Organization Tips & Ideas Blog

We hope that you find these articles and tips a great resource for getting organized and managing your time.  All of these articles have been written and posted by our members.  

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  • March 31, 2015 8:46 PM | Sandy Jones

    What makes something precious? 
    
     
    
    In most cases it is its’ “rarity” – such as gems, art etc. The same is true with keepsakes. 

    Some of my family keepsakes are very precious to me – because they are FEW. 
    I have two photos of my great great grandfather. I  WISH I could have 4-5 photos, to give me a more complete glimpse into his life as a young child, confirmation, wedding, and then a family photo with his children, and one in old age.  That is all one really needs in regards to photos 50 years from now or more.  But most people have thousands…or thanks to digital cameras.. tens of thousands!

    My grandmother also gave me his “mustache mug”. You couldn’t pay me to get rid of it. It is all I have. It has somehow survived 100 years and made it to me. When my family goes through my stuff someday… They will know that it is precious and that I cherished it by its care, or prominent placing, and because I have talked about it.  In the case of keepsakes - actions speak louder than words. To say an item is precious - only to find it stored in the attic for decades or covered in dust under a bed or closet, or otherwise neglected is insincere.  Peter Walsh says;  “If you value the item, you need to show it the honor it deserves. Otherwise it has no place in your home”.

    I'd hope that my children will chose to keep these cherished items in the family, but I realize they might not. I've seen it many times. But all too often what I witness are family members that are overwhelmed by too many keepsakes and are tasked with too many decisions upon a family member passing, and either due to sheer volume or the fact that they can't tell the precious from the rest...they opt to let it ALL go! My goal; keep the best and treat my keepsakes like the rare gems that they are - out of honor, and in hopes that they will be cherished in the future versus an overwhelming burden.

    Will your family be able to know what is precious to you?

  • July 23, 2014 8:13 PM | Sara Genrich

    The week after vacation is usually productive, because you are refreshed and rested. However, the first few days back to work can be stressful, because the number of tasks seem overwhelming. Full email boxes, voicemail boxes and inboxes can make it difficult to prioritize. How can you get back to work without the stress and anxiety of being overwhelmed? The following strategy will help you tackle your inboxes and get you back to work efficiently.

    Step one of the plan takes place before you leave for vacation. Mark out the morning of your return on your calendar. This will prevent others from scheduling meetings during your "catch up" time. You may be thinking you should check your email while your on vacation to prevent email overload upon your return. Studies show checking your email and voicemail on vacation has the opposite effect. It takes away from your relaxation and refreshment which in turn affects your overall productivity. If you must look at email during your vacation set apart a few minutes each day to get caught up instead of doing it throughout the day.

    The second part of this plan is looking at your calendar and commitments (i.e. To Do List) the day before returning to work. You can even do this on the plane or car ride home. Just knowing what is ahead helps you prepare for tackling tomorrow. After reviewing your calendar and tasks, make note of your top 4 things you need to accomplish on your first day back.

    Start your first day back by checking your voice mail. Clean out your voice mail box, and write down any new action items or requests on your To Do List.

    Next, check your email. The most efficient way to do this after being out for a while is to sort your inbox by sender. Sorting by "From" first will help you quickly trash all the spam, offers and ads you missed while you were out. You can also use the "From" sort to move all the newsletters and articles to your "Reading" folder. (I use a "Reading" folder as a holding place for items I want to review later). The next step is to sort your email by "Subject". This helps you quickly see all the emails in a conversation or thread. Most of the time, if you read the most recent email first it will contain all the information you need and you can quickly delete the rest of the emails in the thread. Be sure to write down any new action items or requests on your To Do List.

    The next phase of the Vacation Recovery Strategy is to check your physical inbox or any other work queue or database your must check for your requests.

    Now, go back and review your To Do List. Have your priorities changed? Make a note of the top 3-4 priorities and set your goals for the day accordingly. Planning out the next few days of priorities is also helpful in making you feel less behind and stressed. If your brain knows you have a task written down and scheduled time, it will stop trying to process it. This is very powerful in reducing your overall stress level.

    If this Vacation Recovery Strategy will not work for you or your job, the most important thing you can do is have a plan and follow it. Just having a plan or idea of how you will approach your first day back, will ease your tension and stress.


  • April 21, 2014 7:39 PM | Sandy Jones

     

    Evaluate your decorations each and every year. Set a goal to keep only what you love and fits your current decorating style.  If an item is damaged, faded, or is missing pieces, let it go.


    Reduce the need for decoration storage by using edible or natural accents such as like flowers, greens and real eggs along with treats like chocolate bunnies and pastel candies in decorative jars that can later be eaten or gifted - with no need to store for an entire year!


