Category Archives: Organizing

NeatReceipt is … well … neat

I spent an hour or two today in our office, inserting collected receipts and important documents or business cards into a slim white scanner. They pulled through, quickly and quietly. If I inserted a piece of paper a bit skewed, it self-corrected.

Insert receipt. Push scan. Watch it glide through. Catch the paper. Set aside. See it come up on the computer monitor. Repeat.

It worked like a charm.

We’re on our way to being (almost) paperless in our office.

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Filed under Office, Organizing, Paper

Build Habits

{Photo Credit: Colin Dunn, via Creative Commons}

I am notoriously bad at remembering to take my vitamins, plus the iron makes me queasy if I take it in the morning, so instead of stashing them in the cupboard, I put a cup and my bottle of vitamins on the bedroom dresser, next to my lamp. Now, before I turn off the light, I swallow the vitamin for the day and go to sleep. I rarely forget. I never get queasy. I don’t know if my vitamin consumption habits have definitively helped improve my sleep quality, but I can say this: I’m sleeping through the night for the first time in a long time. I used to wake up every couple of hours, and now I sleep straight through more often than not! I can’t tell you how exciting that is, but I digress.

My point wasn’t to take your vitamin at night to sleep better. My point is any daily task–like taking a vitamin–can be habitualized. I suspect tying the habit to a daily ritual (getting ready for bed) is what worked for me. Every night, I brush my teeth, I get fresh water in my cup, I take my vitamin, and I turn off the light. Then I go to sleep.

This made me wonder: what other simple, but often forgotten, tasks could I or others make habitual? And would tying them to a specific time, location, daily ritual, or other event help me (or them) continue the habit until it becomes second-nature? My guess is YES.

I’m going to keep a look out for those opportunities to hack my lazy brain into a mean, lean,  house-cleaning machine!

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Filed under Home, Life, Organizing, Ponderings, Uncategorized

Home Tour Tuesday: The Laundry Room

Even as the organizational process is slowing down in our house for a variety of reasons, I still get bursts of inspiration here and there. Today’s Home Tour Tuesday is a testament to that!

Today I’m proud to introduce our laundry room. It won’t take your breath away with its beauty or special touches (… yet. We have plans!) but it has improved our lifestyle tremendously, even in the past few days that it has been organized.

We moved into our house about six months ago now, and we still had all of my dad’s supplies for cleaning and home repairs stored up on the top shelf in our laundry room. We piled the floor with our items. I had originally hoped the laundry room could double as a pantry, so I had added portable shelving and stashed oversized kitchen items on them. It was a bad idea. There was no room to sort or fold clothing, so our laundry inevitably spilled over into the kitchen.

Daniel prompted the beginning of the laundry room overhaul. He suggested we buy the sorting hamper we’d been eying for a couple of years. Done. We took the trip to the Container Store after church one day and came home with this beauty:

He assembled it for me and we began using it immediately. It’s fairly large, so storage in our room isn’t that practical, but the three large fabric compartments, sturdy frame, and casters make sorting laundry easy. We simply wheel it back and forth from our bedroom or bathroom hampers to the laundry room. (And once we cleaned out the laundry room, we could store it there, as well.)

On Friday, I decided that even that big help wasn’t enough. I was tired of having a messy laundry room that didn’t function as well as it should. I took nearly everything out, dusted, swept, and put only what we used or needed to keep handy back. I removed the pantry items (minus our huge bread maker that only gets the occasional use and doesn’t fit on either our counter or our cupboards). I threw out things we hadn’t used in the six months since I’d stored them there. I ruthlessly disposed of duplicates. (Since when had we had FOUR dustpans??!)

As a result, the laundry room went from this:

to this:

Yay! It’s inspired us to do more laundry and even sort and fold right away. I’m pleased, and I can’t wait to dress it up and make it “purtier” sometime soon.

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Filed under Home Tour Tuesday, Laundry, Organizing

Accessories Storage Tray + An Inspirational Weight Loss Story

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fabulous weekend. I know I did.

Today, I’m going to talk more in depth about a quick decorating/organizing fix that I used in my master bedroom. (I hinted at it here and here.)

But first I wanted to share one more story with you that ties in with last week’s You Can Do It theme.

I don’t typically post about weight loss (other than to compare it to the self-control required to become neater), but I received an email from Kim from Snug Harbor Bay and wanted to share her son’s story with you. Kim’s son, Tony, struggled with obesity as a teenager and went through a remarkable transformation between his junior and senior years, losing 80 pounds and gaining a significant amount of muscle mass in the process. His outlook on life improved, he was happier, and he began living life to the fullest.

Here’s Tony, before and after:

Can you believe it? You can see from Kim’s huge grin that she’s incredibly proud of her son. His secret was working out an hour and a half each day after school, incorporating weight training and focusing on good nutrition.

