A Great Morning Starts the Night Before, 2.0 Edition (Not Just For Kids!)

Back in 2011, I wrote “A GREAT MORNING STARTS THE NIGHT BEFORE!” for a Back-to-School newsletter.   The original article, found here, is still pertinent and useful for kids and families!

I’ve learned a lot since I published that article!  And I still find myself re-considering how to tweak my routines.  Our days are complicated lately!  While I work on un-complicating them,  I still have to get to bed at a reasonable hour, get up and out of bed in the morning, and complete a handful of tasks before I leave the house every day!

I am older and wiser (as are my kids!), so today, let’s take another look at “A Great Morning Starts the Night Before”!

  • Look Ahead. 
    • In my original article, this was a solitary step for me as Mom to take. These days, the teenagers and I all need to check in with each other and with the upcoming calendar.
    • Part of parenting is to foster planning and self-management skills in our young adults (and working on that for ourselves, too!). Some days, there are scheduling challenges or car usage juggling!
    • I look at the calendar for the next few hours, days and weeks, and ask the important questions of myself and my sons to move us forward.  I may jot down those questions on a dry erase board, in case our schedules don’t synchronize.  (For example, “Where is the grade report from last Friday”, “Does your tux jacket need dry cleaned after last week’s concert?”, etc.)  They can start working on answering these questions in my absence!
  • Meal Planning:  I’m the only person who packs a lunch anymore, so lunch making isn’t as important as it used to be.
    • However, ensuring we have portable breakfast foods on hand has become more important, as has dinner meal planning to make sure I have a meal planned that works with the next day’s schedule.
    • Instead of assigning a specific meal to every day, I may list 5-7 quick and favorite meals on a note near the fridge, and make sure we have the ingredients on hand for each.
    • Then I can choose a really quick meal on days we’re strapped for time, or a more involved meal if I have a little extra time.
  • “Lay out clothes for tomorrow, for you and your children” was the statement in the original article.  However, as we and our kids grow and evolve, we know this gets a little tougher!
    • Laundry maintenance.  The success of this step relies on maintaining the laundry process (and yes, I have started a load of laundry as I’ve been writing this).  By “maintaining the process”, I mean – keep the laundry moving along and don’t let your wardrobe options pile up! For example, start a load every evening, and toss it in the dryer every morning while you get ready for your day.
    • Another key to success in this area is to have a standard ensemble to wear for your typical day.  I am NOT the person to give fashion advice, but I am the person to offer suggestions that will save you time and aggravation.  Spend an hour some evening, and put together a handful of outfits you can easily when you’re strapped for time.
  • “Pack Your Bag the Night Before”.  This piece of advice never grows old.  I had an early morning breakfast meeting today, so last night, I made sure my notes were in my bag.  We still stumble, as the completed forms I laid on the middle-schooler’s backpack for him to take back to school today are still laying on his dresser…  but tomorrow is another opportunity to turn stuff in!
  • Go to bed.  Good sleep hygiene is vital to success, for all of us.  A reasonable and consistent bedtime and calming night-time routines, including planning and prep for the next day, help ensure good sleep and a better morning tomorrow!
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Change The Habit or Change The House?

Working with a client this morning, I was reminded  of an article I recently read on ApartmentTherapy.com.

In the comments for an article about creating an entry way in a small space, a reader asked if the solution to the problem was to “Change the habit or the house?”.

This is a powerful and useful question as we get organized!  And… what does that mean?

Let’s say I notice that, when I walk in the door every day, I consistently put my keys on the same side table and toss my coat over the same chair or the back of the sofa.

Leaving my keys and coat exactly there makes the space look cluttered or disorganized, so I could elect to try and change my HABIT and come in a different door, or walk down the hallway and hang things up in a closet, etc.   However, since I am consistent about where these items fall, I can find them in an instant and be out the door efficiently.

So the HABIT is a good one, but the entry way of the HOUSE doesn’t support the HABIT well.   I could change the house to support the habit by adding a decorative bowl in the entry way for keys and phone, setting a chair in the entry way for our coat and bag, or perhaps adding a coat tree or some wall hooks.