    At the end of the Easter season, pack an "Open First" box. In a single box or on the top section of the packed box, place all of the things you need first. You will eliminate the need to open every bin or box find these immediately needed items and they will be easy to access.


    Keep your most fragile items at the top of a box.  This will help avoid anything getting crushed by larger items.


    Start saving egg cartons for next year. They are THE best storage for decorative and plastic eggs.  Yes, you CAN toss them all into a bag. But, when you store them in an egg carton - all "partners" stay together, they avoid getting crushed or cracked, and they stack fabulously in your storage bins!

    Yes, it takes a little more time, but it is worth it.  They are also great for miniature Easter tree ornaments, and “resurrection” ornaments

    Tip: Spray your egg carton with a dissenfectant first.


    Finally, this Easter, I commented on the hardest gum I’ve ever seen at a friend’s house, prompting this last tip…Empty all of your plastic eggs before you store them for the year! Year old candy is pretty funny when found, but can attract pests, can create a mess, and is… not so tasty.


    Sandy Jones,

    Simply Organized by Sandy



     

  • April 14, 2014 2:16 PM | Sara Genrich

    The warmer temperatures, colorful flowers and breezy days are all the season’s signs of refreshment and renewal.  The spring season beckons me to organize closets, work in the yard, plant flowers and spruce up my home.

    Spring Cleaning isn’t just for your home.  You can clean up your office too!  Let the season of new beginnings kick off a fresh start at work.   Chances are you have been buried in year-end financials, budgets, deals and tax preparation during the winter months.   The following checklist will guide you through your office Spring Cleaning.  Keep in mind that cleaning and organizing at work is not a waste of precious work hours.   This process will help you become a more efficient and organized worker.  Before you get started, read through the checklist and tailor it to meet your individual work area. 

    Bookshelves     Remove any books, magazines and items you no longer need, enjoy or are outdated.  Dust the shelves and any remaining pictures and trinkets.  Organize books and magazines for quick reference. 

    Computer          Backup your hard-drive, wipe down your screen and keyboard.  Spend a few minutes cleaning up your email file by deleting unnecessary messages, and unsubscribing to newsletters and ads. 

    Papers                Discard/shred any documents you no longer need.  File away the papers you need to keep on your desktop, credenza and shelves. 

    Files                     Clean out files by going through them and discarding or moving to your reference files any old, outdated materials.  (For example, old insurance policies, older tax filings, contracts, bank statements, medical insurance paperwork, etc.).  Reorganize your files so the ones you access the most often are the easiest for you to reach. 

    Drawers              Organize your desk drawer so the items you access the most are closest to you.  Put similar items together in separated compartments.  Refill supplies as necessary. 

    Task List            Write down or record electronically all To-Do items down on your task list as you are organizing and cleaning.

    Desktop              Dust and clean off the desktop with the appropriate cleaner for the surface.

    This quick cleanup will be worth your effort.  When you enter the office, you will feel less stressed and more energized to get started on your day.  Happy Spring Cleaning!

     

  • January 06, 2014 10:45 PM | Sandy Jones

    Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, "I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacations with better care than they plan their lives. Perhaps it's because escape is easier than change."

     

    Why Set Goals?

    • If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.
    • Your self-confidence increases as you reach milestones along the way.
    • Achieving or making progress towards a goal can be hugely motivating.
    • You can maintain focus. - Rather than starting many different projects and failing to accomplish any of them, goals direct you to take action in specific areas.

     

    Reasons people do not set goals:

    1) Most people don't realize the importance of setting goals.

    2) They don't know HOW to set goals

    3) No goal = no failure

    4) Fear of rejection or criticism by others if they fail.

     

    Reasons your goals may fail:

    1) You are not serious about it or fully committed

    2) Your goal is not specific enough

    3) Your goal is not supported by others (or you are not accountable)

     

    Tips for Goal Setting

    Put it in writing! If you want to achieve any goal, what ever it is - first write it down!

    Those who write down their goals are more likely to make that goal a reality. A study of Harvard graduates found that after two years, the 3% who had written goals achieved more financially than the other 97% combined!

     

    Write SMART Goals:

    Some people confuse goals with wishes and fantasies. Writing down "I want to get fit" without breaking it down into parts and considering the action steps it would take, is just a wish. A goal is different. It is clear, specific and measurable. You know when you have achieved it or not. A SMART goal is: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realist and Time-framed.

     

    Re-wire the brain:

    Next, go back and write and read your goal again. What you repeat over and over again is programmed into the subconscious mind and will then begin to take root.  This means RE-writing your goals everyday and thinking about them in positive terms. Do this every day, repeatedly until the habit is formed.


