49.2 Degrees at 5 am. I Believe It’s Fall!

Fall is in the air.

It was 49.2 degrees this morning.  The forecast calls for a high of 70, but let me tell you, it was very dark and chilly at 5 am.

In response, all day I have been mulling over my “It’s really Fall now” list of things to do, to clear clutter and stay organized.  Perhaps you have that list, too?  Perhaps you are looking for some suggestions?  Here are a few!!

  1. Check your entry way, and swap out your accessories for the new season.
    Clean out the accessory basket by the door, review the contents, toss the old or broken items (empty bug spray bottle, beat up shopping bags), and put away all but a few of your absolute favorite warmer weather items (just in case you really do need that base ball cap again). Now re-stock the basket with hats and gloves, umbrellas and scarves.
  2. Check your entry way, and swap out your shoes for the new season, too.  So long flip flops, hello boots and wellies.  Toss the old or unmatched flip or flop, get rid of all but the last pair or two of sneakers (“Truly, dear, no one needs 4 pairs of old sneakers for ‘yard work.'” ).  Take in any shoes in need of repair, and put away the rest.  Then make space for the colder weather shoes and boots.   Do the same with sport items.  Play it Again Sports, anyone?
  3. Look around your home, and make note of projects and repairs to be completed.  Make some plans or make some calls.  Get on the schedule with service providers now before their schedules fill ip around the holidays.  Better to maintain – furnace checks and regular carpet cleaning – than to pay for last minute or emergency repairs or replacement.
  4. Pantry and Fridge shopping.  Check your cabinets and fridge.  Check your expiration dates and use up some of the foods you have on hand, to clear clutter and make room for holiday / seasonal items.
  5. De-furnish.  We have a 2 x 5 table sitting in the basement.  We moved it over the summer when our old kitchen cabinets and counter top were installed in the laundry room.  We should have put it in the crawl space at the time, but we didn’t.  It currently serves no purpose.  It goes AWAY today.  At a client’s yesterday, we collapsed 2 folding tables and a couple of chairs and put them away – they’ve been up for YEARS.  A client with a penchant for small side tables (they’re EVERYWHERE, and hold only clutter) took 3 or 4 to a local resale shop.
    In the interest of clearing physical and visual clutter, what small (or large) items could you do without? Put them away or let them GO!
  6. Drop off stuff.  Bags of donations, like clothes or books or shoes?  Recycling?  Items to be returned to a store?  Stuff that belongs to other people?  Take those piles / bags and boxes that are next to the door or already in the car, and get them Gone, gone, gone!!

 

6 tasks are enough for this week.  Next week’s list holds tasks like finishing switching the closet to Fall, window washing and putting away the deck furniture, but those can wait until then!!

What will you do this week to Embrace Fall, clear clutter and get organized?

How High Are Your Eyes? (a.k.a. Where to keep the canned tuna?)

Last week, I unloaded boxes of nonperishable food into my new cabinets and helped some friends settle into their new home.

I was reminded of a rule of thumb for cabinet storage, and I want to share it with you.  Before I  get ahead of myself,  though, I need to tell you that I’m short.

For anyone reading this who knows me, this is not news.  In my above- average-height family, I am definitely the runt.  I blame / attribute this to my 5’1″ grandmothers.  But I digress.

Being short means that I make strategic decisions about how to utilize my cabinet space, maximizing the shelves I CAN reach.  When my kids were younger, I thought I was keeping our most used items low in the cabinets for their sake, but now I’m shortest in the house again, so it’s all about me.  🙂

If you would like to maximize your cabinet space, too:

Consider the lowest shelf of the upper cabinet your highly coveted beach-front property. Dedicate this prime real estate to the items that you use all the time every day.  When we were putting things away last week, my son asked if we could make more room on the bottom shelf for snacks and things (the every day items for him) – brilliant!  To make room on the bottom shelf, I put the canned tuna (used much less often, and only by me) up a shelf or two.

Move up from there.  If you have three shelves, use the “every day (1st shelf) / every week (2nd) / every month (3rd)” guide to help you make decisions.  We now have 4 shelves – yes our cabinets now go all the way to the ceiling and I am giddy about this! – so we may use the use the “every day (1st shelf) / every week (2nd) / every month (3rd) / every year (4th)” to make our decisions about where to store our items.