According to Kim, “[a]t first his diet consisted of cutting out ALL junk food like candy, cookies, chips, coke and fast food. He mainly ate fruit for breakfast, small lunch of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and dinner was pasta, steak, chicken or pork chops.” He conquered junk food cravings by eating an apple instead any time he wanted to snack. Apparently, he ate A LOT of apples.

His dedication paid off; by his senior prom he was a changed young man.

If you’d like to read more about Tony’s transformation, check out Kim’s blog post, “A Life Changing Experience.” Tony is now going to college and is focusing on a career in nutrition and fitness, with a specific emphasis on overweight children, although he wants to help adults as well. He is also blogging to inspire others to lose weight and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. To follow Tony’s ongoing tips as he maintains his physical fitness level and weight, go to his blog, Tony’s Nutrition and Fitness Tips.

Congratulations, Tony! What a wonderful story of perseverance and accomplishment.

And now … the quick fix I promised.

While I was taking photographs of our master bedroom for the Home Tour Tuesday I posted a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I had quite a few bracelets, rings, and various accessories that were just sitting on my dresser, making it look messier. I didn’t know what to do with them. I wanted to find a way to make them easy to access and, at the same time, incorporate them into my decorating theme. I have a lot of white accents in our bedroom (they pop so well against the dark gray-blue walls), so I really wanted something white to jazz up that dresser. What could I do, without spending more money?

Then a light bulb went off. Aha! I could repurpose something I already owned!

I left my bedroom, went straight to the kitchen, and came back with a white ceramic serving tray from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. We had gotten it as a wedding present two years ago and it has been used at several parties since then. I love its simple lines and it is great for serving cheese and crackers.

And also, apparently, for displaying jewelry and accessories! Who knew? I love how my sunglasses look so special sitting on that white tray, even though I bought them at Marshalls for only about $9 each. To add even more repurposed storage, I also grabbed a white ceramic ramekin to hold my loose rings. I then added a sweet little crocheted heart from Megan E Sass, just for a bit of charm and whimsy. (Why, yes, that adorable headband is from her, as well. It fits so neatly in that third divided compartment on the tray.)

Let me tell you, now that I have a special place for them, I like to keep them there when I’m not using them. I used to toss my glasses on any available horizontal surface, but now I put them back in “their spot.”

It is so good when objects have a home.

How about you? Do you have a repurposed item in your home that does double duty? What turned on the lightbulb in your mind? Do tell!

p.s. Guess what! While my friends were so kind to share their guest blog posts last week, I sneaked off to soak up some rays in the Caribbean! Now that I’m back home, I’ll be sharing some organized travel and packing tips (and vacation photos) soon. :)

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Filed under Balance, Budget Decor, Containers, Life, Organizing, Storage

You Can Do It: Conquer Paper Clutter

Today’s guest blogger is Daniel, an IT consultant extraordinaire and all-around geek, who blogs about business, life, and coffee (not necessarily in that order) over at his blog, BrameStorm. I have to admit: I think he’s pretty amazing. Granted, I’m a little biased, since he’s my husband. Daniel’s been a trooper during the process of getting our home organized and I’m very blessed (thank you, God!) that he a) doesn’t think I’m crazy, and b) actually wants to contribute to and maintain the organizational efforts that I’ve put in place. He’s paid particular interest in efforts to organize files and technology … In fact, when I mentioned I was asking blogging friends to contribute to a guest post series, he suggested that he could write a post describing how he’s ended his “paper pandemic.” Considering that so many entrants in my book giveaway last month said that their chief organizational challenge was paper, I accepted his offer gladly, and am excited to share his results with you!

{Image: Kate Ter Haar}

As a generally technical sort of fellow, I have a deep-seated hatred of paper.  It stacks, piles, gets ripped apart by the dog, and may yet still contain valuable information to be perused.  No matter how far technology advances, I just can’t totally get rid of the stuff.  Therefore, I decided that it was high time that I designed a filing system that worked.

In general terms, I have three filing locations:

  • A single “Inbox”
  • A filing cabinet
  • The trash can / shredder

When I come home, my first instinct is not to sort through my paper.  I want to dump it somewhere until I can deal with it.  That place is the inbox.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  I use a simple wire basket.  The idea is that when I intentionally sit down to file mail once every couple of days, I can process the pieces one at a time and decide precisely where it goes.  A lot of this has to do with whether or not it’s actionable or not.  If I can do something with it, it becomes a project in the filing cabinet or gets done on the spot.  If I can’t do something with it, it gets filed as reference or sent to the mighty trash gods.

I’m not going to reiterate a lot of this process because David Allen does a remarkable job of explaining this thought process in his book, Getting Things Done:  The Art of Stress Free Productivity.  Instead, I’m going to focus on reference filing, as that tends to be the sticking point for most individuals.

Warning:  Coming from the digital world, I’m used to acronyms.  I’m comfortable with them.  I love them and they love me.  It was inevitable that I made them part of my filing system.  While this may not totally work for you, it might give you a starting point.

