Organizing Your Home and Life

Archive for the ‘Organizing’ Category

I have four kids.  Two are in high school.  One is in elementary school and one is in preschool.  I cannot tell you how many people over the years have asked me what I do with all of that artwork.

Over the past 16 years, thousands of pieces of artwork have walked through my front doors with everything from drawings to sculptures to models.   Miraculously (or  maybe not so miraculously) I have managed to organize it all and keep it all under control.  I am a natural organizer so many times it happens without a lot of thought from myself but I know that is not the case for everyone.  So I have put together several tips that help guide me though the piles so that I can avoid clutter and being overwhelmed.

1. Decide what is worth of keeping.   I know that might be a very tall order considering you would like to keep everything but this is where you need to be extra judicious.  Not everything is keepable.  Perhaps you can sit your child down and go over the keepable stuff with him or her. 

2.  Have a file box or bin or drawer in your house for keepable stuff to store throughout the year.  Preferably this file is flat and a size that can hold odd shaped or sized art.  Everything goes into this file.

3.  At the end of every school year go through these boxes/drawers a second time and sort out the stuff that is keepable and the stuff to toss.  You might have a different opinion on it at the end of the school year.  Do your best to eliminate at least 40-50% of what is in this file.

4.  Whatever is leftover in this yearly file box should be transferred to a more permanent storage spot like the attic.  Get a airtight and waterproof container to store your art.

5.  If you have a scanner you should consider scanning the art digitally.  This is a good idea for stuff that is not your top pick of keepable items but you still would like to have a momento on hand.



Last week I blogged about my dad who was painfully taken from us a few weeks ago.  I do get overcome sometimes with grief and I know that is a normal part of the process.  Yesterday a rep from a hospital where my dad was once a patient called my house to ask how to get in touch with my dad. She was planning a reunion and wanted to invite him to come. I had to share with her our painful news.  It stung to have to repeat it and sometimes I feel for the person on the other end of the phone who really doesn’t know what to say.  So I just talked soothingly and reassured her that I was ok and that things would be alright.

Over these past several days I have found myself migrating to my dad’s condo to clean up and clean it out.  To others it might seem like work but to me it doesn’t.  I find myself cleaning and dusting and boxing up things and it doesn’t make me sad.  It doesn’t make me tired.  In fact it does just the opposite.  It makes me feel like I am taking care of my mom and dad’s things in a respectful manner the way I feel they deserved to have their things treated. 

I love to organize and it is my passion and being able to organize and declutter my parent’s condo for the eventual sale is something I cherish.  It’s something I feel I am doing as my last bit of service to my parents who gave so much of themselves to get me to where I am today.

As I organize and clean up and clean out, I learn about myself and I talk to my dad because in my heart he hears me and I feel better for it.  This is all a process but one that I am glad to do for my dear ole’ dad.

It’s a subject I have been thinking about for some time now. As my teen boys grow into adulthood I am beginning to help them with some of those life skills that will be necessary once they leave the house and go off on their own. Organization is one of them but it’s a struggle. It’s hard enough to get them to study and do their homework. But I keep pressing on hoping that something will rub off on them and when they do get to college they will at least take a small bit of organizing knowledge with them.

So how do you teach them? For me, it’s all about making organization easy and fun. For example, my oldest son could never get his clothes into the hamper. But by chance I took him to Target one day and there were some nifty cool hampers there. He wanted one but when I pointed out that I wasn’t going to waste money on something that was not going to get use. He assured me that was not going to be the case. I gave in and bought it for him and I have found that he does use it. Problem solved. One down and only 200 more to go. LOL

As for the other teen organizational problems my intent it to blog about it in a series entitled “Teen Organization”. I hope to be able to provide many different suggestions on how to keep your teens organized from my own experiences as well as other people’s experiences. How do you get your kids to be organized? Leave a comment if you have any kind of ideas.

