Friday, August 29, 2008

Cleaning Out Their Lives - Great Article from the Arizona Republic Newspaper

I just read this article about decluttering which I wanted to share with you:

Cleaning Out Their Lives

To the right of the article is the paper's take on the 100 Thing Challenge.

Bankers Boxes - They're Not All Alike

In my experience as a professional organizer, I've run across many different types of bankers boxes - the white fold-up storage boxes used in homes and offices, primarily for storing paper.

What I've noticed is the vast difference in the quality of these boxes so I've decided to outline a variety of them here on my blog as information for my readers:

The first type of box is the best quality, and the most expensive. The box is essentially two layers thick which works best for long term storage of heavier items. These boxes are the "keepers" - you're spending a lot more money for them - use them over and over again if you wish. These boxes typically run about $60 for a dozen at your local office supply store.

The next type of box is the one-layer bankers box made from recycled materials. These boxes are not as strong and are not made to be stacked too high as they may buckle under the weight. These boxes are good for storing lighter weight items and are not recommended to be reused too many times. They usually run about $34 per dozen and are also available at most office supply stores.

This last type of bankers box is one of my favorites. It's a single layer box but is made of a heavier material and is sold at The Container Store. These boxes are great for storing files and other medium weight items and run about $63 for 20 boxes.

As is the case with all three of these bankers boxes, they are best not stored in the garage as the openings on the sides (for carrying purposes) can leave them open to harboring insects or, dare I say it, rodents.

For garage storage of files, I recommend these plastic file storage boxes with lids. They are available at most office supply stores and at The Container Store.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Twenty Wishes - New Inspirations

Twenty Wishes

Back on July 6th, I posted a blog about a book I'd read called "Twenty Wishes" which chronicles the lives of four women who decide to make positive changes in their lives by taking on new and exciting challenges.

My first challenge was taking a Spanish class which turned out very well - I got an "A"! I am also finishing up a beginning quilting class and I'm just about done with my small class project - a placemat. I'll post pictures of that when it's finished.

So, here it is almost September and I've been inspired by watching the Olympics (okay, who hasn't, right?). I've decided to sign up for a water aerobics class with my daughter and I'm going to start swimming laps 3 mornings a week.

I'm also considering taking golf lessons starting next month as well.

So now I'm up to 4 new things - that leaves 16 to go!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back to School - Organizing School Supplies

Back to school time is here (again). I wanted to show you a convenient way to store all those smaller school supplies your student needs to keep close to their work station: pens, pencils, erasers, paper clips, thumbtacks, index cards, etc. etc.

I find what works best for my daughter and the clients whose children I have organized are the small Sterite plastic drawer storage units. I label each one with the name of what's inside the drawer and it makes it easy for the student to put things away when they've finished their homework or need to clear their desks to work on a different project. (Labels are a little crooked as my daughter helped set her own system up a few years back - which, by the way, is a great way to get your kids involved in organizing too).

And the best part about these storage drawers is that they are stackable and take up even less space in the work area.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The To-Do List - How to Make it Work For You

We all try to do it – we sit down and write out a to-do list but it becomes way too long and involved and the list is no particular order. Frustration sets in when we don’t accomplish everything on the list.

Try and be realistic about your to-do list. I use the “A”, “B” and “C” method to prioritize my to-do list. I place the letter “A” next to the most important things on my list, the letter “B” next to the things that can probably wait until the next day, and the letter “C” next to the items that need to be done eventually but don’t have any real priority.

Another way to make your to-do list work for you is to imagine in your head the route you will travel to complete this list. In this day of crazy gas prices, we need to accomplish as much as possible in one trip. When you drop your kids off at school or on your way to work, try to complete as many to-do items in that general area as possible. Do the same thing on your way home at the end of the day. If you know you’ll be across town tomorrow, plan to do those items on your list that can be accomplished on that side of town.

Finally, try and get out early in the day when banks and stores open to make the most of your time. Most stores have smaller crowds during their early hours and you can accomplish twice as much. The old saying “the early bird gets the worm” really applies here.

I've always been a big fan of creating my to-do list at the end of the work day or before I go to bed. List all those things you want to get done the next day, prioritize them, and then you'll rest much better knowing they are down on paper and you can fill your head with more pleasant thoughts and dreams.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Umbra Magnetter - a great place to store your keys while keeping its sleek design

I saw this great looking item in the September issue of Real Simple magazine. It's called the Umbra Magnetter from Umbra and is a magnetized wooden key holder that attaches to any wall but doesn't contain those goofy looking hooks on the front.

It comes in a both a light wood and espresso finish and costs only $14.00!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to School - Locker Storage

I saw this great item on the Pottery Barn Teens website. It's called the Pack-It Storage Locker.

You'll have the most organized locker in school thanks to a kit that includes a dry-erase board, storage pockets and a mirror. The Pack-It Storage Locker comes in multiple colors and can even be monogrammed.

Looks like a great way to start the new school year - an organized locker!

