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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Self-Help Books for Hoarders and Their Families

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday we found out that we are getting a new foster daughter. Today she comes for dinner and tomorrow she moves in! Spring break has just taken on a lot more energy! On to our blog for today ...

If you or a loved one struggles with hoarding, the following books might to help you understand and combat this issue. 

 - Murphy, T. W. (2009). Life in rewind: The story of a young courageous man who persevered over OCD and the Harvard doctor who broke all the rules to help him. New York: William Morrow. Memoir of Dr. Michael Jenike and his patient Edward Zine. Excellent descriptions of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) rituals and their manifestation as hoarding.

- Neziroglu, F., Bubrick, J., & Yaryura-Tobias, J. A. (2004). Overcoming compulsive hoarding. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger. A book for people who hoard and their families which provides background on the phenomenon of hoarding and gives direction on how to address it, both as self-help and as family intervention. 

- Steketee, G., & Frost, R. O. (2007). Compulsive hoarding and acquiring workbook. New York: Oxford University Press. A self-help workbook for people who hoard. 

 - Tolin, D. F., Frost, R. O., & Steketee, G. (2007). Buried in treasures: Help for compulsive acquiring, saving, and hoarding. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Introduction to the phenomenon of hoarding for people who hoard and their families.

- Tompkins, M. A., & Hartl, T. (2009). Digging out: Helping your loved one manage clutter, hoarding, and compulsive acquiring. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger. Introduction to the concept of harm reduction—the improvement and not necessarily elimination of a problem behavior—as it applies to hoarding. 

More on hoarding:

Hoarding - There Are No Easy Answers!

Get Organized Month 2009 - Some Words from Peter Walsh, Organizing Guru

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tips for Staging Your Home for Sale

Spring is the typical time to put your home on the market. If you're planning to sell your home, follow these tips from Louise Henry, home staging and interior redesign consultant. Read her entire article.
  • De-clutter - buyers want to be able to walk freely in your home and feel comfortable.
  • Rent a storage locker while your home is on the market.
  • Clean, clean, clean - Unclean homes turn buyers away instantly unless they want a deal!
  • Hire a professional painter and choose neutral colours. This makes the home look cleaner and smells fresher.
  • Upgrade lighting - people want modern fixtures.
  • Shampoo carpets - gets rid of unpleasant odours.
  • Service the furnace and clean filters.
  • Do basic house maintenance.
  • Ensure interior/exterior light fixtures and doors are all in good working order.
  • Curb appeal: buyers will drive by and check you out. Gardens should be clean, garbage/junk free and appealing. Add colourful potted flowers
  • If you feel you need help contact a home staging consultant who can guide you through the process.                                                     

    More on moving:

    Declutter and Downsize Now for the Spring Housing Market

    Home Repairs Create Opportunities to Deep Clean

    Helping Your Kids Prepare for a Move


Monday, March 29, 2010

The Cleverness of Coffee Filters, Part 2

Emotions were high at our house this weekend - one of our girls went back home to her mom and another moved into her prospective adoptive mom's home. Some stress with packing, some tears, excitement mixed with sadness. It's seems very quiet with only two girls here. But I'm not complaining! On to our blog for today:

I've run several blogs on the uses of coffee filters (see below). Here's another list from fellow organizer Mikki Davis that includes some of those and some I hadn't heard of before. 

"Coffee Filters don't take up as much space as a roll of paper towels.  Better than paper towels and a lot less expensive.... And you can buy 1,000 at the Dollar Store for almost nothing -- even the large ones.

1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the  microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers. 

2. Clean windows, mirrors, and chrome...  Coffee filters are lint-free so they'll leave windows sparkling.

3.  Protect China by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter between each dish.

4.  Filter broken cork from wine.  If you break the cork when opening a wine  bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.

5.  Protect a cast-iron skillet.  Place a coffee filter in the  skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.

6.  Apply shoe polish.  Ball up a lint-free coffee filter. 

7.  Recycle frying oil.  After frying, strain oil through a sieve  lined with a coffee filter.

8.  Weigh chopped foods.  Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a  kitchen scale

9.  Hold tacos.  Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.

10.  Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot.  Line a plant  pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through  the drainage holes.

11.  Prevent a Popsicle from dripping.  Poke one or two holes as  needed in a coffee filter.

12.  Do you think we used expensive strips to wax eyebrows?  Use strips of coffee filters..

13.  Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken  fingers, etc on them.  It soaks out all the grease. 

