Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Organizing Children’s Books


A friend of mine was asking me today what I do to keep the boys books organized because she felt like the books were always falling off the shelves in her house. So I thought maybe you would be interested in what I suggested. If not, please hold your comments to yourself! LOL

First of all a little tidbit about my boys…the older one is very much like me! Love that and his wife will love that too someday! He likes things in order and he likes it to stay that way. My youngest likes things to be organized but does not like to do the work himself, so he will keep the organizing profession going. Bless his wife!!

Both of my kids love books and they have a ton of books between the two of them. My ten year old keeps his books in a bookcase. This does not always work for all kids. In most cases, for children that are younger, the books are stuffed onto a shelf or half are falling off the shelf. What I like to suggest is big rectangular baskets to hold books. I like to put the book baskets by the bed, it makes the room look cozy and is handy when they are picking out a book to read at night.

In each of their rooms we keep chapter books, sports books, world record books, and books for night time stories before bed. In our family room we keep a basket of books that I change out from their rooms and have other books that I don’t necessarily want them reading before bed. Such as; G.I. Joe, Power Rangers, Scooby Doo and so on. I don’t want them dreaming about zombies or bad guys before bed. Call me crazy but when they go to bed I want them to sleep through the night without bad dreams!

I keep all of my holiday books with my decorations. I also keep holiday movies with them as well. For instance, when I pulled out my Halloween decorations, I had about 15 Halloween books that I placed next to our book basket in our family room. At our school the kids are encouraged to read for ten minutes everyday and these are the books they will grab to read. I try to keep the books in the basket rotated so the books are fresh and when I add the holiday books they really enjoy seeing them again from last year.

Another tip would be to put your child’s library books from school next to the book basket as well. This way they are out of the basket and not confused with the books you have at home.

One thing to remember is if your child is a toddler, keep the books they will read when they are older up on a closet shelf in their room. You will find just trying to get all of the picture books in their basket will be tough enough without adding books they might accidently tear.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to email me at cleartheclutter@cox.net

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I know I have mentioned short cuts in the kitchen before but I read this statistic and thought this is a good time to mention them again.

According to the National Restaurant Association, “Americans currently spend 43 percent of their food dollar on food prepared away from home, compared to 36 percent in 1981. And that percentage is considered likely to increase in the future. National Restaurant Association statistics show that, even in the depths of the recession, customers have maintained their frequency of eating and ordering out. True, they are probably spending fewer dollars on each occasion (one reason why restaurateurs may feel things are worse than they are) but their obvious reluctance to "brown bag it" or stay at home, even in the face of declining real disposable income. On top of that the National Restaurant Association has projected foodservice industry sales to reach $262 billion this year, an increase of 5.6 percent over 1991, or 1.8 percent when adjusted for inflation.”


I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of money to spend on eating out everyday. I know the 918CouponQueen would agree with me that you will save more money by shopping smarter and if you are really itching to go out to eat she has several great deals to save you money at restaurants. To learn more ways to save money on groceries and eating out read her blog at http://www.918couponqueen.com/

In the mean time let’s find some short cuts in the kitchen. Taking a few steps can save you a lot of time to make dinners at home if you know a few secret tips. We are all busy, busy and don’t have enough time in the day to make dinner from scratch or spend an hour trying to make dinner after you get home from soccer games.

I know Sunday is suppose to be a day of rest, but Sunday afternoon is the day I like to get ahead of the game. I brown all of my ground beef and put it into a few freezer bags. I don’t measure anything out…scary I know, but I scoop the browned hamburger into a freezer bag for what I think is enough for several dishes. In our house we make taco’s, hotdishes (Minnesota talk) or casseroles for you Oklahoman’s. I make a small freezer bag for spaghetti, BBQ’s, and so on. The point I am trying to make is if your hamburger already done it takes no time at all to make a casserole, spaghetti, or tacos. Not only are you saving money by not going out but you are able to be at home and this will give your kids some extra time to do their homework! It’s a win/win!!

The next time you are grilling out chicken make a little extra to freeze for chicken quesadillas or put chicken in your pasta sauce for something new.

