Weekly Quick Tips

The Case Against Spring Cleaning

In Grandma’s day, spring cleaning was mandatory. It marked the end of the heating season, when the entire house  was scrubbed clean of the smoky film given off by older heating sources. With today’s heating technology, this rationale no longer applies. So, how do we replace spring cleaning? With a workable cleaning schedule. Homes cleaned according to schedule stay reasonably clean all the time. A cleaning schedule integrates seasonal cleaning chores into our daily and weekly sessions, so that no task goes too long without being done. Take a tip from the professional cleaners ~ the key word here is schedule. Nobody hires a cleaning team to arrive “some Saturdays when nothing else is going on”. The pros don’t quit until the work is done, and neither should you. Schedule the job and stick to it to get the work done in record time. Besides the importance of scheduling, here are some great tips from the professionals to streamline the art of cleaning:

  • Invest in the proper tools ~ professional cleaners don’t use gadgets featured on late-night infomercials.
  • Simplify your supplies ~ there’s a reason the pros can tote all of their products easily from room to room: they work with the basics, which enables them to handle any ordinary cleaning chore. You won’t see any single-use product designed to clean only blinds or fans in their caddies.
  • Pick it up ~ cleaning teams come to clean ~ not to tidy ~ counters, furniture, appliances and floors. They can’t do their job efficiently if each horizontal surface is covered with papers, toys, dirty dishes and general clutter. Neither can you.

Live as a family, clean as a family? When it comes to housework, there can be a big divergence between husband and wife, parent and child. Do you always get stuck with the dirty end of the broom in your house? If you’re overwhelmed with the amount of cleaning your house requires, consider hiring professional cleaners. If you think you can’t afford it, ask yourself what your time and peace of mind is worth. Staying on top of your cleaning is crucial to staying organized.

Spring is a time of renewal, and for many of us, a time for cleaning and organizing our homes. The melting of winter into spring is a great time to bring order to your abode after the inevitable chaos the hibernation season brings. However, instead of the proverbial ‘Spring Cleaning’, why not do ‘Spring Organizing’? Cleaning is temporary. The benefits of organizing are long lasting.

Want to kick start your spring organizing?

Like Us on Facebook and post a picture of your cluttered garage, basement or simply your ‘stuff’ for an opportunity to win four hours of professional organizing along with a half-truckload pick up from Chuck-It Removal Services. Hurry, contest ends April 9th!

Copyright © 2013 Organizing Lives ® All rights are reserved and no part of this article may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means unless expressly stated otherwise, or except with the written permission of Organizing Lives®. Enquires should be directed to: info@organizinglives.com

Weekly Quick Tips

Organizing from the Inside Out

It isn’t just our homes that are clogged with ‘stuff’. Clutter takes hold of our minds, too! Psychological issues like fear or sentiment can prevent us from giving excess stuff the heave-ho and moving forward. Our solution? Confront the inner forces that stand between you and your clutter. Try these counter-measures, which we discuss in our Organizing Basics Workshop, to release your grip on clutter.

Scarcity Thinking ~ ‘I might need it.’ People with scarcity thinking refuse to part with clutter out of fear that they will not have, or will not have enough of, the items they need at some future time. Deal with scarcity thinking by dragging your fear into the open and staring it down, then move past it to release the hold on your thinking. If a cabinet full of empty yogurt containers (no lids) is confronting you, remind yourself that the world is full of empty yogurt containers. Your belief that they might all disappear is just that, only a fear. Out they go, both the containers and the fear behind them.

Protecting an Investment ~ ‘I paid good money for that. ‘Financial issues often bond us to clutter; a mental refrain of ‘I paid $100 for that!’ can keep us from releasing items that we no longer want or need. Problem is, yesterday’s purchase price no longer has much relevance to today’s value. It’s not what you paid for an item that matters; it’s what it’s worth today, and that is what you must assess. Online auctions such as eBay are wonderful sites in that they will give you a quick real-world value for almost any product. Knowing what something is worth today will shift your thinking and make it easier to part with the item and move forward.

Thrill of the Chase ~ ‘It’s a collection’. Collecting can be fun, but it can also lead to immense clutter problems. In the thrill of the pursuit and acquisition, little else seems to matter, until of course you have to find homes for the new additions to your already crowded shelves. By the time your cherished collection must be stored in the dusty attic or on high shelves, it’s crossed the line and become clutter. To break the bonds of collection clutter, assess your collection with an eye to finding the heart: those three or five or seven items with a true tie to your affection. Only those items with meaning, use and value deserve a place in your home.

