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.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Need Christmas Cash? How to Sell Your Old Phones, Equipment and Gadgets.

It's a hassle to get rid of old office equipment and gadgets, isn't it? Stephanie Vozzal's article provides all you need to cash in on your unused or outdated items:

"Got a few thousand dollars lying around? If your office is similar to the average U.S. household, you just might. A survey by eBay and Nielsen Customized Research found most of us have 50 unused items around their home that, if sold, could bring in $3,100.

The printer you replaced, the cell phone you upgraded and the book you never read -- it’s time to convert that clutter into cash.

Here are several items just waiting to be turned in for money, and how to cash in.

Cell Phones and Electronic Gadgets

According to the latest e-waste study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 141 million cell phones and mobile devices are replaced each year and only 8% are recycled.

Donna Smallin Kuper, organizing expert and author of How to De-clutter and Make Money Now (CreateSpace, 2012) says the majority ends up in drawers, 'because most people don’t know what to do with their old phones when they get new ones.'

In her book, she lists websites that pay cash for cell phones and other electronics. To sell an old phone, a good place to start is SellCell.com, a price comparison site that gets quotes from multiple buyers. Smallin Kuper also recommends Gazelle.com, a popular site that pays cash for select cell phones as well as iPads, iPods and Macbooks. According to its website, the company has purchased more than a million items, with the average device fetching $125.

Another good site is NextWorth.com, which has one of the most extensive buyback lists. This company will purchase your cell phone, laptop, camera, tablet, e-reader, GPS, television, video game console and even your calculator.

When it comes to selling electronics, digital lifestyle expert Carley Knobloch says timing is everything.

'As soon as I got the iPhone 5, I sold my iPhone 4' she says. 'I knew it was worth more at that moment than it ever would be.'

Knobloch, founder of Digitwirl.com, recommends selling electronics as soon as you upgrade or decide you don’t need it. And to help with resale value, she suggests taking good care of your gadgets, using a case when possible and skipping the custom engraving.


Most entrepreneurs have a shelf full of books on the latest business trends. Turn them into quick cash by selling to a site that buys books. Start at BookScouter.com, a price comparison site with a database of more than 20 vendors.

Powells is one of the most popular book selling sites. And SellBackBooks.com is a good market for textbooks. Smallin Kuper says she likes this site because of its Android app that lets you scan the ISBN.

Office Equipment and Furnishings

If you have an iPhone, sell office furnishings using the Yardsale iPhone app. Knobloch likes the app because it lets buyers search specific neighborhoods. Other good sites for selling large furnishings include Craigslist.org and Kijiji.com, both of which offer free online classified ads.

Empty Ink Cartridges

Finally, get cash for ink and toner cartridges. TonerBuyer.com buys empty, partially used and new cartridges. Or return empty cartridges to an office supply store, such as Staples or Office Max, and get store credit of $2 per cartridge.

'In our economy, everybody’s looking to make a little extra money,' says Knobloch. 'Cleaning out the clutter and making extra cash in the process is a great way to do it.'"

More on selling your clutter:

Apps to Help Get Rid of Your Clutter
Helping Your Kids Turn Their Clutter into  Cash
Decluttering Your Electronics

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Prepare for the Unexpected - Winterizing Tips

As cold weather descends upon us, it's time to winterize and prepare for the unexpected. Frozen pipes, getting stuck in snow, and power failures are just some of the possible difficulties we may find ourselves experiencing.

Last weekend we went without water for two days - not from frozen pipes, but from a glitch with our well pump. So on Saturday, we woke up to no water - without warning. No time to fill bathtubs, no time to prepare! We had some water stored, but not the seven gallons of water we ended up using each day. And that was being extremely frugal with our water for just two of us!

Tip #1 - Store Water and Food

So, needless to say, my first tip is to store up some water. All of it doesn't need to be purchased water. You can fill up cleaned out milk containers for flushing toilets (it takes about a gallon). And of course, you'll need clean water for drinking, bathing and other hygiene needs.

Have food in your pantry or in an emergency location (the basement, for example) that does not require cooking - tuna, canned fruit and veggies, nuts, etc. Occasionally swap out any expiring food for fresh. Keep a can opener, utensils, and disposable dishware on hand, also.