Another extra thing I like to do on Sunday afternoon is wash all of my lettuce and put it into a Ziploc bag. Nothing drives me more crazy then wanting a salad for dinner and having to clean all of the lettuce. I just want to be able to throw it in a bowl and start adding lots of toppings. I also cut up my fruit and put it into storage containers so that it is ready to go as well.


None of this is rocket science and some Sunday’s you may not have time to do any of this. All I am trying to do is give you some ideas/tips on some very useful shortcuts to make your busy day less busy. I wonder what you could do with the money you will saving from eating out less for dinner?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Organizing Your Photos


You are going to have to be strong here, no going down memory lane...I mean business…let’s organize those photos.
First gather all of your “loosy goosy” photos and spread them out wherever you may have room. A dining room table, card table or even a spare bedroom bed will work to help organize your photos. I like to sort my photos by dates, but I have four categories: Child 1, Child 2, Vacations, and Christmas. I have a photo album for each child, one for family vacations and I make a Christmas album every year. The boys love to look at them at Christmas and stroll down memory lane.

I would suggest you set a time limit for sorting and purging. You really, really need to stay focused (again, we don’t want any oo’s and ah’s) just down to business: organizing photos. Try setting your microwave time for 30 minutes or live on the edge and set it for 60 minutes! Think how many photos you could go through!

As you sort your photos into your categories, toss any that are blurry, off center, or that you can’t remember where or who in the world those people are on the photo! I tend to take 25 shots of the same thing hoping to get one good picture if you are like me please discard the other 24 shots of your child sitting by the dog sort of smiling and keep the one good one of him smiling.
If you are not a photo album person or scrapbook person place your categorized photos into a photo box and label it’s contents. Try displaying a few pictures meaningful to you or that will put a smile on your kids faces when they see them. We pulled out old videos this past weekend and my boys laughed and laughed at how silly they thought they were when they were young. Kids love to see old pictures of themselves as long as it is not too embarrassing!

I try to update my photos in frames with new ones as much as possible. The one thing my husband likes that I do, is that I leave the old photo in the frame from previous displays. Every time we get a new school picture I put the new one in and look at years past. Boy do they grow up quickly! It is a quick “snap shot” of their lives and every time I can’t believe how big they are getting.

If you are technically inclined, and you have digital pictures try creating new galleries or have your screen saver change out your picture files to keep things new and fresh. My parents love their Kodak Easy Share digital frame and they download new pictures I email to them all the time. Don’t forget to back-up your pictures or save them on an external hard drive or through a service. Nothing would be worse than loosing all of your memories. I put the boys birthday pictures on a CD and put the CD in our safety deposit box so I know they have each year of their life in a safe place.

After you are done organizing your photos, you can go back and “oo and ah” . As always if you need anything please don’t hesitate to email me at cleartheclutter@cox.net

Friday, October 16, 2009

All Those Buttons

Everytime I buy a new outfit it comes with an extra button or two. Sometimes it even comes with extra thread. The funny thing is that I don’t sew but I need to know which button goes to a shirt or a pair of pants just in case I HAVE to sew it back on myself or like this weekend my parents are coming from Minnesota and my Step Mother loves to sew!

Here’s a quick tip on keeping those loose buttons together so you know what you have and giving them a home so when you need to sew it on or your Step Mother is coming you can find them quickly.

Most of the buttons and thread usually come inside a small plastic ziplock bag. I cut off the tag and label which sweater, blouse or pants it belongs too. With the misc. buttons I put them into snack size ziplocks by color or for old buttons that used to belong to clothing that I no longer have. My Step Mother uses old buttons to make my current clothes look new again, she jazzes things up a little!

Try to keep all of your buttons and extra thread in a box, sewing kit, or tote. I keep mine in our laundry room but you can keep yours in a closet or another place that works best for you.
I would write more but I have to get my “need to be fixed clothes” together! My guest are arriving soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What To Do With Warranities and Manuals

So many of my clients ask me what they should do with their warranties and manuals. How many times has an item stopped working right after the manufacturer’s warranty expired? You go to your file and after you have sifted through 210 warranties you realize you don’t have the proper documentation or worse yet, it has expired!

