.....

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Organizing Tips for April

April cannot decide if it will be warm or cool.  Our area has the last day of potential frost as April 15th but that has not always proved to be true.  It is also the month of spring rain as in “April showers bring May flowers”.  On the cool or rainy days, take some time to organize your linens and bathroom(s).

If space is limited in linen closets, consider placing extra sheet sets in the bedroom where they are used.  They can be stored in closets, inside under the bed containers or even under the mattress of that bed.

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.  Store them in pillow cases or the large plastic bags now available to keep them clean.  Vacuum bags can also be used but be aware they will gradually allow air to return.

 Remove sheets, blankets, etc. that are torn or in disrepair.  If they can be fixed, find someone to do it, otherwise, recycle them to local pet shelters or other appropriate places.

 We often collect pillows and other bedding to have on hand in case guests stay overnight.  Evaluate what you have that has rarely or never been used.  Perhaps some of them can replace those you have removed, or they can be donated or sold to allow room for better organization of the space.

Make similar decisions about your bathroom linens.  Towels and wash cloths that are in disrepair should be removed and replaced with those you have been saving for a special occasion or purchase additional items on sale.  Most department stores have linen sales throughout the year and discount or outlet stores also offer good savings. 

 Many cotton items will dry rot if not used over a period of time.  This often occurs on the folded edges so check those that have been sitting on the shelf for a longer period of time.

 Clear the bathroom counters and contain any times that must remain there.  Use trays, baskets, bins, etc. to make clean up easier there.   Be diligent in removing old or expired products and store duplicates of items in another area.

 Be sure all products in the bathroom have a label.  This is especially important with medicines.  You may check out taking expired medicines to your local pharmacy or ask them the best way to dispose of them.  Flushing in the toilet or garbage disposal is no longer recommended because of contamination of local waters.

 If the bathroom needs updating, consider using hooks rather than bars for towels.  Children find them much easier to use so be sure to put those lower on the wall or door.  Consider using dark or disposable towels for removing make-up

 Placing a magnifying mirror on the wall saves space and is more convenient that a portable model.  Using pull out shelves or wire baskets under the sink will make access much easier to items stored in the back of those cabinets.

 Keeping these areas organized requires daily maintenance because of daily use.  Setting up a schedule and requiring participation of all the family members can help keep them clean and neat.

If you have organizing ideas or questions, I would love to hear from you.  You can contact me by email:  maryfrances@orderlyplaces.com

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Organizing Tips for March

Spring arrives this month, at least on the calendar. Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday, March 11th.  Set your clock ahead one hour.  This month we are concentrating on the attic and clothing.

  • 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.  Make that final to-do list and get it done. 

  • The Attic.  Unless you are storing items for another family member, the goal is to keep as little as possible in the attic.  It is usually inconvenient to access and too hot or cold to spend time there.  The extreme temperatures are also not good for many items to be kept there safely.  In addition, you must take care to prevent invasion by critters.
      If you are storing items for adult children or other friends or family consider  asking them to retrieve them.  Setting a deadline to have them removed or they will be donated may spur them into action.  In my professional and personal  experience, I have found that most people don’t really want them after being without for awhile.  You may be surprised that is the case with items you may have stored for others.

            For safety reasons and convenience, add lighting and secure floor boards in areas of the attic you must use.  

            For items you must keep, create zones for the types of items you are storing.  For example, holiday items can be labeled and stored together. 

            Use color coded containers or labels to help identify containers quickly.

            Take care to cover wood furnishings with sheets or blankets.  Upholstered furniture should not be stored in the attic for many reasons.

            The attic is not suitable for candles, photographs, soft plastics such as in dolls,  electronic media such as tapes, and many fabrics.

            If there are many items left to store after sorting, purging and cleaning the attic space, it is a good idea to create a map of where items are located.  This will save much time when it is necessary to recover them.

  • Clothing   As the days are longer and warmer, remove the heaviest clothing you will save to 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.
      Winter clothing takes up lots of room in closets and drawers because they are  heavier and have long sleeves.  If there are items you did not use or those that children have outgrown, consider moving them out now. 

      Clothing closets are one of the most frequently requested areas to organize.  While there are great strategies to use in setting up closet systems, the biggest problem is too many items.  Pareto’s rule applies here.  You usually wear only 20% of your clothing 80% of the time.  Being willing to let go of those items that you don’t wear, for whatever reason, will make the task of organizing the closet much easier.

