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One last purge

With the holidays fast approaching and new toys sure to enter your home, I encourage my clients to walk through their home (or at least the kids’ playroom and bedrooms) and donate any toys that are no longer used.  Use contractor bags to gather donations.  They are sturdier than regular trash bags and you cannot see through them, so you’re more likely to get the items out the door. If the items are visible, you may get little hands pulling toys back out of the bags claiming that they are their most favorite toys that they can’t live without.   Don’t let the kids sabotage your plans to stay organized!!   I also like to have a few clear bins on hand for storing new holiday toys.  I usually have a few shoe size boxes and a few sweater size boxes from the Container Store on hand to coral all the pieces to a new game, toy or craft.

You can schedule a donation pick up in advance by going to GoodDonor.org or scheduleapickup.com.  If you schedule a donation pick up in advance of doing your walk through, gestimate how large or small your donation will be.  Scheduling a donation pick up in advance will make it more likely that you actually go through your home and collect items to be donated.  You can’t really blow it off once it’s scheduled, it gives you a deadline for your last purge of 2014.  It’s kinda like working out, you may not initially feel that enthusiastic about doing it, but you’ll feel great after it’s done. 🙂

Timeline project

My daughter, who is in 2nd grade, just completed a timeline project.  The project required writing out a plan, finding the right tools (pictures) and putting it all together.  It got me thinking about planning for the holidays.  Thanksgiving is coming up in just a few days and Christmas is about 30 days away. (Eeeak!  Gotta get to my Christmas shopping which I’ll talk about in the next post.)

Whether you are cooking the main course or bringing sides or dessert, making a plan will help make it less stressful.  Each day you should plan what you are purchasing and from where.  At this point hopefully your orders are already in from stores that require pre-ordering.   More specifically, you should plan what you are cooking/baking and for how long on a timeline.  You can’t double book your oven!  Unless you have two ovens, in which case I’m envious!  You should also plan what serving dishes and utensils will be used for each food item. I  like to put a small Post-It note inside the serving platter/bowl with what I am planning to serve in it.  It ensures I have enough serving pieces and the right serving pieces.  An added bonus is that when it all comes down to putting the food out, it’s easier for others to lend a hand.   Also, make sure you have enough food storage containers to store leftovers.  I prefer rectangular shaped ones, as they stack easier in the refrigerator/your kitchen cabinets.

Hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to my favorite meal of the year.  More importantly, I am so very grateful for my husband and our beautiful children, our families and our health.

 

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What’s my password??

There are so many different user names and passwords to create.  You probably have at least one email account, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, among other social media networks, Amazon, and countless other online shopping sites, eBay, PayPal, probably some banking, Wi-Fi, professional and home computer network access and likely many more. How do you create a unique, strong password for each of these accounts that you can easily remember?

For security reasons a “strong” password contains different character types such as uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and punctuation. Here’s the problem. There is simply no way you can remember all your unique, strong passwords…or is there?

What happens is that people tend to use the same one or two passwords for all their accounts. They use children’s or pet’s names or birthdates which are hackable. Even with using these predictable passwords, sometimes you’re not sure which one password you chose, right? So you go through the few different passwords you typically use  hoping to get in and that you don’t get locked out of the account. Easy to remember?  Sort of.  But are your accounts secure? No.

What I recommend to clients is to create a mini-password that includes uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and punctuation. For example, “Jb12*”.  Let’s say we are creating (or changing) an Amazon account password.  Determine an uppercase/ lowercase pattern the name of the account, Amazon, for example “aMAZON”, “amazoN”, or “aMazon”. Let’s call this the sub-password.  Then add the mini-password to the sub-password.  So, for example, if you’ve choosen “aMAZON” as the sub-password + mini-password “Jb12*” = “aMAZONJb12*”, a unique, strong password. How is that easy to remember? This is what your Facebook password would be: “fACEBOOKJb12*”.  This is what your Container Store password would be: “cONTAINERJb12*”.  Your mini-password stays the same added to the beginning or end of the sub-password for the account.

