Simply Put Organizing

Photo Organizing

Order is Heaven’s first law, wrote the poet Alexander Pope. Maybe that is why we innately feel better when our life is buttoned up. What about our life’s memories? When it comes to getting our photographs in order, many of us feel a pang of guilt closer to purgatory than to Heaven.
It is estimated that 86% of digital photos never leave their memory card. Many more photographs are held captive in bins, boxes and drawers throughout our homes. If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you are not alone. The good news is, if you are willing to put in a little work, you can free your photos and create a system that will allow your family to enjoy them for years to come.
Digital Images
• Download your photos from your camera or phone to your computer once a month. This is probably the most difficult thing for me to do! It is so easy to forget. I suggest doing it the same time each month, like the first Saturday. Always put it on your calendar and honor the commitment. It is very important as you don’t want your photos and videos trapped on a camera that could be lost, stolen or damaged.
• Transfer the photos in your computer onto a photo organizing system such as Picasa, a free download from Google, iPhoto or Windows live photo gallery.
• Once they are downloaded and transferred edit and delete any repetitive or poor quality photos. Let’s face it, a bad picture is just clutter and will distract you from the good ones.
• Once you have edited your photos, organize them into files. I like to put the year then the month in digits, then title so my pictures line up chronologically, example: 2012 02 Ski Trip. I don’t like subfolders in my paper files or in my digital files so this method works well for me as I can see everything at a glance. If you like subfolders you can organize just by the year with subfolders for each month and then subfolders for each event within the month. I also like to make a folder each year for certain types of random photos. For instance, 2012 Family and Friends or 2012 Client spaces. The important thing is that your folders make sense to you so that when you want to retrieve a photo you can find it.
• Once you have your photos in folders you can go in and rename each photo replacing the string of digital numbers your camera assigns it with something meaningful to you.
Remember the important thing is to get them off your camera and on to your computer and back them up. I have my computer backed up continuously by Carbonite back up service www.carbonite.com . Other methods of backing up photos include:
• External hard drive, 500GB holds about 200,000 photos
• Online services, check out www.sugarsynce.com or www.sugarsync.com
• Prints, yes prints! In this high tech world there is still something special about sitting next to someone and reminiscing over a photo album.

Prints
Where to begin? This is the question that can keep us paralyzed and our printed photos trapped in drawers, boxes and bins. Whenever, I feel overwhelmed I remind myself that the best starting point is always a plan. First, ask yourself what you want as an end result. Do you want all your photos on your computer or would you like to have albums-maybe a combination.
Albums
• Choose the area in your home where your albums will live. This will help you decide how big your albums can be. Choose a bookcase, shelf or piece of furniture that will accommodate the albums you will be making now and any future albums you will be making. It’s great to keep them in the family room so they are accessible and easy to enjoy.
• Choose an album that fits your budget and aesthetic then buy more than you need to you always have a place to easily organize future photos. I like albums that have room to write a caption next to each photo. Choose archival albums if possible. Check out www.exposuresonline.com for a great selection.
Now that you have your albums it’s time to load them up!
• Find a space in your home that you can set up as a photo organizing center-on a spare bed or a buffet table in a spare room. You will also need shoe boxes and post it notes. You can buy inexpensive plastic shoe boxes at a dollar store.
• Sort the photos by year into the shoe boxes labeled with the post its. Don’t worry if your memory is fuzzy. Do the best you can-you can always tweak it later. This is the time to toss any repetitive and bad photos. Just say no to photo clutter!
• Identify events within each year and group those photos together. I think random photos are an event as well. In each year’s album consider having a few pages of random photos of family and friends.
• Load the albums with your sorted picture. Depending on how many photos you have, you may have one album for each year or combine several years in each album.
If albums are not your thing and yourprefer to enjoy your images digitally just follow the steps above but instead of loading up the albums choose a scanning service like www.scandigital.com or www.scancafe.com. For about 25 to 50 cents a photo you’ll receive a disc that you can upload to your computer and organize digitally.
Whichever method you choose you will be creating a visual legacy for your family that will be treasured for years to come.

Where Can I Donate My….?