14.  Keep in the bathroom.  They make great "razor nick  fixers."

15.   As a sewing backing.  Use a filter as an easy-to-tear backing for embroidering or appliqueing soft fabrics.

16.  Put baking soda into a coffee filter and insert into shoes or a closet to absorb or prevent odors.

17.  Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.

18.  Use a coffee filter to prevent spilling when you add fluids to your car.

19.  Use them as a spoon rest while cooking and clean up small counter spills.

20.  Can use to hold dry ingredients when baking or when cutting a piece of fruit or veggies..  Saves on having extra bowls to wash.

21.  Use them to wrap Christmas ornaments for storage.

22.  Use them to remove fingernail polish when out of cotton balls.

23.  Use them to sprout seeds.  Simply dampen the coffee filter, place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a plastic baggie until they sprout.

24. Use coffee filters as blotting paper for pressed flowers.  Place the flowers between two coffee filters and put the coffee filters in  phone book..

25.  Use as a disposable "snack bowl" for popcorn, chips, etc.

26.  Use them to hold small parts when doing mechanical repairs.  They absorb the grease and keep parts organized.  


More on coffee filters: 

How Coffee Filters Can Help You Declutter Holiday Baking

The Cleverness of Coffee Filters

Spring Cleaning Using Household Items - Salt, Newspaper, Coffee Filters, and Olive Oil


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spring Cleaning Special - Clever Cleaning and Decluttering

1-2-3 ... Get Organized
Spring Cleaning Special

Need to do some spring cleaning and/or decluttering but don't know where to start? The answer is as simple as 1-2-3! Three Steps to Clever Cleaning and Three Steps to Decluttering are bright, colorful, glossy books containing three simple steps to accomplishing your goal.
Determine your cleaning philosophy, streamline your cleaning time, learn how to create a vision for your room, and more!

We're offering a special price for both books - $10.49 (reg. $11.98). Check out the other books in our 1-2-3 ... Get Organized series if you need help organizing your home, office, or time.

Is Decluttering/Organizing with Your Spouse Making You Angry?

During a recent organizing appointment with a couple, the wife got frustrated and angry with her husband. Awkward!!

She walked out of the garage where we were working, and chilled in the living room for a while. When she was ready, she rejoined us.

If you find yourself getting angry with your spouse while decluttering or organizing, follow my client's example. Take a break. Wait until you've both calmed down. Take a step back and talk about your differences in a neutral manner. 

Usually differences come about because people look at things from different perspectives. Neither may be right or wrong, they're just different. Try to be open-minded and see things from another point of view. 

Your spouse may have a better idea! Imagine that!

More on attitude:

Spring Cleaning Your Mood

Is Clutter Putting a Strain on Your Relationships?

Priorities and Perspective from a Ninety-Year-Old

5-Minute Stress Relievers - Change Your Attitude


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 National Spring Cleaning Survey Findings


Want to know how you measure up with the rest of the country in regard to spring cleaning? Here are the results of a spring cleaning survey sponsored by the Soap and Detergent Association:

"The following question was asked of 1,008 American adults (500 men and 508 women). The independent consumer research study was completed February 25-28, on behalf of The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), by Echo Research. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Do you regularly engage in spring cleaning?
  • Yes (60%)
    • 54% of men reported regular spring cleaning (261)
    • 65% of women reported regular spring cleaning (334)
  • No (40%)
    • 46% of men reported not regularly spring cleaning (222)
    • 35% of women reported not regularly cleaning (180)
  • Spring cleaning remains a popular activity with 60% of the population participating; however, numbers of reported annual spring cleaners dropping from 68% in 2009. Significantly more women (65%) are regular spring cleaners, as compared to just over half (54%) of men.
The following questions were asked of those who indicated they plan to spring clean this year (595 American adults – 261 men and 334 women).

How long does spring cleaning typically take you to complete?
  • Within 1 week (65%)
    • 1 day (13%)
    • 1 weekend (31%)
    • 1 week (20%)
    Longer than 1 week (34%)
    • 2 weekends (12%)
    • 2 to 3 weeks (12%)
    • 1 month or more (11%)
  • Males’ spring cleaning rituals are generally completed in less time than females’ activities. 70% of men’s spring cleaning is complete within a week. Women, on the other hand, take more time, with only 60% of women finishing within a week. 16% of women take 2 to 3 weeks to spring clean.
Which of the following is your primary reason for spring cleaning?
  • To remove clutter (36%)
  • To give your house the thorough cleaning it needs (27%)
  • To remove asthma or allergy triggers (21%)
  • To prevent the spread of illness (6%)
  • Top reasons address the ABCs of spring cleaning: allergens, bacteria and clutter."

