Junk Mail

For quite a while at each one of my seminars I’ve talked about of getting rid of junk mail. In addition to registering with the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) I’ve passed on several other sources that help to stem the tide of unwanted paper passing through the front door. Anyhow, the whole process is a lot of work.

Now the job is much easier. Paper Karma is a free app for iPhones, Andorid and Windows Phones. Just snap a picture of the piece of mail and with a few clicks you unscribe to whatever it is. Granted, this is a piecemeal way to do it – but it doesn’t require a large block of time and you can be selective about what you want and don’t want.

Speaking of apps, another good one is Apps Gone Free. Every day you get a list of apps that have gone free. Sometimes they’re free for only 24 hours (or a limited time). Sometimes, they’ve gone free for good.

One question I field frequently is how to keep track of passwords. We know that not only should we have multiple, complicated passwords, but that we should change them frequently. Anyhow, there are apps for that, too. You can do a search for ‘password manager’ or use something called Last Pass. Old school alert: Just have a hard copy list of sites and their corresponding passwords stored securely somewhere. An A to Z address book makes it easy to look up needed info.

Artkive.com – check it out. Great way to take care of all the papers the kids bring home from school. Save, store and publish their treasures. When they say that there’s an app for everything, it’s true!

I remember when Steve Jobs died. There was a cartoon published showing him standing at the Pearly Gates and St. Peter was going through a huge book evidently looking for Steve Jobs’ name. Anyhow, he told Peter, “There’s an app for that!”

 

The Buddy System

In July I wrote about getting rid of clutter. This blog has more clutter busting ideas. Ever think that household clutter is sort of like bad cholesterol? Just as LDL clogs up your arteries, household clutter clogs up your life! Clutter keeps throwing speed bumps in your daily life.

If you have a hard time getting rid of things here’s an idea to try. Next time you’re rummaging in a drawer or closet and discover something you don’t use, pull it out and store it in a box somewhere. You don’t need to get rid of it – just get it out of the mainstream so you’re daily life isn’t obstructed with those speed bumps. Clutter makes everything take longer – so speed up your daily life by getting unnecessary stuff out of your way.

Have a kitchen box, bathroom box, toy box, or whatever. Make a list of what’s in the box and post it inside a cabinet door and note where the box is locate.d That way, you’re going to remember that you have Mom’s old cast iron pot and where you put it. Then, when you’re a little stronger you might have the courage to donate or sell some of this unused paraphernalia.

Organized with a buddy. A friend can be objective about your belongings and help you be more realistic. Besides, it goes much faster and is so much more fun when you’re laughing and chatting away while you’re busy at work. Remember, that you don’t have to get rid of everything. Keep what you have room for – but keep the infrequently used things out of your way.

Frequently I quote Dr. Phil who said that if you keep everything, nothing has any value. No wonder that guy has his own TV show. When you keep everything – it becomes a burden. It’s a physical weight you can feel. However, if you keep a few things, they become treasures – things of value. Remember – you can take pictures of things and keep the memory, not the monstrosity.

NEWS FLASH: You know what I’ve been doing lately? Using Magic Erasers to get glue goo off stuff. I was cutting pieces of double sided carpet tape (every home needs a roll of double sided carpet tape). Anyhow, it really gummed up the scissors. No problem for the Magic Eraser. I rubbed and rubbed and it came right off. Of course, I have the liquid goo remover – butthe erasers are handier and there’s no odor. Whenever I take off the self-adhesive labels or prices from anything, I use Magic Erasers to eliminate the sticky residue. I love great inventions!

It’s Laundry Time Again

If you’ve ever read one of my books you know that I hit bottom when our third child was born. It was before organizing was an industry and there wasn’t much help for all of the poor, lost souls who just didn’t have a clue. So., I made a list and noted each one of my problems. It was a long list. I looked at the list and decided to work on one problem at a time. Laundry was number one.

What’s wrong with laundry? Well, it’s always in a state. It’s never done. As soon as you think you’re finished, there’s a new pile stacking up in the hamper. So, the first thing I did was to schedule the laundry so I’d have a few days a week when I didn’t even think about doing laundry. Yep, laundry is never done – but with a schedule you FEEL done. That was an immediate relief.I field a lot of questions about laundry in my workshops and setting up a specific schedule is always my first advice.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend (mother  of six) and she gave me the most wonderful insight about laundry. She, of course, is buried in laundry! Despite the chore, she said that she was so glad that she had clothes to put on her children’s backs. She was grateful that she was physically able to do the laundry – to fold and put away the laundry. While I still don’t wake up in the morning with a song in my heart when I know it’s laundry day – that statement made me stop and think.