If you purchased the item on a credit card sometimes that credit card company will have a free extended warranty program. You can either get the item repaired at the warranty company’s expense or receive a check for the original purchase price if the item is not repairable. If you are not sure if your credit card company offers this program call the toll-free customer service number on the back of your credit card and ask to speak to a customer service representative to find out.

I was in a car accident with our youngest son several years ago. The police officer told me that his car seat would no longer be safe since it was in an auto accident and I needed to replace it. I didn’t have the receipt but I had the warranty and I called BOK to asked them if they could go back to July 2001 and send my a copy of my transactions to show I purchased a large $ amount at Babies R Us. Sure enough they found it and I mailed it in to the manufacture with our warranty. They sent us a check nearly 80% of what I had spent on the original car seat to purchase I new one!

In most cases you will need to have your original sales receipt (photocopy it in case it fades) in order to have an item covered under an extended warranty program.

Now let’s tackle manuals. Isn’t funny how big manuals are for even a simple thing such as a toaster (BTW you can recycle the toaster manual)? My view on manuals is that once you understand how the product works (under $100) you don’t necessarily need to keep the manual. Even if you need a small part for your product you can go online input your serial number and it will pull up all the parts available for purchasing parts. I have found most manuals are posted online and let’s be honest if your LCD TV goes on the fritz do you really feel comfortable trying to fix it yourself? On the other hand if you were going to sell that same LCD TV it is a nice selling point to have the manual.

Less paper, less clutter!!! Visit www.organizingsolutions.info if you need further assistance.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Is Homework a Scary Word in Your House?

In our house we start our homework at 4:00 p.m., no not at 4:15 p.m., 4:00 rain or shine! Generally speaking I have our home on a routine, schedule if you must...gasp…I know you are thinking…no not, Michelle! I like the boys to be able to have their snack first, play or watch TV. I have friends who insist that the children do their homework before they do anything else. I feel you need a break, to chill and relax before you jump back into your school work again.

Homework can be a huge battle for families and it is extremely difficult on families that have both parents working full-time. It is a lot of pressure to do it all; make dinner, wash clothes, pick up the house and let’s not forget try to help with homework.

I had several clients that like to set up an area in their office for the children’s homework. I like this idea for kids that are older and are more independent. In our house I would be running up and down the stairs a 100 times, but maybe that would be a good thing for my bum but that’s another blog.

Our homework area is the kitchen table. One child at one end and the other one at the other end. I am such a mean mommy that when my youngest son didn’t even have homework, I would have him sit in his spot at the table and look at books just to get him used to the idea of homework while my other son did his homework. How crazy is that?!?!? One of things I like about having them here is that they have so many questions about their homework in elementary school. This allows me to be near them to answer their questions and at the same time I can be starting dinner or folding clothes.

Some suggestions I would try at your home would be to make sure you homework area is neat an organized. Try to have any extra supplies you may need (lined paper, colored pencils, rulers, etc.) handy so that you aren’t running all over the house.

Keep your children focused and help them understand that the sooner they finish the closer they are to being able to play. Remind them that we all have work to do, commitments and as a child this is their responsibility.

I try to make up little games or silly sayings that may help them to remember things for their test at school. Last week I used John Cena from WWE to help him remember that Boston is the capital of Massachusetts. If your boys aren’t into wrestling, John Cena is from Boston! I tape their spelling words to the pantry door every week so they can see them. I doubt they at look at them but it makes me feel better!

What are some things you do around your house to make homework more fun and less stressful?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Packing School Lunches & Snacks

I don’t know about your house but it seems that the boys never can agree on the same thing. Every once in awhile they can agree on what to watch on TV. but usually I think my youngest just concedes. So it goes without saying the one of them prefers the school cafeteria lunch and the other one wants to bring his lunch to school!


Now that we have been in school for almost two months, you have probably found some things that work and some that don’t work. I have found that packing my son’s lunch isn’t really that hard and to be honest if you pack it rather than buying prepackaged lunches you can save a little money. It is a lot easier to buy the Lunchables and the little bags of chips along with a juice boxe but unless you find them on sale and have a coupon they can be expensive and often not very nutritious. I take a big bag of chips, crackers or pretzels and split it up in snack bags to save money. If the juice boxes are not on sale, I fill our reusable bottles with Kool-Aid.