I really like to donate. For those of you who have received my newsletters in the past, you have heard me say over and over to always have a donation bag handy. But what about those items you just don’t want to bring to a generic donation center? It is very important to plan where to donate before you start decluttering. It gives you the peace of mind needed to decide what to let go of and when. Here is a list of some of my favorites. All serve our communities in wonderful ways.

Project Smile collects stuffed animals for emergency responders to distribute to frightened children after fires, accidents and natural disasters.
projectsmile.org

Cell phones for Soldiers collects old and broken cell phones and sells them to a company that recycles them and uses the money to buy calling cards to give to soldiers stationed abroad so that they can call home for free. Go to cellphonesforsoldiers.com to print a free prepaid shipping label.

Onesight accepts prescription glasses, bifocals and nonprescription sunglasses at Lenscrafters, Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut, Target Optical and Sears optical nationwide. Just look for the marked bin. The Organization provides used glasses as well as free eye-exams to those who can’t afford them. onesight.org

Computer equipment The National Christina Foundation will match your used tech equipment,computer, printer, software, fax machine, monitor, mouse , or any other parts-with and organization near you that needs it. Many are nonprofits that provide training for at risk student or people with disabilities. cristina.org

Furniture The National Furniture Bank Association will pick up and distribute your furniture to families in need. Most accept beds, dressers, nightstands, tables, chairs, sofas and lamps. nationalfurniturebank.org

Medications disposemymeds.org lets you search by zip code for local pharmacies that have take-back programs to help keep potentially harmful pharmaceutical waste and personal -care chemicals out of the environment.

Paint, Tools and Building Supplies Drop them off at your local Habitat for Humanity Restore. Each Restore is different so contact them to find our what they take habitat.org

Sports equipment Gently used sports equipment can help underprivileged children enjoy the fun of sports. Sports gift will refurbish your items and send them to needy children in the United States and abroad.
Sportsgift.org

Shoes Soles 4 Souls provides shoes for those in need around the world. Visit soles4souls.org and enter your zip code to find a donation site near you soles4souls.org

Need extra cash? Here are great ways to lighten your load and fatten your bank account.

Replacements.com buys china, crystal and silver in more than 360,000 patterns.

Gazelle.com buys a wide aray of electronics. from cell phones to Blu ray players.. Simply visit the site to see how much your item is worth and request a prepaid mailing box. Super easy!!

Media exchange 123 buys blu ray discs, CDs, DVDs and video games Simply enter the UPC number to see how much they’ll pay. MX123.com

Recycling Visit Earth911.com to find recycling centers near you.

Clutter Control

Clutter has a funny way of expanding to fit any undefined spaces in your home. For that reason, it is very important to assign a purpose for each room, cabinet and closet you have. Once spaces are assigned a definite purpose you can go about the job of relocating items in your home to the places they belong and remove the excess as you go. I once had a boss who taught his employees to never walk anywhere in the restaurant empty handed. He knew there was always something to be relocated and put away. He didn’t know it then,but he helped me develop a lifelong habit that has helped me save time in everything I do. Below you’ll find more useful tips and inspiration to help you clear the clutter everyday and reclaim your spaces.
Food for thought

Determine your priorities in life: It is impossible to know what you don’t need if you haven’t determined what you do need. For example, I need more time. I had to take a look at my time wasting habits. I have decided that I don’t need to tear out and save pages of things I want to buy from magazines anymore. If I tear something out of a newspaper or magazine it becomes a to-do. I don’t need anything else to do. And if I really need that thing so badly then I won’t forget to get it. It has been so liberating to flip through a magazine and enjoy it without feeling the need to tear and manage all that paper and to make a trip to the mall to get the thing I thought I had to have in the magazine. This small tweak in my habits has saved precious time, mental energy, and, most likely, a lot of money.

Determine your priorities and what you are willing to spend time on and what you’re willing to give space to in your home.

Clutter is a delayed decision: Take a look at any cluttered areas in your home and you will see that each item there is really a delayed decision. Maybe you just didn’t decide where the item should be located in your home or maybe you haven’t decided if you will ever wear something again or use something so it has been relegated to a spare closet until a decision can be made. Make decisions on the things in your home right away. Choose if it stays or goes and, if it stays where will it ‘live’. If you have given thought to what you really need to support your values and priorities this becomes very easy.
Make a Plan

Choose a charity: For many of us, it is easier to let things go if we think it is going somewhere where it will be appreciated and put to good use. However, sometimes finding the right place can be paralyzing so you stay stuck in your stuff. Charitynavigator.org can help you find a charity in your area you can to be good stewards of your things. Set up a donation receptacle to make it easy to unclutter your home on a daily basis.

