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, August 31, 2011

Some of My Favorite Organizing Products - Cabinet Expanders

In all the houses I've lived in prior to this one, I've never had enough kitchen space for my addiction to dishes. So ... near and dear to my heart are cabinet expanders. Yes, I know. I'm a professional organizer. I'm not supposed to have storage problems. 

Oh. well. That's why they make cabinet expanders. :) Here are my favorites:

This two-piece expander is great for cabinets that are too small for regular expanders. As you can see, it comes apart, allowing you to put the two small sections into your cabinet and connect them once they are in the cabinet. 

The one below flattens and can be extended once it is in the cabinet.


This solid piece comes in several sizes - great for plates, saucers, bowls, cups or food items. It is especially nice for tall cabinets with sparse shelving.

I love the vertical expander below - a wonderful alternative to stacking. You can reach the stored items without having to move other things - not the case if you stack the same items horizontally. 

I've found my cabinet expanders at WalMart, Bed Bath and Beyond and similar places. 

More on kitchen storage:

Spring Cleaning the Pantry - When to Toss It?

Containerizing Your Kitchen

Decluttering Plastics - Which Ones are Safe?

Organize Your Kitchen in 3 Weeks

 Three Steps to Organizing Your Kitchen


Monday, August 29, 2011

How Quickly Could You Evacuate?

It's been a crazy week, saying good-bye to one foster daughter who is going to college, welcoming another into our home, and dealing with enrollment issues with a third. Translation: we're down to two girls now, and hopefully they will both be in school tomorrow.
We've watched Irene with rapt interest, enjoying gorgeous weather while empathizing with those in her path. I'm sure you've asked yourself, as I have, how easily you could evacuate your home.

In light of Irene and National Preparedness Month in September, here's a quick list of what you would need should you ever need to evacuate:

check book
drivers license or ID
credit cards
health insurance cards
meds/prescriptions disc or flashdrive backups of computer documents
picture or video documentation of what is in your house
laptop and charger 
cell phone and charger (I leave my cell phone car charger in the car) 
safe deposit key
birth, death and marriage certificates
will, power of attorney
Social Security cards and records
military records
medical records 

insurance policies
tax returns

retirement account records 
recent pay stubs
warranties and receipts
car titles and registrations
mortgage deeds and records

rental agreements

Keep the documents in your fireproof safe or safe deposit box. I keep all my picture negatives in my safe deposit box, too. 

If your important documents are in one place, you can easily lift them out and place them in a briefcase or box to take with you. 

Print and keep this list with your checkbook, so you can easily pull together the other items on the list without forgetting anything.

Make sure you have an emergency plan (see below). And gather the above together in order to be prepared should a disaster force you to evacuate - a fire, a tornado, a hurricane, a flood. This will give you peace of mind before a crisis and a level head in the midst of one. 

More on preparedness:

National Preparedness Month - Making a Plan

National Preparedness Month - Evacuation Plan

National Preparedness Month – Evacuation from Work, School, Daycare, and Neighborhood Communities

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Yes, I'm Alive!

In a little over two weeks, we've seen two of our foster daughters move out to live with family (a good thing for them!) and one new foster daughter visit and move in. Our own daughter left this morning after a wonderful visit. So I'm trying to catch my breath at the moment. I'll be back soon with more posts. :) - Bev


Monday, August 22, 2011

Storage and Moving Boxes - Think Outside the Box

We're having a wonderful visit from one of our daughters - playing games, laughing, talking, reliving memories, eating good food. What a wonderful gift!

Now on to our blog post for today:

When I help my clients downsize locally, I like to use my own plastic containers. They are reusable, clear, and sturdy. No need to use boxes that must be discarded later. No taping, either. Just slide a piece of paper down the side of the box with the contents listed, and it's labeled!

I like to store my seasonal decorations in these boxes, too. It's easy to see which season I'm looking for when I'm switching out seasonal decor.

However, these containers are too large for heavy items like books. 

Guess who has the cheapest prices for book boxes? 
Storage companies? No. 
Truck rental companies? No. 
Office supply stores? No. 
Online? No. 

Lowes!! At 70 cents a box, they were up to one-third the price of other stores.

They don't carry specialty boxes - just small, medium ($1.12 apiece) and large boxes ($1.36 apiece). Our local Lowes only has small and large. 

