Paper Organizing

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A good amount of the paper that comes into your home and office can end up becoming piles of clutter.  I work with many clients to control and/or eliminate these paper piles.  Here are some tips that should help you maintain control of your paper clutter.

  • Instead of waiting to go through your paper clutter all at once, consider doing smaller paper management tasks on a regular basis.  Schedule in your calendar a 15-30 minute "paper management" block a couple of times per week.
  • Avoid looking at papers and placing them back on your desk.  Make a decision on them, and then follow through right away.  If you handle a piece of paper more than twice before taking action on it, you are wasting time, money and energy.
  • Use follow-up files (action/tickle system) to hold paperwork relating to scheduled tasks.
  • I find that magazines are like weeds — they grow and grow.  If you subscribe to a magazine and are not reading it in a timely and regular basis, cancel it.  Or even better, subscribe to the on-line version.?Don't keep magazines after you have read them.  If there is an article you believe you will want to refer back to, scan it to your computer.
  • Don't hold onto receipts longer than necessary.  Only retain business and personal receipts you need for tax purposes, for large purchases, and for items that are still under warranty.
  • Purge receipts for small items after reconciling them against your bank statement.  Use an envelope or zip-top bag to stash. 

Gift Card Organizing

article_giftCards_051412Do you have a lot of gift cards?  Do you find them hard to keep track of?  Do many of them often go unused?  My goal is to help you organize these gift cards so that this does not happen.

For those gift cards that you will never use, here are four websites that allow you to donate them, exchange them or cash them out.

  • CardPool.com
  • PlasticJungle.com
  • CardPool.com
  • GiftCardGranny.com
  • CardAvenue.com

There are many wonderful apps that help you keep track of your gift card balances on your phone.  This will help eliminate clutter from your wallet or purse and decreases the likelihood of leaving them in a drawer and forgetting to use them.  Here are three:

Gyft.com is a free app that allows you to manage, save, redeem and buy gift cards in one location.  Have a gift card to a restaurant or store you don't particularly enjoy?  Use the app to re-gift the card to a friend who would like it.

GoWallet.com works similarly to Gyft, and is also free.

Tangocard.com allows you to store your existing cards in the application's mobile wallet, but you can also purchase and redeem Tango Cards.  A Tango Card is like a gift card that can be used toward a number of retailers, merchants or even charitable giving. 

Time Management Strategies

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Time management is a challenge for many people. I wanted to share some tools and tips to help you better manage your time and complete tasks and projects. These strategies also work great for students.

1. Start your day by completing your time plan. Frequently, the most important time of your day is the time you set aside to schedule your day.

2. Use a calendar. This can be paper or electronic, whichever you are most comfortable with. Make sure it is set up so that you can see a week at a glance. Record all the activities you have scheduled. This would include all social and work commitments. This allows you to see when you have free time available.

3. Make sure you prioritize just two or three of the most important tasks you need to accomplish each day. Identify them and schedule specific times to work on them. This will help you to avoid getting caught up in low priority tasks all day. Start this process today!

4. Do the hardest and longest tasks first. This makes it more satisfying to move onto tasks that are more enjoyable.

5. Break long tasks into manageable parts. You are more likely to complete a task if you take it on in small bites. Check your calendar for pockets of time you can schedule these smaller tasks.

6. Once you have determined how much time you need to commit to a task, schedule this time in your calendar. Set a timer for the allotted time and stay focused on the project until the timer goes off.

7. Practice not answering the phone just because it's ringing and not reviewing and responding to e-mails or social media posts just because they show up.  Disconnect from your screens from time to time. Don't instantly give others your attention unless it's absolutely crucial in your business or family to offer an immediate response. It is a better time management practice to schedule a time to answer email and return phone calls.

Organizing Your Email In Box

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While email clutter may not look as bad as other types of clutter, it can feel just as bad.  The good news is that with a few simple techniques, you can eliminate your email clutter and the stress that accompanies it.  Here’s how:

Decluttering your in-box simply means deleting, responding and/or filing all of the emails in your in-box.  Delete anything that is old and outdated that you know for sure you won’t need to refer to again.  Reply to emails that require your response.  Keep and file away only those emails you will need to refer back to again and for which you need a record.

If you currently have hundred’s of emails in your inbox, this task may seem overwhelming.  Instead of trying to tackle this project at one time, schedule, in your calendar, fifteen minutes a day, to work on this project.

As you’re going through your emails and decluttering your in-box, make it a point to slow down the future inflow of emails.  Unsubscribe from mailing lists that are no longer relevant or interesting to you, those that you don’t have the time to read consistently and social media notifications.  Only let into your in-box those emails that you truly enjoy, those you have time to read, and those that are relevant to your current goals and projects.

Just like with paper, email folders can provide you with in-box order and structure.  If your paper filing system works well for you—use the same categories for your email filing system.  Alternatively, create folders based on broad categories that make sense given the nature of your email. 

Spring Organizing

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Spring is a great time to get organized.  Here are some simple suggestions for getting your house ready for Spring.

Begin by walking through each area of your home, take a few minutes to make notes what you wish to accomplish in each area. 

Assign yourself a different task for each day.  This keeps you from feeling overwhelmed by the size of your project.  An example:

            Monday – Winter coats, gloves, hats etc. 

            Tuesday – Master bedroom closets

            Wednesday – basement

            Thursday – computer clean up

Set aside a specific amount of time each day you will organize.  I suggest setting a timer to keep you on task.