To keep your lunch items handy start by dedicating a drawer or cupboard space to hold your items. This will allow you to quickly and easily pack lunches. I grab crackers everyday after school to refill my son’s morning snack and put it in his backpack for the following morning. This way I don’t forget and he is not without his morning snack. I have forgotten before and boy did I feel bad, trust me I will not make the same mistake again! I even pack his Monday morning snack (usually the prepackaged Whales from Wal-Mart so they don’t sit in a plastic bag over the weekend) Friday after school.

For a stress-free morning, pack lunches the night before. Be sure to ask for some input from your child. When your children have a say in what goes into their lunch box, they’re more likely to eat it. Remember most schools allow only 15 or 20 minutes to eat lunch so make sure the foods you pack are easy to open. I have a friend who makes sandwiches for the week and freezes them to save time. Another friend of mine buys Arby’s Roast Beef Sandwiches 5 for $5 and freezes them for her son’s lunch. If your child is tired of bread try crackers, bagels, pita pockets or tortillas to create a new sandwich. Who knows, you may find a new favorite for your child. My son eats the same thing day after day, I wish I could jazz up his lunch!

I hope you find when everything is organized and handy you can literally pack a lunch in seconds!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

To-Do Lists

We all make them and remake them again and again only to notice the same things are listed from one day to the next. I realize that sometimes making a To-Do List makes you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do. I am sure you have felt that all you do is make lists and lists yet nothing ever gets accomplished. Believe it or not, there are better ways to make a list than just writing things down.

To-Do Lists should be prioritized by all things you need to accomplish that day. They list everything that you have to do, with the most important tasks at the top of the list, and the least important tasks at the bottom. Do you remember that old saying of putting them in ABC order?
A proven simple technique is ABC rating of your priorities. Mark the tasks on your To-Do List with “A’s” for the most important task. “B’s” are less urgent but still important things that you should start right after you are done with “A’s”. “C’s” are “would love to do” things that you could do if you have any time left after “A’s” and “B’s”. Those to-do’s can be moved to another day. By prioritizing your list, you plan the order in which you’ll do things and stay focused.
While this sounds like a simple thing to do, it’s when people start to use To-Do Lists correctly you will feel as though you are in more control of your day to accomplish things and you may even find yourself with some extra time at the end of the day! With To-Do Lists, you’ll be more organized and in control of your day.

Here are some tips to help you get started making To-Do Lists.
Start by writing down all of the tasks that you need to complete the night before. Make sure you have not overloaded yourself with too many things to do. Keep your list small and write with pencil so you can easily erase or add to your list. No one likes to look at a list with a bunch of scribbles and scratched out words.

Make your lists clear. For example write clearly and if you need to make a doctors appointment write who is to have the appointment and with which doctor. Sometimes if your list is to vague you might forget what you meant to do, if that makes sense. Another example would be if you wrote “car”…is that an oil change, fill gas, rotate tires.. you get the point. “Car-Oil change”
Don’t forget to prioritize your list using the ABC method. If too many things are at a high priority you will never get it all accomplished. Look at your list again and see if you can make some less important ones or move them to later in the week.

Everyone uses different methods for different kinds of lists. Here are some ideas for a To-Do List. Keep a notebook with you, use your iPhone or Blackberry, or a digital recorder. I leave myself messages at home on our answering machine if I need to put something on my To-Do List. Some people use a magnetic pad for the refrigerator. Try a few different ways to see what works best for you to make your lists. You may need different kinds of lists for different things. For example I use the magnet pad on my refrigerator for my running grocery list and I use a sticky note for my To-Do List for that day and carry it with me. I stick it to my dash board of my car (not over anything important!). I can still see that I am going a little too fast and need to slow down.

Keep in mind, you may need an additional list at home. Try keeping an ongoing list of projects that you need to accomplish, but haven’t penciled into your daily list . This list may include things to fix around the house, pay bills, send birthday cards or run to the mall for a dress you need for a wedding later in the month. Update this list once a week.

If you have any questions about time management or To-Do Lists, please feel free to email me at cleartheclutter@cox.net . If you need further assistance and would like me to come to your home please go to my website www.organizingsolutions.info for more information about my services.