The moral of the story: when you're searching for organizing or moving products, do a little research and think outside the box. You may save yourself a lot of money!

More on boxes:

5 Tips for Storing Books

Organizing Your Shoes

Toy decluttering


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hoarding Under Consideration as a Stand-Alone Disorder

One of our daughters is here for a visit while we have some time off. We're looking forward to some movies, games, laughter and fun! Now for our post for today ... 
According to Suzanne Otte, MBA, MSW and Gail Steketee, PhD in their recent article in the Psychiatric Times on August 19, 2011, hoarding is under consideration for becoming a stand-alone disorder. I found this excerpt from their article very interesting: 


"Historically, hoarding has been deemed a subtype of OCD, although forthcoming evidence suggests there are more differences than similarities. 


Hoarding is under consideration for inclusion in DSM-5 as a stand-alone disorder. A set of provisional criteria for hoarding disorder has been proposed and will require further study in the future. 


A recent study conducted by Frost and colleagues that examined the largest sample of participants to date confirmed that major depressive disorder was the most frequently occurring comorbid condition (more than 50%) and that kleptomania was a factor in 10% of the sample."


More on hoarding:

Hoarder or Collector?

Self-Help Books for Hoarders and Their Families

One Sign That Your Clutter is Out of Control


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Declutter Your Key Ring with a Free Smart Phone App

Is your key ring resembling a peacock with its tail feathers fanned out? All those membership cards can get cumbersome! Here's a review by Fantabulously Frugal in Chicago on a free app that puts them all on your smart phone.

"I get approached on a near daily basis by companies wanting me to tell you about their new smart phone app. Apps are neat, but they're also kind of boring, so I refuse to write about them.

Until today.

I just found the neatest app (nope, I wasn't approached by anyone about this one) and it has already changed my life.

Case in Point:

This was my key ring about a half an hour ago. It was a half pound brick filled with keys and rewards cards.

This is my key ring now - much lighter and free of all of those pesky cards thanks to the Key Ring app, which is my new BFF.

Key Ring replaces all of your membership rewards cards and stores them on your phone for easy access. Then, when you go to the grocery store they'll just scan the bar code from your phone instead of the key ring.

I am kind of technologically impaired, so setting this up was SUPER easy.

You scan in the bar codes from your cards and then save them to your account. If your card doesn't have a bar code you can click that handy "No Barcode" button and enter the code on the card manually.

Once you've scanned in the cards you have, you can scroll through and pull them up quickly. And here's a neat feature - Key Ring will tell you when there are specials that you can take advantage of at the stores. Right now with my card I can get a free sample of Phenom Coconut Water at GNC, $15 off a $75 purchase at Office Depot, and more! I <3 saving money!

Another neat feature is that the app can recommend cards you don't have for stores that are nearby. It can also send coupons direct to your phone, as you can see with Michaels.

So yeah, this is my little public service announcement that this is the neatest app ever. I am so happy that my key ring has been purged of all of those rewards cards, but I still have access to them.

Oh - I forgot the absolute best part... The Key Ring app is FREE!"

More on decluttering your purse:

Cherry Blooms - The Perfect Organizing Bag!!

Pouchee Purse Organizer

An Organizing Tool for Bags, Briefcases, Luggage and More!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Getting Organized for School (and Life!) 2011 - Prioritizing Your Activities and Schedule

If you have school-age children there are three times a year when it might be beneficial to re-prioritize your activities and schedule: January, summer and fall. 

Even if you don't have kids, fall is like a second January. Summertime is usually chaotic, and now it's time to regroup.

Prioritizing activities and schedules involves looking at your schedule in light of your passions and gifts. Does your schedule reflect those things you love and are gifted to do? If not, burn out or discouragement is ahead. 

When you know where you're going and why, life is fulfilling. You're confident you are running after those things you love. You're basking in the satisfaction of using your gifts and doing a good job. Even if difficult times should arise, it gives you a compass through the storm. What could be better?

If you are overwhelmed at the thought of re-prioritizing, I'd love to help! -I'm available to coach you through this. 
- I have several time management books which walk you step-by-step through this process. 
- Rethinking Your Life in 3 Weeks provides bite-sized tasks to do each day. 