 More on spring cleaning: 

Statistics: The Health and Mental Health Benefits of Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning the Walls and Windows

Spring Cleaning Using Household Items - Salt, Newspaper, Coffee Filters, and Olive Oil

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Organizing All Those Extra Wires

We have a drawer full of extra wires and cords. You know ... those cords you're afraid to throw away because as soon as you do, you'll need it, right?

Honestly, I was content to just leave them in that drawer and forget about them. But my husband decided to organize them! He just put each one in a separate zip lock bag. If you know what the cord or wire is, you could even label the bag.

You end up with untangled wires and the ability to locate the wire you need instantly. 

Here's an after picture:

Isn't he wonderful?!

More on organizing drawers:

Organizing Drawers

 No Cost Organizing: Drawer Dividers

Finding More Bathroom Storage without Expanding Your Bathroom 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Declutter as You Spring Clean - Just in Case

A couple of weeks ago, an 80-year old Detroit woman died in her burning house. A neighbor tried in vain to enter the house, but clutter prevented it. Emergency workers had trouble entering the house as well. The woman was found dead in her kitchen. 

I realize this is an extreme case. And even if we are not hoarders, our clutter can create obstructions to safety. 

NJToday ran the following article on the hazards of clutter from the perspective of emergency personnel.

"Some of us hate the never-ending task of having to tidy and organize the things in our homes and/or offices. But, according to one local property damage restoration expert, letting things pile up could lead to more than just not having a clear space from which to live or work. It can actually cause injuries and emergency hazards.
'Many may not realize that clutter can actually lead to a number of problematic situations, including falls and other bodily injuries, as well as blocking areas that can prevent one from exiting or entering a building in an emergency,' said Sandra White of PuroClean Disaster Masters.

'The inability to leave a building in an emergency quickly because of cluttered hallways and door entries, or the inability to locate important items like a fire extinguisher, is dangerous. As spring cleaning becomes top of mind for those in the community, we want to offer some tips on how they can de-clutter and make their homes and offices safe.'

To prevent injuries and emergency hazards, White suggests the following ways local residents and business professionals can start de-cluttering their homes and offices:

• Start in small increments. When de-cluttering your home or office, it’s best to start with closets or other storage areas first. Once you’ve freed up space in those areas for storage, you can then clear rooms, corners and other open spaces and put leftover items in your now spacious closets. It is better to have items in your closets than in trafficked areas.

• Cut clutter in the kitchen. The kitchen is probably the most common place where fires start. Your kitchen should always be clear of clutter. And, you should make sure you never have flammable objects near the oven and stove area, such as billing statements, grocery lists and other paper items, as well as dish rags, sponges or other flammable kitchen items.

• Trash junk mail. Some of us have an area in our home or office where junk mail and other unnecessary papers seem to pile up. To avoid the collection of unwanted papers, and the potential of a fire hazard, discard of unwanted mail as soon as you get it. Don’t let it pile up. If you receive a lot of bills and bank statements in the mail, consider paying bills and reviewing statements online only.

• Donate, donate, donate. If you find that you have clothes in your closet that you haven’t worn in six months or longer, it’s best to get rid of them. One way to do that is by donating them. Find a homeless shelter in your neighborhood where you can drop them off. Or, consider having a garage sale to sell clothing and other unwanted items at a low cost.

• Got books? Don’t let them collect dust. Some individuals may find that they purchase many books, but end up reading them only once. Instead of letting them collect dust and use up space, have a book exchange party where you can get rid of them, or donate them to your local library. For future reads, consider borrowing books from friends or simply getting your books at your local library instead of purchasing new ones.

'Our concern is the safety of the members of our community,” White said. “If homes and offices are clear of clutter, individuals can walk around in them safely. And, in emergency situations, they can get out of those places in a quick fashion, while also allowing emergency workers like us to enter the home without having to navigate through clutter. We hope that the tips that we have provided are helpful.'”