Tip #2 - Stay Connected with the World 

If your electricity goes out, you'll want to make sure you can connect with others.

- Have a land line phone which doesn't require electricity to recharge.

- Get a car charger for your cell phone.

- Purchase a NOAA radio that includes a hand crank which can charge your cell phone and charge the radio. NOAA radios allow you to listen to local weather and emergency warnings on select stations. Keep batteries on hand for that radio.

- Designate a person whom your family members can contact if they can't contact one another. That person can be a liaison between all of you.

Tip #3 - Winterize Your Car

Put a blanket and an extra coat in your car in case you get stranded in cold weather.

Keep some snacks and water in your car. Empty a little water from your water bottles so they don't explode if they freeze.

Keep your car charger for your cell phone handy and accessible.

Have something you can put under your tires if you're stuck in ice or snow. Kitty litter, a carpet remnant, for example. I have reusable grocery bags in my car which should do just fine. Not a fan of kitty litter smell.

Stash some hand and toe warmers in your car. These little packets used by skiers, hikers and hunters are available at Walmart and sports stores and last for hours.

So, as winter approaches, do a little prep work to insure your safety and comfort should the unexpected occur. It will give you peace of mind knowing you're prepared.

More on safety in winter:
Getting Organized for Winter - Your Chimney
Deadly Clutter
Organizing for a Power Failure - Are You Prepared?
National Preparedness Month - Emergency Supplies


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Meaningful Christmas Gift that Keeps on Giving

I heard about this idea at our church ladies retreat this fall: a Blessings Jar as a group gift to your family. It would also make a lovely gift to others as well.

It's a jar or box of any kind with strips of paper inside . The purpose is to remember blessings in your life. Whenever you or your family members think of a way they have been blessed, they can write that down on one of the paper strips. You can keep blank paper strips in a zip bag in the jar, and fill the rest of the jar with blessings. Throughout the year or at New Year's you can take out the jar and count your blessings!

To take it a bit further, you could put those paper slips in a scrapbook or type them up on a Blessings List or some similar way to preserve them.

We so easily forget the blessings in our  lives! When times are tough, it's an encouragement to remember how we're blessed. I've read that remembering three blessings at the end of each day is far more effective than having a therapist!

More on blessings:
5-Minute Stress Relievers - Spiritual Refocusing
5-Minte Stress Reliever - Change Your Attitude
Planning Thankfulness into Your Thanksgiving Celebration

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Meaningful Advent Calendar - With No Clutter!

Up until recently, I bought  little gifts for my children and foster children to open every day of December until Christmas. I thoroughly enjoyed doing this, but this year I'm going to do something different. I'm going to write to each of my children a little email note stating something I appreciate about him/her ... something nice for grown or older children.

If you're feeling like your kids don't need a bunch of little tchotchkes to clutter up their lives (or your house), you may want to try a no-clutter advent, too. Provide experiences rather than clutter. For example,
- you could stick folded up notes on your calendar with an experience for each day
- or get an advent calendar that has little drawers in it and place your notes inside the drawers
- or put your notes in their stockings.
However you want to do it, here are some ideas for experiences to include in your advent:

Pick out a tree together and decorate while Christmas music is playing
Make popcorn garlands for your tree
Watch a Christmas movie together
Make a snowman
Go sledding
Make cookies or breads for a neighbor
Go ice skating
Decorate the house or your child's room for Christmas
Have the whole family sleep under the Christmas tree
Have your child draw a picture for grandparents and mail it
Make a video and send to grandparents or other family who may live far away
Read a short Christmas book (or chapter in a book) together
Visit a live nativity
Act out the Christmas story from Luke 2
Make simple Christmas gifts for friends and/or family
Go to a Christmas play, ballet or concert
Donate canned goods to a shelter
Make a Gingerbread house
Look at Christmas lights in your town
Cut strips of wrapping paper and start a chain garland. Have each person who comes into your home sign a strip, date it, and add it to the chain. Add to the chain every year.
Play a game of your child's choice
Make and decorate Christmas cookies
Look at old pictures or movies of the family
Work together to make a dessert your family likes to eat at Christmas
Go out to eat at a special restaurant
Pay off someone's layaway at K-Mart
Make Christmas ornaments
Attend your church's Christmas program
Go to a movie
Recall favorite Christmas memories together
Make your own Christmas cards
Attend a Christmas Eve service and open one gift afterward
Watch your town's Christmas tree lighting celebration
Donate toys to Angel Tree, Toys for Tots or similar programs
Host a Christmas party
Give a goat, chicken or soccer ball to a poor child around the world (World Vision has a Christmas catalog of such gifts)
Provide babysitting for a single mom or dad
Wrap Christmas gifts
Send a care package to a service man or woman overseas
Sing Christmas carols at a nursing home