Schedule regular decluttering sessions: whether you are drowning in clutter or just a little it is important to assign a time each day or week that you will devote time to relocating items and clearing clutter. It could be 10 minutes a day or 1 hour each weekend. Whichever works for you, it is important to be consistent with the commitment.

Create a landing spot: Organization is about everything having a place. A landing spot is the place where you unload things as you come in the door. Clutter happens when we put things down in random places and then become too busy to go back and put them away. Your landing spot should be located near the entrance you most often use. It needs a designated place for mail, purse, wallet, keys and an area for any shopping bags or other things you may not have time to put away at the moment. In having it all in one spot-it is easier to go back and clear it as time permits. Caution: don’t fill up your landing spot and then make a new one. Take time each day to process what has accumulated there.
New Habits
Set goals; Daniel Hommer M.D., is an expert on brain imaging and motivation. He shared in Real Simple magazine that there is a phenomenon called delayed discounting. If it takes a long time to reach a goal we value that goal less then one we can reach quickly making it harder to get started at all. The solution is to make projects small and rewards immediate. For example, if you clear off a surface, dress if up with something you love keeping in mind that eventually your entire home will be that orderly and beautiful.

Don’t bring it home: Walk away from bargains. Just because you can buy three for the price of one doesn’t mean you should. Ask yourself: Where will I store it? Will it expire? If you find yourself accepting a freebie there’s nothing wrong with putting it in the donation bag straight away.

Put it away immediately: We all have good intentions to do things later. The problem arises when “later” creates piles all over our home. Put things away right away or, at least, the same day. Remember it’s all contained in your landing spot.

Give yourself time: If organizing doesn’t come naturally to you putting things back where they belong is not going to happen overnight. According to Charles Duhigg New York Times reporter and author of the book ‘The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business’, habits are hardwired into our brains. They are our brains way of simplifying our lives, saving us stress and energy. The trick is not to focus on undoing the habit but to replace the bad behavior with a better one. If each time you walk in your kitchen you drop everything you are holding on the counter think of the better habit of putting things away where they belong or using your landing spot to hold them until they can be put away. The reward: clear kitchen countertops.

Keep it Together Christmas!

Each year I rely on all the information I have accumulated in my Christmas binder. No matter which holiday your family celebrates you can keep a wealth of tips and inspiration all in one simple place. Here’s what you need:

A 1″ binder. I like the binders that you have a a pocket style cover for labeling.
Scrapbook paper (optional) cut to fit the pocket on the binder’s cover and spine. The picture to the right is the cover of my holiday binder.
A three hole punched zippered pouch. This is a great place to keep all the receipts for your holiday purchases. If you need them for returns you’ll know right where to find them.
CD holders. I keep all my holiday music in my binder. No more hunting for the elusive holiday music.
Page protectors. I keep a few page protectors in my binder to hold things like Christmas carol lyrics, poems and prayers.
Photo pages. I like to take pictures of my decor so I can remember how I set things up the previous year.
Binder pockets. You can find these at any office supply store. I always shop at Office Max as they have the Peter Walsh line of organizing products that I love. The pockets come five to a pack and each hold up to 70 sheets of paper. Use a labelmaker or simply write with a sharpie to assign a category to each pocket. Here are some of the things you can keep in your binder pockets:

Christmas card list
Decoration inventory Assign a number to each one of the bins you use to store your decorations and then list the contents of that bin on a sheet of paper and keep it in your binder. When you go to decorate next year you’ll know which bin to grab first.
Entertaining ideas. This pocket is for everything you tear from magazines. It’s great to have all your ideas in one place before you decorate.
Gift ideas. This is by far my favorite pocket. I tear pages from magazines and catalogs all year long and tuck them away in this pocket. When I start my Christmas shopping I am always thankful for the reminders.
Recipes. I keep all my holiday recipes separate from my other recipes so they can be easily located when I need them.
Tips. things pertaining to the holidays that I don’t want to forget (like this newsletter).
Travel. A great place to keep itineraries of friends and family that will be visiting for the season.
Anything that you need to keep at your fingertips during the season

I keep my binder with my cookbooks in the kitchen so I can easily add to it throughout the year. Choose a place in your home to keep the binder where it will not be forgotten and enjoy the gift of a holiday with a little less stress next year.

