Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Paper Paper Everywhere but Not in My House

Hopefully, you have been able to take advantage of many of the document shreds in our community this spring. Whether you save up your shredding and shred in bulk, like I do, or shred as you process your mail, there would be less to shred, if you only receive mail that you need to receive, instead of receiving junk mail. However, with a little work, you can significantly reduce or eliminate all unwanted mail from your home by utilizing some apps, services or contacting paper reduction/preference organizations. PaperKarma is a free IOS and Android app that allows you to snap a picture of unwanted mail you want stopped. PaperKarma contacts the mailer and handles removing you from the unwanted distribution list. It is so easy to use and all the hard work is done behind the scenes for you! Another way to reduce paper coming in is to set up an account with Catalog Choice, a non-profit mail preference company. You inform them of the mail you don't want to receive any longer - not only catalogs, but credit-card solicitations, junk mail and other unwanted mail. They handle getting you off the list so you no-longer receive the unwanted mail. Another way is to go to the official Consumer Credit Reporting Industry website and complete their on-line form to opt-in or opt-out of firm offers of credit or insurance. The Direct Marketing Association charges $1.00 to remove your address from their lists and once your information is in their database, it cannot be sold to other companies. A person must renew every 5 years. You can see, with a little work, there are ways to significantly reduce, if not eliminate unwanted mail coming to you. Your shredder may soon be collecting dust!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Simple Closet Strategies

Organizing a closet may not be on your top 10 fun things to do list, however, if you want to wear more of your clothes and gain a sense of accomplishment in a short window of time, it may just be the job to tackle. Here is what I recommend. First, do a preliminary glance through and pull out everything you 1) don't care for now, 2) is stained or damaged, or 3)doesn't fit now. Discard the damaged and start a donate bag for the clothes someone else can wear. Second, try on all the rest, yes, may be a pain, but then you'll be able to identify clothes that look fine on the hanger, but less than fine on you! Third, sort by color, sleeve length and type of clothing. Need help keeping the categories sorted then use closet rod dividers that can be labeled. Need more short hanging space? Check out Umbra's height adjustable hanging rod. Utilize the often unused space at the top of the closet by turning a square crate on its side so that you can separate items by categories and then utilize the top of the crate as a shelf. If you don't have the budget to do a full closet redesign and overhaul, sometimes with a little time spent on reviewing, sorting and organizing the clothes, and a few, inexpensive modifications to your closet, you will be able to find what you want to wear in less time and know that everything in your closet you love and looks good on you too.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spring Cleaning Fever

Hopefully you have caught the spring cleaning bug which has definitely hit our house. My 10-year old daughter is begging me to have a yardsale and as of yet, I haven't committed - more than anything due to the amount of time and work that is needed to have one. Knowing how persistent she is, we will have one this spring! Yardsales are a great way to make a little profit from items that don't bring you joy now, items you don't need or want and clothes that don't fit. So if you have the time and think they are fun - like my daughter - then go for it. However, make sure you don't bring the items back in your house that don't sell. There are many local charity dropoff centers or you can schedule a charity pick-up for the day after your scheduled yard sale. Another great activity to do to help augment your home lightening is to take advantage of all of the free document shred events that are offered in the spring time. There is a power shred Wednesday, April 22nd from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in Crystal City that will take electronics to recycle properly, documents to shred securely and paint to dispose of safely. Having a deadline of a document shred can be a great motivator to go through old tax files to take out the supoorting tax information (only need to keep 7 years worth - return forever), and clean all of your files of unnecessary papers so that your files aren't over stuffed and are more pleasant to use (ha - we all hate filing)! Organizing all of the closets in a house is a great way to prepare for the change of seasons. Clean and store all winter coats and accessories and bring out light outerwear, sunblock, swim goggles and summer hats. Since our closets are small in our house, we can't keep our out of season clothes in them so it is always quite the project to clean and prepapre the fall and winter clothes, contain them and then bring down from our attic the spring and summer clothes - me plus three in our house. I have written in previous blogs this is a dreaded task, but I find with my teenager wearing a very limited wardrobe of sweats, shorts and t-shirts and my husband and I wearing less wool, that I am dealing with fewer bins and this seasonal job isn't as dreadful. Good luck with all of your spring lightening projects and get outside and enjoy the weather.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tennis and Organizing; A Winning Combination