Another example.  This morning’s client has 2 school aged daughters, and they both consistently drop their school backpacks and sport bags in the same places in the living room / dining room.  This can drive a parent crazy, let me tell you!

Yes, the piles in these living spaces are unsightly.  However, these students have good and consistent habits that helps them keep track of their school work and team uniforms.  So, the question we asked this morning was “Is it easier to change the habit or the house?”

My client didn’t actually mind the location of the piles, merely the appearance of them.  So, de- cluttering the pile contents and adding attractive large wicker baskets to hold the bags and gear in the habitual drop zones seems a better solution than trying to establish new habits and drop zones elsewhere.

Years ago, I organized with a real estate agent who had a lovely home office, but she didn’t really like to work in there.  She preferred to work in her kitchen – it was warm and cozy, had great light plus coffee!  So, instead of trying to change her preferred habit of working happily in the kitchen, we instead set up a work space in the kitchen and reserved the home office for meetings with clients, and file and supply storage.  We helped her home better fit her good work habit.

Again, the question: Do I need to change my house or change my habit?

Is there is a space in your home or office that regularly causes you frustration?  A place that has just never seemed to “work” right for you?

If your habit is a problem – you drop stuff where it becomes unsafe, you neglect client files, you are inconsistent with your stuff and the habits around it – then consider changing your habits.

If, however, your habits are sound but the space doesn’t support the habit, consider what you can do to Support the Good Habit and Change the house around it!

Thanks for reading!

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4 Tips to Organize Your Bill Paying for Financial Wellness Month

January is National Financial Wellness Month. 

A great place to start your path to Financial Wellness is with organized and consistent Bill Paying!  Try these 4 tips to Streamline Your Process!

Set An Appointment.  

Client Study:  A client I first met many years ago admitted that deadlines and due dates would often slip past her and her husband, costing lots of money in late fees, not to mention frustration! She did not have a set time to regularly sit down and pay her bills, so as life got busy, they would both forget to pay bills.

Tip: Set aside time every week or every other week to pay your bills.  For example, if you get paid every other Friday, make an appointment with your computer / check book for every other Thursday evening to pay your bills and manage your money.  If it’s on the calendar, it’s more likely to happen!

 

Do the Job Until It’s Done.   

Client Study:  I worked with a couple, and I could tell that the husband was very nervous about having an organizer in the house! He was very happy when I told him I wanted him to spend LESS time on his papers every week!

Here is the rest of that statement: “Carve out an hour every week (they chose Saturday morning) to open all the mail, pay all the bills, respond to any other correspondence and shred / recycle whatever needed to go.”  They agreed an hour should be enough. They could worry less throughout the week, but they had to tackle all their money management tasks, start to finish, when they DID work on their bills.

Tip: Spend less time on your bill paying, but complete the job from start to finish when you sit down.

 

Dedicate Space for Paying Bills.

Client Study: I worked with a lovely couple just last week.  They took turns explaining how they used their shared work space.  One person had a place to always tuck the bills to be paid. The other person had no idea that was the system in place!

Just that one piece of information, a dedicated place to put the Bills-To-Pay, made a huge difference in how each uses the space!

If you pay bills on line, consider creating an email subfolder or maybe even an email account just for bill-paying and financial information, and make sure everyone who needs to know about it has access!

In addition, set yourself up to succeed with your necessary supplies in that space (pens, notepad, post its, computer if you pay on-line, envelopes and stamps, etc.).

Tip: Dedicate Space for bill-paying, and let all involved parties know the plan!

 

Make  Filing Easier, Too!

Client Study: Me.  For both our personal and my business bill paying, we have done away with individual vendor files and just have monthly folders for all income and banking info.  Any paid bills, receipts, bank statements, etc., get added to those monthly files.  Finding info is so easy, as is filing!

Tip: Create Monthly Folders for all things Income / Banking related and make filing easy!

Pick a Tip, and Give it a Try!
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9 Things Every Closet Needs! Tips for National Clean Out Your Closet Month

Did you know?  January is National Clean Out Your Closet Month!

