This edition of the 5-Minute Organizing Challenge will inspire you to “spring into action” and refresh your home. This is the time of year when we apply the adage, “Out with the old, in with the new.” Use these five mini-challenges (each takes only five minutes or less) to get yourself organized for Spring.
- Clean to a theme. Create a daily theme for each organizing session to make sure you clean and organize in one area at a time. It only takes a few minutes to brainstorm one or two areas you will work in, such as cleaning all the windows in your home or organizing the junk drawer.
- Prevent and avoid distractions. Set time aside at the beginning of each session to make sure you prevent distractions. Turn off the television, set your cell phone vibrate mode, shut or lock your computer screen (to avoid getting tempted to answer e-mails and engage in social media), etc. The fewer possible distractions, the better.
- Set up an area for donations. Consider donating clothing, linens, toys, or any other items you haven’t used in the past year to those who are in need. Use spring cleaning as a motivation to purge storage areas like closets, cupboards, and basements. It only takes a few minutes to set up boxes or bags to pile the items into and to call a non-profit organization (or your favorite charity) to arrange a pick up date.
- Exchange muted colors for brighter ones. Spring is the ideal time to switch out plain and muted colors with lighter and more vibrant ones. It’s also a great time to wash all of your linens (bed & table) and clothes that have been stored in your closet all year. Take the last few minutes of your organizing sessions to put in a load of laundry so you can eventually get through all of it.
- Savor the weather while you work. When the weather is beautiful and sunny, use it to your advantage. Spend a few minutes opening the windows and let the fresh breeze in. Breathe in the fragrant air and soak in the sun for an energy boost. After you finish your cleaning and organizing session, you can also reward yourself by going outside for a short walk.
I hope these tips help you to get your home ready for the warmer season. What other steps can you take to get organized for Springtime?
Is disorganization holding you back from being the person who connects with family and friends?
You love to purchase note cards and birthday cards. You think of yourself as the person who sends cards for special occasions. Your home and office are brimming with special cards for special people that have not been mailed.
But, your friends haven’t heard from you in quite a while. You would love to get together with them for a drink and to laugh. You cross paths with friends and always say, “I’d love to get together” — but never set a date. There’s no time to call, text, or Facebook with them to get something on the calendar.
You haven’t called your mom or dad in weeks. Enough said.
Get More Organized to Stay Connected With Loved Ones
One of the most important parts of being organized for my clients is keeping in touch with the people they care about. The intention is there, but not the execution.
What keeps them from sending a birthday card is that they can’t find the card — or it’s too late when they finally do find it. What keeps them from being in touch is not knowing the cell number they need or when to call.
The solution? You can stay connected with friends and family by being more organized.
You can become the thoughtful person you really are with these tips to be more organized:
- Keep a stash in one place. Place cards together in one bin or basket on an easy to access shelf in your home or office. The size of the basket should match the quantity of cards that you tend to purchase.
- Keep a supply of stamps. Purchase stamps at the grocery store, online or at Sam’s. Keep a few stamps in your wallet and in your desk drawer.
- Set a schedule. At the beginning of the month, pull cards to be sent that month. Add a personal note to those cards, address and stamp them, and then mail them right away. A card received early is a card received!
- Make lunch dates. Review your week and find the one time that is best to go to lunch, dinner, or meet for a drink. When you contact with your friends, offer this as the best time to get together.
- Call regularly. Pick a day of the week that is best to call your family, like Sunday afternoon. Having a standard time ensures that a call will actually take place.
- Make it easy to stay connected. Be sure everyone’s mobile number and snail mail and e-mail address are entered in your smart phone.
- Manage social media. I love social media because it’s like a daily family reunion. However, it can be tricky to spend just a few minutes. So, participate in social media, but don’t get bogged down. If you find that you’re spending hours on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, set a timer to keep track of how much time you are online.
- Plan an easy to do get together. Ask friends to bring snacks to share and provide beverages. Plan your event on over weekend when more friends are probably available to attend. Send an e-vite so everyone is included.
Staying connected is vital for all of us. We share laughter, support each other, and can be our best selves. Keep in touch easily with friends and family locally and those who are at a distance. Don’t get disconnected because of you’re organized enough.
How do you make sure you stay connected with loved ones?
