Archive for the ‘Organization’ Category

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(Organization) Manual Box

After purchasing a new electronic, assembling a new piece of baby equipment, or installing a new appliance, you are usually left with an instruction manual. After it sits on the counter for a couple of months, it is tempting to throw it away, but it is risky. When you need an instruction manual, there isn’t an easy replacement.

As a part of your box system, designate a box for the sole purpose of storing instruction manuals. It removes the manuals from “clutter” status where they are likely to get lost, damaged, or thrown away and provides you with a predictable place to look if you should need it.


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(Organization) File Cabinet

If you fell into a file cabinet, it is quite possible that you would be lost forever. Well maybe not you, but certainly that tax form sitting on your desk or the pile of last month’s bills that are waiting to find a new home in a labeled manila folder.

There are some basic filing cabinet rules of organization that most of us more-or-less follow. Okay, maybe one rule. Put the old bills, tax forms, receipts, pay stubs, etc. into labeled folders. If you are a really ambitious individual, you might even have the folders grouped by type (i.e. bills, medical, etc.). Simple, right? But if filing cabinet organization is so simple, then why are most of us afraid to open ours or have the need to do the “squish-slide, squish-slide” routine to get the drawer closed?

This organizational concept idea for file cabinets takes a little bit of work initially, but maintenance only requires one slight adjustment in your filing routine. And the result? No more lost paperwork or “squish-slide” routine.

1. Remove one folder from the drawer.filing

2. Divide the bills or statements into years.

3. Order each year’s papers from the earliest month to the latest.

4. Bind each year with a paperclip and a sticky note that states the year.

5. Put all years except the current and the previous year into a new labeled folder and then into a portable filing box that can be stored in the attic or closet.

6. Place the last year’s bound group of papers back in the original folder (at the back), leaving the papers from this year unbound and situated in the front of the folder. Leave the first statement/bill of the year in front and work your way backwards.

7. At the end of the year, remove the bound group of documents from last year to the portable filing box (or shred and discard if appropriate), put a paperclip and dated sticky note on the newly completed year and start again.

The one change in your filing routine is simply to always place the most recent paperwork at the back of the current year’s papers. This will keep your documents in order from the beginning, thus dramatically reducing your organizational time later.

*Tip – Note that I said to only remove one folder at a time during the initial organization. Allow yourself to make this transition slowly enough that you don’t get overwhelmed (i.e. one folder a day), but also quickly enough that the lack of completion doesn’t overwhelm your attempt to change your routine.

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(Organization) Car Organization #1

cartoysMost of us spend quite a bit of time in our cars. And inevitably, time spent there often ends up being much longer than anticipated. We hit traffic, errands take longer than planned, or you find yourself waiting for somebody. Whatever the circumstances, it is miserable for everybody when the kids are bored and tired of being in the car.

Be prepared for those unexpected travel time extensions by keeping a small to moderately sized basket of toys in your car or van. You can include coloring books, travel games, small toys, and hand-held activities. The basket gives the toys a contained home when they are not being used and the toys will hold added interest because they are outside of the kids’ normal toy rotation. That thoughtful selection of toys will be your saving grace when your trip takes an unexpected turn.

*Tip#1 – If you have a smaller car or more passengers, making space an issue, keep your small basket of toys in the trunk. Usually when there are long delays, you usually have an opportunity to get out of the car to access the trunk. This keeps the toys handy but out from underfoot. Another solution is to purchase a bag that attaches to the back of a car seat, leaving you with the needed foot room.

*Tip #2 – There are frequently places we go that do not have ready entertainment for kids. Instead of packing a bag of toys every time or when you come to one of these situations unexpectedly, the toy basket is mobile and ever-ready to entertain!

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(Organization) Double-Duty Dishpans

dishpanClutter comes in all shapes and sizes. It is often the small odds-and-ends, however, that accumulate the most rapidly into piles of clutter.