It’s About Time

Most everyone I talk to about time agrees on one thing, there never seems to be enough of it. Time is a precious, irreplaceable commodity, it cannot be saved, however, it can be managed effectively. Learning how to effectively manage your time is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.

Goal setting is an important component of time-management. A goal is a destination. If you don’t know where your going it’s impossible to make a plan to get there. If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels perhaps it’s because you’ve lost sight of your goals or not set any at all.

Once you have established your goals, short and long term, the most important thing to remember about managing your time is to PLAN. A plan is the roadmap you’ll use to reach your destination. Remember plans are not written in stone. They are guidelines for accomplishing the things you need to do in an efficient manner. Make it a habit, once a week, to plan for that week. If you work Monday through Friday, a good time to assess the things you want to accomplish for that week might be on Sunday night. There’s a saying, “On paper, off your mind”. The act of writing things down frees your mind of mental clutter and relieves the nagging anxiety that you’re forgetting something. Each day, using your weekly plan as a guide write a to-do list for the day. You can do this in the morning or the evening, whenever your mental clarity is at its peak. If you write your list at night you’ll experience an added benefit, a better night’s sleep.

Your weekly plans and your daily to-do lists act like your very own personal assistant, reminding you of the things you need to get done. Below you’ll find tips to keep in mind while making your plans.

• Avoid writing your lists on small scraps of paper. they’re easily misplaced. Be consistent by keeping your list in a notebook or pad kept in the same location whether it be a designated drawer, your fridge, purse or wallet. I keep my list in my planner so it’s always with me.
• If you’re away from your home or office and want to remember something when you get there, call yourself and leave a voicemail. You can also send yourself reminder emails.
• Prioritize your lists.
• When possible schedule large projects at the beginning of the week and, if necessary, break them down over a period of days. We all tend to procrastinate if something seems too overwhelming. But, you’ll find if you schedule a specific time each day to work on large projects you’ll have the peace of mind that there will be an end. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
• Get the things your dread out of the way first, you’ll feel less stressed throughout the day. So many times we take care of little tasks first and feel overwhelmed when the day is ending and we still have a large project looming in front of us. Smaller tasks are easily rolled over to the next day.
• Group similar items together by day of the week or time of day. You might make all your phone calls on Monday morning or each day between the hours of 9:00a and 10:00a.
• Group errands by geographic area to save driving time.
• Consolidate your errands; back and forth trips are a waste of time. When you go to the supermarket, get gas for the car, get the car washed, stop at the post office and take care of any other quick errands all at the same time.
• Bring the things you have to read with you. If you have down time, at the car wash, a doctor’s office or on a commute you can get the things you need to read out of the way.

Planning is nothing more than thinking before you act. Plan your tasks, your weekly meals, your routes, your schedule and so on. A little bit of planning goes a long way. You’ll waste less time and enjoy more productive, stress-free days. Remember to plan some free time for you!

Paper, Paper Everywhere!!

The most important thing to remember about paper is to decide what you need to keep and define spaces to process it or to file it. If you haven’t decided what you need to keep it is very easy to just throw it in a pile to deal with “later”. Take the phrase “I’ll do it later” out of your vocabulary!!! It takes minutes to process paper on a daily basis and saves hours of work sorting through piles. The bonus: No stress from seeing paper piles laying all over your home or office.

Take the time to really think about the things you need to save. Remember if the paper doesn’t come into the home it doesn’t have to be processed. Resist printing information from the computer for future reference. Instead keep a journal of your favorite websites to refer to as needed.

The second most important thing is to create ONE central place to process all incoming paper and assign the task to one family member. If more than one person is in charge of bringing in the mail it is easy for systems to disintegrate.

