Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Organizing the Garage-In Time for Winter

You still have time to get your car in the garage this winter by starting now to organize the garage one space at a time.  Divide your garage into parts by the floor or by shelving or any way it makes sense to you and you can accomplish one space at a time. 
Once you have it divided up, pick one area to start and begin the process.  Sort the items and start piles.  One should be trash, one is donate, the other is keep.  The keep pile should be sorted by like items such as tools, gardening, power equipment, etc.  You probably have a piece of each pile in all the areas, so it is not time to put it away yet. 
Each time you set out in a part you have divided, look at the pile you are keeping.  How many hammers do you need, for instance.  Do all the power tools you are finding work properly.  If they have been on the get it fixed list longer than a year, time to toss, you might find another one in a different section of the garage. 
Once you have gone through each section of the garage, it is time to start putting the items away.  As you are putting away the pieces, make sure you are continuing to evaluate the number your have and the need.  The more items you can get off the floor, the more organized and clean your garage will look.  Many stores offer hundreds of different kinds of shelving and hooks for just about anything.  I do try to use the hooks that hold more than one item versus the single item hook.  It takes up less room and you can put one season behind the other to save space.  Make sure you put off season items higher so as to really utilize the space.  You should only have to get to that space twice a year. 
You can divide your garage into weekends or days, but you should put it on the calendar so you will not forget.  At the end, you will be able to park your car or cars in the garage this winter and avoid the scrapping and cold each morning. 

Organizing The Paper in Your Life

You have piles of paper everywhere and you cannot seem to get control of it.  It is time to get control of the paper you have in your home and eliminate as much of it as possible. 
The most important change to make is to have 1 space for your mail.  You will also need to have a shredder in place near the space you have chosen for your mail.  As you bring the mail for the day, shred the credit card offers and recycle the junk mail.  Sort the mail between the members of the family.  Have an organized way to keep those papers separated for the family members or for the different types of mail such as bills, magazines, and work information.  Do not sort junk mail into your system.  There are many mail organizing options including hanging pockets.  Complete this step each day so the piles do not start.  Piles attract more piles and then you are in the same place you are today.  
After you have determined the sort and toss the junk mail as it comes it, your next step is filing.  How much do we really need to keep and file?  As the surveys and observations will tell you, 80% of the paper we keep is never touched again.  So why do we keep so much paper?  Prior to computers, paper was really the only way to communicate, so we kept all communication.  Now that the computer is here, paper is really not as important.  There are many options on the computer for retrieving older bills and statements.  How many years of bills do you really need to store?   Unless you are writing off an area of your home for taxes, your monthly bills are really not needed form more than 12 months.  The simplest way to keep monthly bills is by month.  You only need 1 file for each month versus 1 file for each bill.  You will notice a big change in your filing immediately.  As each new month comes around, shred last year's bills and be done.  
Obviously there are other papers that are needed to be kept separate.  Have a file for your investments,  The same concept can be used as the bills.  Your money changes everyday.  You only need the most recent report to know how much money you have.  Think about it though, when you get that report, it is not the most up to date at that point because it represents about a week ago.  If you need to compare to last year, that company should be able to provide you with that information and many times it is printed on the statement.  Most places now offer paperless so you can just look it up and have the most up to date information.  No more paper!
Catalogs are another item I notice that consumes my clients piles.  Remember, they send the same catalog multiple times with different covers and different names.  If you never order from that catalog, recycle it.  Go through your catalogs monthly if you cannot throw out one as you get the new one.  Put it on your calendar for each month.  You are more likely to do it if it is on your calendar.  Most calendars have a recurrence function so it can be on your calendar at the end of every month forever.  
Practice dealing with the mail everyday and filing as soon as you touch a piece of paper so the piles do not start again

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Going Back To School The Organized Way

It's that time of year again when the kids go back to school.  Vacations are coming to an end and information is starting to come from the school
Back To School
about dates, supplies, and paper work needed.  How do you handle it all and keep control?  First, start by gettting the school supply list and making a plan as to where you are going to purchase all the items.  Schedule the school supply day in your calendar and write down the stores to visit in a logical order.  Have a plan and a budget to make your shopping a breeze. 

For the clothes, start now by trying on any clothes you are unsure of whether they will fit or not.  Most kids wear shorts for the first 30-45 days of the year, so do not feel compelled to go out and buy long sleeve shirts or jeans before school starts.  Just know the size they were and make a list of items needed.  This allows you to wait for sales on the jeans and fall shirts.  When you see a sale you have the list and the size. 
The only way to control the paper work that comes in the first few weeks of school is to fill it out the day it comes in.  After dinner, go through your childs backpack and fill out all the forms that evening and return it to the backpack.  Do not collect it all and then try to fill it all out in one night.  You will be overwhelmed and the school usually sends it by importance. 
Make lunches the night before and get the kids involved.  Let them pick fruits, vegetables and dessert.  They are more likely to eat it if they got to pick it out.  Make sure they have everything they need the night before so you are not scrambling in the morning. 
Having plans, schedules and keeping them will help you have an organized start to the school year. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Your Priorities-How They Affect Your Organizing