What a meaningful Christmas! You're spending time with your child, sharing memories and talking together as you go. It's a bit time consuming, but many of the experiences are things you'd want to do anyway with your child. It just makes it a little more special when each day is a surprise.

More on having a clutter-free Christmas:

Meaningful Gifts with No Clutter
Create Clutter-Free Zones Where Clutter is Off Limits
Three Steps to Decluttering (printed book and ebook)

Friday, November 16, 2012

5 Safety Lessons for Holiday Hosts

 Can't believe Thanksgiving is less than a week away! We're going to be celebrating at our daughter's house, as it's easier on our granddaughter to be at home. Our son-in-law is a gourmet cook, so it should be fabulous. Of course, we'll share with sides and desserts, but haven't decided yet what to bring. Any ideas?

Here's another article on safety while preparing holiday meals: 5 Thanksgiving Safety Lessons for Holiday Hosts by Catherine Jones. She comes from the food service industry and shares from her expertise there.

"It's your turn to host Thanksgiving dinner. Your house is filled with family and friends, many of whom are "helping" you in your suddenly cramped kitchen. There are dishes everywhere, open drawers and cupboards, steam rising from boiling pots, and where did you put that carving knife?

For those who work in food preparation, this chaos is all too familiar. And so are the hazards. So here's some advice from the food service industry to help you and your guests stay injury-free in your kitchen this Thanksgiving-and throughout the year.

The Hazards and Safety Practices of a Busy Kitchen

The food service industry is not the most hazardous, but it does have its dangers. Here's how to handle five common food service hazards that can also be found in many kitchens on holiday weekends.

1. Slips, trips and falls. Dress for cooking with safety in mind. Choose low-heeled, secure shoes with a non-skid sole and an enclosed toe. (A falling measuring cup can inflict as much damage on your toes as a falling hammer if it lands the wrong way.)Don't hurry; take short steps to prevent slips.Pick up trash and food scraps that fall to the floor, and wipe up spills promptly to prevent slipping accidents.

2. Collisions. Be alert for potential collisions with others, especially at doorways and around the stove.When passing someone who may not see you, say, "Behind you."

3. Burns and scalds.   
  • Never wear loose clothing or baggy sleeves while cooking.
  • Don't reach across fryers, stoves and other hot surfaces and materials.

  • Use potholders when handling pots.

  • Use caution around steam and boiling water. Protect your face and arms when lifting pot lids. When removing the cover from a boiling pot, expose the far side of the pot first, to release steam.

  • Never leave oil under heat unattended.
  • Never overfill a fryer with oil or food.
  • Cool oil before moving it.
  • Turn pan handles aside so they don't get bumped or snag on clothing, but keep them clear of other burners.
  • Before microwaving food, vent the container by lifting the edge of the cover.
  • Use caution when opening covered containers that have been in the microwave, and open them away from your face.
4. Heat illness. Kitchen workers are at risk for heat illness as well, so drink plenty of water and make sure you take an occasional break from your hot kitchen.

5. Cuts from knives or other sharp kitchen tools.
  • Unplug the food processor when loading, emptying or changing blades.
  • Keep knives sharp. Dull knives require too much force to operate; they can slip and cause cuts.
  • Use the right knife for the job.
  • When cutting, slice down and away from your hand and body.
  • Keep your fingers and thumbs out of the cutting line.
  • Carry knives with the cutting edge angled slightly away from your body and the tip pointed down.
  • Don't hand a knife to someone. Instead, place it down on a clean surface and the let the other person pick it up.
  • Don't place knives near the edge of a countertop.
  • Don't use a knife while distracted.
  • If you drop something, let it fall. You can receive serious cuts if you try to catch falling knives or glassware.