The kitchen pantry is one place where clutter can completely take over. Open chip bags, pieces of candy, granola bars, and boxes of pudding fill the shelves without order or containment. While some of the smaller items clutter the shelves, the messy packaging on other items can create the feel of clutter even after some level organization. For true, sustainable organization to occur, these items need to be contained while also remaining easily accessible. Yet the accessibility factor usully makes storage boxes an inefficient solution.

Dishpans are a cheap (I purchased mine at a local dollar store) and practical organization tool for the pantry. Use them to contain chips, pastas, dessert items, and snacks. My personal favorite is the “Kids Snack Bin”. In mine, I’ve put all of the kids’ favorite snack items: crackers, raisins, bars, canned fruits, popcorn, etc. This gives them a predictable place to look for approved snack items and encourages their developing independence. The dishpans can be easily removed from the pantry and the open tops make the contents readily accessible.

So if you find yourself feeling frustrated by clutter every time you open your pantry door, ask yourself what items can be grouped together and contained. The solution might be as simple as a dishpan.


(Organization) Kids’ Keepsakes

Her first painting. The outfit she was brought home from the hospital in. Her favorite teddy bear. A lock of hair from her first haircut. Her 1st place spelling bee ribbon.

These keepsakes are invaluable, to both you and your child. They are treasures to be cherished.

Yet when they are mixed in with all the other toys, pushed under the bed, crammed into the closet, or even when too many of these items are accumulated, these precious items are no longer treasured and certainly not protected. They eventually get broken, thrown away, or lost. In short, they become clutter.

Buy a medium to large storage tub for each child to contain their own little treasures. It will help preserve the condition of the items as well as the magical sentiment that they hold. As you look at potential keepsakes and watch your stash of treasures grow, it may also free you to get rid of items where less sentiment is attached.

In later years, or maybe even currently, your child will love to dig through their little treasure chest and either listen to the stories that you have to tell or renew their own memories. It is a gift that will last a lifetime.

Tip: If you find that your child starts to consider everything a “treasure” to be saved (this most frequently happens with artwork), keep a smaller box to temporarily hold the items. The child will be satisfied that you are keeping their treasure and you can sort through the artwork, by yourself or with the child, several months later. The passing of a little bit of time will reveal the true treasures.


(Organization) The Box System

My heart for this blog is to present ideas, inspiration points, and attainable applications that you can integrate into your life one concept at a time. Most systems, however wonderful, cannot be maintained long term simply because change happens. We move into a new phase of life, our needs change, and our children grow older. In light of that, I strive to write about ideas that are not system-based. Instead, you can combine them, tweak them, and arrange them in a way that works for your life; ultimately creating your own systems.

All that being said, there are a few ideas that I write about here that I do consider to be foundational systems. Know that if I present and then build on a system concept, that I believe it can be integrated into almost anybody’s life at any point in time. They create order and stability and, even more importantly, are systems that can change and grow with your life.

img_4192The Box System is one of them. It is a concept that is simple, expandable, maintainable, and can dramatically simplify your life. It revolutionized my own home management and organization.

To begin, go to a store, such as Target or Wal-Mart, that has consistent lines of storage containers. (Note: Discount stores are much more likely to vary their lines over the years.) Choose the line of boxes that you would like to use in your home. The cheaper lines work just as well! The key is consistency. This allows for easy stacking and the look of a professional organizer (even if the boxes were only a couple of dollars each!). As you grow your storage system, you will come to learn the box sizes that you use the most. My personal favorite is the 12 quart size, but I also use a lot of the 6 and 20 quart or an occasional larger size.

Use these boxes to organize your closets, toiletries, office supplies, and especially the toys in your home. If, for example, you are organizing toys, you can have a box for play food, one for blocks or puzzles, toy tools, Legos or action figures. The more that you can contain in boxes, the less cluttered your house will become. Even things like hair clippers and attachments, magnets, cookie cutters, thank you notes and other cards, miscellaneous cables or cords, and your collection of old letters can at last find a defined and easy-to-locate home in the Box System.