How I can help:
Rethinking Life Coaching
1-2-3 ... Get Organized Time Management Books 
Rethinking Your Life in 3 Weeks

Friday, August 12, 2011

Getting Organized for School 2011 - Kids' Artwork and Paper

I repeat this blog post every year because paper gets out of control so easily! If you have a system from the beginning, you're less likely to get overwhelmed.

Along with school, comes all those papers! And art masterpieces. What to do with them? You want to preserve memories of your child’s school years, but you don’t want to train her to be a pack rat.

I’ll have to admit – I wasn’t very proactive in this area when my children were growing up. We’d sort through papers every once in a while, frame some, and store others, but we didn’t do it very consistently.

I researched this topic when asked to contribute to an article written by Mary Beth Breckenridge at the Akron Beacon Journal (Preserve your Children's Masterpieces without Creating a Mountain from Paper Memoirs, September 5, 2005). I found some great ideas I wish I had used.

So today’s blog comes primarily from the article Mary Beth wrote from the hints that two other organizers (Deniece Schofield and Chris Perrow) and I contributed. And I’ve added a couple I’ve come up with since then.

First, choose a receptacle for such papers. It could be a file folder, a hanging file, an art portfolio (or one made by taping two pieces of poster board together), a box, a binder with protector sheets - whatever works for you and your child.

Before storing your child’s artwork, you may want to display them. You could create a gallery in your child’s room or elsewhere by hanging a colorful piece of string or yarn across a wall and clip the artwork to the string. Voila – instant gallery.

Or use a picture frame to house artwork, swapping out the front picture when a new keeper comes along, storing the other pictures behind the most recent one. And there’s always the refrigerator or a bulletin board.

Another option is to turn the artwork into placemats (by laminating them), wrapping paper or greeting cards. A glass-covered coffee table can show off artwork under the glass. Or turn your child’s artwork into a calendar. Create a collage with several pieces of artwork. There are even companies that turn your child’s artwork into a book.

Artwork that doesn’t make it into the keeper file can be sent to grandma or to our troops, if it seems too cruel to toss them.

With your child, clean out her backpack at the end of the week. Some papers will not be sentimental and will go easily into the recycling bin. Try to encourage your child to choose only one item a week to keep. Label the back of the paper with the date and a description, especially if the picture may not be readily identifiable!

Some weeks may be more prolific than others, and it may be too traumatic to narrow it down to one item. If you don’t mind, and you have enough room, make exceptions here and there. There may be items you treasure, but your child doesn’t see the value in them at her age – keep those, too.

At the end of the month, as you are evaluating that week’s papers, look back over the previously stored papers to see if some of the sentimentality has decreased for the earlier keepers. Time has a way of diminishing the attachment. Repeat every month.

For large three-dimensional projects take a picture rather than storing the entire project. Large art pieces can be taken to a copy center and reduced to a manageable size.

At the end of the school year, determine if your storage is adequate to house that year’s keepers. If not, purge until it is. Label the container with your child’s name and the year.

For family night one night, take out the keepers for the last few years and reminisce – what a fun memory!

More on organizing for school:

Getting Organized for School 2010 - Learning Styles

Getting Organized for School 2010: Starting the Night Before

Getting Organized for School 2010: Homework

Three Steps to Time Managenent

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Some of My Favorite Organizing Products - Giant Paper Clips

We're off to a water park today, even though it will be a little chilly (76 high). It's our last chance before one of the girls leaves on Friday. A fun day to make memories! Now on to our topic of the day ...

Here's another one of my favorite organizing products - a giant paper clip! I try to be green and recycle paper that has been used on only one side. The girls' computer sits on a small table, and this paper clip allows us to store such paper vertically, taking up very little room. This is ours:

Here's one from At West End (left) and one from Fellowes (right)  


How do you store your reusable paper?

More on paper:

Managing Paper

Creating an Incoming Paper Hub

National Association of Professional Organizers' Best Product in Technology 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Organizing Your Books

Our girls haven't been reading our books lately, and I'm wondering if it's because the books are so disorganized. I had organized them when we first moved in, but somehow they have become quite random! :) I'm sure that never happens at your house, does it? LOL!