More on emergency preparedness:

National Preparedness Month - Evacuation Plan

Organizing Holiday Meals with Safety in Mind

Preventive Organizing - Changing Smoke Alarm Batteries and Other Preventive Measures You Never Knew About


Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Cleaning Your Food

How does saving money and decluttering at the same time sound? Here's an idea that encourages you to do both: spring cleaning your food. Your fridge. Your freezer. Your pantry.

Start with your fridge. I like to start on the top shelf with some glass or all-purpose cleaner. Start cleaning, removing old food and leftovers. As you move down, you'll see what needs to be used quickly and what has a little more shelf-life. 

If you're a list person, make a list of items that need to be used. 

Do the same thing with your refrigerator freezer, freezer, and pantry. Add to your list the items you find that need to be used quickly in these areas.  

Put like things together in each area, with the newest items in the back. If these areas are too full, work at getting rid of excess or get some space savers to increase usable space. For more specifics on organizing each space, see the links below.

It may take a little time, but think of the money you are saving by using food before it goes bad! And you may be able to save some grocery-shopping time to make up for it.

Armed with your list, create a menu for the next couple of weeks using those items on your list. I made crockpot stew yesterday early in the morning. I felt great getting rid of ingredients that needed to be used, and all I had to do was add a fruit plate and dinner was done! So nice on a crazy busy day!

More on decluttering food:

Organizing the Pantry

Get Organized Month - Organize Your Refrigerator Freezer

Get Organized Month 2009 - Organizing Your Fridge to Keep Foods Fresh

Get Organized Month - Clean out the Freezer


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Declutter by Becoming Package-Free

When we lived in Kenya, we were struck by the lack of packaging in comparison with the United States. Everyone carried her own bag when shopping. People recycled and re-used everything imaginable! It was refreshing! We felt so wasteful when we returned to the US and threw away so much packaging. 

I ran across some ideas from Emily Ho on living package-free. Some I find are a bit of a stretch. Let me know what you think.

"• Buy less. Curbing the impulse to shop and learning to live with less will help put you on the path to a packaging-free life. 

Buy used. When you do shop, rather than buying new, check thrift stores and salvage shops
Bring bags. Don't forget your reusable shopping bags. Need help remembering? Check out these tips

Get crafty. Take up urban homesteading practices like growing your own food, home canning, and baking bread. Develop a network of friends and neighbors to share your individual efforts.

Buy from bulk. For other foods, shop at farmers' markets, produce stands, butchers, and bulk bins. Bring reusable containers like produce bags and empty jars.

Pack lunch. Take your lunch to work in a reusable container with eco-friendly sandwich bags

Carry provisions. Pack a reusable water bottle and snacks in reusable bags so you don't find yourself running to the vending machine or corner store. 

Do it yourself – house cleaning. Making your own cleaning products might not eliminate packaging completely (you still need to procure the ingredients), but it can help you cut down considerably. If possible, buy ingredients like baking soda in or from bulk, and if you're really ambitious, you can make your own white vinegar

Take a break. Re-think your grooming habits. We're not suggesting you let yourself go, but take a break from hair product, foundation, or anti-aging cream for a week or two and see whether you really "need" it. Chances are, you'll look and feel perfectly fine with less.

Do it yourself – personal health. For the personal care products you do need, explore DIY options. For example, you can use baking soda for toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo. Buying the raw ingredients might involve some packaging, but it's a step in the right direction. 

Go the extra mile. It's not for everyone, but you can also eliminate packaging by going toilet-paper free, switching to reusable feminine products, and using cloth tissues

Shop smart. Inevitably, you will buy some packaged goods, but consider packaging that's reusable and recyclable. Avoid excessive packaging like individually-wrapped produce and look for products in bulk, concentrate form, or refillable containers. If you regularly shop online, you might also consider buying more things locally to reduce packing material waste." 

Challenging, isn't it? Do you have some package-free suggestions?

More on going package-free:

Swap Parties - Decluttering, Saving Money

10 Eco-Friendly and Wallet-Friendly uses for Olive Oil

Wait - Don't Throw That Away!

Getting Rid of Stuff While Saving the Environment



Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Declutter Your "To Be Read" Pile - Enter a Read-A-Thon

I love to read! I consider it a luxury, as I have so little time to read these days. 

If you love to read and would like to make some headway in your "To Be  Read" pile, consider entering a read-a-thon.

Wendy over at Novel Challenges has an amazing list of read-a-thons going on. Check it out!