It’s tax filing season, so this 5-Minute Organizing Challenge will help you get your tax receipts in order. Most people don’t know where to start with their piles of receipts, so these five simple steps will help you get an effective tax filing system in place.
These mini-challenges will take five minutes or less for each step, so it shouldn’t take long to get your system in place.
1. Spend a few minutes gathering supplies you’ll need: file folders, writing utensils, and paperclips.
2. Next, list categories and subcategories for the types of receipts you have. Then, create a folder for each category and write the name on each tab.
3. On the front side of each folder, write subcategories of receipts that will be placed inside. Follow up by quickly sorting folders alphabetically to make them easier to find.
4. Choose the location where the receipts will be stored. The folders can be stored in a portable file box, a file cabinet drawer, or another solution you choose. Place all of the folders in this area.
5. Pull out all of your receipts and place them on a desk or surface you can sort them. If you need to print copies of digital receipts, make a list of those for the last few minutes.
After you complete these mini-challenges, you can plan a session to place the receipts in file folders according to the category, and arrange them by date. This task will take different amounts of time. Keep in mind that the length of time you’ll need will be based heavily on the volume you may be dealing with.
I hope these tips help you to get your tax receipts more organized than they ever have been!
What other organizational systems can you set up to get your taxes organized?
Find a NAPO Professional Organizer to help get your tax paperwork in order!
Let’s be honest. Many people have that proverbial junk drawer, the one in which they put everything that they don’t know what to do with yet can’t seem to throw away.
The drawer is usually in the kitchen but can be just about anywhere and it contains, well, just about anything. Incomplete decks of cards, stubs of candles, memo pads with three sheets of paper remaining …
… expired coupons, lots and lots of pens, a broken tape measure, the extra pair of glasses with only one lens …
… and the list goes on and on.
The junk drawer exists simply because we don’t know where to put this stuff and rather than take the time trying to figure out the right place for it to be stored, or if it should be stored at all, the items get placed in the junk drawer often never to be looked at again.
Shouldn’t organizing the junk drawer be on your immediate to-do list? Of course, getting the junk drawer organized once and for all is important, but I’m going to go one step further. I’m suggesting that you don’t spend time organizing the junk drawer — but rather get rid of it! But, first …
Here’s how to organize your junk drawer
- Schedule it. Set aside a suitable amount of time to work your way through the drawer. Too short a time allotment and you will wind up completing half of the job and that means the junk drawer will still remain in existence.
- Take everything out. Dump out the contents of the drawer. Yes, dump everything out on a table on which you have placed a cloth or towel so that things don’t go rolling around and the table doesn’t get damaged.
- Decide what to keep. Sort through every single item carefully evaluating it for its value and usefulness. Not certain? Throw it out. Really, out it goes because once you start to question whether or not you actually need the items, they are probably going to find their way back into the drawer. Be ruthless!
- Categorize items. Make separate piles of the items that you plan to retain and know (yes, really know) where you are going to put these things. Not certain where they will wind up? Not sure if they are worth being kept? Throw them out. Once again, this shouldn’t take too long. They’re in the junk drawer for a reason and that reason is that you don’t really have a use for these things. If you did, you’d be using them or they would be in a different place such as your sewing kit, desk drawer, closet, etc.
You do have other options, as I alluded to before.
You could ignore my advice, skip the steps I just mentioned, and …
Simply throw everything out. That means you’d spend little to no time examining the contents of the drawer. What do you think?
This method isn’t for everyone. For those bold enough to proceed, you will save yourself the time and stress of indecision. Keep in mind that if you haven’t used these items in months, if not years, they are likely of no value to you.
Lastly, if you’re not ready to get rid of your junk drawer (or at least not yet), then think of it as a utility drawer instead — a space that is helpful and deserving of being organized and uncluttered with only specific and needed items.
Keep it in pristine condition so that it will be a source of pleasure rather than not frustration every time you open the drawer.
Once you have discarded some of the items that you KNOW will never see the light of day and started to organize the drawer for easier access, give thought to purchasing expandable drawer organizers (affiliate link).
As all items will have a home, the organized utility drawer will no longer have space for any additional “junk” in the future. Be sure to select drawer organizers that fit into your drawer and will accommodate the items that you must keep.