We’ve had laundry issues lately. It’s been taking three cycles to get the clothes dried. We started looking for a new dryer and in the process, talked to a dealer. He asked us if the dryer was getting hot. It was. He told us that we didn’t need a new dryer – but that we needed to get our dryer vent cleaned out. We found a company that specializes in just such a problem (Indoor Solutions) and within fifteen minutes, he had climbed on the roof and sucked all the lint out of the complete system. Now the clothes are dried before the cycle is completely finished. What a miracle. Saved us a few hundred dollars, to say the least.

This particular dryer has a a long screen vent mounted on the top of the dryer that should be cleaned after each load. It’s been a pain to do that until I hit on this idea. I put a stack of coffee filters into an old Cool-Whip container and added some water to get the filters all moistened. Then, I put the container on the shelf above the dryer. Now, when I have to clean the screen, I grab one of those damp coffee filters and wipe out the lint. Not only does it work, but it cleans the vent better than ever.

In one of my books I wrote a whole chapter about laundry. The title of the chapter is Wash and (S)Wear. Maybe not. I’m happy that I have a washer and a dryer in our home and I’m grateful that we have clothes to wear and that we have the muscles and the mobility to do the laundry.

Sponge Mob

If you’ve been to one of my seminars you know how I’ve told everyone about the virtues of disposable foam paint brushes. They’re so inexpensive that they’re almost free. They’re available anywhere paint is sold – including craft stores and departments. In the seminars I mention how they’re perfect for cleaning louvered doors and shutters, horizontal blinds, window and closet tracks. What a wonderful job they do on the dashboard! Those little sponges get into all the crevices, vents and recesses on a dashboard and make the car look like it’s just been detailed. I have a blender with individual buttons that stick up and gunk gets in between the buttons. Well, the sponges fit perfectly in those little spaces and clean up the mess. So – whenever you’ve got a small space and can’t find the right tool to get to it – think about using a disposable foam paint brush. Oh, almost forgot, they’re good for dusting pleated lampshades, t00.

I always say that the more you use them, the more things you can think of to use them for. Case in point. I was cooking away at the stove the other day and noticed that there were splatters on the side of the stove and the side of the counter top (in those gaps between the stove and the counter). Well, I didn’t have time (or the desire) to move out the stove to get it cleaned. Out came the paint brushes. They’re sponges, after all, so you can get them wet, use detergent – whatever. Made easy work of the job. I love those things!

Speaking of sponges, my utility closet always has a supply of Magic Erasers. I never let myself run out of them. Pinterest has a gold mine of useful suggestions for Magic Erasers. Also, if you go to Mr. Clean’s clean book (www.mrclean/cleanbook) – they have many before and after photos showing how to clean things you probably never even thought of. Those erasers really did a number on all my baking pans that have been used and abused for years. Last thing I used them on -the hubcaps on the van. Amazing!

Happy scrubbing!

Putting Off Procrastination

Seems to me like there are two different types of procrastinators. Some folks have a hard time getting started and others start everything and procrastinate finishing things. I am a card carrying, certified slow starter. Over the years I’ve used a few techniques to help squash my tendency to wait until tomorrow  or the next day.

First of all I learned to recognize the things I do when I’m in the procrastination mode. I shuffle papers. I think of something I really want to do and rationalize why I should do that instead of what I’m procrastinating. (Great definition of rationalization? Rational lies.) It’s a matter of deciding what’s good, better, or best. What’s the best use of my time right now? I remember when I was writing my books (painful process) I would stop writing so I could think up cute, clever chapter titles. That was fun. That I enjoyed. I didn’t want to open a vein when I was doing that. Another symptom, for me anyway, is that I get this feeling like there’s a large concrete block sitting in my stomach. I know I should make that phone call, but what if this isn’t a good time? What if I say something stupid and mess everything up? Procrastination helps our imaginations spiral out of control.

So first – I tell myself (sometimes out loud) I’m just procrastinating. Someone once told me that we should do the most dreaded chore first. That’s probably good advice.

There are three parts to every job: getting ready; doing the job; cleaning up the job. It helps stop procrastination if you know the start up isn’t going to be bothersome. The dishwasher is empty. You know what row you’re on in the knitting pattern. You know the next step you’re taking on that big project. Next time you’re stopping a project mid-stream, be sure to have it ready to go when you start up again. Make that ‘get ready’ something you won’t dread and likely procrastinate.

Okay – so you’re not a slow starter. Maybe you’re just not a finisher. Some folks start everything, but have a hard time crossing the finish line. If that sounds like you, make a list of all the projects that are undone. Pick out the most important one (or the one that’s causing the most stress) and decide what specific things you need to do to finish it. Then methodically move to its conclusion.