Back to School - Homeschooling with The Schoolhouse Planner

I'll be honest with you - I know virtually nothing about homeschooling. But I admire those parents who do homeschool - they need to be very devoted and organized in what they are doing; taking total responsibility for their children's education.

I came across this Homeschooling Planner the other day and checked it out on their website - The Old Schoolhouse Store.

The planner includes:

• Yearly, monthly, weekly and daily calendars
• Lists of holidays
• Planners for your homeschool
• A place to record your homeschooling goals
• Curriculum planning forms
• Evaluation forms and test score recording sheets
• A field trip planning form and recording log
• Science lab and nature study sheets
• Extracurricular activities record sheets
• Address and telephone records

All this for only $39.

The Old School House Store also will provide supplements to the planner throughout the year.

The Old School House company is a Christian based company so the planner also includes sections on bible study.

I would definitely check this out if you are a homeschooler or are planning to homeschool your child.

Monday, August 18, 2008

100 Thing Challenge - Part 3

I've been traveling and working and haven't had much time to declutter but I did manage to give away a few items of clothing - 4 t-shirts and 2 sweaters.

I am putting together a few things to sell on ebay. Will do that after school starts again in September.

Till then.... How are you doing on your decluttering?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Back to School - Organized Homework Solutions

The Organized Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in School and Beyond

As I mentioned in my previous Back to School - Student Organization blog post, the book The Organized Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in School and Beyond by Donna Goldberg opened up a whole new world of organizing possibilities for myself and my high school aged daughter. One of the issues we were dealing with was how to handle homework assignments before and after they're completed.

I incorporated one of Ms. Goldberg's ideas by creating a homework folder using an 8-pocket portfolio I found at Office Depot. I labeled the front of the folder “Homework Folder” and labeled each inside pocket with one of her class subjects. We've used this system for the past two years and it has worked like a charm. My daughter can even file her class papers in here, remove them from the labeled pocket, and put them right into the subject drawer which I wrote about in my previous Back to School - Student Organization blog. Try this and see if it works for your kids - I know it will!

The Organized Student also recommends using a teacher planner in place of a regular planner to record your child’s homework and other school assignments. The teacher planner is great because each page contains the days – Monday through Friday - with each subject given a large space to write class assignments, test days and special projects. I found the Teacher Planners at Office Depot for $11.99 each. At the beginning of the year, my daughter takes the school calendar and can create her yearly planner noting holidays, half-day schedules and special events.

Other recommendations for keeping your student organized include designating a specific place where they do their homework every night. Make sure it’s a quiet place with no distractions like television, computer games, telephones, etc. If they choose to do their homework in the kitchen or other living space, make sure that you are able to work quietly in that area as well. Some kids can work with noise around them, some can’t. You know what works for your kids. Keep supplies - pens, pencils, ruler, calculator and index cards in this area.

Establish a study block each day. Some flexibility may be necessary due to extracurricular activities like sports or scouting.

One last great suggestion from The Organized Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in School and Beyond is to have your kids create specific areas in their backpack for books, homework and class folders, pens and other writing implements, and miscellaneous (keys, cell phones). This way, they only have to open one section of the backpack to find what they’re looking for. Let them set this up so it works best for them.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Using Twitter for Emergency Contacts

I came across this video on the Red Cross blog site this morning and I thought I'd share it with you. Two weeks ago, when we had a 5.4 magnitude earthquake here in Southern California, no one could use their cell phones to contact friends or relatives to let them know they were okay. I also tried to use my land line but the lines were overloaded.

David Stephenson, author of the series "21st Century Tips You Won't Hear From the Officials" has created this You Tube video to show us how to use the social networking site, Twitter, to let others know how we're doing in the event of an emergency in our area.

Watch the video and let me know what you think. I tested it myself and it works great!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Campus Calm - Learning How to Handling Stress in High School & College

If you have a child going off to college this year, this website is a great one for both of you. It's called "Campus Calm" and it's all about helpful suggestions for creating happy and successful students who can deal with the stress of campus life.

When you or your student signs up with this website, they will receive four free gifts:
  1. A special report entitled "10 Mindsets Students Must Have to Be Happy and Successful";
  2. An audio MP# entitled "How to Stress Less and Lead a Self-Focused Career Search";
  3. A podcast subscription entitled "Talking High School & College Student Stress"; and
  4. A free e-zine (email newsletter) subscription to Campus Calm Connections
The website includes student forums, free tips & articles, and success experts' blogs on subjects such as networking, nutrition, college planning, career planning, body image and (my favorite) time management.

My family will be spending the next year and a half on college entrance exams and decisions on where our daughter will attend college. I plan on spending a lot of time perusing this website.

Thanks Campus Calm!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Quilt Progress

I've been semi-hard at work on my quilting project. I'm trying to get organized in this area to create time to work on a creative project instead of always focusing on what needs to get done at work, around the house, or with my teenage daughter.

So, since I started my beginning quilt class about 4 weeks ago, I have been more motivated to take the time to do something for me.

