Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you find some helpful hints for organizing your time and space. My passions are to help you make home a refuge instead of a crisis center, and to help you function in peace rather than chaos - at home or at work. I have switched my main blog to 1-2-3 ... Get Organized on WordPress, so please visit me there.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Candle Wax Clean-Up

Candles sure are pretty, but sometimes they leave their drippings behind. Here is a suggestion for removing melted candle wax from wood surfaces:

"Heat the wax with a blow-dryer set on high. While applying the hot air, wedge a credit card, plastic putty knife or something with a flexible, straight edge under the drips." (source: Family Circle Magazine, January 10, 2010, p. 33)

More on Cleaning:

10 Eco-Friendly and Wallet-Friendly uses for Olive Oil
A Dozen Helpful Hints to Simplify Your Life
Saving Time by Cutting Out Craft Clean Up

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Decluttering Christmas Tree Sap from Your Carpet

If your Christmas tree has left gifts of sap under the tree, here's how to get rid of it:

Mix glycerin, a moisturizer and lubricant (available at drug stores) and warm water in equal parts. Drizzle the mixture on the affected areas. Give the mixture time to dissolve the sap. Using a dry cloth, pull up on the carpet fibers. Use a commercial carpet spot cleaner to remove any remaining residue.

More on cleaning:

Easy microwave cleaning
Clever Cleaning: Lamp Shades
Three Steps to Clever Cleaning

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Organizing Your Christmas Wrapping Supplies

As I'm writing, big fluffy flakes are falling outside my window. We now have 6-8 inches of snow from the last couple of days. So beautiful, pure, quiet and cleansing!

A couple of days ago I organized my wrapping supplies. I made quite a mess in the process. But now I'm ready for next year!

I devoted one container to tissue paper, one to bags, one to boxes and containers other than bags, one to wrapping paper, one to gift tags, and one to ribbons. The containers are different sizes depending on the need.

I even divided my bags into those I love and those I don't. Some have sentimental value and we have used them for years. I would hate to see those leave the house. So I separated my bags accordingly.

Before I put my containers away for the year (I'm still finding a few straggling pieces of paper, etc.), I'll label the containers.

It's a big job, but fulfilling once it's done!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Buy One Get One Free at 1-2-3...Get Organized

In honor of Get Organized Month in January, we're offering a BOGO sale from now through January 31, 2010. Organize your time, priorities, parties, meals, cleaning, house or office! When you buy one product, you can get one of equal or lesser value - free. Just write in your free choice on the comment section of the shopping cart. And remember, shipping is free over $25!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I wish you a joyous Christmas! We will have two of our three foster daughters here as well as one of our own daughters.

We have tried to combine traditions and wishes of all to create a Christmas of fun memories. We may go to a Christmas Eve service and the girls want to bake a birthday cake for Jesus. We've all been busy making gifts, baking, going to parties, and watching Christmas movies. :)

One of our girls is on a visit with her family, so she opened the gifts she knew about early. The girls wanted to pick out most of their gifts, but we reserved some money for surprises. Since the surprise gifts are similar, we asked the girl going home to wait to open the rest until she returns.

People have been so generous to the girls - an anonymous gift from someone in our church gave us more money to spend on the girls. (We get some money from our organization to spend on the girls and we add some of our own.) Some gift cards were donated by other people as well. The girls don't know about these yet. :)

Our daughter Sara arrived on Monday and has added to the fun. Even though we won't have our other daughter Comfort here, we hope to connect with her and her husband sometime in the spring.

We'll have turkey and trimmings on Christmas Eve and honey-baked ham for Christmas day. The girls requested a big breakfast on Christmas - not my style, but it's not about me, is it? Everyone has offered to help so I don't have to spend all of Christmas in the kitchen! My husband Bob will read the Christmas story. And then the presents!

Sara wants to do some after Christmas shopping on the 26th, so she and I will have some mom and daughter time. She hasn't gotten to do this for several years since she has been living in Kazakhstan. And I'm sure the girls will have their gift cards burning holes in their pockets!