    Get Serious:

    Zig Ziglar once said that, "A goal casually set and lightly taken will be freely abandoned at the first obstacle."  Make the time to set REAL goals. Then take your goal setting seriously by re-writing your goals every day, thinking about them constantly, and proactively taking action.

     

    Other tips for success:

    • The mind and emotions react differently to a positive statement or a negative statement. Make sure your goals are positively stated.
    • Public goals are often more effective than private goals. Psychologically you are more apt to achieve your goals if you know that other people are "watching." or you are accountable to someone.

     

    Final Thoughts:

    Even failed goals serve a purpose. It's easy to look at failed goals as a disappointment, but in most cases "failed" goals serve a purpose - to re-direct us to a better path.

  • October 19, 2013 8:11 PM | Debbie Stinson

    We all resist change to some degree.  I lost my sweet dog Abbey a year ago.  I resisted starting all over with a new dog for quite some time.  Abbey had been with me for so long and we knew each other’s routines and habits pretty well.  Near the end of her life she needed a lot of special care and I felt I needed time to grieve and revive.

    At the end of July I was glancing at the Facebook newsfeed as I sat on my back patio enjoying the moonlight.  I saw a photo of a cute little Westie looking dog. My friend was trying to find a home for this dog that had run up to him in his yard.  I sensed right away that this cute little dog might fit perfectly with our family. 

    I showed Jeff the photo and he immediately wanted me to find out more about this fluffy white dog.  He had been bugging me for months about getting another dog! He was thrilled!

    After communicating with my friend throughout the next day and getting some basic questions answered, we went to meet our new family member the very next evening.  We fell in love with him at first sight. 

    What is really cool about this whole experience is that I was not 100% ready for change in my life. However, when I opened my heart and mind to the possibilities that change allows, I began to see how welcoming this sweet little fluffy friend, (whom we named Manny) brought such a positive impact on my life.


    Manny has changed my life in several ways:

    1.  I love taking walks outside, but I would always find other things that I “had to do” first.  Now we have a  routine and we “get to” enjoy the outdoors together on our daily walks.
    2.  He has taught me to slow down as I take time to teach him commands like sit, stay, come and quiet. 
    3.  He has taught me how to just sit and be still because he loves to curl up on the couch with us.
    4.   He reminds me to take time to play and have fun.  He loves his little stuffed monkey and he loves chasing it as it soars through the air.

    This change came into my life without much action on my part.  I was just willing to accept it in my life.  Change may come to you in different ways.  One change usually causes another. 


    Here are a few ways you can start the waves of change in your own life:

    •       Removing clothes you are tired of from your closet.
    •       Rearranging your office to work more efficiently.
    •       Cleaning out the pantry so the food reflects the eating habits you would like to practice.
    •       Removing items from your site that tie you the past and may be keeping you from moving forward.

    Sometimes making waves by creating change in your environment sends a ripple effect through your life and leads to many new beginnings.

    What possibilities may be waiting for you as you welcome change?

     

    Peace and Progress,

    Deb Stinson

  • August 19, 2013 4:50 PM | Sara Genrich
    The weeks, days and hours leading up to the start of school can be chaotic, busy and overwhelming. The following tips on preparing your kids, schedule and home for start of school will help you ease into the school year without stress.

    First, prepare your kids for the first week of school by making haircut and doctor appointments as soon as possible. The earlier you call for appointments, the more likely you are to get a good appointment time. Avoid shopping for school clothes and backpacks during peak hours and on the weekends. The clothing and department stores are easiest to navigate in the morning and evening. Print out your child's school supply list and put it into your purse or wallet. You can pickup supplies at Target, Walmart and even the grocery store while you are out running your usual errands. If your kids are used to sleeping in or staying up late, spend the last weeks of summer getting them back on schedule. Start routine bedtime habits and morning rituals at least one week before school starts. This adjustment to their sleep schedule will help your child's energy level the first few weeks of school!

    Second, prepare your schedule by adding all your son's/daughter's school events and activities to your calendar. Most schools have special events like Open House, Meet the Teacher and Photo Days posted on their websites. Take a few minutes to add these events to your family calendar(s) and add in school holidays. If your children are in different schools, be sure to do this for everyone. Even college students have parent weekends and days that you will want to mark on the calendar. Next add in your child's personal activities like games, practices and extra curricular activities. Be sure to share all the events with your spouse. This will help the entire family know about all upcoming events.

