Simply Put Organizing

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.

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.

Organized Shower

Love this product!!! I found this at spacesavers.com and I added it to my shower curtain about a month ago. After giving it a test drive I am happy to report that it works great!! I have nothing around my tub and I don’t have to deal with an annoying metal unit hanging from my shower head. My shampoo, conditioner and all my other things are within easy reach and the best part is I can throw this organizer in the washer if and when it gets gunky. All this for just 8.99!!

Office Supply Storage

This is an armoire, in a client’s home office that we turned into a supply cabinet. This particular office did not have a closet space to store the items needed to support her business. Her supplies were scattered all over the house which made it difficult to be productive. Duplicates were often purchased because she had no idea what she already had. My client loves beautiful things so she had the inside of the cabinet upholstered. I added baskets with custom tags to reduce the cluttered appearance of the supplies. Armoires are great for storage anywhere in the home. The key is to give them a specific purpose and then organize within based on retrieval. I’m blogging on a Sunday morning, it is so peaceful in my own office. I could do this all day. However, my daughter just woke up….

My Very First Post

I am officially a blogger! This is very exciting because there are so many things that I want to share with all of you but don’t want to compile them into a newsletter that, let’s face it, can be boring!!!

So, I hope you’ll all check my blog frequently for organizing inspiration, great products, services and fun.

I am blogging from Seattle which at the moment is cold and snowing. Because of this I am finally able to find the time to catch up on my to-do list and regroup. This is blissful for me because when I’m home life is non stop.

What i want to let all of you know right now is that I have posted some of my favorite links on my blog. One is to my website, simply put organizing, two are to great places to find organizing products; Storables and The Container Store, Gazelle is a great place to recycle your old electronics for cash and Remindr is a fantastic reminder service you must check out for yourself.

A big thank you goes out to my friend Alicia for her inspiration, advice and the little nudge she gave me to start blogging.

Repurpose. Replenish. Renew. Restore. Relax.