Saturday, August 21

Vinyl Treasures

Didn't my friend do a great job of organizing and displaying her 33 RPM collection?  She arranged it so that it would not be obvious when you view her living room from the front hallway, but rather she planned the arrangement so that it's tucked into one corner and you don't really focus on it until you're fully in the room.  This way the "wall of sound" doesn't dominate the room but allows the fireplace and other features of the space to be appreciated before a visitor sees the shelves housing the records.  

She enjoys listening to the records on her 1950's turntable console, which also serves as a functional table in her foyer.  In addition to making it easier to locate the album she wants, she now has better access for the arduous task of taking inventory of the collection and doing research on some titles.

Side note:  My friend helped me with some tricky formatting for a special project I'm working on.  Although she's a highly-paid graphic artist she traded me 4 hours of consultation for a few of these yummy chocolate cookies my daughter made from a Paula Deen recipe--they have oatmeal as a main ingredient so they're good for a "complete" breakfast anytime, if you add a little milk...

Monday, August 16

You Don't Read This Calendar Tip Very Often

This is from the digest on my birthday, which is very appropriate since it takes me about 2 hrs in the bathroom every morning to get ready to leave for work...

A note about calendars. My calendar is in the toilet attached to the door because everyone, at some time during the day or night, has to sit and face the door. It has everyone's birthdays (including their age), appointments, when someone is traveling and when they're returning and even how many years people have been dead. I know that sounds macabre but I've had so much appreciation when I've sent a simple message to a friend or relative just saying that I'm thinking of them.

Loving being a FlyBaby.


Mullaloo, Western Australia

And then the response from Kelly, who works with Flylady:  "FlyLady keeps her calendar in the bathroom, too!! Just find a place where you know everybody looks at it! Make sure you include in your daily routines to update it!!"

Today I looked at my backlog of work e-mails--it's been a long time since school let out in June and there were so many SPAM e-mails to delete.  It made me recall one tip I learned last year for quickly deciding which e-mails to delete:  Sort them by Sender and delete them in chronological order.  That way you can keep the "final decision" e-mail of the bunch and forget the earlier discussion-type e-mails.  Also, sticking with one Sender at a time helps my brain keep on track a little better than hopping around from person A to person B. 

Friday, August 13

Follow Up Is So Important

Had fun this week working with a couple on de-cluttering and organizing their kitchen counter (just the mail and other papers), their home office and advising them about how to attack their closets and master bedroom.  It was my first time working with a couple and I was a little nervous to start, but they were enthusiastic and ready to reclaim their home.

I felt badly leaving them after the 3-hour session, since they were so eager to continue.  Here is part of my follow-up e-mail to encourage and guide them in their ongoing efforts:

Hi Dick and Jane: You guys made a great team the other day; we got a lot of paperwork sorted out. I took the clothes to Goodwill yesterday and will mail you the receipt.  Note:  I take away the recycling and donations at the end of most sessions.

I wasn't being polite about the fact that much of your place looks de-cluttered and organized. The living room, the kitchen, the kids' rooms look good. You might have some hidden stuff in those rooms but the overall appearance looks tidy.

I know you want to organize the office and that is important for peace of mind and being able to locate information in a timely manner. I think that either of you can work on the office when you have a moment to spare and here are some reminders about the process:

1. Start with the most functional areas and needs first--get rid of the "dead" computer, clear off the desk surface, de-clutter one drawer of the desk or a drawer in the file cabinet close to it. Use the newly de-cluttered drawer for keeping files you have already purged of unnecessary info. You might continue to use the red box for the files we created Tuesday, if that works for you.

2. When going through the office papers, take a 4" stack of papers to another location, like the table we used. Take the red box with files with you to have handy. Have your bags for "recycle" & "shred" right next to you and also label piles "to do/action" and "ask Dick/Jane" By having a pile for papers which need the attention of the other person you can do the organizing when you're alone. If you find that you stay on track better when you're together, by all means do that, too.