One last thing! Take a picture right after you have finished organizing the utility drawer and have everything is in its rightful place. Put the picture right on top of everything in the drawer so that every time you are about to throw a random item in, you’ll see the picture and think twice. Here’s to bidding your junk drawer goodbye forever!
I was recently sent this Clean Computer Calendar and thought it was worth sharing with you!
It’s a great guide to follow from SingleHop (a cloud computing company) in order to conquer that digital clutter in a short amount of time.
I’ve explained some of their advice in more detail below and added a few of my own tips. Happy digital organizing!
How to Clean Up Digital Clutter
“Create an easy-to-use system to organize your computer’s folders.”
I do this by creating folders that are very general and then have sub folders within each of them as necessary.
For example, I have a folder on my desktop for Brisket (our dog). Inside that folder are sub folders labeled Photos, Videos, Insurance, and Pet Sitter. Obviously, there are photos in the Photos sub folder and videos in the Videos sub folder.
Inside the Insurance sub folder is the claim form PDF I can print out if I need to. In the Pet Sitter sub folder is the MS Word document I keep with instructions for our pet sitter like emergency contact information.
Other general folders on my desktop include one for my husband, one for our wedding, and one for my business. Within each are documents categorized into sub folders. It’s very easy to find what I’m looking for, and it’s also simple to keep my desktop clear since I know exactly where new files should go.
“Organize photos into folders.”
The easiest thing to do is to sort photos into folders by year and then into sub folders by month or event. Getting too caught up in the naming convention of photos will lead to confusion, feelings of overwhelm, and then procrastination.
Just keep it simple.
“Research secure cloud storage options and external hard drives/storage devices.”
I recommend both of these things as well. It’s important to have a back up at home and to have a back up in the cloud, so that you’re covered in the event of any type of disaster.
I use CrashPlan (and Deb likes Carbonite) to securely and automatically back up everything on my computer daily. I use a Lacie external hard drive (affiliate link) to manually back up my digital life at home a few times a year.
- Don’t forget to empty the trash can. You take the garbage from your kitchen out regularly, right? You should do this for your computer, too. It frees up space on your hard drive and keeps things running smoothly.
- Delete old documents. The one or two occasions a year that I manually back up my files to my external hard drive is also the time when I take the extra few minutes to delete documents I no longer need. This includes things like ebooks that I downloaded, read, and won’t refer to again — or photos that I really don’t need to keep.
- Clean up your desktop once a week. When application windows are left open, it’s tough to remember that there are a bunch of downloaded documents still floating around on your desktop. Once a week or so, close your applications (which is good for your computer anyway), and assess what’s on your desktop. Delete the unnecessary and file the archives in the folders and sub folders that you set up. I like to do this on Friday afternoons, so that when I come back on Monday morning I have a clean desktop and a clear mind.
Now, let’s drill down and focus on your next action steps.
Either print out the Clean Computer Calendar as a visual reminder to check off, or simply add the task items from the Clean Computer Calendar to your calendar.
Then, schedule some time to perform each task and stick with it. Your computer will be clutter-free in no time, and it will feel great!
Over to you …
Now, I’d love to hear from you. How do you stay on top of your computer files? What’s your system for keeping the digital clutter at bay?
As a working parent, you probably always think that other parents are more organized than you are.
This is likely because of how put together they appear when they volunteer at school. It’s because they seem to reach into their man bags or purses and retrieve what’s needed right away.
But fear not! We have the tricks here to help you be the most organized parent on the block! Put one or more of these five organizing tips for working parents into practice this week at your home.
5 Organizing Tips for Working Parents
1. Calendars are vital, so use them!
You need to enter all important events immediately — include events that are important to both you and your partner.
You calenar should have all early release dates, dentist appointments, out of town travel times, and birthdays. An online planner would is probably best because it can be updated easily, and wold have real time data for your partner.
You can also post a paper copy of your month at a glance where your family can see it. Compulsive scheduling makes for happy, organized families.
2. Be an early riser.
Getting up earlier than your family can make your mornings flow better. There are many benefits to getting up early, including having time to think and prepare for your day.
Getting an early start can help you start off on the right foot and get your ready for all the morning craziness and last minute reminders that are needed. You can get out of the house feeling and looking put together and ready to face the work world. Be sure to get to bed early to get the biggest benefits.