Moving on…

I needed a way to establish some control over the types of information that came into my world.  Sure, alphabetizing files are a given, but what about the titles themselves?  I needed something reproducible that gave me a degree of granularity while maintaining scalability.  That’s a tall order…  I came up with something like this.

PER.INS.ATO

In human language, that’s Personal Auto Insurance.  After about fifty attempts, a useable pattern started to emerge.  Here are just a few of the tags that I used.

PER.TAX.2010 / Personal Tax Return from 2010

BIZ.LGL.LIC / Business Legal Licenses

BIZ.INS.ERR / Business Errors and Omissions Insurance

I could then file them alphabetically by section and subsection.  It was easy, extensible, and short.  There was still a challenge, though.   I needed details on what was in the file.  I already had a sharpie in hand at the time, so I did what any lazy programmer would do.  I started scrawling out lines that detailed the documents inside of the files in order of appearance.

Problem Solved!

Below, you can see a few examples of my filing system.  I hope this helps you in your own quest to kill the Evil Paper Monster of Doom ™

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Filed under Balance, Drawers, Office, Organizing, Paper, Sorting, Storage

Home Tour Tuesday: The Master Bedroom

Ta-da! It’s Tuesday. Every Tuesday, I reveal a new area or room in our home. Since we’ve just moved in, for now I’m just experimenting with what I’d like to do to improve it or decorate it. Eventually, I’ll show off before and afters. (Can’t wait!) But for now, it’s just the “before” and an explanation of what I’d like to see happen in the near future.

Today’s tour is of one of my favorite rooms in the house. I love, love, love the paint color. Our bedroom has a high ceiling, gray-blue walls, and white accents. I’m working on adding artwork, prints, and pictures on the walls, but for now I’ve just been trying to get it organized. I think I’m almost there!

You can see in this picture that the left-hand bookshelf has a white box on it. I put it there so Daniel could have a place to hold all of the wires and electronic bits and pieces that accumulate on “his” bookshelf. It works pretty well! Someday soon I really need to get him a better nightstand solution, but for now the box and the bookshelf do their job.
For my part, my growing accessories collection has been haphazardly strewn across the top of my dresser for awhile, until I realized I could continue “shopping” in my home and reuse something for an organizational purpose. If you look on the left-hand corner of the dresser, you’ll see a white tray. Guess what? That tray is actually a serving tray from Bed, Bath, & Beyond that we got for our wedding. I’ve used it for parties, but usually it is stored above our refrigerator. Not now! Now it is the perfect place to store my bracelets and sunglasses. I’ve also put a white ramekin I rarely use on top of it, to hold loose rings that I don’t wear every day.
Here are few close-ups of the room. I spy my white owl!:
And finally, a couple of shots from inside the bookshelves. Yes, I know the gold-framed picture of us has showed up all around the house:
So that’s our master bedroom! In a couple of weeks I’ll delve into the master bathroom.
p.s. If you’re new, welcome! I invite you to sign up for an email or RSS subscription to receive updates and budget-savvy inspiration on organizing and decorating your home.

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Filed under Bedroom, Budget Decor, DIY, Home Improvement, Home Tour Tuesday, Organizing, Storage

Athletic Gear Storage in the Coat Closet

When I began cleaning and organizing our third bedroom/storage room, I ran into the problem of where to put all of our athletic gear. Since I keep my Creative Salvage stock in the closet of that bedroom, the gear couldn’t go there. Since I store boxes to ship my Creative Salvage items in our attic, the gear couldn’t go there. Since our garage can’t hold much more storage without becoming unusable for its main purpose (riding mower parking), the gear couldn’t go there. Since we are protecting our master bedroom closet to keep it for clothing and shoes and extra comforter storage only, the gear couldn’t go there.

So I put it in the only remaining closet I had available: our coat closet. At first I balked at this idea. After all, I liked being able to keep board games there, along with our coats. It seemed like a good idea, because it is close to our living room and therefore accessible at a moment’s notice. However, the athletic gear won out, and the few board games were designated to another storage area.

In the future, I plan to dress this closet up a bit and put matching organizers in it, including a storage shelf to go on the closet floor to add more storage and keep things off the floor itself. Until then, this is what I came up with:

… and ta-da! …

There was only one blooper I came across while in the middle of the process; our medicine ball wouldn’t fit, no matter how hard I tried to squeeze it in. *sigh* I’ll have to figure out where else to put it. Right now, it’s keeping Grandpa Mo (our ancient riding lawn mower) company.

(Hello, Grandpa Mo)

Where do you keep all your athletic gear? I’d love to hear other ideas!

Sorry I’ve been posting later than usual, lately. It’s been a crazy week! I hope you come back tomorrow, when I’m making an announcement about a new guest blog series that will begin soon!

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Filed under Cleaning, Closet, Containers, Organizing, Sorting, Storage