You could also use a good old fashioned address book to store your various user names and passwords, but you’ll need to keep it up to date and you’ll need to dedicate a place to keep it where it’s safe and where you’ll always be able to find it. There are also password manager apps but you’ll also need to create a user name and password for that account too!password_1

Organizing girls’ hair accessories!!

My husband is one of 3 boys.   We have 2 daughters ages 7 and 5 and more pink and purple girly things than he could have ever imagined.  We have a fair amount of head bands, barettes, clips and hair ties.  How to keep it all organized?  I’ll share how we organize ours, and a couple of other ideas.

I bought a decorative basket at HomeGoods that measures around 15″ x 12″.  The headbands “sit” along two sides of the basket in rainbow order, which makes it easier to find one to (hopefully!) coordinate with their outfit.  I actually repurposed packaging from two Melissa and Doug crafts (Decorate your own heart box or something similar) and placed them inside the basket to keep large hair ties, small hair ties, metal hair clips, small jaw clips, and other hair clips organized.  You could also purchase a divided tray like this one at The Container Store.   Ribbon and other “stretchy” headbands hang on a couple of 3M Command hooks.   This hair station is in the bathroom on the first floor, where they often do their hair right before breakfast.  You could also place the divided tray into a bathroom drawer and hang headbands on a few 3M Command hook inside the cabinet door or on the wall.   Our hair brush and detangling spray sit inside the basket.  You could use a divided tray like this one that has many sections and separate small hair accessories by color.

I found this hair accessory organizer on Etsy– hair clips get attached to the ribbons which I like because you can see each one, headbands get hung on the rod at the bottom.  You can hang this kind of organizer with a clear Command hook and use a small tray acrylic or other decorative tray to hold brush, hair detangler and small container of hair ties.  Sometimes brushing their long beautiful and tangly hair is so painful (to me and to them!) finding a hair tie or barrette shouldn’t be!

hair station

 

 

3M Command hooks! Love ’em!

One of my favorite organizing products are 3M Command hooks.  If you are not already familiar with them, seriously, this is going to be life changing.  If you know about them, hopefully I will share a new use with you.  3M is the same company that makes removeable Post-it notes and their revolutionary product allows you to hang hooks without drilling or hammering and they come off cleanly without damaging the wall or surface whether it’s paint, wood or wallpaper.  I swear I am not being paid to endorse their product, I just love ’em!  Each package comes with the special adhesive strips and additional strips can be purchased.  Hooks can be moved and repositioned as needed.  Small hooks hold up to 1 pound, medium hooks up to 2 pounds and large hooks up to 3 pounds.  They come in clear, white plastic, colored plastic, brushed nickel and silver.   Here are some uses in our home.

Kitchen

  • Inside kitchen cabinet doors to hang pot holders and aprons.
  • Under kitchen sink cabinet for dishwashing gloves, water bottle brush and mini dustpan and broom.
  • Inside cabinet doors for stand mixer accessories.

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Bathrooms

  • Medium command hooks are used for each child’s face cloth.
  • Mini command hooks for the kids’ flossers.  God forbid they use one another’s flosser and get cooties!
  • Mini command hooks mounted horizontally for their toothbrushes.
  • Various hooks inside the medicine cabinet (are they called that anymore??) door to hang my eyelash curler, tweezers, cuticle scissors, black hair ties, “fancy” hair ties…. I could go on and on.
  • Inside the bathroom closet door to hang my hairdryer and another to hang my curling iron (I just drape the cord around the hook once or twice).
  • Inside bathroom vanity door for girls’ hair ties and headbands although headbands seem to reproduce in our home so we’ve moved on to another system (more on that in next post). command hooks3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids’ bedrooms

  • 3M hooks in my son’s room to hang various medals and participation ribbons (don’t get my husband started talking about that 🙂
  • Medium hooks to hang baseball hats.
  • Numerous 3M hooks, various sizes in my daughters’ bedroom and my bedroom on the side of our dressers to hang necklaces and bracelets.
  • Small hooks inside my closet for thin belts.