RELATED: 4 Work-Life Balance Tips for Parents
3. Prep the night before.
Start thinking about things you can prepare and gather the evening before. You can start by packing everyone’s bags, getting them to the exit location, getting lunches ready, and getting clothes out. Doing this ahead of time will make the next day more organized, especially if something unexpected comes up.
And, by being ready the night before, you will likely avoid some (not all) of the morning craziness. This is where family coordination comes into play. Using a checklist can help everyone be a part of the nightly preparation routine. Help your family help themselves with a list of what things that need to be done and in what order before you head off to bed.
4. Create a meal plan.
You just made dinner yesterday … this family is really demanding! Consider creating a plan for dinner for each day of the week. There are lots of options, including:
- Making batches of dinners on Sunday
- Following a dinner plan like the Six O’Clock Scramble
- Using a crock pot to make dinner
Whatever works for you, be sure to be organized about it. Write your dinner options or dinner plan for the week and post it where everyone can see it. At the same time, write up a grocery list or add items you need to a grocery app. Be sure to think about when it’s best to head to the grocery on a consistent basis. Remember to ask for help to prepare dinner and clean up afterwards. It’s an important part of family life together.
5. Know your strengths and priorities
Over and over again, I hear the guilt-laden refrains from working parents. It’s that age old question: “Did I do enough with and for my kids?”
Release the guilt by following Marcus Buckingham’s principle of parenting. Accept your strengths and who you are, and know what works best for you. Acknowledge your kids’ strengths and focus on these, too.
It’s hard to know what your strengths are at times, but give it some thought. Here are some ideas:
- One working mom shared that she always works at the school spring carnival because it’s on a weekend and it’s fun.
- Another working dad always arranges a time with his children’s teachers to speak at school about science topics like energy and space exploration.
- A professional mom and her son share a store bought cupcake and watch a science fiction show weekly together.
- Friday night at one family’s home is always pizza and movie night.
I know you can find your strengths and I’d love for you to share them below!
Have an organizing tip that works for your family? How do you stay organized as a working parent?
I had a toilet sitting in my living room for a week.
Don’t be jealous. Really. This was not some plan to multitask while watching TV.
The throne in the living room manuever was part of the home renovations my uncle and aunt were doing for me. As you might have already guessed, one room included the master bathroom.
The work began before Christmas when my uncle knocked out the wall between my living room and dining room. When construction begins, stuff and furniture are moved out of the way, dust covers everything, and you walk past a toilet in your living room.
The mayhem and disruptions made my dash of OCD a little twitchy. I’m still finishing up the projects, but I’ve learned a few survival techniques.
5 Steps to Survive Your Renovation
1. Go with the flow. Remind yourself that this is a short-term issue. It may not feel that way, but in the scheme of the world, it will be over soon. So, just go with the flow, let the craziness waft over you, and keep moving forward. And, pick out your favorite tile or a paint color.
2. Create an oasis somewhere in the chaos. Since I had to sleep in a guest room, I made sure to make the temporary space as comfortable as possible. I used my regular pillows and a favorite comforter.
3. Focus on the end result. When your bathroom is gutted, the ceiling is gaping open with a great view into the attic, and your nephew doing your electrical work points out a water leak in the roof, you wonder why on earth you’re doing this.
I called a couple of my friends in hysterics, and they, who are renovation survivors, calmed me down and reminded me of how pretty it will be when it’s over. Anytime I got a little wigged out, I kept repeating, “It will be pretty. It will be worth it.”
4. Clear unwanted stuff. With all of your stuff moved around, take advantage of the opportunity to clear out stuff that no longer serves you well. Sell unwanted items — that are still in good condition — to help defray some of your renovation costs.
5. Watch renovation TV shows. Watching a little reality TV of guys ripping apart a house most people would have bulldozed might make you feel much better anything weird you find in your own home. Thank you, previous owners, for not putting up giant flowery wallpaper.
With these tips, you, too, can survive your renovation. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to pick out some paint colors.
RELATED: 5-Minute Organizing Challenge ~ Refresh Your Home for the New Year
Winter Storm Juno was big news recently. It hit the Northeast part of the country and dropped as much as 36 inches of snow in areas of Massachusetts! Luckily, it only amounted to a few inches where I am in Philadelphia, but regardless, it was our first official snow storm this season.