As my very organized friend put away her dishes in her new kitchen last week, she knew to put the special occasion dishes on the highest shelf, and keep the everyday dishes at eye level.  It is so obvious in that context, and we can use that lesson in every cabinet.  Even if you are not short like me, grouping your cabinet items, whether food or dishes, around how often you use them may help you access and maintain your stuff more readily.

A final tip, when you store items on your upper shelves, contain small items in baskets or bins so they don’t get lost in the back of the cabinet.   For example, think water bottles and lids and straws, or seasonal baking items like small bottles of extract or sprinkles.

Look at your kitchen with new eyes, keeping your most used items at eye level and moving onward and upward from there!

Let’s Talk Expiration Dates.

Let’s talk expiration dates.

A friend and I chatted at a recent rainy soccer game.   She had stayed up until 2 am the night before organizing her pantry.  Most of her time was spent checking expiration dates and tossing expired food.

 

We discussed how frustrating it is when we review our cabinets and pantry, and have to purge expired food.  It feels wasteful and lazy.

 

HOWEVER, getting down on ourselves about how we got to this point is neither useful nor productive.  It’s better to learn from the experience (see the process below), and change our behaviors from here (stick with the article until the end).

 

A few months ago, I wrote about National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day (November, Click HERE).  So let’s declare this week Clean Out Your Food Cabinet Week, what do you say?

Here’s How:
  1. Grab a garbage can, a notebook and a couple of boxes or paper bags.  Take a deep breath and begin.
  2. Clear off a counter for work space, near your food cabinets.
  3.  Choose a cabinet. JUST ONE.  Starting at the top, take everything out and put it on the counter. Then wipe down the shelf.
  4. Now, check every item. Yes, EVERY ITEM.  Even the stuff you bought recently.  It could be the newest, but still out of date. I was surprised to find my recently purchased canned beets were already expired.
  5. If the item is past its’ expiration date, toss it.  I understand, that is the hard part.  Yes, I know, it’s wasteful.  And yes, I know, you spent good money on that.  HOWEVER, the potential for food poisoning is much more important than a $3 can of tuna.
  6. If the item is open, but not past the expiration date, still check it for freshness.  Foods like breakfast cereal or crackers get stale if open too long in the cabinet.
  7. If the item is not expired, but you don’t think you will use it, label one of those boxes or bags as “donate to food pantry”, or “send to preschool”, or “give to friend/family” and start a pile of items to leave your kitchen to go and grace someone else’s.
  8. Review everything, then place the keep items back in the cabinet.
  9. If you have time to tackle another cabinet – JUST ONE – go ahead.  But DO NOT take apart more than on at a time!  Otherwise….
  10. Take out the trash, and drop off the donations / items to share. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  Repeat.
Once you’ve cleaned out the cabinet and pantry, it’s time to consume differently.
  • Use a list.  Post it on the refrigerator, and add items as you run out of them.
  • If you have to shop, buy only what you need for this week.
  • Stock your food like a store.  Pull the oldest items to the front, and add new inventory to the back.
  • Take advantage of sale items and stock up, but make sure to add those surplus items to your menu plan so that you use them up.
  • Plan to do this a couple times a year!
To:

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When Reality Meets the To-Do List: It’s Time To Act!

Last week, I found myself on the phone actually agreeing to a Demolition Date for my kitchen.  

Demo Date.  That’s what it is called.

I arranged for a team of people to come in and disassemble our kitchen as we know it, so it can be reassembled with hardwood floors, new cabinets and appliances, paint and lighting.

I’m very excited about these improvements.  And terrified.  And just a wee bit overwhelmed (especially considering that now the demo date is now just hours away).

In conversation with a friend over the weekend, she mentioned that Saturday was the day “Reality meets the list”.  For a week, she had jotted down ideas, planned, imagined, strategized, categorized, prioritized, etc., but now it was time for action.

As I packed up the kitchen this afternoon, my Reality Met My List, too.  No more planning and lists and thinking.  Now it was time to open the cabinets and finish putting things in boxes and baskets for the next few weeks.