More on books:

5 Tips for Storing Books

80 Awesome Ideas for All Your Old or Unwanted Books from Online Colleges

Tools to Inventory Your Books

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Tisket A Tasket - Decluttering with a Basket

Gotta bunch of clutter sitting around? Try the basket method of decluttering:

Grab a basket or box and walk around the room, picking up items that are out of place. 

Go into the next room and put away the things from your basket that go into that room.

Pick up items in that room that do not belong there and place them in your basket.

Continue through the rooms in your house until the clutter is gone! 

You'll probably need to make another trip through the rooms to unload the remainder of your basket.

You may want to provide baskets for each family member to retrieve their clutter throughout the house, too.

If something in your basket doesn't have a home, try to make a quick decision as to where it should live. 

More on decluttering:
Three Steps to Decluttering

Decluttering in 5 - 20 Decluttering Tasks You Can Do In Five Minutes or Less

Decluttering Tips


Monday, March 15, 2010

Clutter in Your Car = Danger

Hope you had a nice weekend! We took three of our foster daughters to the zoo, one of whom had never been. So hopefully, we're broadening her experiences and making memories at the same time. 

With four teenage foster daughters, it's a constant struggle to keep our cars clutter-free. This eye-opening article is by Chuck Mai, Vice President of public affairs for AAA in Oklahoma, gives a serious perspective on car clutter.

"Think you’re driving your car to work? Nope. For more and more of us, we’re driving our dining room, our entertainment center, our home office and maybe even the kids’ playroom, all rolled into one.

Such multifunctionalism creates clutter. It not only can drive you crazy, it can affect your safety.

Anything loose in your car can become an unguided missile in the event of a crash. When you hit the brakes at 45 mph, for example, the G.I. Joe in the back seat continues to travel at 45 mph until some other force acts upon it, like the back of your skull.

De-clutter now.

Take out everything from inside your car or pickup and divide it into two groups: essential and nonessential.

Then take the essentials and divide that stuff into two groups: seasonal and everyday.

Leave the nonessentials and off-season items in the garage or house.

Fill up the rear first. This means the trunk or the extreme rear of a sport utility vehicle or minivan. For other things, consider hanging backseat organizers or putting kids’ stuff in a backpack and fastening it into a seat belt.

Finally, encourage your family to keep the vehicle clutter-free.

No one leaves the vehicle empty-handed."

More on car clutter:
Spring Cleaning the Car
Getting Organized for School - Cleaning out the Car
Decluttering Your Car

Friday, March 12, 2010

Coffee Tables - 5 Tips on How to Keep Them from Becoming Clutter Magnets

Do your coffee tables end up being the depositories of your junk? It's so easy to drop things on coffee tables rather than put them where they belong.

My suggestions?

1. Get rid of coffee tables and find homes for those things you normally toss there.

2. If you must keep your coffee table, keep a basket underneath to collect magazines, the remotes, and other things that tend to clutter the table.

3. Buy coffee tables with drawers or shelves to store those things that tend to clutter the top.

4. Each night before bed, have everyone remove their items from the coffee tables and other surfaces.

5. Provide a place for family members to drop their stuff when they come in the door. Train them to do it!

More on eliminating clutter magnets:

Get Organized Month 2009 - Family Five Minute Challenge

Organizing Your Mud Room

Getting Organized for School - Creating a Hub

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Cleaning Your Mood

When the girls got home from school a couple of days ago, I had shorts on because I had exercised earlier. The sun was shining - a rare occurrence in Ohio! It was almost 50 degrees! 

So some of the girls got their shorts on, too, and we went outside to soak up some sun.  We live next door to an elementary school, so we went to the playground and the girls got a chance to get out some pent-up energy. Even though they are teenagers, they enjoyed being little kids again. Sunshine and exercise - what mood lifters (and sleep enhancers)!

I came across the following article by Pat Murrah (Reid Hospital and Health Care Services' Community Education Department), which suggests these as well as other ways to improve your mood after a long, hard winter:

"Life circumstances influence about 10 percent of our happiness. Research shows that happiness is mostly influenced by what we do to deliberately make ourselves feel better. The following tips can help you feel happier, even when life gets stressful — especially when life gets stressful:

Look at old photos
Looking at pictures of your favorite vacation or your children when they were babies can bring back happy feelings.
Munch on nuts

They contain omega 3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have a calming effect.