Today, I want to suggest how to celebrate Clean Out Your Closet Month with some ad-ins that will keep your closet organized every day of the year! Check them out!

EVERY CLOSET NEEDS…

  1. A basket / bag for dirty laundry. This keeps random bits from piling up, and makes that dirty  laundry more like to get washed!
  2. A basket / bag for regular trips to the dry-cleaners or tailor (optional).  Ours dry-cleaner bag lives in our laundry room, and we have a weekly errand for taking in and picking up.
  3. A basket/ bag and a path for items to leave.  Our home has a system for getting rid of no-longer-needed items.  These items go into the dirty laundry basket with everything else and get laundered, then tucked in the “Donate” or “Off-To-Our-Cousin” baskets that live in our laundry room.
  4. A wastebasket.  Rubbish needs a path and a receptacle to leave a space.  Show me a closet littered with plastic dry cleaning bags, clothing tags, dirty tissues and general trash, and I’ll show you it lacks a wastebasket.
  5. Good hangers. I’m not suggesting you spend a fortune on your hangers, but invest in plastic or felted hangers to take good care of your clothes and give your closet a tidier appearance.
  6. A few extra hangers, but only a few.  One of the first and easiest steps to making more room in a closet is to clear out all the empty hangers.  Trust me, some have dozens taking up precious rod space!  Once all your clothes are hung and the closet is organized, keep all but 3 or 4 of your empty hangers in your laundry room instead of in your closet.
  7. An Ish-Hook or 2.  I have 3 hooks in my closet for clean-ISH clothes.  Clean-ISH, that you plan to wear again soon.  You know – the pajamas you only wore once? or the track pants and sweat shirt you put on when you get home from work?  Perhaps the jeans you wore for a little while but plan to wear again tomorrow.  It’s not worth it to wash them all, or to hang them all up again, so we need a way to keep them close at hand but not strewn about your space!
  8. A clear floor.  Imagine with me:  You’re standing in your closet, trying to get dressed in the morning. Or perhaps you have clean laundry to put away.  Now imagine trying to do these regular tasks while stepping on clothes or shoes, or dodging shopping bags or neglected empty suitcases.  Having those physical obstacles in the way will likely keep you from completing the simple maintenance tasks needed to make your closet work well for you.
  9. A plan! Every month or so, I get the itch to review my closet and drawers, straightening and purging as I go.  I encourage my sons to do the same, at least a couple of times a year.  This quick but regular maintenance keeps my clothes and closet organized and relatively clutter free all year long!

Spend some time taking care of your closet this week, and it will take care of you every day!

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300 Words About Gift Wrapping, Then We All Have Things to Do

300 words about Gift Wrapping.  Keeping it brief, since we all have things to do.

During high school and college breaks, I worked at a a great local Hallmark chain, Don’s Card Hut in Kalamazoo, MI.  Much to my delight,  I could spend my whole shift this time of year just wrapping gifts for customers!

So I know a few things, let me share…

  1.  DO NOT WAIT UNTIL CHRISTMAS EVE!
  2. Set up a folding / banquet table today, and plan to leave it up for a few days (this may be the only time I will ever say this.).  Mine is in the basement.
  3. Collect your wrapping tools (tape, scissors, pens, etc.) and place them in a shallow container on the table.  Expect to misplace them as you wrap, but at least you will start strong!
  4. Gather the gifts you have bought for your loved ones.  This step provides an opportunity to check your gifts so far, and make plans for finishing your shopping (SOON!!).
  5. Match up the gifts with the necessary wrap. Inventory your supplies, factoring in additional wrap for the gifts you haven’t bought yet and for the wrapping needs of anyone living in your house (they WILL be wrapping on Christmas Eve.)
  6. Go shopping for your gift bags / wrapping paper / tissue paper / gift tags / ribbons, etc.
  7. Get wrapping!  Do not wait!
  8. If you have multiple destinations, set up and label boxes near your wrapping area for each destination, and add your wrapped items as you go (For example, “Christmas with my family in Michigan”, “Christmas Eve”, etc. ).
  9. Collect the receipts for purchased items. Keep yours in a labeled envelope for Just In Case.  Place the gift receipts for each household in their own envelope with the family name on them, and plan to hand the envelope off to that household when you exchange gifts.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Even Santa Knows, Lists Can Be Naughty or Nice

The List.

