by: Claudine Kurp
Well the holidays have passed and the kids are back to school. If you are anything like me, I yearn for a fresh start each year and part of that want is ORGANIZATION! While I try to declutter and keep my house in order throughout the year, ineviably life catches up with me. The holidays are a killer for me and I feel like I need to reset and get ready for a new year.
Here are my ABC's of organization to make your home and mind less cluttered!
A. Tackle Storages Issues.
1. Tackle the change of seasons head on. It can be a messy and time consuming task to organize the clothes in your home, but you need face the beast. Start the process with your kids' gear. If you no longer have the need for a particular size or if an item has truly outlived its usefulness, it is time to say au revoir! Clothes should be sorted into piles including: KEEP, TOSS, DONATE or SELL. Toss the gear that is so stain ridden that is it officially a DNA experiment. Keep the clothes that you want for yourself or your family. Donate the items that might have worn out their welcome for you but a shelter would gladly take.
2. Items you KEEP for another child or for seasonal activities like snow, etc. should go in a bag or box and be tagged. I highly recommend the Space Saver Vacuum Bags that are sold at Bed, Bath and Beyond and Amazon. They squeeze every bit of air out of a bag and condense the amount of space you will need by half. Label the bag by size and season (e.g. Size 3T Fall/Winter). These bags are great for garages as they are air tight and keep water and bugs out.
3. TOSS the items that are beyond repair. Better yet, use them as kid safe smocks for painting, a cover for kids that refuse to wear a bib or...rip them into shreds and use them as rags for your house, car or garage cleaning.
4. DONATE! If you are ready to bid your STUFF a fond farewell, DONATE your goods to a local shelter, Salvation Army, Goodwill or a church clothing drive. Note, local Veterans and Lupus organizations will pick up unwanted clothes, art work, lamps, etc. All of these donations are tax deductible. Make sure to get receipts for your tax return.
5. SELL! If you have the time, inclination and wears, it might be an ideal time to have a garage sale. Misery loves company, invite a friend or neighbor to participate with you to sweeten the pot for potential customers. You can even advertise for free on http://www.craigslist.org/. You can also try your hand at selling on eBay or at a local consignment shop. Note, I recommend this only if you have the time and motivation. If you WAIT for the "Garage Sale Gods" to take you by the hand, it won't happen. Better to DONATE then wait and create further clutter.
6. Go Green - Use http://www.freecycle.org/. Freecycle is a grassroots, nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Membership is free.
B. Pay bills online. Save yourself the stamps and aggravation of bill paying. Create a folder for pending bills. Keep the folder close to your computer. File and pay bills as they come into your home. For static bill payments like your mortgage, car payment, school tuition fee, etc. set up a reoccurring payment that fires off a payment at a certain time every month. Almost every bank now offers online bill pay. It is easy, fast and saves time and money.
C. Buy in bulk or in multiples. Stop numerous trips to the store. If you need diapers, buy them in bulk and store the extra sleeves of diapers in the closet. If you are constantly running out of light bulbs, trash bags, toothpaste, baby lotion, moisturizer, etc. buy extra! This holds doubly true if you go to a specialty stores or buy online for certain products. Stop running out of Baby Tylenol and your favorite facial cleanser, buy two and replenish when you are getting low. It is wonderful to just go into your medicine cabinet and have a spare dye-free Baby Motrin bottle at 3am!
D. Create a master grocery list. Create a master list and leave room at the bottom for nonstandard items that crop up from time to time. Save a copy and print out a few sheets. It saves you the trouble of reinventing the wheel every week. Better yet, every major supermarket now has an app that can allow you to save a master grocery list and also allows you to save virtual coupons that can be used simply clicking on the coupon in your app and then using your grocer rewards card at checkout. You can also dial into savings on gasoline. The Safeway and Giant Foods app will track your purchases and tell you your exact gas rewards. Hint, sometimes stores give triple points for gift cards. Check advertised specials and save even more at the pump.
E. Beat the paper beast that invades your home! Our homes are invaded daily by intruders. They come in the form of mail and lots of it. Tackle that pile ASAP. Sort mail into bills, trash/shredder items, items to be reviewed (i.e. catalogs, magazines).