Conclusion: It's a lot of work preparing a holiday meal, but it doesn't have to be dangerous. With care and attention, you can stay safe and injury-free, and able to enjoy the blessings of a special meal with your loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!"

More on Thanksgiving:
Getting Organized for Thanksgiving
Three Steps to Planning Dinner
Pulling Off a Smooth Thanksgiving Meal - Food Handling Safety

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pulling Off a Smooth Thanksgiving Meal - Food Handling Safety

As we prepare for holiday meals, we need to organize with safety in mind. I found the following article on food safety. I had not considered some of these suggestions before - they are definitely ones to practice! By putting these tips into practice, you'll help create wonderful memories, not ones that include the emergency room! 

"Thanksgiving is upon us and with it comes the traditional turkey dinner. However, the improper storing, cooking, and serving of roast turkey can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria like salmonella, which can cause foodborne illness. 

The DuPage County Health Department advises consumers that safe food handling of turkey and other holiday foods is essential in preventing foodborne illness. Here are some tips to share with your family for preparing a Thanksgiving bird safely.
  • Thaw the frozen turkey in the refrigerator. Allow one day for each five pounds of turkey. A twenty-pound turkey will take about four days to thaw. Hint: Remove neck & giblets from inside the bird as soon as possible to hasten thawing.
  • Do not thaw on the kitchen counter. If you do not have time to thaw in the refrigerator, you may thaw it in cold water, provided that the turkey is in a leak-proof packaging, it is submerged, and the water is changed every half-hour. Allow 30 minutes per pound of turkey to thaw in cold water.
  • Cook fresh turkeys within two days, thawed ones within four days.
  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling raw poultry. Wash all knives, cutting boards and utensils also after using for raw poultry.
  • Read and follow the cooking directions on the label. Cook turkey until it is done (165°F). Do not slow cook overnight at low temperatures or partially cook. Some turkeys come with pop-up thermometers. They are to be used only as a guide to doneness. Take the temperature with a meat thermometer to be sure the temperature is over 165°F.
  • Stuffing should not be prepared a day ahead and the turkey should not be stuffed until ready to cook. A quicker, safer method is to cook the stuffing separately in a casserole, using some of the pan juices to flavor and moisten the stuffing.
  • Eat the meal as soon as it is prepared. Do not leave leftovers out on the counter or table after dinner. Cut the meat off the bones and put it in shallow containers in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat all leftovers to 165°F. (Use your meat thermometer.) Gravy should be brought to a rolling boil."
Source: DuPage Health 

More on Thanksgiving:  
Planning Thankfulness into Your Thanksgiving Celebration  
Getting Organized for Thanksgiving  
Planning Ahead for Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Safe, Space-Saving Storage for Hair Appliances

I recently found a great storage solution for small (or any!) bathrooms: The Polder® Style Station Hair Care Storage at Bed, Bath and Beyond. For only $19.99, it provides a safe place to store hot hair tools while they're cooling. As a former foster parent for a houseful of teenage girls, this looks like a no-brainer to me! All the reviews scored 5 stars.

Here's BBB's description:

"In a sleek, handsome design, this style station offers a unique solution to all hair-styling-implement storage and organization needs. It can hang on a towel bar or towel hook, or you can even store it in a drawer, overhead cabinet or under the vanity sink.

Styling station safely stores up to three implements: dryers, curling irons and straighteners. Or, you can use one of the three separate compartments to keep brushes and/or combs conveniently at-hand.

With its stainless steel mesh body and internal silicone base-insulator, even hot tools can be safely stored immediately after use. Great for keeping unruly electrical cords organized in the split compartments in the rear."

Great idea, don't you agree?

More on bathroom storage:
Some of My Favorite Organizing Products - Tall Laundry Hampers

Clever Bathroom Organizing Ideas from Martha Stewart

Magnetic Paint - An Innovative Space Saver!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Planning Thankfulness into Your Thanksgiving Celebration

I'm thankful for so much in my life! In order to keep the theme of thanksgiving at Thanksgiving, we try to include being thankful in our celebration. If I'm not intentional about it, I might forget to include it.