So, if you are working on projects, whether at home or at work, professionally or personally, there comes a moment when we need to implement our plan.  Commit.  Execute.  DO!

Don’t Act Too Early.  
I found myself saying “I leaped before I looked” to my son when I asked him to help me move something while my arms were full of stuff.  So, Act, but don’t Act Too Soon!

On the Other Hand…

Don’t Think Too Long.
Have you heard the term “The Paralysis of Analysis”?  We can overthink something for so long that opportunities pass or situations change before we ever get to act or travel or grow.  My Dad says “Do SOMETHING, even if it’s wrong!”.  I wouldn’t want to be wrong, but the point is to DO something.

See the paint shown to the right?  I want a dark color for the kitchen walls, but I’m a little nervous. So the best way to figure out if we will like it was to buy a sample and paint the wall.  I can wonder all I want, but to make a decision and make progress, we needed ACTION (and I like it!)!

Be Reasonable.
My to-list contains EVERYTHING I need to do, and sometimes I just use it as a dumping place for my ideas and tasks, which means the list for any given day can be ridiculously long and unrealistic.  Putting 28 hours worth of work or tasks on the list for a 24 hour period is dooming myself to failure.

Make the list, but also look at your day and week and month, and determine what you can reasonably get done.

Just Do It. Implementation is Key.
We can plan and discuss and research a topic until we are blue in the face, but without action, it remains just a topic.

And now… I need to go and pack!

To:

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Get Over Left Overs: 85 Banana Chocolate-chip Mini-muffins

I regularly see this billboard and it always makes me think. Imagine – $1,500 a year is a lot of money to just throw away. (www.adcouncil.org)

A related statistic from the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations website (www.fao.org), 1/3 of all the food produced in the world goes to waste.  One third.

I try to not waste food, yet every week when I clean out the fridge, I toss a few things, too. Overripe cucumbers, mystery meat, dried out or moldy bread – all foods I should have used instead of wasted!

So, let’s bust these statistics.  We can all benefit from a plan to use our food better!  We can:

  • Save money by using our inventory before it expires;
  • Clear kitchen clutter by only keeping on hand what we really need;
  • Eat better and healthier by planning our menus with a little more care; and
  • Be more responsible stewards of our resources!

When I got home from the grocery the other day, I cleaned 3 pounds of grapes (they were on sale) and left them in a bowl.  We made dinner, consisting of baked sweet potatoes, a veggie, and warmed-up pork roast from last week.  While the potatoes baked, I turned a double batch of banana bread batter into 85 banana chocolate-chip mini muffins (I’d take a picture, but 48 hours later, there are only 6 left).

  • We will never eat grapes off the stems, but everyone will grab a handful if they’re clean and ready to eat.
  • We are unlikely to warm up pork roast just because, but pairing it with fan favorites like baked potatoes makes a lovely Sunday dinner.
  • No one in the house (including me) will eat brown bananas, but we’ll eat mini-muffins like crazy.

The secret is (well, it’s not really a secret) to Plan, Plan, Plan.

Looking to use up what you have?
Look first to use your fresh food, then fridge, then freezer then canned.

Clean and prep your fruit as soon as you get home from the grocery store.  

Apples, clementines, lemon and limes – I wash all in the sink immediately, and then store it on the counter to grab and go.

If we buy melons or strawberries or grapes, we clean and prep those, too.  Making good food convenient  ensures we will use it up before it goes bad. And when the strawberries start to get mushy, they go into the freezer, to toss in smoothies another day.

Know yourself and your habits.

I wish I could say that I take lots of time to cook nutritious meals daily for my family.  But I don’t. If I buy fresh veggies, I try to clean that when we get home from the grocery, though this takes a little more time.

Fresh produce is one are of my grocery list where I use convenience food.  Pre-cut carrots and celery are much more likely to be used than produce still in a bag.  And yes, I buy bag salad.  A head of lettuce will go to waste, but we will use bagged salad and spinach.

If you’re going to dice one pepper, dice two.  If you’re going to shred a cup of cheese, shred two.  Prepping twice as much of something, and then using it later takes little additional time and saves scads of time later.

Meat. We freeze everything.  When we buy ground beef or sausage, we brown most of it and then refreeze it in one pound bags, to use, tacos, chili or sauces.  We also purchase Costco rotisserie chickens and eat some for dinner, then save the rest for casseroles and keep the  carcass to make chicken soup another day.