 

FIVE STEPS TO ORGANIZE ANYTHING

Whether you’re working in a closet or a carport there are five simple steps you should follow whenever you’re organizing an area: Clear, clean, cull, categorize and contain.

First, CLEAR out the space. Instead of tearing apart the whole kitchen or bedroom closet, work in one small area at a time. Do one drawer, one shelf or part of the closet. That way you won’t be in such a mess should something unexpected come up. Besides, finishing is a great motivator. So if your goal is doing one drawer – you’ll be finished that much quicker and more motivated to continue. Plan lots of little finishes and that will speed you on your way to the big finish – the kitchen is organized.

Next, CLEAN the space. Vacuum, wash, dust – whatever is required to clean up the area so you’ll have a fresh start.

CULLING is next. Go through all the stuff and determine what goes and what stays If the item has value, but is seldom used, perhaps you can store it somewhere else so you can use the space for something that’s used more often.l (Seldom, by the way, is something that’s used less often than once a month or is seasonal.)

Now is a good time to mention that even if something is used often (say a wooden stirring spoon) that doesn’t mean that you should have 15 wooden spoons standing at attention waiting for action. Keep a few of them handy and store the rest somewhere else.

In my kitchen I have a big tub that’s in the cabinet above the refrigerator. It holds all the kitchen extras that I either have duplicates of or things I don’t use too often. When I need something, I pull down the tub, rummage around and find what I’m looking for. If you do something that be sure to make a list of everything that’s in there and post it on the inside of a cabinet door. That way you won’t forget that you have extra measuring cups and a new can opener. Also, you won’t forget where you put the stuff!

CATEGORIZE the keepers. If you’re organizing clothes you might want to categorize by color or item – i.e. skirts, pants, jackets, etc. Basically what you want to do is to keep things together that are used together.

Use CONTAINERS to keep your categories well defined. Drawer dividers work well in drawers. Deeper containers can be used in deep drawers or on shelves so you can convert your shelves into drawers and use the containers as slide out shelves. That way you can handle several things as one unit and see what’s in back as easily as you can see what’s in front. Using closet rod markers (like department stores use on the clothes racks to indicate sizes) on your closet rod serve as visual reminders that shirts go here – jackets go there. Or, if children are sharing a closet, the child’s name can be put on the marker.

A simple way to make closet rod markers is to use a plastic lid (from Crisco or coffee), cuta hole in the center and write on the lid with a permanent marker. Slip the closet rod marker over the rod.

Clutter Makes Everything Take Longer

If you’re one of those people who just can seem to get rid of things, try this. Next time you’re rummaging in a drawer or closet and discover something you don’t use, pull it out and store it in a box somewhere. You don’t need to get rid of it…..just get it out of the mainstream so you’re daily life isn’t obstructed with ‘speed bumps.’ Remember that clutter makes everything take longer. Every single thing you do every day takes longer because of clutter. Clutter is household cholesterol. It’ clogging up your daily routine. So, speed up your daily life by getting unnecessary stuff out of your way.

Don’t be afraid that you’re going to forget what you have or forget where you stashed it. Have a kitchen box, bathroom box, toy box, or whatever. Make a list of what’s in the box and post it inside a cabinet or closet door and note where the box is located. That way, you’re going to remember that you have Mom’s old cast iron pot and where you put it. Then, when you’re a little stronger (or you can see that nothing serious will happen if you don’t have a particular item) you might have the courage to donate or sell some of this unused paraphernalia.

Here’s the pep talk I give myself that helps me get rid of things I don’t use and don’t really need. “It’s selfish to hang on to things that you’re not using (particularly clothes). There are people who really need (or can use) this and it’s selfish to hang on to it.” Think about that. Women in battered women’s shelters have only the clothes they were wearing when they walked in. Some of them are living there with children. In any case, there are so many worthwhile charities and organizations who can use your useful cast-offs.

Check out the website www.findthingsfast.com. It’s like Google for your stuff. It can also be an app on your phone. It tells you what you have in your house and where it’s located. If you have it on your phone and you’re in the store and see an unexpected item on sale you can ask yourself, “Do I need any of these?” Find things fast.com can tell you that you have six and that they’re in the garage. How cool is that?

Do, Buy, Bring

This is just something that I’ve used for years and I’ve found it so helpful that I just have to share it with you. You might think it’s silly – but I can’t tell you how much I’ve used it over the years. It’s simply called my DO, BUY, BRING form.