This weekend I started to cut out all my fabric pieces to begin the process of sewing the quilt together. Someone told me to cut out all the pieces in one day. Well, that's very hard for me because it requires an incredible amount of time - especially if you've never cut out fabric for a quilt before. So, it took me 3 days to finish cutting out the pieces and now I'm ready to sew.

I'll post my progress over the next few weeks.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Back to School - Student Organization

Summer’s almost over – boy, did it go by fast. It’s time for school to start again and this year, let’s work on getting the kids organized.

The Organized Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in School and Beyond

About two years ago, I stumbled upon a wonderful book that inspired me to get my daughter organized for her first year of high school. The book is entitled The Organized Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in School and Beyond by Donna Goldberg. I will be incorporating some of her ideas into this and future articles as well as including my personal experiences with student organization.

Most of our kids carry a backpack to school each day. And when they come home at night, the backpack is stuffed with papers, artwork, books, and homework assignments.

In a perfect world, our kids would remove the papers and homework assignments, file the papers and complete the homework. Then, if we’re lucky, they will stick the completed homework back inside the backpack and turn the homework into the appropriate teacher the next day.

My personal experience with my daughter was that she would remove the school papers and leave them somewhere on the floor of her room, in no particular order, where they would stay until I found a place to put them. She would complete the homework, stick it into a notebook and put it in her backpack. Sometimes in the rush to get ready for school, she would forget which notebook she put the homework in and panic would ensue.

I decided to create a file system that was easy for her to follow. I purchased two sets of plastic three-drawer containers from Staples and labeled each drawer with one of her class subjects.

When she brings the papers home, she only has to put the appropriate subject papers into the appropriate subject drawer. An easy solution that works well for my teenager.

I highly recommend reading The Organized Student if your child has problems with organization. I am also available to assist in this organizing process.

Next up, tackling homework organization. One of a continuing series of I blogs on student organization I will be posting during the next few weeks. I hope everyone has a wonderful (and organized) school year.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sweet Dedication

Can I Be Good?

I was processing this book, Can I Be Good?, in my library this morning and read this sweet dedication by the author, Livingston Taylor:

"To my wife Maggie, whose perfect organization makes simple thought possible".

I loved it!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Emergency Preparedness - Part 2 - The Document Box

We never know when an emergency will strike. Whether it's a fire, flood, earthquake or other type of disaster - most of us are never really prepared.

Imagine if you had to rush out of your house due to a fire or impending hurricane. What would you take with you?

Most of us would respond "family photos" which is a great response. However, what about all those papers we have documenting our entire lives including birth certificates, wills, and insurance policies.

Today I want to show you something I've been working on for my home and family - the document box (also known as the grab and go box). This should be a small, easy to carry, file box which can be grabbed and taken anywhere in an emergency.

All of your important papers and other documents should be stored here.

Here are a few of the categories I have prepared for my document box:

Insurance policies (homeowners, disability, life, automobile)
Passports (copies - originals in safe deposit box)
Social security Card (copies - originals in safe deposit box)
Pension documents
Credit reports
Automobile registration
Marriage license
Birth certificates

You can adapt this document box to include any papers which you determine would be difficult or impossible to replace if they were lost in a fire, flood or other disaster.

It is always recommended that certain documents be stored permanently outside of the house - preferably in a safe deposit box at your local bank. These documents include passports, original social security cards, automobile pink slips and original birth certificates and marriage licenses. Copies of your will or living trust should be stored in your safe deposit box as well.

I have also prepared a list of our credit card numbers and utility accounts as well as a contact list of important phone numbers I would need in an emergency.

Keep this box in a safe place but keep it accessible in the event you need to grab it and take it with you in an emergency. Of course, if you must exit the home immediately, your family is your first priority.

Take some time to evaluate your important documents and make a document box of your own. A professional organizer would be happy to assist you with this project.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pottery Barn's "Smart Daily System"

Pottery Barn has come out with a wonderful system called the Smart Daily System. This is a high-end system which hangs directly on the wall of your home office and is designed to keep up with the latest technology. And.. the pieces are on sale right now.

Some of the components included in the Smart Daily System are:

Chalkboard - Corkboard - Linen Pinboard - Digital Frame/Corkboard - Recharge Station - Letter Bin - iPod Speaker Station/Whiteboard

The pieces of the system slide onto a stainless steel rod so you can interchange them whenever you like - the rod stays in place - the system can move around.

The Smart Daily System comes in three colors: espresso, white and black.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Building Storage Cubbies

I found this great video on AOL the other day on how to build storage cubbies at home. The video is produced by the creators of This Old House.

Kids love cubbies - they learn to use them when they start school to keep their lunch, backpacks and extra school work in. When used at home, cubbies can store everything from stuffed animals to sports memorabilia. It's a great way for kids to learn organizational skills at an early age.

This video shows you step-by-step instructions on how to make these cubbies at home as well as ways to add a creative touch to make them unique to your child's decorating sensibilities.

Check it out!