I'm so blessed! Blessings to you!!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Repurposing Your Christmas Cards into a Year-Round Memory

Hate to throw away those picture Christmas cards or encouraging notes, but don't want to add clutter to your home? Adhere them to a large piece of paper collage-style, laminate and you've got a placemat that will bring you smiles throughout the year!

More on Christmas cards:

Buried by Holiday Mail?
Get Oranized Month 2009 - Update Your Addresses

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Linear Storage

Here's an idea from Better Homes and Gardens to increase storage. If you don't have floor space for additional storage units, use your wall space! "This modern shelf offers ample storage. Oversize baskets maximize the amount of stuff each shelf can hold. For a symmetrical look, top each shelf with identical storage boxes or baskets."

Tall wall shelf

More on clever storage:

Clever Corner Storage

Magnetic Paint - An Innovative Space Saver!

This is What I Call Using Wall Space!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Handy Tips to Simplify Your Life

A friend sent the following tips, and I thought I'd pass them along. They look interesting, but I haven't tried them.
Let me know if they work for you.

Reducing Static Cling
- Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress.
Same thing works with slacks that cling. Place pin in seam of slacks and...
ta da!... Static is gone.

Hate foggy windshields? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car When the windows fog,
rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!

Re-opening envelopes - If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside, just
place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Viola! It unseals easily.

Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really
smooth. It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair.

More handy tips:

Fun Food Tips
More cooking tips

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Some Christmas Humor

Here's a Christmas laugh for you that my brother forwarded to me from an anonymous person:

"Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever. Great stories. But two things made me take it down.

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.

Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard."

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Best Time of Day to Go to the Post Office

I have one last package to mail today. So I remembered this post I did in October 2008. I think it's especially timely during the holiday season:

According to Real Simple Magazine, the best of time of day to go to the post office is about half an hour after it opens. This allows for people who are lined up at the door to finish their business.
The other times to avoid are lunch hour and just before closing.

I like to find small, less busy post offices where I don't have to wait in line. When we lived in Maryland (where you always have to wait in lines for everything!), I found a little post office just a few minutes farther away than my regular post office, with much less business.

Another wonderful option is to use post offices located in malls, grocery stores, and drugstores. We have one here in our local mall. Last year at Christmas time, I avoided my post office and went to the mall location, where there were no lines!

Another option is to avoid the post office altogether! By setting up an account with the United States Postal Service, you can print postage for packages, order stamps, and order flat rate boxes. The only things you need are a scale (your kitchen scale will work for smaller packages), a printer, and a credit card.

Enter the recipient's address and the weight of the package, and your virtual post office calculates the postage, prints a mailing label with the postage included, and charges your account. Flat-rate packages don't even need to be weighed.

The best thing - you can schedule a pick-up from your house without having to go to the post office! That's what I love! And postage is a bit cheaper when you use this online service.

So destress your life over the coming holiday season and minimize those post office waits!

Do you have ways you avoid lines? Please share!

Related posts:
The Best Time of Day to Take the Dog for a Walk
The Best Time of Day to Do Your Cardio Workout
When Should You Take Your Vitamins?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Last-Minute Clutterless Gift Idea - BookSwim

Need a last-minute gift idea for the reader in your family? Here's an idea that reduces clutter and travel!

BookSwim is to books as Netflix is to movies. Starting at $9.95 per month, you can rent books, including new releases, with no trips to the library and no late fees. If you rent one book at a time, it costs $9.95 per month plus $3.99 s+h one way. All other plans have free shipping both ways, but the prices increase considerably. Three books at a time costs $23.95 a month, five books - $29.95, seven - $35.95, and eleven - $59.95. The first month is $9.95 for all plans.

If you are an avid reader, this would easily pay for your reading habit if you typically buy your books. And this option doesn't clutter your house with books that will never be read again. If you like to re-read books, just rent them again!

More on decluttering:

Decluttering Your Books with BookMooch
Destressing Christmas, Part 11, 2009 - Meaningful Gifts with No Clutter
Three Steps to Decluttering

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Easy Decadent Fudge Recipe

My food gift this year is fudge - sorry to spill the beans, friends and family! I love fudge, but it has to be smooth and creamy, not sugary. The following is my favorite recipe. Not only is it melt-in-your mouth, it's easy, too!