Whenever I have a big project that I’m working on ( i.e. a presentation, an activity, workshop, or whatever) I pull out one of these little forms and keep all my notes right there. As you can see, there’s a column for things I need to do. It’s my To Do list for just this particular activity. It seems like there are always things I need to buy or pick up. They go in the BUY list. Then, so I don’t forget anything, I jot down all the things I need to bring. It’s so easy to keep track of everything and keep on top of the preparations when everything needed is right on one page.

Using a tool like Scanner Pro (iTunes) or Droid Scan (Amazon) or JotNotPro you can keep the list right on your phone. In any event, it sure helps you keep the stress of a big event under control. 212

 

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Remember Those Resolutions?

In January we were talking (and thinking) about what resolutions we could make for the new year. I get asked by newspapers all over the country to talk about those resolutions – particularly those that involve getting organized. Well, I’ve discovered over the years that most of us are really determined for a little while, then we wave our dishcloths in the air and admit defeat. We are just too busy to stick to a major improvement program. It’s too overwhelming.

I’ve developed a list of simple things that can make a huge impact on the quality of a household’s organization. Just choosing one of these things will make a noticeable difference – as long as you choose something that you need to work on.

1. Make a solemn promise to yourself that you won’t bring anything home unless you know exactly where you’ll put it. Also, know what it will be used for and if it will accommodate what you want it to hold.

2. Don’t start tomorrow with yesterday’s work. Don’t wake up to a full dishwasher or a vacuum that needs to be emptied before you can use it, or clothes in the washer or dryer. If you’re working on a project and need to stop for a while, note what you’re doing and what you were going to do next. That will expedite a quicker re-start and avoid some procrastination.

3. Be aware of every time you say the words, ‘for now.’ “I’ll just put his here for now and put it away alter.” Do it now. If you don’t have to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? Other red flags words to watch out for: “It might come in handy someday.”

4. Go through clothes at least once a year. Put them in three piles: yes, no, maybe. Go through the maybe pile and cut it in half. Why are you keeping it? (i.e. You’re going to lose weight. It has a button missing. I’m keeping it because Aunt Gladys gave it to me, etc.) It’s selfish to keep clothes you’re not wearing because there are so many people who need them. Women in battered women’s shelters have only those clothes they had on when they walked in the front door.

5. Plan menus. Know in the morning what will be for dinner that night. Defrost, start prep or make a list for delegation. (My books Confessions of An Organized Housewife and Kitchen Organization Tips and Secrets have a lot of menu planning ideas.)

6. Would you let someone walk through your home unattended? what would you be embarrassed for them to see? Anything that is a time waster or speed bump in your life should be dealt with.

7. Chose a flat surface (table, counter, dresser, etc.) and keep it clear.

Here’s one of the best ideas I’ve heard for keeping the dining room table clear of stuff. One woman told me that she sets the table as if she’s having company. With all that stuff on the table, people didn’t toss the mail, homework, or miscellaneous debris on the table.And, if someone comes over – it looks nice. There’s no embarrassment.

So, you can sneak up on those resolutions and get organized in spite of yourself!

 

My Adventure With Tile Grout

What a project I picked for myself. We moved into a house last year that has tile floors. First time in my life I’ve had tile floors. They are beautiful, but I thought I’d touch up the grout and brighten things up. Little did I know just how much work it would be. But, here’s what I discovered.

I first checked the Internet to see what the best method was. Some reliable sounding source said to make a paste out of oxygen bleach (like Oxi Clean) and spread it onto the grout. Let it dry and clean up the mess. Does it work? Well, let me tell you. I was taking what I thought was a bottle (a plastic bottle) of A&W root beer out of the refrigerator. It was a bottle of Worcestershire sauce – which was much heavier. As a result, I dropped the bottle on the floor and that thirsty grout soaked it right up. I thought I was doomed to have gravy colored grout forever.

So, I put the oxygen bleach to the test. I made the paste and put it over the grout and let it sit all night. The next day I cleaned it up (which is kind of a mess in and of itself). Anyhow, I was so pleased with the results. I liked the fact that it worked and that I already had Oxi Clean in the house so I didn’t have to go out and buy something.

But, hold on. Here’s another thing I discovered. Our son was cleaning his grout and he told me that he found this product called Goo Gone Grout Cleaner. He was doing his entire house by using the cleaner, letting it sit for two minutes and scrubbing it with a Magic Eraser. So, I thought, I guess I’ll give that a shot, too. It also works but there’s a lot of scrubbing involved. You can also scrub it with a small brush.

Anyhow, I  have learned so many things from this new house. It’s much smaller than our last house (we downsized) and I’m becoming a master at finding space to put things. But, that’s a subject for another day.