Here are some ideas we've used:

- Give your family and/or guests three kernels of corn each and have them share three things for which they are thankful. Do this while people are waiting for dinner, during dessert or after the meal. DON'T do it while the hot food is sitting on the table, getting cold!

- Buy or make (I couldn't find one to buy) a 100% cotton table cloth and provide fabric markers so people can write something for which they are thankful. (Markers bleed on polyester tablecloths.) Have them date their comments. Then you can look back over the tablecloth each year and see what has been written. What a fun heirloom!

- Not necessarily at Thanksgiving, we have gone around the table and said one thing we appreciate about each other. 

Let's not forget the reason we're celebrating! 

More on being thankful:

5-Minute Stress Relievers - Spiritual Refocusing
5-Minute Stress Relievers - Change Your Attitude
Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Scientific Reason for Clutter

Winter has arrived here in Montana! We got several inches of snow over the weekend with highs in the teens. A nice time to stay in and cook my pumpkin and try my hand at some gluten-free recipes: Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Muffins. Happily, they were good! In the process, I made huge messes in my kitchen, which illustrates the topic for today: Entropy, a law of science. Nancy Harris's amusing article describes an experience known to us all.

"It was then, as I struggled to scrub a bathroom only to return to a sink full of dishes in a previously-clean kitchen; or as I folded a pile of laundry and, upon finishing, discovered an open box of cereal dumped across the living room floor, cereal bowls on the counter and a stack of papers scattered across the kitchen table, that I realized just how very relevant entropy was.

You see, entropy has to do with steady deterioration, measures of disorder and overall tendencies toward chaos. And it isn’t just a crazy theory. Heavens no. It is law. Big law — as in the Second Law of Thermodynamics big. And what is more, it doesn’t state that order must always decrease. Oh, you can produce order all right — highly elaborate order even — only in doing so, disorder will increase somewhere else.

And there’s the key. Go ahead: clean and scrub, sort and organize, produce spectacular order in one area of your home; just understand and accept the fact that there will certainly be order decreasing, every bit as spectacularly, somewhere else in your home — especially if you have children or pets, or maybe even a husband (bless his heart).

There are likely some of you out there reading this and thinking smart little thoughts like, “You didn’t explain this right at all,” and “It has nothing to do with clutter. This is about energy, for crying out loud! It’s about thermodynamics and closed systems!”

But the rest of you are surely thinking, as I have thought all these many years, “Finally! A purely scientific explanation for why my house cannot stay tidy!” Blame it on entropy. Blame it on science. You and your home are simply subject to a greater law — a law of messiness, if you will.

Comfort yourself in knowing that those friends and neighbors of yours who seem to have a home void of dust, clear of any sign of fingerprints on walls and windows, and completely lacking in piles of laundry and unsorted mail, certainly have chaos and disorder somewhere else. You might have to search under their beds or open every drawer in their kitchen, but that disorder is there. Somewhere. It has to be ….

Unless, of course, they are superheroes who can defy the very laws of nature. And if that is the case, well, there is no use comparing yourself to them anyway."

More on clutter:
Three Steps to Organizing Your Child's Room (print version) (Kindle version)
Three Steps to Decluttering (print version) (Kindle version)
Declutter Any Room in 3 Weeks

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Getting Organized for Thanksgiving

We haven't decided yet where we'll have Thanksgiving this year - at our house or our daughter's. Nevertheless, wherever it is, I'm sure we'll both be pitching in to pull it off. 

What about you? Hosting Thanksgiving this year? Don't despair - there's plenty of help out there! 

Disney Printable Planner 
Even Micky and Minnie can help. Disney offers a Thanksgiving printable planner with several different lists, including a countdown schedule for Thanksgiving Day.  

Thanksgiving 101
How to Set the TableIf you're a novice, or are feeling a little inadequate in some area, Taste of Home offers Thanksgiving 101. They have tutorials on everything from making gravy to setting the table . 