In about an hour I made four batches. You can cut it up and put it in little petit-four cups (like paper cupcake cups, only smaller) for local gifts. Or you can pour it directly into Glad containers for shipping.


from Bess Rivers (my grandmother)

18 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 t. vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 c. chopped nuts

In the top of a double boiler, melt chocolate over hot water. Don't let the water boil, or the chocolate will become dry and crumbly. Remove from heat. Add sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, salt and nuts. Stir until smooth. Turn into an 8-inch square baking pan lined with waxed paper. Cover and chill. Store in an air-tight container.

More on gifts:
Destressing Christmas, Part 11, 2009 - Meaningful Gifts with No Clutter
Destressing Christmas, Part 3, 2009 - Smart Gift-Giving
Christmas Shopping Ideas from 1-2-3...Get Organized Plus a 10% Discount

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Closet Mapping

Happy Tuesday! I'm happy because we have a few days off from foster parenting starting today. Yesterday we were inspected and interviewed as part of an accreditation process for our organization. So our house is spotless, we've done most of our shopping and it's wrapped, thanks to my dear husband. What a welcome rest! On to our topic at hand ... mapping closets.

While we were getting ready for our inspection, I cleaned out the tiny closet in our office. When we were moving, I put a few things in there thinking, "I'll remember where everything is." Since there are no shelves in the closet, I had to stack some boxes on top of each other. These were items I don't use often, but I need to know where they are when I need them.

If you have storage areas where you must stack things or pack things in front of other things, make a map of your closet! Draw out each shelf or area, and list the items in each box or container. That way, when you need something, you know exactly where to find it without unloading the entire closet.

Tape your map to the inside of your closet door and you're set!

More on closets:
Thinking Through Your Closets
Better Homes and Gardens - Inexpensive Storage and Organizing Solutions
Get Oranized Month 2009 - Organizing Your Clothes Closet

Monday, December 14, 2009

Inventorying Your Christmas Supplies

It seems like just yesterday when I thought, "We still have a lot of time left before Christmas." Where did it go so quickly!? Here's a blog post I did last year that is worth repeating (in my humble opinion - ha ha):

When you wrap up your Christmas wrapping, take a moment to inventory what you have left:

wrapping paper
gift bags and boxes
gift tags
Christmas paper plates, napkins and cups
Christmas cards and stationery
Christmas craft supplies
Christmas gifts for teachers, etc.

You may even want to put your list on your computer or in a Christmas organizing notebook, so you know where it is. Then you can refer to it without having to get out all your Christmas stuff to remember what you have. And if you do after-Christmas shopping, your inventory list will help you know what you need to replenish.

It's a great time to stock up on Christmas, birthday, and miscellaneous gifts for next year, too! When my kids were growing up, it was wonderful to look through the "goodie box" for a gift rather than have to make a special trip. And it was nice to have a stash when I needed a gift for something.

What's on your inventory list?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Saftey Tips for Buying or Selling Using Craig's List

Saving money by buying or selling using Craig's list? Here are some tips directly from Craig's list so you don't get scammed:

"When meeting someone for the first time, please remember to:

  • Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe
  • Tell a friend or family member where you're going
  • Take your cell phone along if you have one
  • Consider having a friend accompany you
  • Trust your instincts

You can sidestep would-be scammers by following these common-sense rules:

  • DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON - follow this one simple rule and you will avoid 99% of the scam attempts on craigslist.
  • NEVER WIRE FUNDS VIA WESTERN UNION, MONEYGRAM or any other wire service - anyone who asks you to do so is a scammer.
  • CRAIGSLIST IS NOT INVOLVED IN ANY TRANSACTION, and does not handle payments, guarantee transactions, provide escrow services, or offer "buyer protection" or "seller certification"
  • NEVER GIVE OUT FINANCIAL INFORMATION (bank account number, social security number, eBay/PayPal info, etc.)

Who should I notify about fraud or scam attempts?

If you suspect that an item posted for sale on craigslist may be part of a scam, please email the details to "abuse@craigslist.org". Be sure to include the URL (or 10-digit post ID number) in your message.