Identity Crisis ~ ‘I wore that lacrosse jacket in grade twelve.’ Identity clutter is possessions we no longer use, but hold onto because they symbolize a younger, earlier identity. Identity clutter is easy to spot, because it’s usually branded closely with its time and place. The LP collection from the ’80’s, the macramé wall hanging you made at summer camp…To cut the bonds of identity clutter, remind yourself that you are not your stuff. The memories and the growth are the true gift of these earlier identities. The leftover stuff no longer has a use, except to tie us down and hamper our current richer life, forcing us to live in the past. To retain the memories, save a symbol of that stage of your life, then release the identity clutter. Take a photograph of yourself wearing that lacrosse jacket, write a journal entry about your summer at camp and ditch the dusty macramé, frame two of the LP covers and hang them on a memory wall, and give the rest of the collection to charity.

All in the Family ~ ‘It was my grandfather’s…’ Family: it’s the tie that binds, and binds us to unwanted stuff in the form of ‘heirloom clutter’. Heirloom clutter is any item you don’t want, don’t need, don’t use and don’t value, but which you keep because it once belonged to a family member. We’re not talking true heirlooms that tell a story that you too will pass along. ‘Heirloom clutter’ is more like grandpa’s old sofa; tattered, ugly, you can’t sit on it for fear it will fall apart, but you can’t get rid of it either. Why not? ‘Because it’s an heirloom!’ Learn to distinguish between a true heirloom and heirloom clutter. Ask yourself *what do I know about this item? *do I have a memory related to this item? *does this item have use or value in my everyday life?

‘Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.’ ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, author

Copyright © 2013 Organizing Lives ® All rights are reserved and no part of this article may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means unless expressly stated otherwise, or except with the written permission of Organizing Lives®. Enquires should be directed to: info@organizinglives.com

Weekly Quick Tips

Organizing Financial Records

Whether it’s a young newly married couple, a senior who’s downsizing, or a business professional, it seems as though we’re all drowning in paper. And what’s worse? No one seems to know what to keep and for how long.  The following guide can be used to help you determine what papers you should save and which ones you can discard.

Paycheque stubs/direct deposit stubs ~ after checking for accuracy, save only the most recent stub, which may be requested as proof of income or employment

  • Bank Deposit slips, ATM slips, debit/direct payment receipts ~ save them to verify amounts on your next bank statement and then toss
  • Bank statements, cancelled cheques ~ save bank statements for three full tax years; you may need them for a tax audit or to prove that you paid a bill if you don’t have the receipt, save cancelled cheques for one full year
  • Receipts ~ save the receipts to verify the amounts on yourcredit card statement, save merchandise receipts for 30-90 days as proof of purchase should you choose to return the item for a refund or exchange, staple receipts to warranty certificate or product/instruction guide, save automobile repair receipts as proof of payment in the event of a recall, save receipts for furniture and other high-ticket items along with photos of those items and a household inventory list in a safe deposit box or fireproof filing cabinet to document replacement value, toss receipts for items you no longer own.
  • Tax deductible receipts ~ after verifying against your credit card statement, record in your bookkeeping system and then file with other tax records, which you should save for up to three full tax years (after three years you can still be audited, but the government cannot ask for supporting documents)·
  •  CreditCard Statements ~ check to ensure that your last payment was received and verify any new changes, then toss last month’s statement and keep only the most recent one. (keep all statements for credit cards that are solely used for deductible expenses)
  • Utility Bills ~ when the next bill arrives, check to make sure your account was credited for the proper amount and then toss the old bill
  • Insurance Policies and Bills ~ save insurance policies (life, home, automobile) for the period in which they are in effect, toss cancelled insurance policies and related statements, and save each monthly bill until the next one arrives to check that your account is properly credited.
  • Tax returns ~ as recommended by accountants, keep your tax returns for 7 years, storing them in a large manila envelope labelled ‘TAX RETURN 20XX’, filed with previous years’ returns in a bankers box
  • Investment records ~ if investment summaries are cumulative, keep only the most current one, keep savings certificates, stocks, bonds, and other securities in a safe deposit box or fireproof file cabinet.

Our official disclaimer is this: don’t take our word for it. When in doubt, check with your own accountant or financial advisor to verify that this information is accurate for your location and your situation.

The home office has become a standard area of most of our homes. While we’d all like it to be a model of efficiency, for many it seems to be a special kind of magnet that attracts every conceivable piece of paper that comes into our homes. Office clutter is almost always a paper problem, and what’s amazing is that if you think about the paper that fills your office ~ the books, magazines and mail ~ you’ll realize that most of it is stuff you’ll never use or access again! The road to good organization is paved with discarded filing systems. File cabinets can be sneaky, masquerading as organizational systems, and while they are better than random stacks of disorderly papers, they don’t automatically solve the problem. Part of the problem is that a file cabinet can hold so much paper that the temptation is to fill it, and file everything. This is a mistake! Remember that 80% of what we file will never see the light of day. Be judicious about what you file. Cull your papers once a year to get rid of outdated and unwanted items.