I started by getting rid of some books. Books that might interest our girls were placed in the "prime real estate" area - the two shelves at eye level. These consist of books on dating and teen fiction. Other fiction or books that motivate are located above and below these.  And other less interesting books (to them) are on the outskirts. 

I also moved the books to the edge of the shelves, to make them more inviting. These are "after" pictures - I forget to take "before" pictures! Now I just need to explain the categories to the girls. :)

More on books:

5 Tips for Storing Books

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

Losing those library books?


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

OMEx Helps Ohio Businesses Recycle Unwanted Items

Today our we and our foster daughters are preparing a meal to take to the Akron Ronald McDonald House tomorrow. We've done it once before and the girls really enjoyed it. We did some cleaning while there, too. It does the heart good to do something for those who are in hard circumstances, doesn't it? Now on to our post for today ...

Does your Ohio business have surplus items that you want to get rid of responsibly? Ohio Materials Exchange (OMEx) may be able to help you out. According to the Summit/Akron Solid Waste Management Authority:

"OMEx is a materials exchange service that helps businesses save money while reducing the amount of trash that goes into landfills.  

OMEx connects companies that generate waste or have surplus equipment, chemicals and materials, with those that can reuse or recycle those unwanted materials.  

OMEx lists both materials available and materials wanted by your business.

OMEx was developed for the Association of Ohio Recyclers and Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio."

More on recycling:

Recycling Compact Fluorescent Lamps (Light bulbs)

Recycling Electronics and Appliances

More Eco-Friendly Recycling


Monday, August 1, 2011

Getting Organized for School 2011 - Destressing School Shopping

I'm taking our three foster daughters shopping today. School starts on the 24th, and the all-important "first-day-of-school outfits" must be bought!

School shopping can be extremely stressful - financially, emotionally and physically. Here are some tips I've learned along the way to reduce that stress:

1. Help your child (if age appropriate) go through his/her clothes and remove any that don't fit or that are otherwise not working.

2. Make a list of each retained clothing item, in categories: short-sleeve tops, shorts, jeans, etc.

3. Make a list of possible outfit matches, especially if you have girls. If you have boys, you should be very thankful clothing is much less complicated for them! Matches may present themselves that you or your child hadn't thought about before. (Keep this list to ease the stress of planning what to wear each day.)

4. Make a list of what is missing: a cute skirt with no top to match, for example. Don't forget socks and underwear. 

5. Determine what store(s) might have most of what is on your list. 

6. Determine a budget of what you will spend for back-to-school shopping for each child. Explain to your child that that amount is what they have to spend, so they will have to choose carefully. 

This removes emotional stress. It is now up to your child to make the hard decisions, not you. This can work starting from late elementary school and upwards. We started in middle school with our own girls, but could have started earlier.

7. Finally, with list in hand, go shopping! If your child is impulsive, gently remind him/her about the priorities on the list. 

All this preparation will hopefully reduce your physical stress - you know what you need and where you can get it. Endless and aimless wandering from store to store will not be a part of your life! 

8. Determine a monthly clothes budget for each child. Our foster daughters get $60 per month to spend on clothes, $10 of which can be spent on non-clothes items. We gave our own daughters $75 per month back in the day - this included shoes, coats, underwear, everything. Determine what works for you. 

Even though it seems like a big chunk of money going out each month, it's much less stressful than huge chunks going out randomly. And it reduces the stress in your child - he/she knows there is a certain amount of money each month for clothes. Hopefully, this will remove the "gimme, gimme, gimme" attitude that comes with not knowing when there will be money again for new clothes.

I feel that giving our girls a clothes budget is one of the best decisions we made as parents. It taught our daughters how to use money wisely, to comparison shop rather than buy the first thing they saw, and look for bargains. If they wanted to buy an expensive item, it was fine, but there was a cost to it. When there is an endless supply of mom and dad's money (or so they think), these lessons are not learned.

A clothes budget took the stress out of shopping for me. I wasn't the one having to make the choices, they were. If my girls bought impulsively or expensively, that was their choice. Over time they learned how to manage their money, to wait, to plan. When they went off to college, we felt they were prepared to manage their money well. 

More on shopping/clothes:

10 Ways to Streamline Your Shopping Time

Christmas in July

Get Oranized Month 2009 - Organizing Your Clothes Closet