Thanksgiving Survival Guide
And here's a Thankgsiving Survival Guide written by Aviva Goldfarb on Cozi

"I get the jitters before hosting almost any gathering. But with all the build-up to Thanksgiving, it feels like the stakes are even higher than usual. To keep it in perspective, I try to remember what is most important-to be with family and friends and appreciate our blessings. But if I'm hosting the feast, I still have a lot of work to do! I've devised some strategies for making the evening easier on us, while still indulging our guests:  

Don't try to do it alone 
Just because I love to cook, doesn't mean I have to do it all! If anyone volunteers to bring something, I take them up on it. I also try to involve the kids with the preparation, either by asking them to make place cards or table decorations, or clean the house. (A friend of mine cherishes the Thanksgiving tablecloth her kids made on which they traced their hands in fall colors and wrote what they were thankful for.) 

Make a menu ahead of time 
By the Sunday before the feast, I make a list of everything we are serving, from appetizers to coffee. I note who is making each item and when I need to start my assignments. I even jot down my daily tasks on my calendar.  

Grocery shop early 
I make a detailed grocery list (consulting the menu I've decided on) and buy the groceries by Tuesday, so I can start cooking on Wednesday.  

Cook in advance 
Most of the trimmings can be cooked well in advance of dinner, and then warmed before the meal. Even the turkey can be finished cooking (we even slice it!) hours before the meal. (Just put that Norman Rockwell image of the father cutting the bird at the table out of your mind!)  

Get the house and table ready the night before 
To avoid exhaustion on the big day, I make sure the house looks nice and the table is set before I go to bed on Wednesday.  

Keep appetizers easy 
Before dinner, I serve simple foods, such as gourmet cheeses, nuts, store-bought gourmet spread for crackers, vegetables and dip, and fresh popcorn.  

Send the kids out for a picnic and sports before the meal 
This strategy, suggested by my friend and colleague, Jeanne Rossomme, frees the kitchen for the big feast, and calms the kids so there is a higher probability of civilized behavior when guests arrive. Have plastic containers ready so you can pack up leftovers This makes clean-up easier. But save a slice of cooked turkey breast for next week's recipe for turkey pot pie!  

Take the last thirty minutes off 
An experienced hostess once told me that I should try to hold sacred the last half hour before guests arrive. I use this time to get myself cleaned up and put my feet up for a few minutes. That way I'm not utterly exhausted before the evening begins.  

Give thanks and eat slowly 
After sitting down, each guest shares one thing for which they are thankful. This simple tradition really sets the right mood. Then we enjoy the feast we've all helped to prepare, and we try to remember to savor the time together after all our hard work." 

Happy Planning!! 

More on Thanksgiving:
Organizing Your To Do List
Everything You Need to Know to Pull Off Thanksgiving
Three Steps to Planning Dinner

Monday, November 5, 2012

Websites to Help You Organize School, Church, and Team Activities

Great article by Heather Alexander of Knoxnews reviews a couple of websites that help parents and teachers organize activities, volunteers and group gifts. 

"I've never been a room mom. And though I support my daughter, her teacher and our school, I have NO desire to be the point person for the classroom.

I'm disorganized, and I know it. I try to overcome it by hunting down tools that make organizing things easier.

Recently, I have come across two really useful websites.
SignUpGenius is a free website that helps parents stay organized by signing up electronically for duties.

You can sign up for an account at www.signupgenius.com, enter a list of email addresses for the parents of classmates or members of a team. Once you have that, you can invite the people on your list to sign up for things.

For example, a teacher could use it to set up parent-teacher conferences, a room mother could use it to organize parents to be the weekly mystery reader, and parents of kids who play sports could use the site to organize snacks and drinks for practices and games. It even has reminders that automatically get sent out prior to the commitment.

SignUpGenius was created by a dad who organized a church function where the food and drink sign-ups went horribly wrong. "I kept thinking to myself ... there has got to be a better way. So I set out to create one," said SignUpGenius founder Dan Rutledge.

The other helpful site is www.FrumUs.com.

I had never heard of it until recently when I got an invitation to contribute to a gift for A. L. Lotts Elementary School's third-grade teacher and cross country coach Jessica Greer.

I clicked on the link and discovered the site provides a way to collect money online from a group of people for a gift.

To use the site, you establish an account and add an email list. Then you can start a collection and invite people from your email list to give to the group gift.