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Closet

  • Two large command hooks are on the inside of the hall closet.  One is designated for my purse and the other is for things I need to return/exchange.
  • A few other hooks are for broom, Swiffer and dustpan.

Hallway (we don’t have a mudroom)

  • 3 large hooks have withstood the test of time and not-so-gentle kid use.  They’ve been up for over a year and are for kids’ packpacks

Office

  • Inside closet door or side of desk to store frequently used charger cables
  • Mini command hooks to keep cords/cables along the wall instead of jumbled on the floor

I am probably missing a few here and there, but I highly recommend that you stock up on a few packs in different sizes.  It wasn’t that long ago that my husband was out playing paddle, kids were in bed and I was organizing the bathroom.  I put them on the inside of the medicine cabinet and I went to bed a happy girl.  He’s playing paddle again tonight, I’ll have to see if I can find some more uses for them!!

 

Kitchen command center

Most families do other things besides preparing food and eating in their kitchens.  You probably pay bills, answer emails, and schedule kid activities among other household tasks.   So, the topic of this post will be how to create a kitchen command center.  We don’t have a home office on the main level of the house nor do we have a office nook in the kitchen.  Papers tended to collect in the corner of the kitchen near the refrigerator, so I sorted through the cabinet above that area and relocated the contents of the bottom shelf.  I moved wine and booze to the top shelf of that cabinet and the other less frequently used items (martini glasses, shakers, cocktail recipe books and cookbooks) to another cabinet.  Now I had space for my papers and supplies.

I bought a file box like this one from The Container Store and some pretty hanging file folders and interior file folders.  The file box sits on top of the counter next to my iPad, keyboard and telephone.  file box 2There are many desktop file boxes available in different colors, some don’t have tops at all.  I like this one because its lid stays attached, yet the contents are concealed. I have files for: to do, to file, recipes, to read, catalogs to unsubscribe, (more on that in the next post), and a file for extracurricular activities like sports rosters and information.

I hung 3M Post-It Pockets and magnetic strips on the inside of the cabinet doors.  Receipts go in one of the small pockets for exchanges/returns, tickets and stamps go in another small pocket, and school directories/change in dismissal forms go in a large pocket.  Invitations (after I have RSVP’ed ‘yes’) get hung on the magnetic strip along with anything else I might need to reference, like our town’s recycle center hours.  I try not to have too much stuff on the front of our refrigerator, so sometimes pictures or small artwork will get hung up on the magnetic strip too.   The strips come in square and rectangle shapes too, but these were too large for the inside of my cabinet door.  Two strips hung vertically provide enough space for me.

magnetic strips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have two clear magazine files in the cabinet that store active notebooks (I use one notebook for my organizing business and one for volunteer work).  The second magazine file stores my label maker and extra cartridges.  Kids’ workbooks and handwriting paper are also in the cabinet.  A book end keeps them from falling down.

Last but not least, a desk drawer organizer keeps pens and other supplies organized.  My kitchen command center has been in place for about two years now and it’s been great.  Would do it again in a heartbeat!

Just do it!

There are really two parts to organizing any space. The first is to declutter and organize the space and contents and the second is to keep it organized.  When figuring out how to organize any space, solutions need to fit.  It needs to feel right for you.  You know whether or not you are likely to keep up a particular solution.  One solution might be a better fit over another.  For example, if you often misplace your car keys, do you think you can keep up with a solution of putting them in the same spot every time you come into your home? Or does putting them in the side pocket of your car door seem like a better solution?  You know what will work best for you.

The second part is maintenance.  Keeping up with the solution.   Making it a habit.  Once you designate a spot for your keys or    (fill in the blank)    you have to put your things away!   I say that a lot in our house!  It’s much easier to put things away when you know where they belong so just do it.  Make it a habit to put things away and encourage family members to do the same. When you are going upstairs, don’t walk empty handed, take some things with you that you know belong upstairs.  It takes discipline to maintain an organized space.

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