Look in your pantry and fridge with new eyes, and Get Over Your Leftovers.

Who says you can’t have dinner for breakfast, or breakfast for dinner?  Eat dinner for dinner, then expect and plan to use leftovers for breakfast and lunch.  Use what you have before it expires. Use it before you go out and purchase more. Re-purpose what you have.  Make your own breadcrumbs and croutons from bread and buns, dice your fruit for smoothies and baking.

Use what you have!  Save money, save time and clear clutter!

To:

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“If You Call It a Junk Drawer, Guess What Ends Up Inside?”

Last week, a friend reached out to me, sharing pictures of her morning’s organizing projects. (I love that!) The conversation went like this:after

Friend:  (Below a picture of school papers) “Making Decisions.”
Me:  “Ooh, those are tough, I know.”
Friend: “Yes, well, once you explained clutter as unmade decisions [Barbara Hemphill], I have been able to get rid of most of it.  This mess was from my China / @##$@ cabinet.”
Me: (laughing) “Decisions are tough, but making them strengthens our decision muscles – it does get easier!”
Friend: “It is laughbable.  I had 6 junk drawers.  Down to 2 now.”
Me: “Woo hoo!  And never call them junk drawers, as, well, that’s what will end up in them! Better to name it, whether its a “school supply drawer”, “household hardware” or “party and baking drawer”!
Friend: “Yes. Good Tip”.
Me:  “Hmm, maybe that should be my next blog topic!”
Friend: “Yes, it should.  I’m buying a label maker today.”

Inspired by this exchange, I asked my FB friends to share photos of their junk drawers for this article (In no particular order, and with no identifying tags!).  And for the friends who asked if junk corners or junk rooms counted, these same suggestions will apply to those spaces, too!!

Just start!  Drawers are great and rewarding little projects!  You can make a lot of progress in little pieces!

Grab a garbage bag and a note-pad to jot down ideas that come to you.  Then set a timer for 20 minutes or so, if you’d like, and get to it!  If the drawer is dirty, dump the contents out on the counter and wipe / wash out the drawer before you put anything back.

The Organizing Process is the same (per Julie Morgenstern), whether a small drawer or a big room:

  1. Sort Your Stuff.  Common categories of junk drawer contents:
  • pens / pencils / markers (working and not)junk-drawer-1
  • paper clips, safety pins, clips of all sizes
  • coupons, expired and not
  • recipes, good and not
  • take-out menus, old and current
  • toothpicks
  • paper clips
  • random photos
  • note paper and post-its, used and unused, and business cards
  • hardware, screws, tacks, small tools
  • snacks, gum, candy (edible and not, who knows which is which?!)
  • glue, tape, string, rubber bands
  • first aid items, band-aids, inhalers, nail files
  • small toys, broken jewelry, hair ties, etc.
  • candles and matches
  • plastic silverware and old napkinsHow am I doing?  Sound familiar?  Sort what is there, and then head to the next step – purging.

0072. Purging.  This is where that garbage bags come in handy.  We can all agree, much of what is in a junk drawer is probably, well, junk, and can therefore be tossed.  So part with the old papers, dried out pens, questionable food items and anything else that you don’t need or love.

 

3.  Assign a Home.   Decide what categories you have present, and what categories of stuff you want to keep and where.  Consider where you use certain items, or how often you need to access those certain items.  NAME YOUR DRAWER, for goodness sake.  And let everyone in your house know what the drawer’s name and purpose is!  I have said this before, a space009 needs a name and a purpose.  If you call your drawer a junk drawer, or your room a junk room, junk will end up there.  So, as you assign a home for your items, group them logically and by purpose.  Perhaps you end up with:

  • A meal-planning drawer, with: menus; gift certificates and coupons; and recipes.
  • An office or school supply drawer, with: tapa and glue; pens, pencils and markers; notepads and post-its; paperclips, etc.
  • A tool and household drawer with: tools, heavy-duty tape, flashlights.
  • An extra utensil drawer, with: the kitchen items you want to keep but don’t use regularly. Or
  • Some other category you choose.  Just name it, and stick with it.