1. Pending bills should go into a folder with the highest urgency. Pay through online bill pay or standard snail mail and a checkbook. Get them done, out and filed quickly. Have stamps available and close at hand when paying bills.
2. Shred and trash solicitations. If you don't have a shredder, invest in one. With the threat of identity theft, they are worth their weight in gold.
3. Take catalogs and magazines and tackle them after dinner, on the treadmill, at the hairdresser, etc. Anywhere where downtime presents itself try to look through books, mags, catalogs, etc. Also, I keep my catalogs stacked in a special section of my closet as "Reference" material for decorating, product selection, etc. As new catalogs come in for Pottery Barn, etc I toss/recycle the old ones.
F. Book ahead and plan often. "It is never too early to plan" is my mantra. I book my sitter a month or two in advance. I make sure we have a reservation and a plan. There is nothing worse than finally getting a night out, making your way out the door and determining that there is no real plan. Stop the Chipotle madness!
1. Book dinner reservations early at http://www.opentable.com/.
2. Make your next hair appointment as you leave the salon.
3. Schedule future dentist and doctor appointments with the front desk as you exit the office.
4. Buy tons of diverse birthday cards at wholesale clubs where prices are cheaper. Have them on hand when a birthday or special event rolls around. You will save yourself the trip to CVS.
5. Pack two days out for a trip. Yes, it will still take you time, but the urgency isn't as great and there are no last minute surprises like no suntan lotion. Start with the laundry for this exercise.
G. Shop online. I think is it safe to say that everyone has discovered Amazon. They have the best prices and selection for everything from books to diapers and more! With a PRIME membership there isn't much I can't get to my door within 48 hours, plus free shipping! I even purchased my daughter's First Communion dress on Amazon. I also love Shoebuy.com for great prices on shoes. Some websites continue to offer tax-free alternatives. While brick and mortar stores will always be needed and appreciated, find some online love to make your life easier.
H. Store and use your coupons. Put all of your many paper coupons for Bed, Bath and Beyond, food items, Babies R Us, et al. in a large envelope or folder. Put it in your car and have it on hand for your weekly shopping trips. You won't have to sift through an overburden purse anymore and you will finally have that coupon when you need it!
I. Use an online calendar. I don't care if you grew up in a cult and have never used the multiple functions on your computer or smartphone. Read a book, review an online tutorial! This is a critical component to organization. Most computers come preloaded with a calendar. Every major online calendar program for Windows or Mac should give you the option of syncing with your smartphone. I live and die by my calendar. It is so nice to make an entry on my iPhone calendar and have it on my iMac and iPad at home. The cloud has gotten some bad press, but I still love it! You need to start to record upcoming events, activities, birthdays, etc. Set the alarms on your calendar to remind yourself of important events. View it often. Make sure to print out the calendar you created and hand the hardcopy to your spouse or partner. This avoids so much confusion and gets everyone on the same page. As kids get older it is even more critical.
J. Get help and outsource some of your needs. If your budget allows, there are some wonderful resources out there to help overburdened parents.
1. Get a cleaning service. I am down to once a month, but I can't give it up! My cleaning crew makes me happier than 99% of the population. That is just one relationship I can't abandon!
2. Get your groceries delivered. The average price of delivery hovers around $10.00 to $15.00. The price of gas and your time are worth that and more! One working mom I knew had her grocery delivery service stock a garage freezer and fridge while the nanny was home to let them into the garage. Don't forget to tip!
3. Hire a personal shopper. Many parents simply don't have the time to buy the perfect dress for their daughters 3rd birthday. Folks with enough money but not enough time, are turning more and more to professional concierge services. The web is filled with local options.
4. Hire a mother's helper. Seek out a younger tweener in the neighborhood and hire them on as a mother's helper. They can make sure your little ones are entertained while you tackle some bigger tasks in the house. Most mother's helpers are younger and don't command the salary that the average babysitter demands.
5. Get organizational help! Some of us are at the point where help is needed. There are a number of local services that can help you organize your home. I found a few on this SITE. I also love Rachel & Company. She has a great blog, a fun newsletter and is a respected local business owner that can assist clients with hands-on organizing, closet design, events and even large moves.
I hope you find this helpful. After I had my first daughter it became my roadmap to a calmer mind and a more organized abode. It isn't easy but so worth the effort! Good luck and here is to a very organization 2015!
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