Inhale a calming scent

Orange and lavender are scents that have been shown to have a relaxing effect. A few drops of scented oil on a handkerchief provides an on-the-go stress reliever.

Open your drapes or shades
The more light you are exposed to, the more calming the effect. If you work in an office without windows, take a break and seek sunlight.

Walk around the block
The exercise can provide a distraction during stressful times, plus increase your exposure to sunlight.

Clear away clutter
Looking at clutter can remind you of things not done. Tackle one project at a time until the clutter is gone.

Think fast
Research shows that rapid thinking may release “feel good” brain chemicals as well as provide a distraction. Try naming all the states with begin with the letter “m” or something similar to stimulate your brain.

Laughter releases dopamine in the brain, which is a natural opiate. Watch funny videos, read a funny book or just look for the laughter in daily life.

Rethink retail therapy
Rather than spending money for material things, spend your money on “experiences.” Going with friends to dinner or to the lake will bring more happiness than a new pair of shoes.

Hang out with cheerful people

There is such a thing as mood contagion. Being around unhappy or negative people can affect your mood. Try and avoid the negative people and “catch” the mood of a happy, positive person."

More on improving mood:

5-Minute Stress Relievers - Music: The Great Stress Reliever

In a Winter Rut? Here's How to Climb Out!

5-Minute Stress Relievers - Change Your Attitude


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No Cost Organizing: Drawer Dividers

Looking for some easy ways to create drawer dividers at no cost?
1. Cut up cereal boxes and use as dividers for socks, undies, etc.

drawer organizer, divider

  Photo: A Little Hut

2. If your drawers are deep enough, you could also use shoe boxes.

3. In the kitchen, use plastic meat trays (that ground turkey comes in) to hold your measuring spoons or other small items.                                                                                

No need to go out and buy drawer dividers unless you wish to do so! 

More on no/low-cost storage:

Containerizing Your Kitchen

Don't Make the #1 Organizing Mistake

Gaining Storage without Losing Floor Space

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Statistics: The Health and Mental Health Benefits of Spring Cleaning

I really enjoyed the following  article by Health Net, Inc. about the health and mental health benefits of spring cleaning.  It's quite motivating! I hope you enjoy it.

"The month of March brings with it the official start of spring -- a season associated with renewal and romance, and, on a less lyrical level -- with dusting, scrubbing, and otherwise engaging in the roll-up-your-sleeves ritual known as spring cleaning. While heavy-duty housework hardly sounds inviting, Health Net, Inc. (HNT 24.16, -0.40, -1.63%) wants to spread the word that spring cleaning not only results in a tidy abode, but also brings with it mental health benefits. 
Studies have shown that a dirty, disorganized home can harbor health threats in the form of mold, bacteria and clutter-caused injuries, but such an environment also can negatively impact mental health, explains Ian Shaffer, M.D., chief medical officer of MHN, Health Net's behavioral health subsidiary. "A thorough spring cleaning definitely brings with it a feel-good sense of satisfaction," he adds, "and the physical exertion of dusting, vacuuming and scrubbing has been found to reduce stress and anxiety."

Shaffer points out that, while the physical benefits of exercise are well known, there's mounting evidence that exercise -- even in the form of housework -- brings with it mental health benefits. In fact, one study -- conducted by University College London -- found that as little as 20 minutes of housework per week reduced feelings of psychological distress. It was further found that the risk of mental health problems was reduced by one-fifth among those engaging in just 20 minutes of housework weekly. 

"Exercise is known to boost mental health," says Shaffer, "and house-cleaning activities are certainly a form of exercise. A bigger activity, like a top-to-bottom spring cleaning, helps you to feel organized and in control, and those feelings definitely result in reduced stress." 

The chores-calories connection

Doing housework not only lifts your spirits and lowers your stress level, but -- as an added bonus -- you also burn calories in the process. The American Heart Association categorizes housework as "moderate exercise," and says that a person weighing 150 pounds who engages in 30 minutes of household chores can expect to burn the following:
-- Cleaning a bathroom -- 200 calories
-- Doing laundry -- 133 calories
-- Making beds -- 130 calories
-- Washing windows -- 125 calories
-- Vacuuming -- 123 calories
-- Ironing --70 calories
-- Dusting -- 50 calories

Shaffer notes, "Household chores alone are unlikely to keep you physically fit, but this, along with other daily tasks, provides a portion of the physical exercise we all need. If you combine these activities with a structured exercise program, the results can be very positive." 