4.  Containerize.   Look around your house, you probably have containers you can use to corral your items in your newly cleaned and NAMED drawers.  (Finally, a use for some of those mismatched storage containers?)  And I snapped a picture of the new containers on a client’s table, she loves the dollar store for inexpensive drawer inserts.  If you can’t track down old check boxes or small cardboard jewelry boxes around the house, trays similar to the photo below (of my desk drawer) can be found at home stores like Target, or office supply stores like Office Depot or Staples.
003 011

0065.  Finally, the 5th step is Equalize, which is Julie Morgenstern’s snazzy word for MAINTENANCE! Once your drawers are organized, keeping them that way takes a lot less time and hassle. You can maintain them every day by putting stuff away in the right drawer and space.  And once in a while, if you pull open a drawer and it has gotten a little messy, setting it back to rights takes just a few minutes, using the same Sort / Purge / Assign a Home / Containerize / Maintain process.

Tackle this small but awesome project this week!

To:

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Project #7: Menu Planning. I Blame the Gumbo Recipe.

 I like recipes. There is something enticing about those shiny pictures in a magazine, or the appetizing headlines in my daily All Recipes email that arrives just as I start to ponder “what’s for dinner” (Coincidence? I think not!).002

Obviously, Recipes and Meal Planning go hand in hand.

We always rely on Meal Planning, but especially at these busy transitional times of year. With the boys back to school, and my own attempts to eat better and healthier, last week I went looking for a crock pot gumbo recipe we have used before, and… I couldn’t find it.  Since I don’t often lose or misplace things, when I can’t find something, I get really irked! I decided then and there to get my burgeoning recipe collection back in order!

So, if you’re looking to get a handle on your Menu Planning and / or your Recipes, like me, here are a a few strategies that may help!

Tip #1:  Assemble Your Own Cookbook.
Over the years, I’ve made my own “cookbook”, collecting our favorites and new recipes to try into a 2″ binder.  This system works great, and the binder has become my go-to for menu planning.  The original binder was falling apart after much use, so over the weekend I purged a bunch of old / unloved / unlikely recipes and condensed the rest into a new and shiny 1 ” binder.  I slide recipes into page protectors (so I can wipe them clean if I splatter) and add them to the binder.  The binder has 4 simple categories, Baking / Beverages, Appetizers, Meals and Sides / Salads.  I don’t worry about alphabetizing since recipes can come and go.  Our favorites end up in the front of the category, which works just fine.

Tip #2:  Make Better Decisions.

Create criteria for choosing / purging recipes.  I often think with my eyes and stomach when I pull a recipe out of a magazine, so I have to review them again before I actually choose to keep them. You should ask your own questions, of course, but maybe mine will help get you started. Try these (or make up your own):011
  • Can I pronounce and readily identify all the ingredients? (if not, it can probably go.)
  • Do I actually own or regularly buy the ingredients?  (this, too, may indicate this is not the recipe for me.)
  • Do I have similar recipes already?  If so, what makes this one better?  (If it’s not better, toss it!)
  • Will anyone in my family EVER eat this with me?  (Rarely will I prepare a dish for only me, so a recipe had better appeal to others in my house!)
  • Does this recipe fit into my prescribed diet (if you’re supposed to eat  / avoid certain things)?
  • I just applied these criteria to a handful of recipes I had collected over the summer. I tossed most (see picture!) in the recycling bin, as victims of the “I have similar recipes to this” and “No one else will ever eat this” rules.

 

Tip #3: I stopped buying cookbooks (except for the one my friend wrote, of course!!).
I love cookbooks.  They’re so beautiful and full of promise.  BUT I usually go to favorites or magazines or the internet for recipe ideas.  So I don’t buy cookbooks anymore.  And I have even purged some over the years, when I realized I never opened certain ones.

Tip #4: If you regularly find new recipes, regularly try new recipes.
If you tend to collect new recipes, like I do, make time to try new recipes. Pull one out every week or so, and give it a whirl.  If you and the family like it, it stays.  If not… recycling bin!

Tip #5: Use the technology available.
I will not even begin to list all the cool websites and apps available for recipe and meal ideas.  I you’re reading this article, you can certainly google types of recipes or ingredients yourself.  Once you find blogs or websites with recipes you like, find the app, bookmark the website, or subscribe to the blogs to keep the good ideas coming.