After you have filled your boxes, stack them in your closets, under beds or on bookshelves. The clear boxes allow you to be able to quickly scan and locate a particular box and picking up becomes a much more defined chore. If a particular set of items begins to outgrow its box, simply transfer the set to a larger box and reuse the smaller one for something else.

Clutter is less about individual items, and more about their placement (or lack thereof). You will be amazed at the peace that a few boxes can introduce into your home.

Note: The Box System can be introduced into your home very gradually. Just purchase a box or two each time you are at the store. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to create an overnight organizational makeover. Let it happen one box at a time. A few months from now, you will be amazed at the difference.


(Organization) Inbox Arrangement

So much important information travels in and out of our email. Appointments, play dates, announcements, order and shipment information, social events, school updates, newsletters, sale flyers, personal correspondence….the list goes on. Yet the emails inevitably become one big blob. A blob in which dates are forgotten, deadlines missed, and personal response never makes the transition from an intent to reality.

With a few simple organizational adjustments, you can remove the element of chaos from your inbox.

First, organize your inbox with the ultimate goal of making it your email-based “to-do” list. You want to keep your main inbox folder clear of all emails except those where immediate action is need.

The key is to create folders within your inbox to store your emails. You want to create a place for each email that you want to keep, but no longer requires immediate action. You do this by creating named folders. A few examples are: Kids/School, Pictures, Recipes, Work, Church, Purchases, or a folder named for a specific person. Your understanding of categories that work for you will develop over time. As soon as an email no longer requires immediate action, it is either sent to a new home in one of these folders or is deleted. It should not sit in your inbox for longer than 3 or 4 days, and certainly no longer than a week. If you have not acted on it by then, you probably won’t. It will just move its way further down the list and be forgotten. These forgotten emails gather over time and create an ever-looming feeling of being behind.

Very briefly reevaluate your inbox a couple of times a week to make sure that emails have been responded to or have been put into the correct folder.

This is a simple organizational adjustment that will help your relationships, schedule, and stress level. An empty, or nearly empty, inbox is a beautiful thing.


(Organization) Canning Jars

Some of the most beautiful and admired home decor is also practical. Look at a Pottery Barn magazine. The charm is found in the uncluttered layouts that are created through practical organization (and that single bouquet of flowers on the table).

Canning jars have a lot of potential organizational uses and can simultaneously add charm and color (from the contents) to any room . Office supplies (crayons, pens, paperclips, staples, rubber bands, etc), Sewing supplies (buttons, spools of thread, safety pins, zippers, etc.), Bathroom items (cotton balls, cotton swabs, bath beads, hair clips, etc.) and kitchen supplies (beans, rice, sugar, oatmeal, measuring spoons, etc) are all potential ideas for use. And no matter where you set them out or line them up, they add a simple charm.



(Organization) Address Labels

The next time you get some of those unsolicited return address labels in the mail, keep them to use on items that you lend out. Put them on your dishes when you take a meal to friends, a CD or DVD that somebody borrows, or on books that you lend out. This is a simple and free way of labeling outgoing items and making the returning of the item easier for the borrower.


(Organization) The Library Bag

You are headed out the door to run errands and are trying to get everybody out the door dressed, fed, bathroom breaks completed and……the library books gathered. Usually, though, I can’t even remember what books I’m looking for, let alone all of their hiding places (wedged in the couch cushions, mixed in with the family book collection, hiding in one of the kid’s beds, or becoming acquainted with the family dog).

The Library Bag will remove stress from your life that has become an old friend. Pick a simple canvas bag to be the designated book holder. This bag has two places that it can be at any given time: the car or its corner by the door. The books are free to leave the bag as anybody wills, but they need to be returned to the bag after the reader is finished. It will take a little bit of time (and lots of help from mom) to get everybody used to the routine, but eventually it will become just that – routine.

As an added help to you, leave the book receipt from the library in the bag at all times. That way it is easy to do a quick inventory check before leaving for the library.

Make leaving for the library as easy as picking up the bag.