I love lists.  Lists can be powerful productivity tools.  Or they can just be words on a page.  I want my lists to work for me.  So I turn my lists into Action Plans with a few simple steps.

Let’s turn that jumbled bunch of ideas into a list and then a useful, manageable Action Plan!

I worked with a client last week.  We were scheduled to work on a couple of projects, but when I arrived, she mentioned that what would really help her to feel organized was to plan for an upcoming brunch she was hosting for family.  She said she always got anxious about hosting big meals, and she really just wanted to enjoy her family this time!  Her goal was to be done and  leisurely sipping a cup of coffee 30 minute before the guests arrived.

Here is what we did:

Write it all down.   ALL OF IT.

Is your brain full?  Of thoughts and ideas and to-do’s, Oh My!

Every once in a while, I sit down and get all the thoughts and ideas and tasks out my head and down on paper.  I used to call this activity a Brain Dump, but that seemed inelegant, so my friend Jen came up with “Cranial Cleansing”.   This is a very useful activity!

Write it all down, don’t bother to edit.  Just get it all out.  And “write it all down” could also be “makes notes on your computer or smart phone or Ipad”.  I use either my Bullet Journal (by hand) or Evernote (technology) for such things!

With my client, we started with the notes she had already jotted down.  We added a lot more items, without editing, just adding them to the list!

The list included:

  • clean the house;
  • iron the napkins;
  • hang the wreath;
  • take the Christmas decoration storage bins downstairs;
  • organize the holiday storage closet;
  • make the breakfast casseroles using her mom’s special recipe;
  • set the table;
  • wash the china and wine glasses;
  • decorate the Christmas tree;
  • make the grocery list;
  • go to the grocery;
  • pick up champagne and other beverages;
  • get the table linen cleaned and pressed;
  • take back returns;
  • put appetizer trays together;
  • print up the Christmas photo and keepsake poem;
  • buy the paper to print up the photo and poem;
  • make or purchase desserts;
  • put together the salad;
  • clean the garage.

Make a Not Today or Not Now List.

A few items on my client’s list, like “Clean the Garage” and “Organize the Holiday Closet”, are good and worthwhile projects but were not necessary to the success of the Holiday Brunch.  So we put them on the “Not Right Now” list, and focused on the work in front of us!

Enlist Aid.  What can be delegated?

Fortunately, this client hires cleaning people a couple times a month, and they were scheduled for the next day.  Also, she and her husband would be home together on Saturday, and he had offered to take care of some of the errands.

Realistic Time Estimates.

This looks like a very long and overwhelming list, I know.  But when you start to break it down, most of these tasks are actually pretty short and to the point.  So we assigned time estimates to them all, so we could be more objective.

Assign a Day, sticking with your strengths.

As we worked on the list, my client mentioned she had a full day of work the next day, so we didn’t put too many tasks on that day (Friday).  Also, she likes to go to the grocery around 8 pm, as it tends to be empty that time of night.  So we worked with those details!

So, after the above steps were applied, our Action Plan looked something like this:

THURSDAY:

  • (Thursday, 10 minutes) hang the wreath
  • (Thursday, 10 minutes) take the Christmas decoration storage bins downstairs
  • (Thursday, 20 minutes) make the grocery list
  • THURSDAY ERRANDS:
    • (Thursday, 10 minutes) drop off table cloth to be pressed
    • (Thursday, 30 minutes) buy the paper to print up the photo and poem

FRIDAY:

  • (Friday, Cleaning team) clean the house
  • (Friday or Saturday, 30 minutes) print up the Christmas photo and keepsake poem
  • FRIDAY ERRAND
    • (Friday evening, 90 minutes with putting away) go to the grocery;

SATURDAY:

  • (Saturday, 45 minutes) make the breakfast casseroles using her mom’s special recipe
  • (Saturday or Sunday, 20 minutes) put appetizer trays together
  • (Any day, picked Saturday, 10 minutes) iron napkins
  • SATURDAY ERRANDS (husband will run):
    • (Saturday, 10 minutes) pick up table cloth; cleaned and pressed
    • (Saturday, 30 minutes) bakery to purchase desserts
    • (Saturday, 30 minutes) pick up champagne and other beverages

SUNDAY:

  • (Sunday morning,  20 minutes) wash the china and wine glasses
  • (Sunday morning, 15 minutes) set the table
  • (Sunday morning, 20 minutes) put together the salad

Not Now List: 

  • take back returns;
  • clean the garage
  • organize the holiday storage closet;

We spent a little time and effort at the beginning, turning jumbled thoughts into a solid, easy to follow and completely manageable action plan!  What was really great was that once we completed this process, which was quick and easy and painless, we had time to tackle some of the items on her list!

How can you apply these steps to a current project?  Give it a try!

(P.S., I texted the client this afternoon to see how the brunch went, I’ll let you know her response next week!)

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Creating a Landing and Launch Pad Where There Isn’t One

Many of our homes were built around the idea of “everyone uses the front door”.  Larger entrance, coat closet, etc.  However, many of us do not come and go from that front door.   Last week, a friend asked if I could help with her new homes’ back door / drop zone / launch pad.  In her words,

  • there is no place for coats and bags;
  • the space is small and hard to manage;
  • adding in winter accessories like glove and hats makes the problem worse;
  • taking coats to the bedrooms makes no sense;
  • everything gets dumped at the door, and is now spreading into the kitchen; and finally,
  • “I’m gonna lose my crackers!”

Picture this:

  • The back door is where all five family members exit and enter.  
  • For scale, when the back door is open, it spans the entire width of the space.
  • The back door leads directly into the dining area in the kitchen.
  • The back door landing is a step down from the kitchen, and is the landing for the stairs going down into the nicely finished basement.

The family is quite organized, and they have done a lot to maximize the space they have while settling into this new (new to them) home.  There is a small set of hooks next to the door for keys, umbrellas and the dog leash.  There is a counter a few feet from the door where family members can drop their bags as they come home.   But they lack coat / accessory / bag storage.

We all may have an organizing challenge like this….

Often-used space that occasionally drives us crazy!

Spaces that every family member uses!

Spaces that can make or break our daily routines and flow!

Spending a little time and energy organizing these spaces saves us hours of headache (and yelling) in the future!

Here’s How:

State your purpose for the space. For my client, the purpose of the back door space may be “An attractive space that helps with timely and stress-free arrivals and departures”.   Once you state your purpose, Pare Down what is in the space to only the items that feed your purpose. My friend’s back door / landing pad space should be

  • geared towards a quick and easy transition, typically exit;
  • aesthetically pleasing;
  • as clutter-free as possible.
  • If you look at something, and you feel yourself frowning as you wonder “Who’s is this? Why is it here?  What were they thinking?”, those are all good indicators that something doesn’t belong in the space you are working on!

Once you know the Purpose of the Space, Look up and down and all around for storage solutions!

Keep it Safe!

Since this space is a heavily traveled walk way – in and out of the house and also up and down the stairs  – safety is very important.  Storage solutions will need to keep the walk way and stairs clear.  I will recommend coat hooks as solutions, but only on one side of the stairwell, to keep it as clear as possible.

Shelves, shelves and more shelves.

  • Any empty walls can be considered storage space.  To keep the walk way clear, I may recommend shelves high on the walls for baskets of accessories or off-season items.
  • Shelves, too, near the ceiling could hold decorative baskets with extra accessories, if needed.
  • Add shallow shelves above the command center in the kitchen, and add baskets for extra sunglasses, charging cords, and maybe one for each family member.

That Door Has Potential!   Consider the door itself in the organizing solution.  

