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.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Celebrate National Get Organized Month with Half-Priced 1-2-3 ... Get Organized books

Through the month of January, all printed 1-2-3 ... Get Organized books are half-price! 

These include:
- Three Steps to Decluttering
- Three Steps to Organizing Your Office
- Three Steps to Organizing Your Kitchen
- Three Steps to Organizing Your Child’s Room
- Three Steps to Time Management for the    Stay-at-Home Mom
- Three Steps to Time Management at the Office
- Three Steps to Clever Cleaning

 These little books were written for the organizationally overwhelmed – one organizing task at a time!

They make great graduation, wedding, and house-warming gifts, so stock up now!

I recently gave a wedding gift to a friend’s daughter that included a large storage bin, two foldable cloth bins, shelf expanders, my Decluttering, Kitchen, and Clever Cleaning books, plus my Hassle Free Dinners flash drive (a year's worth of weekly dinner menus, instructions, and grocery lists). She loved it!!

Happy organizing!  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I want to wish you a merry Christmas! We are  so looking forward to having our entire family here. One daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter live here in Bozemen. And our other daughter who lives in Kazakhstan is flying in tonight.

As you can imagine, we're elated! So, to celebrate I'm taking time off from blog writing until after the first of the year. :) 

I hope you are intentional about celebrating Christmas - choosing ways to have a meaningful holiday! Blessing to you!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A No-Cost Organizing Solution for Your Pantry

I don't know about you, but pantry items that come in bags irritate me. They are hard to store efficiently and attractively.

I recently purchased a bunch of clear plastic containers for one of my clients and have considered buying some for myself. But as I started to recycle similar containers lately, I got to thinking that these would work just as easily. Not quite as attractive as having all the same size and the same-colored lids. But the price is right!

So, I've started repurposing salsa and rice containers for other uses when they are empty. Here's a picture of my beginning project. If I need to keep the information from the bag, I tape it to the container. Perfect for brown sugar, chocolate chips, white rice, and gluten free flours.

I also like using empty canning jars to store things like red hots, cinnamon sticks, and other hard-to-store items.

What creative, no-cost storage ideas do you have?

More on no-cost storage:
Containerizing Your Kitchen
Don't Make the #1 Organizing Mistake
10 Green Organizing Solutions for Crafts

Friday, December 14, 2012

Repurposing My Shoe Organizers in the Pantry

Recently I purchased some horizontal shoe organizing shelves for our mud room/laundry room entry from the garage. We always have a bunch of shoes (mostly mine) there in that small space. So I was looking to tidy up the space.

After bringing the shelves home, I decided I'd prefer vertical cubbies to save floor space. I was intending to take the horizontal shelves back, but came up with a problem-solving use for them.

Some of the shelves in my pantry are very far apart. One especially is very inefficient, having a vertical space of 2-3 feet. Voila! Instant usable space! Why didn't I think of this before?

Here's an after picture. I always get so involved in my projects that I forget to take before pictures!

I'm so pleased that the items in my stacks now have their own space!

More on pantry storage:
Bugs in the Pantry?
Organizing the Pantry
Spring Cleaning the Pantry - When to Toss It

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Inheriting Stuff - Deal With It Immediately

My faither-in-law just moved from assisted living to nursing care in the retirement community in which he lives. As a result, my husband had to go through his two-room apartment and clear it out. He had to make decisions about what to transfer to his dad's new room, what we should keep and what could be let go.

After choosing what would go into the nursing center room and what we would keep, he was able to sell his dad's furniture and TV to some of the nurses who had cared for his dad for years. They weren't allowed to receive gifts, so he sold the items for $1. Whatever they didn't want will be donated.

He had to determine what might be meaningful keepsakes for our family. Whatever didn't fit in his suitcase, he mailed home. We will do a final culling during Christmas when our girls are here to take those things that are meaningful to them. After that, we'll either keep or donate the remaining items.

