My 9-year-old daughter seems to be a chip off the old block – not only is she a crafter but she also likes organizing. “Yikes!” say my husband and 14-year-old daughter. Today’s post is a little encouragement from her to you.
The other day, she made this “Savers” truck and asked me to put it on my site. Of course, I couldn’t resist. She says it’s to remind you that Savers is “The best way to get rid of things.”
If you don’t have a Savers donation center and thrift store in your area, you probably have a Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other donation center nearby.
Why are these the best way to get rid of things?
1. They are conveniently located (pick one that’s close to home or on your usual route) so you’re more likely to follow through with your de-cluttering goals.
2. By donating to a thrift store, you’re benefitting your community by giving others the opportunity to buy at a low price your high quality, gently used items.
3. Most of these charities also offer pick-up services (hence, the truck) so you delete an errand from your To Do list and schedule them to come to your door and pick up your donations.
Be inspired: put a box or bag near your front door, fill it this week with things you no longer need, and bring it to Savers right away!
Do you listen to podcasts? They make excellent commuting companions and workout buddies because the time seems to fly when listening to something entertaining and educational.
If you want some extra inspiration and information for your organizing journey, try the Keeping You Organized podcast by Smead (maker of innovative home and office organizing products). The podcasts are 15-20 minutes long and cover a wide range of organizing topics such as paperwork, time management, and decluttering.
Find the Keeping You Organized podcast in iTunes or on the Smead website.
P.S. If you like podcasts, two non-organizing related ones that I enjoy are How I Built This, which profiles entrepreneurs and innovators, and The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe, which tells surprising stories about people and events you thought you knew.
Are you distressed by the huge volume of emails you get?
Are you tempted to shop whenever you get those deal of the day emails?
Are you distracted by from tackling important emails by solicitation emails?
It is so worth it to find that hidden "UNSUBSCRIBE" link at the bottom of the email and click on it!
Even though that takes a bit of effort up front, it really saves time in the future by reducing the amount of unwanted and distracting emails you get.
It'll also save your wallet because you won't be tempted to shop just because some "deal" you're being offered. You know you can just go on RetailMeNot and find a deal when you really need to buy something.
So click UNSUBSCRIBE and get yourself off of all of those annoying email lists!
But not mine, of course.
Way back in the fall (October 17th, to be exact), I wrote about how to set up a system to deal with all those pesky papers that come home from school.
The basic weekly system is this:
1. Immediately deal with any notifications (add to calendar, write a check, sign a form).
2. Recycle anything not worth saving (worksheets, scribbles, spelling tests, coloring pages).
3. Display this week’s artwork and accomplishments in your temporary display space (fridge, frame, bulletin board, clothesline strung across a window).
4. Stash last week’s displayed work in an art portfolio or other bin.*
*This is the time to weed out anything that, after one week’s display, can be recycled. Try to save only the best items, such as the unusually detailed drawing, the very clever essay, or the spelling/math test that was a true victory.
Now that you’ve been diligently checking the backpack every week and keeping up with all the papers, what do you do with the stash that has accumulated in the portfolio?
That’s what we’ll tackle today!
As soon as school is over for the year (Don’t delay or the time will get away from you!), make some space on a table or floor and dump out that stash.
Side note: It’s up to you whether you want your child involved in this sorting process or whether it will go more smoothly if you do it yourself. Just remember, you are really saving this stuff for you, not for your child. When kids are adults, they almost always say, “Why did you save all this stuff? I don’t even remember that!” It’s the rare adult child who wants any of it. You are saving these memories for you, so keep what is meaningful to you.
Ready...set...start sorting! Make one pile for recycling and one for the (possible) keepers. Try to go through it as quickly as possible. Right now, you are just eliminating the obvious non-keepers.
Shove that pile of non-keepers into the recycling bin immediately! Don’t look back!
Now for the hard part: finding the treasures.
During that first sorting process, you only identified the possible keepers, now you have to cull the collection even more, leaving only the true gems: the few pieces of art that show your child’s progress over the year, the story your child wrote about your family vacation, the test that was such a struggle but ended in triumph, the piece that completely sums up who your child is at this age.
In order to help you figure out exactly how much you can save and how much you’ll have to cut, you need a long-term storage solution.
I suggest either a pre-made school years scrapbook or a keepsake portfolio. The key is that it shouldn’t be too big (not a box, because you don’t want to end up with a dozen of those – one for every grade!). It should have pockets big enough to hold construction paper (even if you have to fold some) but not so big that you can avoid deciding what to keep and just shove everything in it. You also don’t need something with slots for every grade, Pre-K through 12, because after 5th grade the paper trail drops off considerably. Phew!
Click here for an example of a school years scrapbook.
Click here and here for examples of keepsake portfolios.
The scrapbook has the advantage of being something you can keep on a bookshelf and of having space for children to contribute thoughts about the past year (favorite subject, friends, school photos, etc.). Kids also enjoy looking through scrapbooks of their past school years.
The portfolio has the advantage of being able to hold larger (and more) papers and of being easier to fill because you just slip the papers in the large slot and don’t have pages to fill out.