It’s my favorite time of the year – a planners dream….the end of September means that the holidays are right around the corner.  Year after year we all continue to get behind and each year I become more and more determined to not become behind.  This is why my goal is to have a holiday game plan in place by October 1.  Some of the things on my goal sheet are exampled below:

1.  Halloween costumes – start shopping for those now.  Avoid the long lines.  If you are making your own costumes, start now as well. 

2.  Holiday portraits – if you are not taking the portraits yourself, this should be planned out now including making the appointment and going.  It takes a few weeks to get portraits back and it is best to avoid procrastinating on this.  As the holidays get closer it will get harder to make a timely appointment.

3.  Holiday greeting cards – Start getting your address lists in order. Print out mailing labels and return address labels.  You can find some good sales on holiday cards so if you buy now you will be way ahead of the game.  You can then start to write up your cards or start to create your family newsletter.

4.  Thanksgiving plans – Thanksgiving is only 2 months away.  Start contacting your family and friends to see how you all will celebrate your Thanksgiving day.  If you are cooking, start to plan out what the menu will be and what kind of recipes you will need.  Get your decorations together and ready to be put out after Halloween.

5.  Purge in your house – This rule is really important especially if you have kids.  Your kids will likely get many gifts so it is important to purge any old items or toys or games that they no longer use. Do the same for clothes too.  Think of giving these items to charity.

6. Speaking of charities start thinking about whether or not you want to give to charity this holiday season. If so, figure out how much you will be giving whether it is money or merchandise.  If merchandise, start shopping now. 

7.  Have your kids get their holiday gift lists in order as well and start a budget for yourself to ensure that you are not overspending and that you are keeping within a specific budgetary guideline.

8.  Gifts – it’s never too early to shop for the favorite people in your life.

If you can start accomplishing some of these tasks early you will be way ahead of the game.

Sometimes being neat and clean doesn’t take a whole lot of effort.  In fact sometimes it is just about changing a few old habits.  These three tips can help start you onto the road of clutter control and organization.

1.  Make your bed – As soon as you wake up make the bed.  I have done this every day since I was a kid.  Messy beds really make the room look sloppy and undone.  It doesn’t matter how neat and picked up the rest of the room is.  If the bed is unkept it ruins the entire look of the room. 

2.  Never leave dishes in the sink.  I never leave dishes in the sink nor do I let my kids leave their dishes in the sink.  I do use a dishwasher so I put the dishes right into the washer for future washing.   Also, I never go to bed with dishes in the sink or on the counter top either.  One reason is because dirty dishes attract bugs.  Another reason is because, for me, there is nothing worse than waking up to work waiting for you and dish washing is definitely WORK!  I prefer to be more proactive with my dishes and have them all done before bedtime.  If you do not have the luxury of a dishwasher (which I have at various times in my life) then handwash your dishes and then dry them and put them away as soon as possible.  I learned this rule from my mom who also implemented the same rule when I was a kid.  Consequently the kitchen never looked horrendous when I woke up the next day.  Following this rule also allows you a peace of mind when you wake up in the morning to a fresh, clean kitchen.

3.  Five minute rule in each room – I love this rule and follow it all of the time.  The rule basically says that when you go into any given room during your day, spend a total of five minutes to pick up in the room, throw some visual clutter away, or do a sweep of the room if things are out of place.  It’s a rule that forces you to address clutter and mess as it is happening as opposed to a week later when the clutter is so out of control that all you want to do is leave the room and shut the door.  Being more proactive than reactive is the key to keeping clutter under control.

Following these three easy rules will not only help you control the clutter but it will give you a sense of relief that order is being kept in your home.

The other day I was in the mall and happened to walk by the Coach store.  If you are female then you know exactly what store I am talking about…where they sell the most ridiculously expensive purses, shoes, sunglasses, and anything else with the “C” logo and checkerboard plaid patterns.  The purses can cost up to hundreds of dollars.