When we lived in Ohio, my parents-in-law moved from an apartment to their assisted living rooms. As a result, we brought many of their keepsakes from that trip, without having the time to sort through them. We found it difficult to find time to go through their things while we were house parents for our teenage foster daughters. Lately, we've been going through these things, and will also ask our girls to look through those things, too, to determine sentimental items they want to keep. We've enjoyed going through letters, cards, pictures, awards, and other memorabilia of their lives.

If there is a way to consolidate memories, do so! My husband and daughter have been scanning pictures and slides. You can hire someone to do the same if you don't have the desire or equipment. You can also transfer VHS tapes to DVDs or flash drives to reduce the volume.

My advice: when you inherit items from your parents, other relatives or friends, deal with them immediately. If at all possible, determine what you want before it comes into your house. Don't bring in anything that you will later want to remove. Sure saves a lot of trouble! Offer family pieces to your children, if they are interested. Are there other relatives, friends, or organizations who may want some of these items? Then take another look to see if you really want to keep what is left.

Dispose of unwanted furniture and household items through donation, an estate sale or selling them on Craig's list, at a consignment store, a newspaper ad, or garage sale.

Don't procrastinate on this! I've talked with clients whose houses have gone from uncluttered to stuffed as they have inherited their relatives' possessions. Be intentional about what you bring into your home!

More on getting rid of stuff:

Virtual Thrift Store Help You Clear Clutter and Benefit Charities, Too
Animal Shelters Accept What Other Charities Can't Use
A Giveaway Party - A Garage Sale Alternative

Monday, December 10, 2012

An Intentional Christmas - Teach Your Child to Give this Holiday Season

I loved the following article by Jan Helson, enumerating several ways to provide giving opportunities for your child. Inspiring!

"Does your child enjoy using the computer, your smart phone, or your tablet? These new tools not only provide entertainment, but also opportunities to teach children about giving back and making the world a better place.

Since kids today live in a "wired" world, parents have the chance to expose their children to philanthropy in a very modern way, using innovative tools and games that help connect the world together. Here are five ideas for how you can use these amazing tools to provide your kiddos a personal experience with charity.

1. Connect with news sites online. News stories are a great way to teach your child about different challenges that people encounter in their lives. Selecting a few, you can ask your child what they could do to help. Try to find stories with strong visuals, like videos or pictures, or a connection with an individual person. They will provide a stronger impact and impetus for empathy.

2. Visit charity websites. Here, you can show kids what different types of charities do, and how people can help. For example, you can show how people help at the American Red Cross by donating blood, at Goodwill by donating used clothes, and at a hometown shelter by serving food to people who are hungry.

3. Take advantage of interactive games, web-based games, or game apps that show children how their contributions matter. Check out freerice.com, which donates 10 grains of rice for every correct answer. Or try Wetopia together, a Facebook game where players collect “joy”, which translates into donations for various charities. Or download Raise the Village, an iPhone game similar to Farmville.

4. Find other kids who are working with charities. Real-life examples of kids working around the world to make it a better place are proof that you don’t have to be a grown-up to do good things. The Global Game Changers book app features three real-life kids who have done what they can to make the world a better place!

5. Encourage your child to use their talents and passions to make the world a better place and utilize the Internet to get it done. There are many websites that allow you to start fundraising online for your favorite charity! Participate in a real-world event as a family, but show your kids how you can raise money from friends across the country by using online tools like raceraiser.com, for example, or the site related to your walk/run!

Using these simple ideas, you can show your children how the Internet can spark interest and get them moving toward making the world a better place!"

More on giving:
Helping Your Child Declutter Toys Before Christmas
Organizing Spring Break Days
Donate Your Bikes to Youth Bike-Refurbishing Program

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Very Best Apps and Websites for Holiday Gift List Organization

Believe it or not, I'm pretty much finished with my Christmas shopping and wrapping! I'm quite proud of myself and can't remember when I've been so ahead of things! It helps being empty nesters and not being in the middle of getting settled after a move, like we were last year. :)

But if you're still in the throes of Christmas shopping, here's some great advice from Jeana over at CoolMomTech.

"Yes, it's that time to start thinking about ways to organize your gift lists. The holidays will be here before we know it. Luckily, these days. there are really a lot of tech resources out there for managing the holiday shopping process, both to keep track of gifts you want to buy for others, and to keep a list of things you have your eye on (hint, hint).