3. Work in small batches of time--15 minutes, 30 minutes. Don't burn out, mentally. Leave 5 minutes at the end of a session to tidy up and put things away. If you don't finish going through the 4" stack of papers, take the remainder back to the office for another time. Don't create an new area of unfinished papers to do later, even if it seems efficient at the time. We're going for an uncluttered look throughout the house.

4. I think you're going to like your 3-ring "Control Journal" so keep putting in there the papers you usually post on the refrigerator or keep on little slips of paper on the counter. Let the notebook get jumbled up and messy with handwritten notes and taped-on pieces of scrap paper--you only use it occasionally and no one sees what's inside. You might keep thin booklets, like your church directory, in the front pocket.

5. When we reviewed your closets and bedrooms I got the impression that you will feel a lot better when your master bedroom is more open and organized. I think you can use the 15 minute, 30 minute guide for mini sessions to attack the clothes and other items that need organizing. Use the same idea of bags for "share" & "action needed" when handling clothes. If you really need to keep clothes that you can't wear right now due to the season, pregnancy, special occasions then fold them and bag them up to store under the bed. It will help to make a quick handwritten label on scrap paper and put inside the bag so you can identify the general contents, like "Jane--fall/winter."

Try to be ruthless when going through clothes--if you have several pair of black pants, for example, just keep the 1 or 2 best pairs and pass along the rest.

If you're going to give away clothes or other items to specific friends or charities, label them and put them in a bag, then put them in your car right away. We don't want to create new clusters of clothes in the room--we're working on making the room spacious and peaceful.

If you want to hang up clothes as you work, you might put a broomstick between two chairs or some sturdy furniture; it's not pretty but it will help you see what you're doing and anticipate how much space the clothes will take in the closet. Work on the clothes in the room before working on the master closet(s). Aim for a clutter free master bedroom and it will make you feel great when you walk in. 15 or 30 minute sessions with 5 minutes at the end for tidying up.

I hope the idea of handling mail each day is going well. It will take you 5 minutes to sort by recycle, shred and to do/action and your counters and table will be easier to keep uncluttered. Keep using your calendar for reminders to retrieve items from your "to do" clipboard.

Let me know about your successes and new ideas.

Thursday, August 5

Mail Management

Made a return trip this afternoon to my friend's house, whose office photos were in the blog a couple of weeks ago.  She had de-cluttered the closet in the office and now can even store her vacuum cleaner inside of it.

We created a mail drop zone on a newly cleared surface in the office, setting up a small "to do," bin and larger bins for mail to recycle or shred.  Instead of putting the mail on the kitchen table she's going to try placing it on this surface, since it's in the office where paperwork is handled.  While we were in the office we went through about 14" of bills and statements, taking merely 60 minutes to go through the entire batch, and she finished the job with only two items in her to do bin and lots of discarded papers in the other two bins.  Toward the end she said, "It sure goes faster when you have two people."  She made all the decisions and I simply put the papers she handed me in the correct spot.

We categorized the papers by vendor (like Verizon, Anthem,) so specific information could be quickly found.  Temporarily, she's using a bunch of two-pocket folders she had on hand to store the papers from about 16 different vendors until she determines whether or not she and dear hubby like the system. She was amazed that we finished that thick stack of papers in a very brief period of time.
The family's primary recycle bin is kept in the kitchen and we discussed compacting its contents by having her kids stomp on empty cereal boxes, plastic milk jugs and other air-filled receptacles to flatten the bulky items.  We also discussed using a tall bin for recycling, rather than a short, rectangular one supplied by the waste management company, which takes up valuable floor space.

Managing mail can really bog us down.  Is your system working for you?    

Wednesday, August 4

I'm the Clutter Criminal After All

How humiliating.  I return home from a week away, expecting my pristine kitchen counters to be full of HIS stuff.  Walking into the kitchen I was almost blinded by the sun's rays reflected from those bare countertops.  Hmmm, walking around the house I could see that everything was just as I left it.  Hmmm, no mess anywhere that wasn't of my own creation prior to leaving for my solo trip.