Recognizing scams

Most scams involve one or more of the following:

  • inquiry from someone far away, often in another country
  • Western Union, Money Gram, cashier's check, money order, shipping, escrow service, or a "guarantee"
  • inability or refusal to meet face-to-face before consummating transaction."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hoarding - There Are No Easy Answers!

I did some pro bono work recently for someone who is about to lose her apartment because it is so disheveled. Even though she didn't feel well enough for us to work on her apartment, I left her with a list of things to do to organize her apartment as well as a list to maintain the systems we set up. The sad part is, if she is like other hoarders I've worked with, it will be back to disarray shortly.

Hoarding is not just a matter of clutter - the problem goes far deeper. There are usually psychological issues that relate to the hoarding.

Not only is hoarding a health and safety risk to the individual, but to those who live with and around him/her. I've read numerous articles over the winter of hoarders dying as a result of their jam-packed homes catching fire or because fire-fighters couldn't find them. Merely navigating through a hoarder's residence is a safety issue as well.

If you have a hoarder in the family, you may want to read this thought-provoking Wall Street Journal article by Melinda Beck. There are no easy answers!

More on similar topics

Get Organized Month 2009 - Some Words from Peter Walsh, Organizing Guru
Creating Routines and Systems
Your Priorities, Passions, and Gifts Create Context for Your Clutter

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tickets as Bookmarks

During this season you may be going to some special events. Keep the memory alive with this tip:

"For a great keepsake from a concert or show, turn the ticket stub into a bookmark. Just laminate, punch a hole in the top and add a ribbon." (M. Clark, Ft. Myers, FL
Family Cricle November 1, 2009, p. 20

More on memories:
Making it a Priority to Create Memories
Organizing Your Keepsakes into Bins
Getting Organized for School - Organizing Your Child's Artwork and School Papers

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Letting Go

I'm sitting here looking at our beautiful Christmas tree with piles of presents underneath for our foster daughters. A little dusting of snow is visible outside the wall of windows behind our tree. A picture of perfection? Out of all those presents, I wrapped nine and my husband has wrapped the rest! I have to admit, I'm a bit overwhelmed this year and I'm so thankful for his help!

My husband is very creative and artistic and has done a lovely job on the presents. But they are not how I would have done them. He didn't notice that some bags have matching tissue paper. He didn't remember that some bags and boxes have traditionally been earmarked for our own daughters over the years. He put together combinations that I wouldn't necessarily have put together. Okay - breathe - let go!

But they are lovely! And he wrapped them! And he has relieved so much of my stress! And I'm thankful he wants to participate in making Christmas wonderful for our foster daughters! And again - breathe - let go!

I'm a bit obsessive about matching - can you tell? When we had a red and white living room a few years back, I only bought red and white wrapping paper, tissue, ribbons, and bags! When we were given gifts that were not in red and white, I put them in the back of the tree! And most of the tree decorations were red. I've already let go of that. Woohoo!

The point is - accept help during this season, even if it is not done how you would do it. Enjoy the process, even if your kids make a mess while decorating sugar cookies. Everything doesn't need to be perfect for it to be good.

I'm trying to let go of my perfectionist expectations. It doesn't always have to be done how I think it should be done. We now have people in our home from four backgrounds - Christmas needs to represent all of us. Okay - I'm going to be hyperventilating with all this breathing I need to do. And maybe twitching a little, too!

What have you let go?

More on perspective

Priorities and Perspective from a Ninety-Year-Old
Savoring the Significance of the Season
5-Minute Stress Relievers - Spiritual Refocusing

Friday, December 4, 2009

Finals Survival Kits for College Students

Do you have a special college student in your life? Brighten up his/her life during finals week by sending a Finals Survival Kit. We've done this with our own children and other college students in our lives over the years. Things to include:

Healthy snacks: pistachios or other nuts, beef jerky, trail mix, popcorn

Drinks: hot chocolate, teas, coffee mixes, juices

Fun snacks: cookies, chocolate, candy

Encouraging words: write a note for each day (5-7) or use the following proverbs -

- Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind.

- Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.

- Knowledge flows like spring water from the wise; fools are leaky faucets, dripping nonsense.

- Easy come, easy go, but steady diligence pays off.

- A person without self-control is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.

- Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.

Mail it or take it by and brighten up finals for your college student!

More on college:

Review - AgendaWorks Planner
More Resources for Present and Future College Students
Check out CampusCalmU

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How to Buy Some Extra Time

I was motivated! I had a foster parent meeting this morning, and I wanted to be able to cross stitch the girls' names on their Christmas stockings while sitting in that meeting (with permission of course!). But before that could happen I needed to construct the stockings (I had already cut them out from fabric they chose. And I needed to attach the cross stitch material to the stocking (I had already cross stitched a little border on each).

So I got up early and did some of the sewing before anyone was up. And I did the rest while they were eating and getting ready.

And I knew one of the girls wanted to go shopping this afternoon. So I made a tuna, broccoli, tomato pasta salad after finishing the stockings.

I was going grocery shopping right after the meeting, so I checked off the things I needed on my grocery list.

All this by 8 am!

Now if you are not a morning person, this may be depressing to you, as my husband often reminds me. :) But he turns it around and gets his stuff done after we have all gone to bed. Nap time is another golden time, if you don't need a nap yourself.

Getting up a little early or staying up a little late can work in the short term, but if you are sacrificing your sleep on a consistent basis, it's harmful to your health. So make sure to plan in enough sleep. The point is, that time when no one needs you is prime time when you can accomplish so much!

More on time:

Functioning at Peak Performance by Planning Quiet Moments
10 Ways to Streamline Your Shopping Time
6 Ways to Reduce Stress by Getting Organized

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Getting a Jump on Christmas Cookies

I've done Christmas cookies in various ways over the years. Sometimes I've made them as we've needed them or wanted them. But two of my favorite ways to get a jump start on cookies are:

1. My friend Pam and I came up with a great way to get a jump on Christmas cookies. We originally set aside a day in December to make Christmas cookies all day, split them and stock our freezers. But that was pretty exhausting.

2. Then one year, we couldn't find a date in December, and that changed our Christmas cookie baking from then on. We decided to get together in November and just make the dough, freeze it in small batches, and cook as needed. It's so easy to just thaw a small amount, form into cookies, and bake! All the work and mess is over with and you have fresh baked cookies in a jiffy when you need them.

Plus we got to spend the day together!
I miss it. Now that we live in Ohio and she lives in Maryland, it doesn't quite work! I need to mention that we did this when our children were in college or on their own. If making memories with your children is part of the equation, you may want to disregard our "mass production" mindset! :)

If you need to find a cookie recipe, my daughter Sara sent me a list (Cookies, Cookies, Cookies) of every possible cookie recipe known to man.

More on cookies:
How Coffee Filters Can Help You Declutter Holiday Baking
Making it a Priority to Create Memories

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Destressing Christmas, Part 10, 2009 - Doubling Recipes

Happy December! Can you believe it's already here?

A stress reliever for me during the holidays is to double recipes. It may take a little extra time now, but it's a big pay-off later! It's a comfort to me to know that I have some meals in the freezer on those crazy-busy days or on disaster days when things don't go as I planned.

Yesterday I was hoping to double spaghetti sauce, but I didn't have enough meat. I even had us eat our salads and bread first, hoping everyone would get full on that and we'd have enough left for another meal. But teenage girls and spaghetti is not an economical combination! We have three girls now, too, which bumps up the amount as well. Oh, well!

I'm making chicken tortilla soup tonight, using my leftover turkey, and I'll double that - a wonderful meal on cold winter evenings! Other meals that lend themselves to doubling: meatloaf, taco meat, baked ziti, chili, other soups, and lasagna. Sometimes when I make lasagna, I'll just double the meat sauce and freeze it. At least it saves one step in that long process!

What recipes do you like to double and freeze?

More on destressing dinner:
Chicken Tortilla Soup for the Super Bowl - Quick, Easy, and Different

Three Steps to Planning Dinner
Hassle Free Dinners