Weekly Quick Tips

Be an Organizing Star!

We won’t be so glib as to say that anyone can be an ‘Organizing Star’ in just a few simple steps, because for many people the steps are not so simple. You may get stuck at any point….but you CAN learn to do it well…it just may take some practice.

S is for Sorting your stuff out.

Sounds simple, but many people get confused coming up with categories or how to group items together. Similar things are grouped together, like shirts together in a drawer, books together on a shelf. Things used for the same reason are grouped together, such as things you write with ~ pens, pencils, markers ~ or things that stick things together ~ tape, glue, stapler. Things that are used together are also grouped together, such as paints and brushes, nail polish and remover, Nintendo and games.

T is for Toss

Toss out items you don’t need, you don’t use, and you don’t love. Donate anything that others can use. Recycle, trash and shred the rest. Sounds simple, but people get stuck here most often because they think they will need items again later at some unknown time or they have sentimental attachments to the objects. One trick to cut down on the number of things you own is to set a space limit (just one drawer of t-shirts) or a number limit (‘I will only keep 20 t-shirts’) Set a realistic number and aim for it. You may not get there the first time around, but every time you go through your piles, try to pull out one more time.

A is for Arrange

Arrange things based on how often you use them and need to have access to them. We refer to this as the ‘hot’, ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ zones. If you use things often, you want them in easy to reach spots. Less often, they go into high and low shelves, and the least used items may go into a storage area in your home. Or refer back to ‘Toss’. This can be a tricky step for people without much storage space, and really tricky for people who feel they need to see everything so they don’t forget where it is. If you don’t have much storage space, either continue purging or invest in some storage items such as cabinets and shelves. If you need to see everything out, think about using open shelving, clear containers and loads of labels.

R is for Revisit and Reorganize

Chaos happens! You should see our desks at any given moment! So, in order to keep a space organized, you have to return and re-do. Put things back where they belong, which is very do-able now that you have systems in place. And if the systems aren’t working for you, tweak them.

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

Ask the Organizer

Question: My kitchen cabinets and workspace are anything but ready for cooking. How can I customize the space for productivity without the expense of a kitchen reno?

Answer: Your challenge is not uncommon. By including the right storage solutions inside your cabinets, finding what you need for mealtime prep will be a breeze. Your first step, of course, is clearing your cabinets of expired food, old spices, duplicates of bakeware and serving dishes, and anything that is no longer age-appropriate. And then, your basic organizing principles apply; keep like-with-like, store things where you use them, and be sure to remember the simple but powerful premise: items that are used the most should be the easiest to reach. Think of organized spaces as having storage locations that are hot, warm and cold and store tools and supplies according to how often they are used.

  • Hot zones like the fronts of drawers, shelves at eye level and storage space on a counter are home to the most used items. They are areas that your hand can reach with little or no effort such as the utensil caddy next to the stove. This is where you store your favourite whisks, spoons and ladles for easy access.
  • Warm zones are a bit harder to reach, like the space at the back of the drawer or the shelf near the top of the cabinet. You’ll need to stretch and bend or open doors wider to reach a warm zone. Send items you need infrequently, such as a once a week or once a month, to the warm zones. Peelers, large pots and baking dishes can all happily live here. You’ll know where they are when you need them, but they won’t impede your work the rest of the time.
  • Cold Zones are those storage spaces that must have been designed by a chiropractor to encourage business. They’re dark, they’re obscure, and they’re hard to reach without a step stool or assuming a posture on your hands and knees. The back recesses of a bottom shelf, the cupboard over the refrigerator that can only be reached with a ladder are cold zones. Here’s where you keep the seasonal baking pans, the serving platters for big parties and your Jell-O-moulds.

And then, it’s as simple as a trip to your favourite DYI, Organizing or Mass Retailer! Here are some of our favourite functional ideas:

  • Add pull-out shelves to turn every inch of a deep cabinet into accessible and useful storage. Baking dishes formerly in the back recesses of these cabinets are now easy to locate.
  • Create upright storage for cookie sheets and cutting boards. To retrofit any existing cabinetry, install inexpensive dividers to help items stand on end.
  • Use tiered plate racks to maximize stacking space inside cabinets.
  • Set aside one drawer for junk. Yes, that’s right, you can and should have a junk drawer. There are always doodads in every home that nobody knows where to store. Just don’t keep things in there that have a home somewhere else and that you have not used in more than a year.
  • Quickly customize any pantry with tiered shelf organizers. Can risers are like bleachers for your canned goods!
  • Slip a tiered rack into a drawer or turntable into a cupboard to keep spices neatly contained. Arrange the jars in alphabetical order. Alphabetizing spices helps you find what you want in the grocery store; it will do the same at home. Plus, you’re less likely to buy a duplicate if your inventory is organized. It does NOT mean you have OCD…..
  • Get the most out of corner cabinets by installing turntables. Some are designed without a centre pole to maximize storage capabilities.
  • Save space by storing bulky food items in coordinating containers. To retain cooking instructions, attach a clear adhesive pocket, commonly used to hold business cards to the outside of the container. Plastic containers are great for items that you use frequently that come in plastic bags, such as rice, beans, pasta and cereal. They eliminate the possibility of the contents spilling, and it’s easy to gauge when you’re running low.