  • Invest in an over-the -door coat rack; and / or
  • invest in an over-the-door shoe rack, for shoes but also for accessories; and/ or
  • if the door is metal, purchase heavy duty magnetic hooks for coats, like these…

Install some – okay, maybe a lot of – hooks:

  • Everyone gets a couple of hooks for their own bags and coats.
  • Consider key hooks, especially if any one shares a car.
  • Command Hooks are a personal favorite, too, for this type of challenge.
  • Double deck your hooks:  Consider installing two lines of hooks – the upper set (at eye level)  for accessories and keys, and the lower set, installed 6-8 inches below the upper set, for coats, umbrellas or longer hanging items.
  • Since my kids were little (and would take off with my car keys!), my handbag has been hung on a high, heavy-duty hook near the back door, with my keys securely clipped to it.

Expect and embrace maintenance.

  • I really wish I could say that once we organize a space, it will stay organized forever.  However… that is not typically the case.
  • Once a week, clear everything and put it away.   The shoes and coats will slowly migrate back to the landing / launch, but at least once in a while, the space is clear.
  • Keep an empty storage bench at the bottom of the stairs, for that day when you have a house full of people and you just want the space cleared!
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Save Time and $$: Stop Running Errands (Over and over and over…)

Perhaps you love running errands.  Maybe you love shopping.  I love neither.

I detest errands and shopping.  The expense, hassle and time spent.  But, of course, there are items  – food, clothing, supplies, etc. – that I need for my family, our home and my business.  Errands and shopping are a necessary evil.

I have been pondering how to spend less time, money and hassle on running errands and shopping.  I’ve talked to a lot of people also working on the same challenge, and we’ve learned a lot from each other!

Why Change Your Shopping and Errand Running Ways?  Here are a few examples of why:

  • I want to make more client time available in my schedule which means streamlining some recurring errands and tasks.
  • A friend travels for work, and is looking to streamline the household errands and shopping to spend more time together with family on weekends.
  • A client has chronic health problems that make shopping or running errands difficult, and lugging supplies into the house nearly impossible.

How to Change Your Ways:

  1. Answer the questions:  What tasks / errands do you regularly run?
    Grocery or groceries, cleaners, coffee, bakery, post office, bank, pharmacy?
  2. Pay Attention:  For a week, take note of Where Your time Goes.
    Are you running off to the same place multiple times in a week?  A couple of grocery runs, dropping off cleaning, a handful to trips to the ATM or bank?
  3. Which of those tasks / errands / places could you complete less often?  Just once weekly, or even monthly?
  4. If you HAVE to run errands, bundle what you can.  I bundle the Errands I absolutely have to run onto one morning per week. I don’t need to run them more than once a week.  These may include: the cleaners to drop off and pick up; gas up my van; drop off donations for myself or for clients; or in-person banking if necessary.

More Importantly, what Errands could you eliminate entirely?  This week, I asked my FB community: “What is one regular errand you have been able to outsource or delete?”

 

Groceries / Household Supplies:

  • Scan-n-Go app for Sam’s club has been a major game changer. My husband and kids even come with me now that I don’t have to wait in that line! (KB)
  • Mariano’s click list I order my groceries online call them from the parking lot and they load my groceries in the trunk. They even give me 2 free cookies. (ND)
  • Love Peapod! Use them almost exclusively because I do not like grocery shopping. (KK)
  • InstaCart app (favorite groceries will deliver!) (BK/CK)
  • Amazon Fresh for groceries when I don’t have time to go. (MK, KB)
  • Amazon Prime Pantry for cleaning supplies, toiletries and paper products delivered monthly (NR, DCD, MK, LB)
  • Amazon for lots of little purchases, saving time, gas, and most importantly, aggravation. (LB)
  • Melaleuca.com, my first foray into home delivered household supplies!  (Me!!)