Staying prepared at home is important at times like this. Think about times when you’ve dealt with a power outage at home in the past. Chances are, you probably have several flashlights, candles and matches, and battery backup packs to keep your phones and other gadgets juiced up.
Having your car organized and ready for winter is equally as important. Ice and snow make for some very tough driving conditions … even starting your car can be difficult at times. So, take a look at these four steps you can take to keep your car organized and ready for winter.
4 Simple Steps to Get Your Car Ready for Winter
Step 1 – Take Inventory
Check your garage, shed, or car kit to see items you have (see the list below) before you go out and buy duplicates.
Then, start thinking about the various places in your car (including the trunk) that you can store some essential supplies.
Step 2 – Shop for Supplies
Here is a suggested list of items to have on hand all the time:
- Combination Ice Scraper/Brush – For dealing both with icy patches and fluffy snow.
- Snow Broom – If you have a tall car, this is a must. In some areas, it is the law to clean the snow and ice off the roof of your car. Without doing so, the drivers behind may be at risk of having sheets of ice sliding off and flying towards them. Talk about dangerous!
- Compact Shovel – If your car ends up stuck in the snow this will help you dig the excess areas out around your tires.
- Kitty Litter – This aids as traction to ease your car out of sticky, er, snowy situations, when put behind your rear tires.
- Windshield Wiper Fluid – Windshields get dirty very quickly in the winter and you can find yourself hitting the wipers a lot more frequently.
1/2 Gallon Extra Fuel Emergency Fuel Solution (affiliate link) – This non-flammable solution may save you in a pinch if you end up running out of gas. It’s not dangerous to store in your car and will help you get to the nearest gas station to fill up. A half-gallon should be enough to get you there.
- Phone Battery Backup Pack – Should your car battery not start or you get stuck, you’ll want to have this for communicating with people who can help (like roadside assistance).
- Blankets and Hand Warmers – For keeping warm while waiting for help.
- Energy Bars and Energy Drinks – For keeping satiated and hydrated while waiting for help. The electrolytes and sugars reduce the drink’s freezing point, ensuring you’ll still have liquid when you need it.
- Emergency Flares – To assist tow trucks, emergency personnel, and anyone else coming to help with finding your car.
- First Aid Kit – For any bumps, bruises, or scrapes you might get while on the road. Hopefully, you won’t need this! … but, it’s better to have it just in case.
Related: 3 Simple Steps to Organize Your Car
Step 3 – Maintain Your Car
Consider changing to rubber car mats so you can hose off or shake out salt buildup from the roads and sidewalks. It’s also a good idea to get a car wash every once in a while to protect the paint from the salt and also just to keep your car looking spiffy!
Step 4 – Purchase a Roadside Assistance Plan
If you don’t already have one through your car’s manufacturer or via AAA , sign up for a roadside assistance plan. And, of course, keep your membership card with you. This type of service is ideal to have year round.
Overall, do your best to drive carefully and be sure to keep your car ready and prepared for unexpected situations. I wish you a fun and safe winter season!
Hi there, Organize To Revitalize Readers! Today, I’m sharing a DIY Whiteboard Organizing project I worked on recently. When I relocated a shelving unit from my office a month or so ago, I freed up some blank wall space. I didn’t want to clutter up the space with another piece of furniture — that’s why I moved the bookshelf in the first place.
Then, I remembered Ellen’s post on using whiteboards to organize. Since I only have to turn my head to see this wall space, I thought it would be a perfect place for a whiteboard.
Even though you can’t see the wall right away, the office is the first room when you enter my home so I want to keep it pretty. I researched dry-erase boards and felt that they were:
- just too darned expensive
- not the right size
- too cookie cutter
So, I set out to make my own.
How I Created a Whiteboard (And You Can, Too!)
Step 1 – Get Materials
I purchased a large 24″ x 36″ poster frame from WalMart and hung it in my office right away. This is the frame I bought (I purchased a single frame in the store). I knew I wanted to play around with design and layout first.
I even toyed with the idea of using a thin sheet of steel inside the frame to add a magnet board. It turned out that I didn’t need it, but you could do this, if you wanted to. I didn’t want to spend time and energy creating something that didn’t work for me. Function, first.