Everyone has different priorities in their life depending on where they are in their life.   Most children under the age of 10 usually just have 1 priority and that is playing as much as they can.  They have no commitments and no major responsibilities.  Middle school and high school students make getting good grades, excelling in a specific sport or socializing their major priorities.  After college, we need to work to live independently and network to continue to make the changes we want in the workplace.  If any of these individuals let one of those priorities be more dominant than the others, the remaining priorities will suffer.  For instance, if the high school student concentrates on the sport they are in more than anything else, their grades will more than likely suffer.  They need to balance school work, sports and social activities to do well in all and to stay organized. 
Adults have different priorities such as children, money, house, and health.  Finding the balance is the trick to helping you to be organized.  When one priority takes over and becomes more dominant than the others, remaining organized will be difficult.   You have probably met many different individuals in your life that have a dominant priority.  Think back about who you determined was a workaholic and maybe it was, or is, you.  They have chosen work to be their priority and probably have found it difficult to remain organized because work is their life.  I see this with many business clients who do not make time to take care of other priorities such as paperwork, clearing of their e-mail, and general office organization.   They also seem to lose control of the house or family priorities.  You have probably seen other examples such as those who make exercise, children, shopping, or their house the priority in their life.  Obvioulsy, there are times when a priority is going to take center stage and there will not be anything you can do to change it.  Examples would be moving, family illnesses, or other emergencies. 
Balancing the priorities in your life makes it easier to be organized.   To determine your priorities and how you are spending them, draw a pie chart.  Imagine the circle to be 24 hours.  Try the technique for at least a week or so and it will allow you to see how much time you spend on your priorities.  Mark off the number of hours you regularly sleep, to start off.   Mark off the hours you are at work, whether it is at home or away.  If you have a long commute, be sure to include that time too.  If you just used almost the entire circle for those 2 items, I would say your dominant priority is work.   Continue to mark off items such as exercise, children’s extracurricular activities, walking your dog, grocery shopping, and housework.  Everyone is going to have a different circle based on what they do daily.  At the end of the week you should have a good idea of your priorities.  If you are lacking some organization in your life, analyze if you have made one of your priorities a dominate one and try to put some organizing time in your schedule. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pictures-What To Do With All of Them

You're the one that has all the family photos in boxes or old photo books.  If you are like many, some of the photos are marked, but many are not.  No one else will take them, so you have them all.  You want to pass them on, but how can you do it with little or no information on the pictures?  You don't want to throw them out, but how can you make it more attractive for your family to take them?  Trying to hand someone shoe boxes full of photos or photo albums that are falling apart is not going to go over very well. 
First, realize that not everyone is interested in pictures of people they do not know or places that are umarked.  Be realistic about the photos that should be given to someone who is interested in keeping them and the family history.  Older pictures marked with names and relations to others makes a much more attractive and sentimental display. 
Give your self permission to toss the pictures of individuals no one knows.  If they are unknown, no one will miss them.  If Aunt Mary had pictures of all the trips she took around the world, choose a few from each trip.  Do not feel guilty by throwing them away.  It was her trip, not yours.  If there are multiple pictures, give yourself permission to throw out the duplicates.

You also have all the those pictures of your children you had taken at a professional studio, Target, JCPenney, or elsewhere.  What should you do with those?    If you sent pictures of your children to relatives over the years, and you get them back after the relative passes, throw those out because you already have those.  Another good rule to follow is that you are not required to keep pictures of other peoples children, that is their parents job.  That includes all the Christmas pictures you are sent over the years. 

Many clients tell me that they are going to take all those photos and put them in a scrapbook one day.  If your kids are out of college and you still have not done it, either pay someone to do it, or tell yourself it is okay that you have not done it and pick out those that mean the most to you and eliminate the remainder if your children do not want them.  

Maybe Uncle Bob had hundreds of slides or 8mm film but you have no projector to figure out what is on them.  Many companies offer services to turn those slides and 8mm film into a DVD.  The cost is minimal and it might be funny to watch them at a family reunion.  Those pictures are doing no good in a box in the basement.  Photos can also be scanned and placed on a DVD for a cost.  I found one company online that did 2500 photos for $150.  If you choose the photos wisely, you will have a great DVD to share. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Organize Your Yard Work-Get It Done

It is that time of the year where the yard takes precedence over the inside of our home.  Memorial Day weekend will be here soon and many of us use that as the weekend to have all our plants planted and our yard looking great.  
You have kids sports in the evenings and on the weekends and you have work, and all the normal daily tasks to complete.  How are you going to get it all done and add the yard work?  

Start your plan with listing all the areas needing to be completed.  I would suggest listings such as edging, planting potted plants, planting garden, planting flower beds, planting new shrubs or plants, mulching, and maybe ripping out a plant not doing well.  

Next, take a look at how you can break this list down into small tasks.  Edging can be broken down into front, back, sides, and outlying areas.  The same process can be used with the potted plants, flower beds and the mulching.  Now, use the past to determine how much time each task will take.  Mark those times down next to each task.  