Stay organized after spring cleaning 

With the satisfaction of a successful spring cleaning behind you, Shaffer cautions against returning to one's previously disorganized ways. "Staying organized," he says, "encourages the good kind of stress." In fact, studies have shown that a feeling of control -- a feeling that comes with being organized -- is key to whether stress will serve as a positive force that fuels creativity and optimism or if it will serve as a negative force accompanied by a sense of helplessness and pessimism. 

Beyond optimism, being organized brings with it a bounty of other benefits. Shaffer points to three: 

-- Reduced time pressure -- Among the greatest sources of stress is time pressure, i.e., so much to do, so little time. While being organized doesn't add hours to the day, it does enable you to make the most of the 24 hours in each day. Organized individuals don't waste time wondering what work project is due when, or where a needed item -- from an unpaid bill to an uncashed check -- might be hiding. The time saved can be spent on any number of stress-busting activities, such as exercising or preparing a healthy meal. 

-- Disorganization makes it hard to see things in their components. Failing to see the parts leads to a few of the whole that can be very overwhelming and at times will lead to immobilization and people failing to act and move forward. 

-- No disorganization domino effect -- As a general rule, disorganization creates a ripple effect, impacting not only the offender, but also those around him or her. If you're disorganized, the fallout can extend to family, friends as well as co-workers, and a tension-filled environment can become the order of the day. Conversely, while organization doesn't guarantee harmony and happiness, it unquestionably helps." 

More on the benefits of organization: 

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring Cleaning the Attic

How can I be talking about spring cleaning when we still have snow on the ground?! It's gotten warm enough over the last couple of days, though, for some grass in our yard to peep out. But I realize the rest of the country may be experiencing spring-like weather. It's a great time to clean the attic whatever the case.

Spring is a wonderful time to attack the attic - it's still cool enough to be able to tackle this decluttering job! You certainly don't want to wait until summer. And the timing is perfect - you may find you have enough for a yard sale. Now that's motivating, isn't it?

Start by walking around your attic to take a mental inventory of what you have there. Designate corners for each category - Christmas, other seasonal decorations, keepsakes, off-season clothing, suitcases and traveling accessories, home repair supplies - whatever categories represent your life.

Now that you have designated certain corners for the categories you have stored in your attic, it's time to sort.

Start in one corner of your attic. You may want to surround yourself with several boxes - one for each category plus one for giveaways. As you sort each item, ask yourself:
- is it necessary?
- have you used it in the last year?
- is it important to you or someone else?
- could someone else use it?

If you absolutely must keep the item you're sorting, place it in the appropriate box. Have a trash bag nearby for those things that don't even qualify for giveaways.

Work your way around the attic. You may discover additional categories as you go. You may also find items in your attic which would be better used elsewhere in your home. Be creative - are there some keepsakes you want to keep that could serve as storage containers in your house? Your mother's tea cups could hold jewelry in your dresser drawer, for example. A trunk could hold toys or linens.

Place each box in the corner you have designated for that category.

Now that you've decluttered and sorted, you're ready to look at your storage needs for your attic.

Look at each category to see what would best house those items. Do you need large clear storage containers for linens? Do you need small boxes for books? Do you need a place to hang out-of-season clothes? Do you need shelves, drawers, hooks, etc?

Before you go out and purchase storage containers, look around your house, basement, garage, etc. to see if you already have such storage. You may have an unused dresser that would work for storage if it were moved up to the attic, for example.

Label each container with the contents so when you're hunting for something, you don't need to open every container. If you are using clear storage containers, write your list on a piece of paper and slide it down the side of the container so you can read it without opening the box.

Celebrate - good job done!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Basket a Day Keeps Chaos Away

Getting out the door in the morning is a monumental task for most families! In the past, we've talked about having a chart near your calendar, listing items each family member needs on specific days.

I recently read about an interesting way one person organizes items that must accompany members of her family out the door. She has a basket for each day of the week. Each basket holds items family members need on that particular day.

For example,
if you need to return a borrowed item to someone you are going to see on Monday, stow it in Monday's basket. If a certain article needs to go to school on a particular day, placing it in the basket for that day insures it won't be forgotten. Library books that are due on Saturday can be dropped in Saturday's basket once read.

This is a great system for visual people, for people with ADD, and for those who don't like lists. Plus it cuts down on clutter because items have a place to live while they are waiting to leave the house.