We've culled through a ton of holiday shopping tech to find some the best mobile apps and online resources to make your holiday shopping just a little easier. And hey, anything that minimizes having to return things after the holidays is holly jolly in my book. -Jeana
Holiday shopping tech: iWishfor app


This handy app (above) keeps a running list of things you want for yourself and compiles the wants of friends and family. The catch is that you have to invite people to the app in order for them to be able to contribute to your lists. Once you have people in your network, they can easily add whatever they want to make it easier for you to know exactly what they want. There's also a supercool barcode scanner within the app that lets you scan your items directly onto the list. (Free, iOS)

Holiday shopping tech: Free Christmas List app

Free Christmas List
Keep track of gifts for Mom, Dad, the cousins, the uncles, the kids and anyone else on your list with this handy app. You can separate lists by person and even keep a running budget of how much you have spent and how much you have left, for each recipient--great for those of us who sometimes go a little nutty on the stockings stuffers. This version is free, but the Pro version is ad-free and adds an option to password protect your list from spying eyes. (Free, Android)

Holiday shopping tech: Springpad

More than just a gift organization app, Springpad (a recent sponsor, who we totally love) is more like a personal digital assistant that lets you organize thoughts, lists, images, links, and more into "notebooks." For these purposes, you could have a "Gifts for Me" notebook, "Gifts for Mom," "Cookie Recipe Ideas for the Teachers" and so on--and they can even be made private which is a huge bonus. The visual layout is just pretty to look at and because each spring allows you to link to multiple items, links, media, coupon sites and more, the functionality goes way beyond holiday shopping. It's on the web, too and you can choose to share or not share whatever you wish. In fact, check out our editor Liz's array of awesome notebooks for inspiration!

[Presents for Sophie notebook by AllisonMorris]


Pinterest board for cool toys


We just covered Pinterest's new secret boards and of course, holidays gifts are the perfect reason to take advantage of this new feature. One drawback as opposed to a similar service like Springpad is that you're only limited to three boards that can be kept shrouded in secrecy. But if you're already spending time on the site, this could be a great way to add to whatever you've already collected and find ideas from other boards. Check out the Cool Mom Picks Cool Toys Pinterest Board for some fun inspiration!

Holiday shopping tech: WantWorthy online wish list

If you're going to be doing some shopping online, it only makes sense that you look for a few items for yourself, right? After all, you'd be doing everyone else a huge favor by picking out exactly what you want. And whatever you want online can be housed in one place with WantWorthy. Using a little "Want" button that you drag onto your browser toolbar, you can instantly create a list of items that are good for any gift-giving occasion at all.

Google Docs holiday shopping spreadsheet template

Admittedly Google Spreadsheet is definitely not the sexiest option, but it certainly gets the job done. You can use this simple template to keep track of everyone's gifts and even share with family and friends who you want input from. This could be helpful for group gift options too where everyone can contribute their thoughts on ideas and budget. Since Google Docs is in the cloud, you (and other gifters) can always get to it without anyone needing to have an app or smartphone.

Holiday shopping tech: Amazon wishlists

I'm on Amazon at least once a week and have started taking better advantage of its comprehensive Wishlist feature. With EVERYTHING available through Amazon, it's a perfect way to create lists for yourself and others, plus being able to purchase them directly. You can share these lists and just keep them going year-round, adding to them whenever you come across something that's list-worthy. I love that I can keep the lists and buy from the lists in the same place for the ultimate in convenience."

Jeana was certainly thorough, wasn't she?

More on organizing for shopping:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Organizing the College Application Process

College applications are looming! Filling out all those college applications can be very complicated and time consuming. Maura Kastberg wrote a terrific piece on organizing to make the process a little smoother....

"All the dates we have to remember in life can get overwhelming. I come from a big Irish Catholic family and I have five sisters and one brother. Remembering their birthdays, and their children's and spouses birthdays is nearly impossible if it weren't for my old-fashioned paper calendar. As I turn each month over in a glance I can see how many cards I need to buy for that month.