I have found the more I can streamline routines and tailor and continue to tweak my organizational systems, the better my spaces function and I do too. Sometimes with the busyness of life or just because I am not working my systems, they malfunction and I do too. I liken it to playing tennis, when my serve is strong and the fundamentals of tennis are there, such as proper follow through, watching the ball and other basic elementary tennis skills, I can play the best tennis and even get in the zone. When I play well, it is so much fun and life is good, and when I’m not playing well, nine times out of ten it is because one of the basic tenets of tennis has fallen by the wayside. When I start focusing again on my basic tennis skills usually I can improve my game right away. How does this relate to organizing? If you find that your once uncluttered environment is now becoming cluttered or that you got out of planning your day and you are reacting more, then revisit the tenets of organization…ORDER – Organize, Routines, Decide, Edit and Readiness. O – Organize – I always tell clients that the easy part of organizing is designing a system that works for the space and most importantly has as few steps as possible. The hard part is using the system, i.e. processing the mail, putting keys where you determine make sense, using your filing system, etc. If you find that you can’t keep your systems up then maybe they need to be simplified or you may need to utilize tools to help you make it a habit, such as electronic reminders or timers. R – Routines – Incorporate a 15 minute end of day wrap-up and clean-up routine to help organize your space and position yourself for success the next day. Continue to create routines especially for children and to discuss them, practice them, and get their buy in so that they know what is expected. Routines for adults also contribute to saving time (no searching for lost keys), and enhance productivity because established routines allow us to free up our minds to focus on our priorities. Creating a routine for any standard practice we repeat daily frees up time and reduces stress because we don’t have to worry about the details of life. D – Decisions – every day we have 24 hours to decide how we are going to use it. How do we figure out what truly are our top priorities? It is important to be able to make decisions and differentiate between what is an immediate priority and what is still important, but can wait. What happens a lot is we all get into reactive mode instead of planning and prioritizing so that we can decide thoughtfully. E – Edit – I have learned to be skillful at different types of editing. There is the physical space editing that reduces clutter and enhances visual space. The other editing is related to time, editing out tasks, events and other time takers that aren’t important now, can be deferred or permanently deleted off of my schedule. This is a skill and like everyone, I can be great at it, but I also have months where I’m not editing items off of my schedule as I should. R – Readiness – In my house I’m always saying to my kids, “Are you ready for tomorrow? or “Is your backpack ready and in the right place?” Everything that can be done the night before, should be both for kids and adults. Time just slips away in the morning and there is some comfort in knowing that if there is an alarm snafu or a mini crisis in the a.m., at least all bags are packed and are ready to go. Remember the tenets of organizing and you will have more time at work to be more productive and more time at home to enjoy and relax and spend as you’d like.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Gift of More Sleep and Leisure for Mother's Day

I attended an organizing conference recently and I was struck by something I heard by one of the keynote speakers who said the way many of us live now is we regularly steal time from sleep and leisure to get everything done. She went on to say that over the long haul working too much can make us less productive and,if we give up too much of our leisure time, it eventually will catch up with us in the way of illness, sleep deprivation and effected mood. Most importantly, stealing time from sleep and leisure adversely compromises our quality of life. Hearing her presentation made me think of the time deficit we all seem to have these days due to advances in technology and the lines of work and home becoming less defined. I have the fortune to work with many great clients and many of them are moms. Moms who work outside of the home, Moms who don’t, all amazing wonderful, involved women, and what I’ve noticed, besides the fact that we all have the same stuff, is the uncompromising love we have for our children and families. Something else that is very clear is most of us are pressed for time and at times feel stressed and overwhelmed. The first thing I tell my clients when they are feeling this way is to do an audit of their schedule to determine if there is anything that can be deleted, deferred or delegated. I call this audit the 4 Ds and the last D is decide. We all need to decide how we are going to spend our available blocks of time. When we plan and make conscious decisions about time it is easier to say no to requests that can’t be scheduled now or defer or delegate issues that come up when we already have decided how we are spending our precious 24 hours. The second thing we usually do is focus on organizing the space where most time is spent. When clutter is purged along with it goes stress, negativity and wasted time. To honor all busy, wonderful moms this Mother’s Day I am offering a 10% discount off my 3-hour organizing audit to help you focus your energies where you want them to be and to make sure you are blocking out enough time for sleep and leisure. Happy Mother’s Day!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Earth Day Celebrations: Recycle Your Stuff to Join in the Festivities

Each year most cities organize Earth Day festivities that in some cases include paper shreds, electronic recycling as well as all types of green initiatives and fun activities. This time of year always gets me thinking about how organizing at its core supports recycling and green initiatives. How wonderful is it to not have to buy those big plastic toys for our toddlers when we can get them 2nd hand through a neighbor whose kids have aged out of them or at a Thrift Store?

When my clients are organizing their spaces they always think about recycling and donating first before throwing anything in the trash. As we continue our spring cleaning, organizing and lighten our homes, lets continue to think of all ways we can recycle what we don't need, want or use now and think of others.

Here are a few local Earth Day events:

Alexandria Earth Day - April 21st
Fairfax Earth Day - April 28th
Power Purge and Shred - April 25th - 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My New Love: CardStar

Since I have the organizing gene, anytime I can improve a system or process or use something in a new way that saves time or somehow is better, it is always something to celebrate. I have been singing the praises of my new found treasure, the App, CardStar.

My purse got about 5 pounds lighter thanks to an organizing friend who introduced me to it. CardStar holds digitally all of the plastic cards and key tabs that many stores and restaurants entice us with to get discounts. Viola, my wallet is not overstuffed and my three key rings (yes, I have three) can now just hold keys because all of the plastic cards and key tags can be left home! In addition to the convenience of not having to carry all of the extra plastic, CardStar saves us time too as it organizes the cards alphabetically so there is no more hunting for the right loyalty card - as they are all available, in alpha order, in the same place, once you put them on your phone. Every person I have shared the App with has the same excited reaction I did because anything to lighten our wallets and purses is something to cheer about.

Over spring break my kids and I biked into Old Town from the Belle Haven Marina heading to Ben & Jerry’s for “Free Cone Day”. I realize the cone negated the exercise! After ordering our cones, my son picked up the new Belly card, which apparently many merchants are going to start offering. Belly is a type of loyalty card that is tied into points and of course more points, equals more saving and in the case of Ben & Jerry's incentives to buy more cones. Normally, I would have to be sold on its value, since I knew nothing about it, but I knew with my CardStar App, I could just scan it and be done with it.

I think we all download popular Apps and we use them a few times and then they sit on our phones. This is not one of those Apps, trust me you will be using it regularly and you’ll be spreading the word too.

Okay, now my mission is to learn about Evernote and how to use it. More on that later….