 

Get a handle on your Recipes and Meal Planning this week, and your tummy and family will thank you!

 

P.S. I found the gumbo recipe and it’s on the menu for Saturday!

 

 

To:

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Organize Your Kitchen for the Holidays: Do This, Not That

Success is not always about getting everything just right.

Instead, success may be about doing the fewest things wrong.

My priest at Mass this weekend made this statement, referencing a recent high school football game where the winning team had fewer penalties than their opponents, and therefore more opportunities to score (In full disclosure, my husband had to explain to me – the football novice – why fewer penalties might lead to higher scoring).

This week’s blog topic was swirling in my head this weekend, too, and I realized that Organizing your Kitchen successfully (or anything else) can be about doing fewer things wrong, too.   And ‘doing fewer things wrong’ may feel more attainable than doing everything just right!

So if you are familiar with these Wrongs, we can make them right!

1.  Wrong: Starting an Organizing Project Without a Plan.

Right: The quickest way to derail a project is to start without a plan.  Assemble your kitchen organizing tools (garbage and recycling bags, your grocery list, some good music and a timer set for 30-60 minutes), and get started.  Pick a starting spot (like the fridge), systematically decide to keep or toss your items, put back the keepers, and then move on.  DO NOT just dive in or take everything out of every cabinet all at once!

2.  Wrong: Neither Knowing Nor Using What You Have.

Right:  Regularly check your cabinets and refrigerator, and use the food you have on hand before buying more. Always check before you shop!  Leave a shopping list on the fridge, and add items to the list as you run out.

3. Wrong: Procrastinating.

Right:  Well, procrastinating is almost always wrong, but it can cause unnecessary stress around the holidays, and we all know – the holidays are stressful enough!  Pull out the recipes now, start the Who’s-bringing-what conversations with family members now, and start stocking up on holiday specific foods now, just a few things every week.

4. Wrong: Re-Purchasing Something Because You Can’t Find The First One.

Right: Establish a home for certain types of items, so you can check your inventory.  Re-buying items wastes money and contributes to kitchen clutter.  Imagine – If all the canned goods always live on the same cabinet shelf, you can check your inventory at a glance. Establish homes, let everyone know where the home is, and make a habit of putting things AWAY.

5. Wrong: Buying Big Specialty Items That You Only Use Once a Year.

Right: Talk to your friends and family members now, or go on Facebook and find out who has chafing dishes / holiday cookie cutters / a really big turkey platter, and borrow it!  Do not clutter up your kitchen with these specialty items: borrow them, take really good care of them and then give them back!

6. Wrong: Having Stuff on Your Kitchen Counters.

Right: Kitchens are very personal spaces, but they also need to be functional spaces.  Keep your counters clear of stuff – all the time! With clear counters, everything – unpacking grocery bags, making dinner, baking cookies, cleaning up – becomes easier!

So, this week, the pressure is off.  You don’t have to do everything just right!  Doing fewer things wrong is progress enough!

6 Tasks to Create Organizing Momentum This Week!

October in the Midwest is my favorite time of year.  We enjoy crisp air, blue skies and amazing colors.  But if you’ve lived here long enough, you realize the beauty of Fall is God’s way of softening the blow of Winter.    Cold weather will soon be upon us, and that means, among other things, a lot more time spent indoors.

So use this week as a super-powered jump start to your organizing projects, and try one of these 6 Tasks to Create Organizing Momentum!