I also have a larger one in my office. It's the only way I can keep track of the meetings and pending commitments looming. Why am I telling you all this? Well, a high school senior needs a calendar at this time of the year. There are so many deadlines to keep track of. The typical student applies to three to five colleges they each have two deadlines one for admissions applications and another one for financial aid applications. Then there are state financial aid program deadlines. Illinois advises students to apply as soon after January 1st as possible. Connecticut has a priority deadline of February 15th.

If you miss the deadline you miss out on that opportunity. Most state financial aid programs are initially applied for by submitting the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Students should have their FAFSA completed as early as possible but certainly no later than their earliest deadline be that from the college or their state program.

The first step to organizing this work is to know what paperwork is required. Keep track of which admissions applications require which pieces, is an essay required, do they want recommendations if so how many, if SAT or ACT test scores are required what deadlines are associated with those. Have a sheet that lists each schools requirement then mark the deadlines on your calendar.

Next know what the financial aid requirements are, all schools will want the FAFSA but some will also require the CSS Profile form and some will have their own financial aid forms that need to be completed. Once you know what the colleges require mark the deadlines on your calendar. Finally look up your state financial aid deadline and mark that on the calendar.

The admissions applications should be sent in early enough to meet the deadline but not too early. The FAFSA should be submitted prior to whatever the earliest deadline is. You probably will not have your taxes completed but you should submit your application using an estimate so your deadlines are met then update the information once you and your parents have completed their taxes.

Finally, keep a copy of everything you submit and the date you submitted it. This will help you later if some piece of your application gets lost or is incomplete. There are many dates to keep track of, but using a calendar to lay it out and plan from can go a long way towards making things a little easier."

More on organizing for college:

USA Today: Staying Organized and Sane During the College Application Process
Organizing College Applications
Three Steps to Time Management for the College Student

Monday, December 3, 2012

Clutter Lessons We Can Learn from Woodpeckers

I came across Wendy Langhans' amusing and educational article about woodpeckers and their organizing habits. I think we could learn a lot from them. Enjoy! :)

"It’s a question I’ve been asking myself lately:  what is the difference between storing useful stuff and acumulating clutter?

Perhaps there’s something to be learned from the behavior of Acorn Woodpeckers.

Last Saturday, on a hike at East Canyon, I noticed an Acorn Woodpecker flying overhead.  As I looked about, I noticed a “granary tree”, a dead tree trunk drilled with hundreds of acorn-sized holes.  Some of the holes already had acorns in them, but there were plenty of empty spaces.  I suspect the woodpecker was heading back to gather more acorns from the oaks on the other side of the canyon.

There are 22 species of woodpeckers in North America.  Acorn Woodpeckers are unique among woodpecker species because of their cooperative social behavior.  They live together in family groups of up to 15 birds.

During the spring and summer, Acorn woodpeckers feed mainly on insects.  But in the fall, they work together in family groups to gather and store enough acorns to last throughout the winter.  Sometimes they use a tree, sometimes a telephone pole...

and sometimes...

(Photo courtesy Ron Kraus)

...they choose whatever is handy, like this broken bulletin board at Walker Ranch.

Both Acorn woodpeckers and humans store stuff.  According to the Self Storage Association, 'One in 10 US households currently rent a self storage unit”.  There “is 7.3 sq.ft. of self storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation'.

But when does storing useful stuff become accumulating clutter? Here are three lessons I learned from Acorn Woodpeckers:

1)  Woodpeckers store acorns for a season; humans store stuff for an indeterminate period of time, perhaps even a lifetime.

2)  Woodpecker storage is focused.  They collect acorns.  Human storage is often unfocused.  We collect socks, jewelry, postcards, you-name-it.

But perhaps the most important lesson I learned is this:

3)  Woodpeckers store acorns to feed better; humans store stuff to feel better."

More on our clutter:
The Scientific Reason for Clutter
Yale Study: Why Letting Go Is Literally Painful
Disheartening Findings from a UCLA Study on Clutter and the Middle Class