Once paper is brought into the home make a decision on it immediately if possible but always within 24 hours. Get rid of unwanted paper immediately. I throw my junk mail away that is addressed to ‘Valued Customer’ or ‘Resident’ at the mailbox garbage. Keep a shredder close to your paper processing center to deal with identity theft concerns. Staples has a great tabletop shredder that is small and efficient. A stapler is also needed to attached multi page documents. Recycle envelopes and inserts.

There are three categories of paper that exist: Action, Reference and Trash. We have discussed the trash, the tips below cover the action category.

Using table top shelves create an action center to define a space for priority items and items that are not time sensitive but still need to be done. You can see the shelves I use on my desk by linking this paper management video . You can buy the shelves at Office Max. They come in silver and black. They are not the most attractive but they are the best thing that has happened to my paper.
Check high priority items on a daily basis and process as needed. This group can include bills to pay, permission slips, RSVP’s and anything else that is time sensitive. If you check it daily, you won’t forget anything.
Check the lower priority items, the “to do later” category, weekly. You can put items in this category that you want to do six months from now. If you check it weekly you will not forget them. Each week, make a decision on these papers. They might stay in the category, they could be moved into the higher priority shelf to be processed or they might become trash if they are no longer relevant.

Reference papers are those that are saved for legal reasons, tax reasons, warranties and certain receipts needed for proof of purchase and should be filed. Resist filing articles you have printed or torn from magazines. They are rarely referred to and clog up filing cabinets making filing more of a chore than it needs to be.

The other type of paper that tends to migrate to piles are notes to other family members and phone messages. For phone messages I love to use spiral journal to capture the info. I date the pages and refer back to them as needed. Consider creating a message board to relay information to your family. If you have enough wall space you can have a board for each family member. If space is limited use color coded post-its to stick each family members notes on the board. I love Office Max’s In Place post-its. They are super sticky, (so they won’t fall off) and come in five colors. Assign a color to each person in your family and let them know where to look for their messages. Ask them to take the messages off the board when they have received them.

I also love the idea of a central family calendar. Family members can sync their electronic devises to match the central calendar if that is how a particular person handles their schedule.

It is very important to have a family meeting and decide on a system that everyone understands.

If you have neglected your paper for a long time and have piles everywhere. Gather them up into one large bin, making sure that the time sensitive paper is separated, then make a commitment to process the paper for 20 minutes a day until it’s gone. Set a timer if need be.

Shredding is cathartic especially when done with your favorite beverage. Try it.

Family Information Centers

There are two things you need to keep in mind when managing the paper and information that comes into your home on a daily basis. First, you need to choose just one location to process it. Second, you need to process it in a timely manner. Remember, clutter is simply a result of delayed decisions.

To set up a Family Information Center keep the following tips in mind:
• it should be located in a heavily trafficked area like the kitchen or a mudroom.
• it needs to have wall space for a bulletin board or wall calendar , a surface for an action center and reference material and ideally, a floor surface for a shredder (although there are some great tabletop shredders available)
• it needs to have a file close by to file papers that need to be retained for a long period of time. Remember to file once a week. If you wait any longer the task becomes unbearable to most people.
Once you have determined a place where you will process incoming information it is important to gather all the papers that are around your home and process them. if you are completely overwhelmed, at least place all the paper in one pile and process it for ten minutes a day until it’s gone. There are three different types of paper: reference, action, and trash. Reference papers are school schedules, invitations, legal papers and such. How long you keep them depends on the importance of the paper. Papers for medical and tax purposes have to be kept for a longer period of time but are seldom looked at. These papers belong in a file cabinet somewhere in your home but necessarily in your information center. Reference papers such as sports schedules, school information and such need to be referred to on a regular basis and should be kept in a binder or folio close at hand. I love Mom Agenda’s Kitchen Folio. Check it out at
www.momagenda.com Don’t forget to check out the free printables to keep you and your family on track.

Papers that require an action such as bills to pay, invitations that require a response, permission slips to sign, etc. need to be placed in an action center. I love the three tier sorter from Office Max for this purpose. www.officemax.com As you see there is a place to label each tray. Use one for items to do that are high priority (check it daily) label the second tray for items that are not really important such as things you may want to do with your family or things you want to buy (check it weekly) and the third tray for paper that needs to be filed. File it each week.