  1. Get your closet ready for colder weather, and finish (or start and finish!) your seasonal clothes swap.  Pull out your summer clothes to make room for your cold weather ones, and critically review the summer stuff, tossing or donating anything you don’t need, use or love.
  2. Winterize your landing / launch pad, too.  Swap out the baseball caps and sunscreen by the back door for hats and mittens. Again, review the summer stuff critically and toss / donate the stuff you don’t need, use or love.
  3. Pantry shopping:  This time of year feels like the time to stock up, but I challenge you to instead clean out the pantry, fridge and freezer for the next few weeks. Use up what you have before buying more. Use food before it expires, save money by not buying new food, clear cabinet clutter –  the ultimate de-clutter strategy for your kitchen!
  4. Prep your car(s) for winter. Pack a safety bag including but not limited to: a blanket, sweatshirt, extra phone car-charger, umbrella, gloves, non-perishable snacks and a bottle of water, tissues, wipes and hand lotion, and snow scraper.
  5. Call and make appointments with your service people this week.  Call the handyman, the furnace guy or the carpet cleaners, and get on the schedule now before their schedules fill up with the holidays.
  6. Drop off Your Donations, and Recycle your Recycling.  Have you decided to get rid of something in your home?  Go ahead and move it along this week.  Selling that air hockey table or those Halloween costumes? Have bags of clothes to donate to a charitable organization?  Or a pile of old computer components and cords?  Send it all on its way! Making decisions is the hardest part of getting organized, so if you’ve made decisions about things that need to go – either donated, sold, recycled or just trashed – then please, spend an hour, load up the car and drop those items off.  Get them out of your house and on to where they will be useful again.

So, what’s it going to be?  Let’s send clutter on its way, and create organizing momentum to get things done!

Low-to-High Tech Solutions for your Menu / Coupon / Shopping Clutter

A friend recently asked “What should I do with the menus, coupons and special offers cluttering up my kitchen?”  We can all relate.  We keep these menus and coupons because we want to use them, how do we actually find what we need when it comes time to order / buy dinner or go shopping?

Here are some ideas to face this challenge!

  1. The Low-tech Answer: Use a binder with clear pockets or page protectors to corral your menus and restaurant special offers.
    1. Why? Having just one location to stash such items helps cut clutter, and makes it easier to purge the old outdated menus and coupons.
    2. In addition, keeping these items in just one place makes it more likely you will find what you need when you need it.  Imagine, a random Thursday evening and you’re jonesing for pizza or Chinese food.  Having the menu and coupons to your favorite restaurants in the same location makes dinner that much easier!
    3. Keep your store coupons portable, too.  I’ve used coupon holders, but I’ve realized I rarely use food coupons, so now I carry the useful ones in my handbag in a small clear envelope with my retail coupons (like office max/ depot, bed bath and beyond, etc.)
  2. The Mid-tech Answer:  I am moving toward non-paper coupons and offers, cutting paper clutter big time!  Try these techy but not too techy suggestions:
    1. Bookmark websites for your favorite restaurants and retail destinations.
    2. Also, subscribe to their emails, to receive special offers in your inbox. Create a folder in your in-box just for special offers, so they don’t clutter your inbox and so you can find them again when you’re looking for them (on your smart phone, in line at the store!).  And purge the oldest and expired offers periodically.
    3. I also have the Key Ring App, to scan my loyalty cards into my phone, so I always have the codes with me.
  3. High tech answer:  Make your Smartphone even smarter.
    1. Download the apps for your favorite restaurants and retail destinations. Start with the stores you know and love; for example, I primarily shop at Jewel (MyMixx), Target (Cartwheel) and Costco, so I have apps for those on my phone.  I have a new Meijer and Mariano’s near me, so if I was looking for new places to shop, I could download their apps.
    2. Honorable mentions from my Facebook Friends include Meijer, Target Cartwheel, Ibotta, checkout 51, CVS, My Mixx (Jewel), Snap, Saving Star and Fooducate.
    3. Sign up for push notifications for coupons and special offers on your smart phone (so long as you don’t get charged for texts) from your favorite restaurants and retail destinations.  For example, I receive multiple texts a week with special discount offers from Macy’s and Lakeshore Learning.
    4. Sign up for shopping apps like Coupon Sherpa and RetailMeNot, to receive coupons via your smartphone based on where you are.  And finally,
  4. Know yourself, and how you choose to shop.  I choose to go to certain restaurants or shop at certain stores based on needs and wants, not on whether or not I have a coupon.  However, if I’m going to a certain place anyway, receiving special offers while I’m there sounds like a great idea!

Thanks to all of you for your suggestions, and to LR for asking the question.  As is often the case, writing this blog article inspired me, too! I’ve added apps to my phone, specifically Target Cartwheel, Panda Express, Panera, Starbucks and RetailMeNot as I’ve typed this up!  Give one of these solutions a try!