But where to put those seven baskets? In a closet, perhaps. Or in a cupboard in your mud room or garage. Near the door where you exit your home, certainly.

I like this idea, don't you? Finding room for seven baskets might be a challenge, though.

More on getting out the door:

Getting Organized for School - Start the Night Before
Getting Organized for School - Creating a Hub
Get Organized for School (or life!) - A Family Calendar

Containerizing Your Kitchen

Yesterday I helped a client organize her kitchen. As we sorted through her cupboards and drawers, we came across containers she doesn't use any more. Some were sentimental and some were not. We placed the containers on the table.

When we came across items that needed to be containerized, we had a selection of containers to choose from. She loved it when we could use a sentimental container to house an item. For example, we used a cute little pitcher with a lid to store her tea bags.

She has a basket collection which does double duty by being beautiful as well as storing things like coffee filters and such. We came across tins, plastic containers, and jars - all of which are great kitchen storage containers.

When containerizing, don't forget to look at sentimental items as storage, if you like to keep such things around you. A nice way to repurpose items you love!

More on containerizing:

Don't Make the #1 Organizing Mistake
Spring Cleaning the Attic - Part 3
Get Organized Month - Declutter Your Pantry

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spring Cleaning Your Habits

Need some extra time? Who doesn't!?! A good place to look for extra scraps of time is those habits we do without thinking. Sometimes it's nice to take a step back and evaluate if certain habits are costing valuable time. Here are some potential time traps:

- Reading rather than skimming articles, blogs, emails to determine if they are of interest
- Stopping for coffee rather than making it at home for a fraction of the time
- Allowing others to hold you hostage with their meaningless conversation
- Watch too much news or TV
- Spending too much time on video games, Facebook, etc.
- Letting chores pile up rather than tackle them as they arise (dishes, cleaning, sorting mail, etc.)
- Napping rather than establishing good sleep patterns

Habits are a comfortable part of life, but they can also gobble up our time if we let them. Start paying attention to those habits you have in your life to determine if they are helping or hurting you.

More on habits:

Five causes to disorganization
Tools to Track Your Computer Time
New Sleep Study Shows Risks of Acute and Chronic Sleep Loss

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Overwhelmed by Unfinished Projects?

As I've studied personality types, I've learned that there are people who like to have closure and those to whom it doesn't matter as much. The former usually like to finish projects or will force themselves to do so for the sake of closure.

The latter may lose interest before the project is finished. This may be due to the inability to estimate how much time will be needed to complete the project. In addition, these people may be creative, artistic individuals with unlimited ideas and possibilities, and, as a result, unfinished projects.

If you're one with numerous unfinished projects lying around, start making some decisions! Give yourself permission to discard unfinished projects! If you've learned what you want to learn, enjoyed the experience along the way, and are ready to move on to something else, say goodbye.

If you're not yet ready to give up a project, either set a deadline for yourself or box it up to finish another time. Or box it up as a keepsake. That way, your project will not be sitting there, mocking you because you didn't finish.

By making decisions about your unfinished projects, you will rid yourself of clutter as well as the heaviness and guilt associated with them.

More on projects:
A Dozen Ways to Take the Stress out of Big Projects
Delegation - A Key Ingredient for Efficiency
Helping Your Child Organize Large Homework Projects

Monday, March 1, 2010

5 Tips for Storing Books

Hope you had a nice weekend! Ours was full - a birthday party, some drama, and some good talks. So ... what about books?

- If you have books you'd like to store, make sure to do so in a climate-controlled location. Attics, basements and garages will not be kind to your books due to the fluctuating temperatures and humidity.

- Store in banker's boxes. A regular cardboard box falls apart over time, and its glue attracts bugs. Banker's boxes can be easily stacked and are small enough to prevent becoming excessively heavy.

- If your books are dusty, wipe them off before storing.

- If your books are moldy, dispose of them or call a mold remediation specialist. Amateurs are not equipped to deal properly with mold, as the process is quite complicated. If mold is not dealt with, it will multiply, endangering yourself and your surroundings. Unless your moldy books are extremely dear to you, it may not be worth the expense and cleaning process to keep them.

- If you are dealing with dusty or moldy books, wear a mask and make sure your surroundings are well ventilated.

More on books:

80 Awesome Ideas for All Your Old or Unwanted Books from Online Colleges
Tools to Inventory Your Books
Decluttering Your Books with BookMooch