Copyright © 2013 Organizing Lives ® All rights are reserved and no part of this article may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means unless expressly stated otherwise, or except with the written permission of Organizing Lives®. Enquires should be directed to: info@organizinglives.com

Weekly Quick Tips

Don’t Park Your Clutter in the Garage

Spring has sprung and for many, so has the reality that it’s time to make a change. Many of us live with a landfill attached to our homes ~ also known as the garage! At the very least, if your garage has morphed into a storage space and become more than just a place to park your car, keep reading. It’s easy to make the garage a catch-all for all of those things that really don’t have a home, but before long you’ll have a considerable mess as well as a potential safety hazard on your hands. Check out these ideas on how to go from how to wow!

  • Garages should be organized into activity zones to make it very intuitive for everyone in the family. By using a common sense approach and grouping ‘like’ items together, finding and putting away items is a snap. Common garage ‘zones’ include garden tools, auto supplies, tools, garbage and recycling, and sporting goods.
  • Almost nothing promotes a clean, safe, and well-organized garage like developing the habit of keeping the floor as clear as possible. Use hooks, racks, cabinets and shelves to hold stored goods.
  • Items that will be used regularly should be stored within reach, but little-used stuff such as holiday decorations can be stored on shelving attached high on the walls.
  • When it comes to storage, hang it or hook it, but don’t ‘prop it’. ‘Propping’ things up wastes floor space and wall space and and inevitably something will end up damaged, whether it’s your car or your snowboard.
  • Wall-mounted grid panel or peg-board systems are affordable and easy to install. With the main panel or sections attached to the wall, attach baskets, hooks, shelving and other available accessories to tailor the setup to your specific needs.
  • And, it goes without saying, before you buy bins, hooks or racks, do a purge. If your children are now teenagers, chances are it’s time to pull that toddler blow-up pool out of the rafters and donate …

Originally printed in May 2011, and reprinted by popular demand. So, you’ve had your reprieve; if you didn’t do it then, no excuses this May!

Copyright © 2013 Organizing Lives ® All rights are reserved and no part of this article may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means unless expressly stated otherwise, or except with the written permission of Organizing Lives®. Enquires should be directed to: info@organizinglives.com

Weekly Quick Tips

Simple Projects to Make the Seasonal Transition a Smoother One

May always feels like the month in which we turn a corner. No matter what April brings, by the time May rolls  around it’s clear that summer isn’t far off. This turning point is the perfect opportunity to organize yourself and your home away from winter and toward the warmer months ahead.

  1. Switch out clothes ~ Since we live in a climate that sees all four seasons, take some time as spring dips into summer to bring your warm weather clothes front and centre and to put away gear for the cooler months. Instead of simply stuffing your drawers and closets with summer clothes, take the time to look through things and try them on. Anything that no longer fits, doesn’t suit your style, is worn or torn beyond repair, or that you didn’t wear at least once last summer should be destined for the giveaway or toss pile. The same holds for winter clothes you’re putting into storage; make a conscious decision to keep only those things you like, wear, and truly need.
  2. Organize your luggage ~ Summer tends to mean travel, which itself means pulling your suitcases out of hibernation. Overcome your fear of a toppling pile of luggage by getting it organized. Start by gathering every travel-related bag you have together in one spot, and then put each one through its paces. Is it in good condition with no sizeable rips or tears, no broken zippers, no missing wheels or straps? Is it easy to handle and navigate when it’s full? Have you used it within the past few years? If it can’t pass each of these tests, bid it bon voyage. Once you’ve gone through your collection, store your bags in a clean dry place, and make the suitcases you use most frequently the easiest to access, and consider nesting smaller bags insider larger ones to save space.
  3. Reconnect with your outdoor gear ~ Get ready for outdoor activities by reacquainting yourself with the supplies you have. Spend some time gathering together this equipment from wherever you might have it stored and sort it into rough categories such as sports gear, patio furniture and so on. Ask yourself the all important questions: Do I need it? Did I use it at all last summer? Is it in good repair? Do you have more versions of it than you’ll realistically ever use? (two dozen lawn chairs anyone?!) Once you’ve determined what’s truly worth keeping, distribute things close to where you’ll use them.

Once you’re organized for summer, take some time to relax outside with a cold drink and think about how enjoyable and stress-free the season will be!

Copyright © 2013 Organizing Lives ® All rights are reserved and no part of this article may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means unless expressly stated otherwise, or except with the written permission of Organizing Lives®. Enquires should be directed to: info@organizinglives.com

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