Step 2 – Decide on the Layout
After living with it for a few weeks, I figured out that I wanted it to be half-calendar and half-blog post planning. I drew up a layout with half of the whiteboard for “This Week” and a five-week calendar section, as well as a free space for listing blog posts and their status.
I thought a lot (probably too much) about how to design the calendar and which medium to use. I love the look of back-painted glass, like this back splash:
It’s shiny and clean and goes with the slightly glam look I’m going for in my office. I considered applying vinyl to the back (in mirror), then painting and peeling the vinyl to reveal the negative. I decided against it because painting the entire back surface and adding a design to the front instead allows me to change it up in the future.
Step 3 – Paint
I spray painted a few light coats of Valspar Tropical Oasis in gloss (not sure if that’s necessary). You don’t have to make sure it is completely opaque. I could see through it when I held it up to the light. When I held it up against the cardboard backing, the coverage proved to be good enough.
Step 4 – Cut
That’s when I broke out my Silhouette Cameo (affiliate link) and cut out the calendar grid in white and lettering in pink.
Step 5 – Decorate
I’ll probably add decorative molding, but for now I wanted to keep it simple. But, I still thought it needed a little something. So, I grabbed some gold paint from ACE and hit the poster rails. The can indicates that it’s “not intended to be a durable finish; for added protection, use a clear topcoat.”
So, I did — but the clear dulled the finish. I read somewhere recently about “sanding” spray paint with a brown paper bag, and I figured it was worth a try. The gold turned out a little less bling and a little more antique, but I’m happy with the finished product.
I’m calling it DONE!
Step 6 – Enjoy!
I love it! The only thing that would make it better is a gold dry-erase marker. :D Don’t you agree? The best part is that it was so inexpensive to DIY that I won’t care so much
when if my three year old damages it.
Another Whiteboard You Can Make
Here’s another whiteboard I made more than a year ago for weekly meal planning. It helps avoid the dreaded “What’s for dinner?” question.
The great thing about this is you can completely customize it. You can use any size, shape or color frame you’d like. Add vinyl, whiteboard tape or washi tape, if you’d like.
You can paint the back of the glass or Plexiglas or you can add a printable to the frame as a guide. Here’s my Weekly Menu and a Weekly Schedule printable you can use right away if you have an empty 8″ x 10″ frame handy.
Let me know what you think! Do you have an idea for creating a DIY Whiteboard in your home? Please share!
Since January is National Get Organized Month, let’s focus the first 5-Minute Organizing Challenge of this year on decluttering your home. If you accumulated more stuff last year, now it’s time to edit what you have.
The following mini-challenges will take five minutes or less for each activity, so you can revitalize your home in no time if you take them on.
Refresh Your Home 5 Minutes at a Time
- Pack or toss leftover holiday materials. Collect all of the decorative holiday bags, bows, ribbons, and wrapping paper in one area. Spend a few minutes deciding what you can reasonably use next year and separate those items. After you finish, toss the rest of the paraphernalia (recycling what you can).
- Clear out your medicine cabinet. Briefly go through your over-the-counter and prescription medications to check expiration dates. Remove all of the bottles of expired medication and place them in a bag. Many cities offer community-based drug “take back” programs, so check to see what is available in your area. Your local pharmacy may be a great place to start or you can call DEA Office of Diversion Control’s Registration Call Center at 1-800-882-9539.
- Get rid of random chargers and useless small electronics. Scan through chargers, electrical cords, old cell phones, ear buds, and other small electronics. Whatever is not working or cannot be matched to a device should be discarded appropriately. Visit retailers like Whole Foods and Staples and make use of their recycling programs for small electronics.
- Shred or recycle unnecessary paperwork. This includes duplicate bills, old receipts, clothing tags for items that are not returnable, and old takeout menus. In five minutes or less, you could tackle each of these categories.
- Donate or recycle magazines from 2014. If you have stacks or bundles of magazines that you didn’t have time to read last year, it is unlikely you’ll get to them this year. January issues of magazines have already arrived and February issues are on the way. However you decide to part with them (donate, sell, recycle, etc.), it’s time to embrace the “out with the old, in with the new” motto. With a few minutes of prep, magazines of the past will no longer function as clutter in your home.
What other simple steps can you take to refresh your home for the New Year?