There are no fees for this and no minimum amount required. The money that is collected can be used to purchase gifts or gift cards from the company's website, which includes dozes of retailers such as Amazon, Gap and Walmart.

This would be a great tool to collect for a group gift to a teacher and would work for a birthday or for a shower gift as well.

A mom created this site after she realized no one had collected money to get a gift for her son's baseball coach at the end of the season.

So, the ingenuity of one mom and one dad are meeting the very real needs of disorganized parents everywhere. And I, for one, am grateful."

More on family organizing:

Center'd Planning Website

Get Organized for Your Vacation with Trip Doc App

Three Steps on Time Management for the Stay-at-Home Mom

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My New Book is Free - Twelve Steps to Destressing Christmas!

I've just released my new book Twelve Tips for Destressing Christmas on Kindle! And it's free through November 7! Twelve Tips for Destressing Christmas helps you plan an intentional, meaningful, and peaceful Christmas. It's a small book for the organizationally overwhelmed, as are all my organizing books - each addressing only one topic at a time. 

So stop by Kindle and pick it up. I'd be delighted if you passed this on to your friends and family. :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Best Practices for Organizing Gmail

Jill Duffy in PCMag's Get Organized offers the following advice for organizing your Gmail. 

Gmail is one of the most popular email services. Whether you use it for personal communication, work, or both, you'll get more out of it if you understand how a few core features work.

This edition of Get Organized, a weekly series, explains a couple of Gmail's signature features and explains how best to use them to keep your email account effectively organized so you can be more productive.

Message Threads
As all Gmail users know, a continuous email exchange gets stacked into a thread. The number of messages in a thread always appears in parentheses next to the summary of names on the exchange, a thread count, if you will. 
The message thread is one of my favorite features of Gmail because when six people reply to one single group email, all I see is one unread thread rather than six unread messages. What I internalize is that there is a discussion that requires me attention. If I see six unread messages, I instead get the feeling that six things require my attention.

When you open a thread, messages that you've already read remain collapsed, while unread messages expand.

Best practice: One of the best tricks in managing threads is to keep them intact as long as they don't deviate off topic. When they do change topic, start a new thread simply by changing the subject line when you reply. You don't have to start a whole new message. All the recipients will be included in the new thread, and the history of your communication will still be archived within the message itself, under the ellipsis that says "show trimmed content" when you hover over it (see below), so anyone can reference it.

If there were one single feature that signifies Gmail, it would be labels. The way to understand labels is to describe what they are not: folders. Labels in Gmail often look like folders, and to some extent they achieve the same end. But labels are fundamentally different than folders, and mistaking them for folders will really limit what you can do with Gmail.

Let me start by explaining a little bit about folders. Email folders, often designed in a tree structure with the ability to add sub-folders, work similar to how real-world folders do. You file things into them. If you have a message to file, you can only file it into one folder.

Labels in Gmail look an awful lot like folders at first glance. When you create a new label, it appears on the left rail, similar to where you'll see folders (with default settings anyway) in Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, and Outlook. These Gmail labels can have colors assigned to them, too, making them look even more like folders.

So what's the difference?

Any given message thread can have more than one label, such as "work," "October 2012," and "urgent." Gmail also gives you two labels automatically: stars and "important," designated by a yellow tag on the left side of messages that are sent directly to you, i.e., not listservs, advertisements, or other mass mailing.

Think of labels more like tags. And the visual labels that you see on the left rail—think of those as a quick button to sort all the messages that have a certain tag. Note that even your inbox is just a label. When you click on a label on the left rail, you'll see new text automatically appear in the search box at the top.

This text is helping to refine your search to only messages with the label in question. Remember, Google is the company behind Gmail, and Google that company was founded as a search tool.

Best practice: Use labels in Gmail liberally because they aren't a substitute for folders, but rather a way to categorize or tag items and make them more searchable.

Power users should explore the Settings area to configure more advanced labeling attributes. For example, you can set up rules or filters to divert certain kinds of mail to a label, and have that label show up in your left pane only when it contains unread messages.

More on organizing email:

A very simple filing system for email and paper

Declutter Your Inbox by Forwarding Responsibly

Five Tips on How Writers Can Organize Their Constant Stream of Information