      While consignment shops usually only take current season clothing, removed items can be donated to a charity or sold in a yard sale.  Moving them out will give you more space for the items that you do love and wear.

  • If you have considered the possibility of having a yard or tag sale. It is never too early to plan and prepare for one.  This month is the time to set the date and work towards that goal.  May and June are great choices as it is not too hot and people are on the move.  Consider going in with neighbors or friends to draw more customers onto your street. 
In the March 2011 checklist, I promised not to complain about the summer heat after last year’s cold temperatures and I kept that promise.  The mild weather this winter was my reward.  My fall camellias were still blooming in January while the spring varieties were just beginning to blossom.  I love it! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Organizing Checklist for February

January was a busy month.  If you have packed away the holiday items and worked on your files, inventory and budget you can take some time this month to enjoy your entertainment and hobby spaces. 

  • Sort through videos and CDs and remove those no longer used.  Let’s face it, if you haven’t run them in the last couple of years, you probably will not.  Our tastes in music and movies change over the years.  Sell or pass them on to someone who wants them.
  • 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.  You can sell or donate those items and make room for more good reading on cold winter nights.
  • Review your cookbook collection and recipes you have collected.  Consider online sites for new recipe ideas.  I promise you can find any type of recipe you want with Google.  Save only those with recipes you continually use or those with sentimental value. 
  • Review the holiday magazines you purchased last fall, clip out items you want to save and recycle the rest.  Consider donating them to local doctor’s offices, beauty shops, etc.  I promise they need them.  I personally am tired or reading Golf magazines when I am in waiting rooms. 
  • Purge those catalogues, too.  They are simply printed commercials and you know how much you hate those interruptions.  Why waste time on the printed version?  If you must, save the back page with the promotion codes, etc.  If you need to make a purchase, you can go online, find the item and use the current discount.
  • Make the most of indoor time by finishing up indoor decorating projects and/or enjoying time on indoor hobbies.  Sort through your supplies and remove those no longer useful. 
  • Begin planning for early spring activities.  Buy seeds now and consider planting them indoors for early blooms and crops.  If that is not convenient at least you will have better seed choices now.
  • Make preliminary plans for spring or summer vacations.  Early reservations are usually less expensive.  Insure all travel tickets.
The days are getting longer now and with daylight savings time coming early in March, we will soon be spending more time outside.  I look forward to spring flowers and green leaves on my trees!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Organizing Tips for January

Last year my January article suggested you eliminate one bag of donations/recycle a week and eliminate one hour of electronics to free up your time.If you followed through on it, you are well on your way in your organizing journey.

This year I will make another suggestion to jump start the organizing process.Keep a bag or box near your door for donations.Each day as you see an item that you no longer use, immediately place it in the container.

So many times we keep things “just in case I might need it” but we haven’t used it in years if ever.Impulse purchases and gifts are often put in drawers, cabinets or closets but never used.Free yourself of these items and make space for organizing what is left.

Other items may have lost their usefulness but could be used by someone else.Move those on to a higher purpose.If sentimental items are not being enjoyed or honored but rather packed away in a closet or attic, see if another family member has room to display or used them.Letting go an item doesn’t mean you forget the person or event.

If you are diligent to put an item in everyday, you will quickly see more space for the things you use and love.Of course a closet clean out could have enough items to meet your quota for a week or two.It is never too late to make changes to be better organized.

Here are more reminders for January.

  • Start a container for tax related items that arrive in the mail this month.
  • Update your paper and computer records by purging folders of items no longer needed. This will make planning a new budget for the year and preparing tax forms much easier. Shred old financial documents a little at a time or take them to a records management company to be shred professionally.If you have questions about how long you should keep some records, contact me or check out pages 135-138 in my book, Orderly Places.
  • If you have not already done so, get a new planner/calendar that shows a week at a glance and breaks each day into hourly segments.Schedule your daily activities in it.Most computers have programs to do this, as does Google and other online sources, at no additional cost.
  • Update your home inventory.Take pictures or make a video of every room, every closet, the garage and attic for insurance purposes.These pictures will also give you a fresh and objective look at the appearance of you spaces.

Set a goal to make this year a successful one for organizing your home.Every step will make it a more enjoyable place for you and your family.