Re-reading Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley, I'm in the chapter about encouraging the family to get on board with de-cluttering and organizing.  Her main point--stop whining and do more than you think is "your share."  In fact, do it all if you have to.  The family is often so confused by the stop-starts of our de-cluttering that they don't know what to do to help.

So, if I keep my clutter zones clear then they will stay clear.  I don't have to worry about my dear husband messing anything up and my kids are grown and living away from home.  It's a little freeing to eliminate the thought that someone else is causing the mess and a little empowering to know that the solution lies within.

I can start using Marla Cilley's idea of working on "Hot Spots" twice a day for 5 minutes each session.  I really have one main Hot Spot, the large penisula counter in the kitchen, and 10 minutes total per day seems a small price to have it looking better.


Tuesday, August 3

Where O Where Did the Mildew Go

One more month of summer, then back to school.  Here is a photo of a friend's system for keeping summer camp necessities ready to grab, Monday through Friday.  Her charming mom begged the Gymboree folks for 5 tote bags for dear grandson #1 and my friend bought 5 identical beach towels, 5 swim suits and 5 each of the other needed items (water shoes and underwear) for swim camp. 
Think she's extravagant?  No, just a good shopper.  She was willing to find items at Goodwill but discovered super sales at Target instead.  Besides, her younger son will one day be using the items for his upcoming summer camps. 
Having identical items in each bag reduces potential early morning fusses--like her son's wanting to take the still-wet-from-yesterday shark towel instead of the dry, mildew-free dolphin towel.  Wouldn't we all like more peaceful mornings?
"It might be a little more expensive to do it this way, but thrifty shopping for summer gear goes a long way when not having to wait for towels or bathing suits to finish in the wash the night before or the morning of a school day. And the plastic gymbo bags, one of my favorite stores, work well with the wet clothes and are a good way to reuse the bags. I have been using the same bags for about a month --they have held up well so far! An added benefit--Son #1 likes toting the bag over his shoulder."

Remember--keep those (potentially dangerous) colorful plastic bags away from little ones who would rather play with them than with the safe, educational toys you carefully pick out for them.     

Monday, August 2

Cooking Up a Better Way to Organize Recipes

The Chicago trip went well and it was great to have my bestest friend from childhood stay with me at my mom's.  Cath wanted to organize her recipes so she brought them along.  All I added to the effort was to provide an air-conditioned room and make a couple of suggestions.
Cath honestly cooks a lot, so finding her recipes quickly is very important.  Like most of us, she clips and saves recipes "to try" but these do add up.  One of her resolutions at the end of the process was to avoid clipping any more recipes for quite a while.
So, first she took the recipes out of the double sided recipe box created by her elder son.  She recycled about half of these recipes.  She now has space in the wooden box to add tested "favorites."
Next, she went through her piles of recipes to try and discarded similar ones.  She clipped off the edges of the recipes and taped them to 8.5 x 11 inch paper, then inserted them into plastic sheet protectors.  She attempted to place similar recipes together.  By doing this she greatly reduced her stash of recipes to try.  The photo with the brown pockets shows another way she grouped recipes.  Since Cath raises a large amount of vegetables and buys fruit in bulk, she often needs several recipes which use one main ingredient.  So, she sorted her recipes by the fruit or veggie and now she can quickly find several ways to use up large quantities of seasonal foods.
Some recipes remained loose (she ran out of time) and these went into a school supply pencil case.
Several years ago Cath had typed up a 20+ page recipe book for her sons when they went away to school.  She put a copy of this into sheet protectors and placed it along with everything else in her 3-ring notebook.
Cath decluttered about half of her stash over the course of several early mornings, sitting in a cool room and enjoying those cable-only home improvement shows.  Since she gets up around 4:30 in the morning, and sometimes even earlier, she had no interruptions--especially from her night owl bestest friend!