Go through each area deciding what needs to be cleaned and stored, donated, thrown out, or sold.  If you did not wear it, or use it, this past Winter…get rid of it.  The less "stuff" you have the less stress you will have in your life.

The best way to stay on task and get the job done in the specified amount of time is to eliminate distractions.  Do not answer any calls, tell your friends and family not to interrupt you during the set time.  Even better get your friends and family to help with the project.

If you do not have the time, or the desire, to get organized this Spring, hire a professional organizer.  What is most important, getting the job done so that you can enjoy Spring.

Laundry Room Organizing Tips

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Arrange detergents and other products in the order in which you use them, from stain removers to spray-on starch. Keep bleach and ammonia away from each other; mixed, they can produce toxic fumes.

A three-bin sorter helps family members separate their clothes by colors, whites, and delicates.

Load high-demand cleaning products on an over-the-door caddy you can tote from room to room.

Simple milk crates break a long wire shelf into cubbies for organized laundry-room gear.

Your folding surface should be high enough that you don't have to stoop and strain your back.

 

 

Planning and Scheduling

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  1. Plan your morning the night before: lay out the clothes you will wear. Think through everything you will need in the morning and have that ready to go.
  2. Find a secure place by the door or entry to household to hang or hold your keys.
  3. Schedule your priority tasks early in the week so if they have to be displaced there is still time left to complete them.
  4. Schedule the most difficult tasks during your “prime time” when you are at peak energy level.
  5. When planning errands, be realistic about the amount of time each errand will take. Add at least 15 minutes to the time you think it will take. This way you will learn not to overschedule and continually work under pressure.
  6. Maintain a message center and a perpetual shopping list.
  7. Recognize that you do not have to complete the entire job in one sitting. Do a little at a time by scheduling appointments with yourself and keeping them.
  8. Remember that you are procrastinating if you work on a trivial task while a more important one remains undone. Prioritize the jobs to be done and work on priorities first.

Back to School

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It’s hard to believe, but the school year is just around the corner.  I encourage you to take the time now to get organized in order to make this school year more productive.  You can work together with your family to create systems to stay organized throughout the year.

With all the Back-to-School sales, now is a fantastic time to take inventory of the school and art supplies you have in your home.  Note what you need and what you might run out of by mid-year. Store the extra supplies in a box, or closet, so they are easily accessible for your child. 

Your child should get into the habit of doing their homework at the same time, and in the same place, each day.  Keep a box of supplies close to this area.  Getting into a routine keeps one organized.

Because routines are so important to staying organized, I encourage my clients to get into the habit of preparing the night before for the next day.  Here are some examples of things you can do the night before to make the mornings run smoother:

  • Fix and pack lunches and leave in refrigerator
  • Pick out the next day’s clothes
  • Pack backpacks with all books and papers that need to go back to school
  • Determine what you will be serving for breakfast and have as much ready as is possible.

Once your child is at school, another area that is important for them to keep organized is their lockers.  There are several locker organizers available to purchase that will create extra space in their lockers.  Encourage your child to have a designated space for papers and books that need to come home with them each day.

Remind your child that, being organized will provide them with extra free time.  It will also offer you piece of mind. 

Happy Organizing!

Summer Tips

To take full advantage of the warm months in Chicago enjoying your favorite outdoor activities, take a little time to get organized now.  

Here are a few tips.

Pool and Beach Items – Assemble a tote bag and include towels, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, lip balm, bug spray, goggles, reading material, pool toys, water bottles, and snacks.  Keep it filled and ready to grab and go.

Gardening Items – Create a basket and include frequently used items such as shears, shovel, weeder, gloves, hats, sunscreen, bug spray and sunglasses.  Clean all items before storing so they're ready for use.

First Aid – Update or purchase a first aid kit.  You can create your own by using a water-proof box and filling it with essentials such as band aids, disinfectant spray, gauze, tape and current medicines.  Pre-packaged first aid kits are commonly available at most drugstores.  Consider creating two kits — one for your home and one for your car.

Sports Equipment – Last year's sporting equipment should be checked to be sure that items such as gloves and shoes are in good condition and still fit.  Donate equipment you'll no longer use to charity.  Check bicycles for proper tire inflation and confirm other parts are in good working condition.  Sort equipment by activity and keep your most frequently used items in a convenient location.

Refrigerator Tips

Here are some tips to keep your refrigerator neat and organized:

Once a month, take the time to read the expiration dates for food in your refrigerator and throw out the expired food. The best time to do this is the night before the garbage is picked up in your area.

Have a designated shelf for left- overs and clear it off every week. Again, the best time to do this is the night before the garbage pick up.

Try to avoid storing eggs, butter or milk in the refrigerator door. The door is the warmest place in the refrigerator. Dairy products will stay cooler and fresher on the refrigerator shelves. Items that aren’t as easily spoiled in warmer temperatures (such as jams, non-dairy salad dressings and condiments, soda and beer) can be stored in the shelves on the door.

Refrigerator drawers are the perfect place to store fruits and vegetables. If your refrigerator does not have drawers, create your own drawers. You can purchase long narrow plastic bins that run the depth of your shelf. These will mimic the benefits drawers provide.

Use square or rectangular plastic storage containers to store left- overs in the refrigerator. Round containers create wasted space and do not stack or fit well side-by-side. It is best to use clear containers so that you can see what you have inside.