Paper that is to be thrown away needs to be discarded before it hits a hard surface. Open mail over a trash can, recycle bin or shredder on a daily basis and quickly put items in their predefined spaces: either the trash, the action center or a file.

To keep track of schedules use an individual planner. whether you choose an electronic schedule or a paper depends entirely on your personality. There are a lot of people who still prefer paper, including me. I have used and loved Mom Agenda’s personal portfolio for years. I like to look at my entire month at a glance and the uncluttered pages of this planner make be feel like I’m in control even though there is hardly a square in that doesn’t contain something I have to do or somewhere I have to be.
I think it’s gorgeous and I love to carry it. My good friend prefers her I phone which absolutely doesn’t work for me. Decide which calendar works best for you and then input all your commitments on a daily basis.
If you have a large or busy family. I think it’s important to have a family calendar. Dry erase calendars are perfect for this. Each family member can use a different color to mark their schedules and everyone knows where to look to see who is doing what. If you prefer the computer screen you can do the same thing online. I really like the clean look of the magnetic dry erase calendar at the container store, www.containerstore.com
If you don’t have the wall space, mom agenda has come out with a home office addition planner that is large enough to capture all your important information and attractive enough to leave out.

So, if you apply the organizing triangle to your new Family Information Center. The system would be the defined spaces that your paper goes to immediately when it comes in the door. The products are the planners, folios, action centers and shredder. The habits, keep on top of things. It only takes five minutes to process your mail each day. Remember, it’s not the things we do that wear us out. It is what is left undone.

Don’t know about the organizing triangle? It is my own organizing method that I teach my clients and use myself. Find out more in my coauthored book, Get Organized Today. Available at a discount on my site www.simplyputorganizing.com

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One of my favorite products

I am here in New York, working with a client to settle him into his new apartment. This is an amazing apartment but has a typical tiny closet in the kid’s room. We need to stretch the space and create more horizontal surface area. For this, I am using one of my favorite products, the melamine shoe shelf. I buy these at Target and install them on closet shelves to make extra space for shoes, purses, folded sweaters, kids board games, the list goes on and on. Products are an integral part of The Organizing Triangle ™ and necessary to create defined homes. For more info on the triangle you can purchase my book by visiting the store at www.simplyputorganizing.com

Organizing Recipes

Whether or not you’re a serious cook chances are you will find yourself wanting to make a favorite recipe. Often, the challenge can be finding it in an efficient manner.

Recipes are part of a family’s history. Most of us have handwritten cards passed down from mothers and grandmothers, favorite cookbooks, recipes torn from magazines and printed from the computer. Keeping track of all the different shapes and sizes can feel overwhelming.
The best thing to do is to find one method that works for you and stick to it. Here are five solutions that will appeal to everyone from the sentimental cook to the high tech chef.

Solution One: Mark the pages. Use book darts to mark your favorite recipes in any cookbook. Book darts are small metal clips that won’t wrinkle or mark pages and won’t fall off. They come in three colors so you can distinguish recipes you have tried from ones you haven’t or appetizers from main dishes. Post-its also work well for marking as the name of the recipe can be written in plain view. Great for serious cook book collectors.

Solution Two: Use an index card file to keep track of handwritten recipe cards. Use blank index cards to keep track of recipes in your favorite books. Simply write the name you are likely to remember, the cookbook and the page number. File the cards alphabetically in the box, dividing them into sections such as appetizers, desserts, holiday favorites, etc. This method appeals to those sentimental cooks who love the grease stained recipe card that grandma used.

Solution Three: Three ring binders. Create one binder for ‘Recipes to Try’. Use binder pockets labeled by category to capture each type of recipe you tear out of a magazine or print off a computer. When you are in the mood to cook something new they’ll be easy to find. After you have tried a new recipe, toss it if it’s a dud. If it’s a keeper, put it in a page protector and transfer it into a binder of your favorites. This method works well for those who love cooking magazines. Keep track of the recipes that sound appealing and toss or pass on the actual magazine.

Solution Four: File folders. This works well if you have a file drawer in your kitchen that can be designated for recipes. If you don’t have a drawer, there are many attractive portable files you can use. Simply create a folder for each type of recipe and a folder for recipes to try. This method will appeal to extremely busy cooks as it’s easy to catch all shapes and sizes within a folder. The caveat is the tendency to overstuff the folders making it hard to locate the recipe you want.