Gifts / Cards:

  • Gift giving. Sending an electronic gift card to out-of-town family saves me 1.) having to go to the store to search for a gift, and 2.) having to wrap and make a trip to the USPS to mail said gift. (JB)
  • Send out cards for sending g thank you cards and such. You can even attach gifts. (MK)

Errands:

  • I reserve my library books online. That way, despite having to go pick it up my reads at the library, they are at least waiting for me at the circulation desk, and I don’t need to search for them in the stacks. I guess true outsourcing for this would be using an e-book for reading on a Kindle or Nook. 
  • Mail-order prescriptions in 3-month supplies. No more long lines at the pharmacy! (MJS)
  • I have Chewy.com deliver my 30 lb bag of dog food every 5 weeks and I get great reminder emails when they are ready to ship the next box. I can move the auto ship out another week if they still have food or ship immediately if they are almost out. No more trips to the pet store to break my back on dog food. (AB)
  • Mobile banking is a big timesaver.  (LB) 
  • Chase quick pay and deposit (BO)
  • Auto pay for bills. (MK)
  • Stitch Fix (Me!!!):  I just received my third monthly Stitch Fix. This is an on-line styling and shopping website that sends me an great outfit every month based on my own preferences.  I can choose to keep as many of the items they send or none at all.  For this self-proclaimed non-shopper, this is GOLD!!
  • Target.com (Me!!) I shop at Target every other week for household items like paper goods, toiletries and cleaning supplies.  Amazon Pantry doesn’t carry a few of the items we regularly buy, so recently, I set up my on-line account at Target.com, paid with my Target Red Card credit card for free shipping, and received my first shipment.  They were delivered to my door.  It was beautiful.

So, in the interest of saving time, money and hassle, what errands are you willing to outsource or delete entirely?!  Let’s Go!

Kitchen Upgrades Without a Remodel

We spent our summer with a Kitchen Remodel Project.  I say I spent my summer with it because

it was my constant companion.  Most days, amidst working and family and living our lives, I was also planning / orchestrating / cleaning or occasionally waiting for activities centered on the Kitchen, and by extension, my office.  No summer va-ca for this girl.

HOWEVER,
IT
LOOKS
AMAZING!
We are so glad we undertook this project this summer!  The happiness outweighs the now dimming memories of washing dishes in the bathroom sink (also where the coffee maker lived for 3 weeks), the refrigerator in the corner of my dining room for 12 weeks, the lack of a home offices for 3 months while I still ran a business from home, etc..  But I digress.
What I really want to share with you are the Parts of the New Kitchen that Have Improved our Days! (and how to achieve similar benefits without a kitchen remodel).  There are many more than 5 things that we LOVE about the new kitchen, but this is a good start!
  1. Under-cabinet lighting!  This is truly a game changer.  In the Old Kitchen, we had ceiling track lighting.  As soon as we stood at a counter to work on food prep or anything else, we would block our own task lighting.  The under-cabinet lighting makes the whole kitchen GLOW, while providing task lighting any where we need it!  This is a simple upgrade, you can purchase ropes of LED lighting that simply plug in at any home improvement store.
  2. Clear counters.  Our counters were always clear before, but now that they are also beautiful, I am truly loath to leave anything on them.  One of my favorite (and cheap) purchases to complete the project was this dish drain that fits over the smaller side sink and can be easily slid over or rolled away (Amazon.com, ILifetech Roll-Up Dish Drying Rack).
  3. Zones.  Inspired by hotel stays and our occasional house guests, I now have a breakfast station.  My coffee maker lives on this small counter, along with the fresh fruit basket and napkins. In addition, the cabinet above houses breakfast bars and Pop Tarts (my sons’ quick breakfasts of choice), our daily vitamins and supplements, the toaster, and coffee / tea / hot chocolate supplies, etc.
  4. Cabinets that reach to the ceiling. Our old cabinets ended about a foot from the ceiling.  The tops were dusty, and storing stuff up there looked cluttered, so we never used the space. If you don’t want to remodel, you can also re-imagine how you use your cabinets.  Use the bottom shelf or 2 for daily use items, the middle shelf for items you use once a week, and the top shelves for items you use less often but would still like to keep accessible.
  5. Our SUPER QUIET new dishwasher.  Our kitchen opens into our family room, so the quiet dishwasher has made relaxing in the evening much easier.  You can achieve the same quiet results by running your dishwasher when you’re not around, either while you’re sleeping or at work.

 

    There are more kitchen remodel tales to tell, most of them good, and all of them with a happy ending!  But spend some time in your kitchen this week, and think about how you can make small changes with big, positive impact!

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?