Now it is time to get your calendar out and mark down the days you can accomplish the tasks.  Remember to give yourself a cushion to buy the needed items and for weather.  If you have a spare 15 minutes during the day, try to work on the smallest task or one that you can easily come back and continue such as edging or working on the potted plants. 

 Get others in the family involved.  Digging holes and pouring dirt into a pot is easy and fun for kids.  Let them help pick out the flowers or plants for the garden.  They are more likely to help if they are involved in the decision making. If you want them to eat the fruits or vegetables out of the garden, let them help pick out the ones they like.  Sometimes your garden space will limit you to choices, but you can always find a vegetable everyone will like.  

As you complete each task and move onto the next, within a few weeks your yard will be ready for the Memorial Day weekend.  I use this plan for my yard and usually finish up with planting my garden and mulching over Memorial Day weekend.  Obviously yard work is never done until the end of the summer, but if you put in a few 15-30 minute slots each week for pulling weeds, you will have a wonderful looking yard all summer long.  

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Organizing a More Productive Day

The economy has put the world in a spin and many workers fear the loss of their job.  The more productive you are at work, the less likely you will be picked when downsizing becomes the inevitable.  Make sure you are the one your employer look to for high productivity. 
To organize a productive day at work, you must first look at your week as a whole.  Whether you work 8-5 Monday - Friday, or if you work a different schedule every day, you need to take time on the day before your work week starts.  For many in the workforce today, that day is Sunday.  I will use Sunday as my example, but you can use any day of the week.  First, on Sunday evening, take a look at your schedule for the week and look at the days you are booked with meetings or appointments.  Next, look at the days you have time not currently filled.  Schedule in time for projects you are working on and time for correspondence.  Schedule time for your to do list and any other item you need to work on this week.  Not only are you looking at your day schedule, you need to look at the evenings too.  Many families spend time at practices and games, so scheduling after school appointments, to do list time and family time is tough. 
Every day should have time in the morning and early afternoon scheduled to look and answer at e-mail.  If you leave your e-mail open all day, you will get nothing else accomplished.  If your are used to looking at e-mail all day long, this will be a tough habit to break, but it will improve your productivity. 
If you return a number of phone calls on a daily basis, that time too, should be scheduled.  Obviously, something can come up that will disrupt your scheduled day, but this will not happen everyday.  Try to stick to your schedule as close as possible to be the most productive.  If you can, mark out time for these on Outlook so others do not schedule you for a meeting during these times, do so. 
If possible, close your door during times you need to really concentrate.  If you work in an open office area, try to put a note on your cubicle to let everyone know you are busy, or try a conference room for some privacy if you are interrupted constantly during the day. 
Organizing your week will allow you to remember the projects and items that must be completed that week and you will become much more productive. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Swtiching Seasonal Clothes-When and How

It's that time of the year and many of you are getting ready to switch your clothes from fall/winter to spring/summer.  So, when and how do you do it without stressing out?  Just like with everyother organizing project, I tell my clients to do it in steps. 
The first step is to decide when.  That is really dependent on the weather and where you live.  I think for many, April is the time because the birds are back, spring break is over, the weather has warmer days periodically, and wearing wool or the darker colors seems odd.  Whatever month or week you choose is up to you.
What do you switch out first?  The obvious choice for me is to switch out first are the turtle necks.  I think layering with cotton is more appropriate in the spring when those cold days creep up for a day or two.  Switch as the weather changes.  It is unlikely in most areas of the country you will be wearing sleeveless in May or June, so make those the last pieces to switch out.  Many people wear jeans year round, while others give them up when the temperature reaches 60 or more on a consistent basis.  If you tend to switch to lighter fabric pants, switch those in as soon as you feel comfortable wearing them.  Continue in this manner as the weather gets warmer and you choose to wear lighter clothes. 

So, where do you store your fall/winter clothes during the off season.  I have seen many different situations over the years of organizing my clients closets.  Some are lucky enough to have a spare closet, others pack them in unused suitcases, boxes, plastice totes, and some just keep them in the back of their closet.  If you have a dresser in the guest room, try the bottom drawers as many guests never use the drawers anyway.  If you leave the top drawers available, that is usually all they need.  Keep the clothes that are currently folded in the same manner.  Ziploc makes a great tote that has really zippers and small holes for clothes to breathe.  Space Saver also makes a tote now and of course their regular bags.  I discourage plastic totes with no holes after smelling a couple ski bags and boots stored in one for a year or so.  I also highly discourage storing any clothing in cardboard.  Mice love cardboard and cloth especially wool.  Wool should always be stored in a breathable container with cedar blocks in all seasons. 
The last and most important step in switching the closet is asking why you did not wear that piece this past few months and what would be different next year?  Styles and colors change for us as we get older and certain pieces might not look as good as they did 5 years ago.  Get serious about emptying out the clothes you never wear to make room for some you will wear.  The experts say you wear half of what you own.  Think about that as you start to put away your fall and winter clothing.