It got me to thinking and talking about whether or not I would spend that much for a purse.  First of all, I won’t be making that kind of decision any time soon. With the expense of paying for both of my boys to go to Catholic school, saving for their college in a couple of years, and all other expenses that come with raising 4 children, I won’t be worrying about a $300 purse.

But I did think about what I would do IF I happened to have that kind of spare cash hanging around.  My conclusion is that if the purse really improved the quality of my life and if the purse was designed to last through the torture I put the rest of my other purses through then it might be worth it.  I cannot tell you how many times during the day that my cell phone gets lost in the black hole.  It’s so frustrating.  The phone rings inside my purse and then I start to look for it. It has fallen to the bottom so I have to take out my wallet.  After I take out my wallet I usually have to take out at least 5 other items in order to get to the bottom of the purse.  By the time I get to my cell phone, it is no longer ringing and has now gone to voice mail. SO FRUSTRATING!  And I am organized!  So I cannot blame it on my disorganization.  It’s just the poor functionality of my purse.

I want to come up with a solution to this problem and it needs to be an inexpensive solution.  Remember, I am not going to be in the Coach store anytime soon.  I have researched some organizers on the internet and have come up with one that seems to be very popular.  It’s called the Pursetek and you may have seen them on infomercials.  But does it really work? 

I think I might have to order one and try it out and let you know.  Do you all keep your purse organized and if so, what are some of your methods?

Memories are a key part of our lives and homes.  So how do you declutter and organize your memories?

A lot of times I hear people going through their clutter and saying “but my child made me this once in a lifetime picture of ….” or “I got this beautiful sweater from my aunt’s cousin’s best friend who hand made it and I cannot bear to part with it.”

Decluttering your memories is very difficult.  I, too, have a difficult time with it.  I still have some old clothes that my mom once wore that I took with me when she passed on.  Some I have since parted with and others I have not.  I have four kids so you can imagine the artwork that has come into my house over the past 16 years.  And my husband is known to give me lots of very touching and memorable cards.  So what do you do with it all?

The hard part in sorting through these types of collections is looking realistically at what really should be kept and what should not.  I have compiled a few simple ideas on how to tackle this type of job.

Children’s Artwork

I have found that the best way to tackle children’s artwork/schoolwork is usually at the end of each school year.  During the year I put the schoolwork in a filing drawer.  I only file away the interesting papers like pretty art or a special essay or a skill that they just learned.  At the end of the school year (or more frequently depending on the amount that you have filed) I pull all of the artwork out and go through each paper one by one and prioritize the most special paperwork.  I try to keep about 10 to 20% and the rest will be thrown out.

Each of my children has his/her own memory box.  I will put the special artwork/paperwork in their own memory box.

The memory box is also where I keep special momentos that are unique to each child such as first pair of shoes, first dress, medals, awards, etc.

Unused Gift

Many times we get gifts that we end up never using.  It happens to all of us at some point in our lives.  I am not a big fan of re-gifting so I don’t recommend it but if you are a fan of it then by all means do what you feel comfortable doing.  I am, however, a big fan of giving to charity or garage sales.  If there is something I just cannot use in my home I will go the charity route and donate it.    This way I am not completely throwing out the gift but I am giving it to someone who will probably use it more than I will.

Spouse Momentos

I keep a memory box for myself just as I do for my kids.  This is where special items that I have received from my husband or kids go.

Most items that I get from my husband or kids are cards.  One great idea to do with all of those cards is to make a scrapbook out of them.  I usually tear the cards up and keep the saying or the writing on the card and put them into a pretty scrapbook.  It’s a nice way to display a beautiful collection of cards and momentos.  If you must keep those dried flowers that your husband gave you when you got engaged, put them in a baggie and place them in your scrapbook.  Another suggestion is to take a photo of those special occasion flowers and scrapbook the photo instead of keeping the dried flowers.

Organizing your momentos does not have to be too difficult but if it is enlist the help of a partner who can objectively help you get through it all.

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