Solution Five: Online. Scan favorite recipes and keep them in files on your computer. Easily ensure the security of all your prized dishes by ensuring your computer is backed up. For easy and continual remote backup try www.carbonite.com. You can also use software such as www.bigoven.com or Cook’n www.dvo.com to organized all your favorite cookbooks online, create shopping list, watch cooking videos and even figure out what to cook for dinner by entering what’s in your refrigerator. The demo at dvo.com is a must watch. Amazing!!! This method is great for all types of cooks but especially appealing to those who don’t have room for cookbooks in their kitchen.

Realize that the initial organizing of your recipes will be a time consuming process, albeit a worthy endeavor. The next time you find yourself looking out on a cold rainy day you may just want to grab a cup of something warm and snuggle up with your recipes, just in time for holiday cooking

The Pampered Pantry

It’s no doubt that our pantries play an integral role in our family’s life. They come in all shapes and sizes and they all have one thing in common, they need to be organized in order to save you and your family time and money. With our busy lives the reality for pantries is that they often fall victim to what I like to call “the shove and close method”. If you and your family are prone to putting things away on the first glimpse of a shelf the answer if definition. Yes, definition is what organizing is all about.

The following tips will help reclaim you space and restore order to one of your household’s busiest areas.

  • Schedule the time. Large pantries can take up to six hours to organize.
  • Assemble your tools: a large garbage bin for expired items, a donation box for the local food bank (let go of items your family no longer enjoys before they expire and turn into garbage), a container to relocate all the things you’ll find in the pantry that don’t really belong there, a tape measure, a shopping list for organizing supplies you’ll need once you determine what you are keeping and where it will live and a label maker.
  • Identify your pantry’s “prime real-estate”. These are the shelves that are most accessible to you. Your go-to items should make their home on these spaces.
  • Sort the items you have removed from your pantry into like groups discarding anything that is expired or unwanted. If you find holiday items while you are organizing, set them aside to be stored with other holiday items in a remote location. Most pantries are not large enough for holiday storage and should be used only for food and kitchen items.
  • Take a moment to look at your empty pantry and decide where the things you are keeping should live. Remember, seldom used items should be placed on the hardest to reach shelves and often used items should be very accessible. Don’t forget to consider the door and wall space. Often times wire racks can be added to these spaces to accommodate extra items. At this point, if you are able, it is a great time to make a trip to the local organizing store or discount department store to purchase containers to organize with. If you are unable to make the trip during your organizing time, take measurements to shop with later. Resist buying items in advance unless you are really good about returning unused purchases and know exactly what is in your pantry and what you will keep.
  • My favorite products are baskets that fit your shelves to contain bags of pasta, rice and grains. Baskets are also great to contain bulk purchases of lunch snacks. Label one sweet snacks and the other salty snacks and dump the boxes of small packages into them. Kids love this!! I also love turntables that fit the shelf for oils, vinegars, marinades and condiments (turn tables make items on high shelves accessible). They are also good for liquor, vases and any other tall, round items like airtight containers of flour sugar etc. I use plastic containers with lids and labels to contain small items used for baking such as sprinkles, cookie cutters, and birthday candles.
  • Load up your pantry. Place things according to how often they are used. Heavy appliances should be on lower shelves and seldom used things up high. Avoid using the floor space if at all possible. Having a clean floor helps keep the dust at bay and will make your pantry much more appealing.
  • Label everything and explain to your family the new system so they will understand there is now an assigned space for each item.
  • Hang a shopping list in or nearby your pantry. When you see your running low on a family favorite jot it on the list. This will save a lot of time and money at the grocery store.

Pantries can run the gamut from functional to beautiful and they are one of my favorite things to organize. Once you have restored order to your food storage the key is to maintain it. Avoid bulk purchases if you have a small family. If you have a small pantry and you need to buy in bulk consider storing the bulk items in a warehouse area either in a basement or garage until you need to restock your pantry. When you see your pantry looking disheveled, take a moment to straighten it up and discard any stale or expired items. With a little elbow grease, definition and new habits you too can take your pantry from pathetic to pampered.

Repurpose. Replenish. Renew. Restore. Relax.