Check out our photo gallery for more inspiring before and afters!

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

Anticipating and Removing Obstacles to your Decluttering Success

We’ve heard them all before ~ the reasons why you just can’t get rid of an item that you never use. Before you begin purging a cluttered space, think about which items will be a challenge for you to let go of, along with the reason that they’ll be difficult to let go of. Is there a common thread?  The reasons are your obstacles. Listed below are some simple strategies for removing common obstacles which should help you to move forward.

Obstacle 1: The “I might need it someday” syndrome.

Strategy: Decide when someday is. If you can’t come up with a definite answer, then assign an arbitrary date up to six months out in the future. Put them in a box, write the date on the outside if the box, and move on. If the someday comes and goes and you haven’t needed the item…you are now free to send it off to a happier place. Ah, doesn’t that feel good?

Obstacle 2: The “I paid good money for this” syndrome.

Strategy: Accept that the money is spent. No amount of hanging on to an item can bring the money back. Whether you keep it or not, the money is gone. Forever. Cut your losses and move on. If you look at something and feel guilty about what you paid for it, yet you’re not using it, the guilt won’t entice you to use the item. Why linger in the guilt? Let it go.

Obstacle 3: The “gift” syndrome.

Strategy: Take the fact that the item was a gift out of the equation.

When you come across a gift you’re on the fence about keeping, ask yourself if you need, use or love the item. If the answer is no, you aren’t obligated to keep it. A gift doesn’t come with strings attached. I know this one can be hard to swallow…but it’s true. Allow yourself to focus on the person who gave you the gift, and their meaning to you, instead of feeling tied to the gift itself.

Obstacle 4: The “garage sale” syndrome.

Strategy: Find an alternative happy home for your previously-enjoyed items. The garage sale syndrome sets in when you have decided to let go of some things, and yet they continue to linger in your presence, waiting for ‘the big garage sale’. It’s true, garage sales can be a way to turn some of your no longer needed items into cash. But not without a cost. If letting go of things is difficult for you, a garage sale simply extends the process. Instead, find a charity you’ll feel good about donating your items to.

Obstacle 5: The Storage “Solution”

Strategy: Unless you are moving and need ‘temporary storage’, external storage is nothing more than clutter alimony.

In celebration of Senior’s Month, we’re celebrating our local Seniors this week!

Join us for a FREE party in the park at the Oshawa Seniors Citizens Centre’s Swing Into Summer! Memorial Park in Oshawa on Wednesday June 6th from 10:30 to 3pm.

And then….join us at Rotary Park in Ajax on Thursday June 7th for a free seniors BBQ from 11:30 to 1:30pm. Be sure not to miss the Ajax Senior of the Year presentation! See you there!

The information provided in this newsletter is for reference and education only. Although we try to ensure the information is as current and accurate as possible, errors do occasionally occur. Organizing Lives assumes no responsibility or liability arising from any error in or omission of information or from the use of any information or advice contained within this newsletter.

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

Get Those Photos Out of the Shoebox ~ Easy Ways to Organize, Store and Enjoy Your Photos

We wager this is a topic near and dear to your heart….who hasn’t got a backlog of photos all over the house? With summertime on the horizon, this time of year is loaded with photo opps like vacations, trips to the zoo,  and Canada Day, just to name a few. But if you’re already surrounded by heaps of disorganized photos, you may hesitate to take even more, since that’ll cause you to get even further behind in your organization. Don’t get discouraged. Here’s a simple plan for organizing your photos.

First off, CREATE GOALS FOR YOUR PHOTOS: To determine the best organizing system for your pictures, you’ll need to figure out what your goal is. Ask yourself a few simple questions. *In what ways would you like to enjoy your photos? Hanging on walls or browsing through them in books? *Where do you see yourself looking at and enjoying pictures? *Is your goal to simply get your photos organized into a single system, so they’re safe, protected, and can be enjoyed by future generations? *Is the perfect solution somewhere between a box and a scrapbook?

Next, DECIDE ON A SORTING SCHEME:  Chronological organizing is a natural choice for sorting your photos. However, recreating accurate chronologies can be a daunting task when faced with a mountainous backlog. Here are some great alternatives.

  • Loose chronological categories: decades, seasons or categorize chronologically by an individuals’s baby years, childhood, teen years, college years, early married years, and so on.
  • Events and celebrations: consider sorting by significant events such as weddings, Christmases (with all years grouped together), favourite travel destinations, etc.
  • People: decide if you’d like to share some of your photos with friends and family members, and then sort accordingly. Giving photos to friends and loved ones can help you pare down the years of backlog, and make your project less overwhelming. Decide who you’re sharing with then make piles such as ‘photos for me’, ‘photos for others’ (as many piles as  people you’ll be giving to), ‘photos to discard’.