Are you worried because your child is already in second grade and you don’t know what to do with the giant backlog of papers from past years that you have thrown into large bins to avoid sorting? Have no fear! Make a date with yourself (schedule it on your calendar) to go through the stuff, enjoy reminiscing about your child’s early years, populate your new school scrapbook or portfolio, and reclaim the space in those bins!
Do you get confused trying to remember all of your passwords for various websites?
Do you keep the same, simple (easily-breached!) password for every site so it's easy for you to remember?
Do you write down passwords in a book or keep hard copies of passwords in files?
Do you never update your passwords because it's too hard to remember new ones?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should check out a password manager such as LastPass.
After a couple of years of using my own complicated password system and having to manually update all of my passwords on a quarterly basis, I finally decided to give LastPass a try. After a brief learning curve, I now find it very simple to create, store, and update complicated passwords to any site I log onto and to use LastPass across all of my devices. You can even use LastPass to share password access to designated sites with family members or coworkers.
Organize your passwords with a password manager!
(Click here to read why The Wirecutter picked LastPass as the best password manager and here to read their opinion as to why everyone should use a password manager.)
Do you love browsing through magazines but hate having old magazines cluttering up your house?
Consider subscribing to Texture.
Called "the Netflix of magazines," Texture is an app that gives you access to hundreds of magazines on your smartphone or tablet for one monthly subscription price. It also allows you to put the magazines on up to 5 devices, so you can share with your whole family.
Enjoy your favorite magazines while cutting the clutter!
As we transition into warmer weather, now is a good time to lighten up not only our wardrobes but also our makeup kits. Go through your makeup and nail polish and toss out anything that shows clear signs of being too old: oil separation, discoloration, cracking, or an odor that’s just not right.
If you can’t remember when you bought it (last year? last decade?), maybe that’s a sign you should toss it!
Next time you buy new makeup, use a permanent marker to write the month and year of purchase on the bottom of the container (If it’s a black container, use a sticker or masking tape, then write on that.)
Technically, makeup doesn’t have expiration dates like food does, but products become contaminated with bacteria over time, so it’s best for your skin’s health to keep things fresh. While time recommendations vary, you can use this simple list as a jumping off point and use your best judgment based on your own products.
Last week, I posted about my love of reading. Based on that post, you might think my bookshelves would be overflowing, but I have some strategies that keep the books from taking over my space.
e-books from the library!)
to return all the books. Designate a special tote bag for library books so you’ll have a
handy way to carry them back and forth as well as a physical reminder to return the
books. Nowadays, libraries give you a printed receipt of the books you’ve checked
out. Keep that in the bag so you can check the list and make sure you’re returning
all the books you borrowed.
be books that you truly love, books that you’ll read again, books that you want to
pass down to your children (be selective!), books that are particularly beautiful
(beloved art books), and books that you use (reference books such as cookbooks
that you actually cook from). Other books, once read, should be considered
consumed and ready to pass along to another reader. Stash books to be donated in
a paper bag by your door and make a note of a handy donation center (like Savers,
Salvation Army, Goodwill, or your local library) that is on your daily route. When the
bag is full, bring it out to your car and to the donation center. If you prefer sharing
books with friends, pass the book along as soon as you have finished it. Another fun
way to redistribute books is through a Little Free Library. Find one in your
neighborhood or start your own.
Shelves of books can look warm and inviting in a home, but over-filled shelves and piles and stacks of books all over the place are just clutter. Books only have value when they are read*, so keep them circulating by passing them along to others who will read them!
*Pick up Roger Duvoisin’s wonderful children’s book Petunia for a gloriously silly way to learn this lesson!
As you might imagine, I read a lot of books about organizing. In fact, I love to read and I read a lot of books of all genres: novels, mysteries, classics, thrillers, history books, biographies, self-help books, and more.
Two years ago, I started keeping a list of books I’ve read (on my Wunderlist app, of course!) and was pleased to discover that I read over 50 books per year. According to the Pew Research Center, the average American adult reads 5 books per year, so I guess I would be considered a voracious reader.
How do I manage to squeeze in so many books in a year? Here are my top 3 tips:
1. Never leave home without a book.
Go grab a book right now and give yourself a mini-vacation by sitting down for a ten-minute read!
Following up last week’s blog entry, here’s a second vintage image that I found in London that I thought would interest my readers. Of course, as a Professional Organizer, it got my attention because it’s a question I frequently ask my clients to consider.
Can I do without it?
There are always tempting things we can buy and there are always tons of reasons to keep excess things we already have. This simple question is a good one for figuring out how valuable an item is to you and whether or not you really want to make a place for it in your home. After all, bringing something home from a store and giving it a place in your house means that you are committed to caring for it, cleaning it, using it, storing it, and looking at it for quite a long time.
Is it worth it?
Can you do with out it?
For one month, try asking yourself this question (when you’re in a store and when you’re looking around your house) and see how many times you can say, “Yes, I can do without it.” At the end of the month, maybe you’ll find yourself with a smaller credit card bill from things you didn’t buy and a big bag of things you now can do without and want to donate.