    Third, prepare your home for the upcoming school year by organizing spaces. Create a clean, organized, well lit place for your child to study and do homework. Buy extra supplies of staple items to keep at home in their study area or desk. Items like markers, colored pencils, paper, poster boards, pens, pencils, rulers, etc. are important to have on hand for at home projects. Spend a few minutes with your child organizing their drawers and closets. Throw out any items that no longer fit or that your child no longer likes. Donate them to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army or Thrift Store for other children to enjoy. (Locally, I recommend ACO for all clothing and shoe donations). Cleaning out closets and drawers will help your child find the clothes that he/she wants to wear easily. When preparing your home, create a space and system for incoming school papers and forms. This can be as simple as a defined space on the counter or an inbox on a wall. Make communicating with the school easy by adding the school's and teachers' contact information to your smartphone and email address book.

    Preparing your child, schedule and home for the school year will benefit your entire family. The time that you spend preparing will be given back to you by reducing the chaos and stress that the new school year brings. Enjoy your last few days of summer knowing that you are ready for the upcoming year.
  • August 03, 2013 7:24 PM | Pamela Bowers (Administrator)

    One of the firm beliefs of professional organizers is that you do NOT buy products to solve clutter problems until after you know exactly how much of something you have to store.  Buying a new container because it’s “cute and can surely be used for something” is like throwing gasoline on a campfire.  That cute container has now just become part of your clutter problem instead of the solution!


    Gift Wrap Closet–Before

    This belief was reinforced during one of this week’s projects for a whole-home organization.  Our client had purchased an Elfa system from The Container Store for gift wrap, but then did not follow through with setting it up to be a storage solution; thus, it had become part of the clutter.


    Gift Wrap Closet--After

    Gift Wrap Closet–After

    After emptying the entire closet contents, grouping like things together, and adding a few missing components (a drawer organizer, melamine tops, label holders, and labels), this closet is a gift-wrappers dream!  We were also able to use some bins that had been emptied in other rooms for storage solutions.  Now, in this gift wrap closet, everything has its place, and there’s a place for everything.

  • June 20, 2013 11:21 AM | Sandy Jones
    It seems there is a little disagreement out there out as to whether you should put your hanging-filing tabs to the front of the folder or to the back, and whether to space the tabs across the folder or in straight line back?       Who knew there were such strong opinions? Here's my thought on the matter... you are WAY ahead of the game, and are already Simply Organized if you are using your files and have TABS!

    But for those who like to take it to the next level, I will weigh in on the matter and state that I choose to insert them to the front and go straight back and here is why:
    1) This way the tab is ALWAYS visible even when the folder is STUFFED full.
    2) When I need to file something, I just find the tab, PULL it towards me, and drop the piece of paper inside.
    3) I think of it as a door to the file. Open the door to put something in (I put the newest paper to the front), or I think what topic is "behind" the door?

    Lastly, I also choose to line up all the tabs to the right vs. zig-zagging across. Personally my eyes and fingers seem to prefer a straight line when quickly viewing vs. looking back and forth. I find the same is true for "most" people, especially those with ADD. 

    So what's your preference and why?
    Sandy Jones, Simply Organized by Sandy
  • June 06, 2013 10:16 PM | Pamela Bowers (Administrator)

    If you’ve ever looked into hiring a Professional Organizer, you may have noticed that many of them recommend working in three- or four-hour increments. If you follow us on our Facebook page, you may have seen tips instructing you to set a timer for 15, 20, or 30 minutes to tackle some of your clutter. We can hear you now, “Wait a minute! Three or four hours for the professionals but only 15 minutes for me? Please explain!”

    There are a few factors that explain the time recommendations and why they are different:

    1. When you are faced with an overwhelming amount of clutter to tackle on your own, it is recommended that you set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes to focus on a portion of the clutter regularly, either each day or week… whatever is going to work for you. The smaller amount of time is recommended so that the task doesn’t seem so impossible. If it was recommended that you schedule four hours per week to catch up on filing paperwork or clearing out the master closet, you may decide (and possibly already have) to keep living with the clutter longer instead.
    2. When you invest in a Professional Organizer, you’re not only investing in their time, you’re investing in their expertise and skill. There is preparation time put into each appointment. It’s a better investment in their time if you have their help for a “chunk” versus one or two hours. It’s also a better use of their time if they prepare for a four-hour job than if they prepare for two separate two-hour jobs. And of course it saves on their fuel cost for traveling to your location.
    3. By selecting a Professional Organizer who specializes in your organization challenge, i.e. garages or paperwork, the value of those three- or four-hour sessions increases exponentially as they are able to do so much more in less time.
    4. A byproduct of investing in a Professional Organizer is that you also acquire organization skills through the process.

    Of course, no matter how much time you devote to getting organized, it’s better than none at all. So if that kitchen counter is driving you crazy because it’s covered in clutter, set a timer now for 20 minutes and do what you can. Or, if you’re ready to not only get the clutter off of your counter but also get your kitchen organized to avoid the clutter in the future, call us. As always, we look forward to organizing your chaos!

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