*If you’re hesitant to sort using a non-chronological scheme, consider this: You don’t remember chronologically either. Memories come to you randomly, and yet your memories are meaningful regardless of how they’re sandwiched between your thoughts.

Now, STORE YOUR PHOTOS: The next step is to decide how you would like to store your photos going forward. Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. If the thought of doing something with ALL of your photos seems overwhelming, then start with a small, doable project. For each solution we’ll provide, below, there is a trade-off between the time you invest, and your ability to retrieve or enjoy your photos.

  • Random, bulk storage: If your photos are stored in various rooms, drawers and containers throughout your home, or if they’re stored in a harsh climate (think the garage, basement or attic), then corralling them all into an archival safe box and storing them in one place is a huge step forward! The tradeoff? Your photos won’t be much easier to enjoy afterward, however they are protected.
  • Photo boxes: Today’s photo boxes comes in an array of colours, materials and sizes, with tabbed index cards to label and categorize what’s inside. They can be a short-term holding place, or a long-term storage solution. The tradeoff? While they’re great for organizing and retrieving your photos, they don’t display your pictures or make them easy to look at. Boxes are a great option for photos you simply want to store long-term, perhaps to give your children when they move out, or for photos in queue for an album or photo frame.
  • Photo Albums: Traditional style photo albums get your pictures out of the box and into a book, making it simple to flip through the pages any time you want to take a stroll down memory lane. The tradeoff? It will take more time to get your photos into an album, and photos stored in albums take up more space than photos stored in boxes. However, they are easier to look at.
  • Scrapbooks: Scrapbooking allows you to combine your photos with written words and creative embellishments, if you choose. You can store your photos along with memorabilia, such as ticket stubs, programs or even children’s artwork, including journalling or stories. The tradeoff? Scrapbooking requires a larger investment of time and money. But, like photo albums, a finished scrapbook is a breeze, and a treat, to flip through and enjoy, and helps to protect your photos.
  • Photo Frames: Don’t forget to display some photos where you can really enjoy them, in frames that you can exhibit on a shelf, dresser or hang on a wall. While this isn’t a practical solution for all of your collection, displaying some of your favourites allows you to enjoy your photos every day. The tradeoff? Displaying your photos can take time selecting the photos, getting enlargements made if necessary, buying the frames, and arranging them on the wall. But, you get to enjoy them all the time!

Time to take action! Let’s face it, photos are important, probably among your more prized possessions, and while the trend may be towards digital storage, there isn’t a home we’ve worked in that isn’t overflowing with photos! Yet, many of us keep photos trapped in remote storage areas in our homes. Take some time this summer to get your photos out of the shoebox and into a safe accessible storage system, so you can easily enjoy them for years to come. Tackle this project one step at a time. Want to feel and immediate payoff? Once you’ve gathered your photos from each area, remove any duplicates, blurred, out-of-focus and people you don’t know, and discard. That’s a great way to start! We hope this has helped you create a game plan to get your old photos out of boxes and into an organized system that lets you enjoy your photos, and the precious memories they hold.

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

Half-Way Point Organizing Principles

Six months into the year, and we’ve shared twenty weekly quick tips and six monthly newsletters: time for review.  How much have you put into practice? Here are our favourite ‘clutter-busting’ principles:

  • If it doesn’t fit anymore, physically or psychologically, let it go.
  • If you hesitate, trying to decide if something is worthwhile, it’s clutter
  • Toss or give away gifts you don’t like
  • Make your bedroom a peaceful sanctuary. Toss anything that agitates or distracts you.
  • If you find yourself defending the object because of how much it’s cost you, it’s clutter
  • Always remove from your home what you know to be clutter. Otherwise, it will continue to detract from your life.Toss anything that is broken, can’t be fixed or that you won’t take to be fixed.
  • For everything you bring into your home, take something out. That includes clothing, gifts, small appliances, books…..
  • Put NOTHING in storage. Storage is clutter alimony and a waste of your money.
  • Organizing is an ongoing process, not a one day event.
  • Store things where you use them.
  • You cannot organize until you purge.
  • Be ruthless. Clutter will try and trick you. Question everything.
  • Organized spaces have storage locations that are hot, warm or cold. Store things according to how often they’re used.
  • Every possession is a responsibility. Is it worth the thought, energy, effort or time it requires of you?
  • First impressions are always correct. Listen to your gut. If your first feeling is that the thing is clutter, it is.
  • Toss anything that makes you feel that the past is more special than right now, that gives you the feeling that life will never be as good as it once was. Only keep what reflects your life as significant in this moment.
  • Give your unwanted items to charity; having a yard sale spells procrastination for most people and whatever doesn’t sell usually ends up coming back in the house.
  • Let it go. You are intuitive. Trust your decisions.

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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