Thursday, January 7, 2010

Organizing Tips That Actually Work

Organizing Tips That Actually Work
(Redbook, Womans Day, Organizing Junkie, Real Simple, Fly Lady and ME)!

From: Organizing Junkie:

I truly believe organizing is a PROCESS not a destination. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things it’s time to do it all over again. Life happens. Kids outgrow their toys and clothes, your responsibilities and needs change, you have another child, you get married, a new job, etc. With the right techniques you can stay on top of these things, you can control your space rather than your space controlling you. Being organized allows you to quickly restore the situation when “life” gets a little chaotic.

I’ve created an acronym to help you conquer any space or system easy and efficiently. That acronym is PROCESS. PROCESS is defined as a series of actions used to produce something or reach a goal.

That is what we want to do when organizing. This will enable you to keep on track and produce a clutter free space with a system designed specifically for your needs.

Here are the PROCESS steps:

P Plan of attack – plan your project – which area(s) do you want to address – make a list – evaluate present system, what is working, what isn’t working, devise new system – determine budget – develop timeline

R Remove items – start from a clean slate – empty the space completely – remove then sort & purge

O Organize into piles – donate/toss/sell/keep/relocate – sort like with like – purge excess – the more you purge the less you have to find a home

C Containerize – find storage solutions – containers establish limits and boundaries – designate a space for items being kept – consolidate

E Evaluate plan – how is your system working for you – are you able to work your system? What needs to be modified? A good system should be easy to maintain

S Solve/simplify anything that isn’t working for you – revise accordingly

S Smile, relax and enjoy your hard work!

1. One A Day

Do one small organizational task daily, no matter how small. Clean out one drawer or the top tier of the spice rack. Just think: After a month, you'll have checked 30 things off your to-do list.

2. Mail ~ Command Centers

Open the mail over the shredder or recycling bin, and get rid of the junk immediately. This forces you to make quick and definitive decisions so nothing piles up in your hallway or anywhere else.  Command Centers work great to organize the stuff that gets "dropped in the floor, or on the counter"

3. Grocery List ~ Notes ~ Ideas

Store all your notes, lists, and ideas in one small three-ring binder you keep in your purse. Periodically recycle outdated pages (last week's grocery list) and keep others (that million-dollar idea that came to you at the doctor's office).
4. Drawers ~ Sox, Undies Etc

Separate bras and undies with drawer dividers. Velvet dividers ($8 for six; to sort lingerie into sections according to type (bras, undies, and camisoles) and function (everyday garments stay up front; strapless bras are tucked in the back).

5. Purge

Once or twice a year, host a shop-my-castoffs party, or a rummage sale. Turn on the tunes, open a bottle of wine, and let friends take what they like — from purses and baubles to frocks and shoes. You can also make a few extra bucks when doing a rummage sale, to purchase that “gotta have” new item!

6. Treat organization the same way you would a diet or exercise plan: as a lifestyle change. To maintain results, you have to do a just a little bit, but often, (Home Organizing Workbook).

7. Repairs/Mending

Hang a canvas tote, (embroidered with REPAIR/MENDING) FROM a hook in the laundry room, suggests's . She tosses too-small, worn-out, and snagged clothes into the bags as soon as they come out of the dryer to keep from stumbling across these mini-projects all the time.

8. Makeup ~ Medicines

Stash a permanent marker in the bathroom cabinet and mark makeup, sunscreens, and medicines with the dates of purchase so you know when they should be tossed. In general, mascara shouldn't be kept for more than three months, and sunscreens and medicines should be pitched at the end of a year, advises Lorie Marrero, creator of The Clutter Diet. Look for POA ("period after opening") icons, like the one at right, on packaging; "3M" means a product lasts three months.

9. Closet Purging (FLY LADY)

Let go of that when-I-lose-five-pounds skirt, and a girl doesn't need 10 pairs of black pants."

Closet Purge 101
  • SIZE MATTERS Dress for NOW!! To big/ To small if it doesn’t fit PURGE IT!!
  • NOT FITTIN IN It fits poorly – maybe you could wear it if…hem it, take it Up, let it out, take it to alterations, or PURGE IT!!
  • THE DATING GAME Clothes out dated? PURGE IT, don’t save it! for “it might come back in style”
  • TRUE COLORS It’s a bad color for you…every time you wear it, You get asked “do you feel alright today?” Truth Is you just don’t look good in it. PURGE IT!!
  • HATE IT You never really liked it – reason enough!  PURGE IT!! It does not matter how much youpaid for it, or who gave it to you!

Closet Makeover

Storing your clothes well means they'll always look their best. And if you organize your closets and drawers, you'll find you wear more of your clothes more often.

10 Tips for Organizing Your Closet

Storing your clothes well means they'll always look their best. And when your closets and drawers are well organized, you'll find you wear more of your clothes more often.

1. Divide the closet into zones, and use three short rods rather than a single long one. Hang dresses, robes, and coats from one high rod; hang blouses and short items from another high rod, and skirts and folded slacks from a low rod below.

2. Group clothes by color.

3. Stack cubbies across the closet floor to create space for shoes.

4. Make sure shelves are adjustable, and line them with smooth vinyl matting, usually used to protect drafting tables. Cut the matting to fit each shelf, and fasten it with double-sided tape.

5. Clean garments before storing them for the season. Sugar stains (such as wine) can set and spread over time. View our stain chart for information about treating stains.

6. Remove dry-cleaning bags, which trap moisture; use fabric bags instead. And don't store wool or silk in airtight containers -- they need to breathe.

7. Line very light garments with acid-free tissue.

8. Fibers can dry out if the closet temperature is consistently above 75 degrees.

9. Never let mothballs touch clothing; hang them in old socks or hosiery. If you suspect moth infestation, dry-clean the clothes, and wash the closet with mild soap and water.

10. Before storing heavy coats, stuff the arms with acid-free tissue.

Organizing Dresser Drawers These strategies will help you organize your dresser drawers.

Accessories Drawer: Line shallow top drawers with velvet (use archival glue to back the velvet with poster board). This will provide plush support for delicate items such as scarves and jewelry. Martha likes to use small aluminum containers to store notions.

Sweater Drawer: Use a deep drawer for sweaters -- never hang knits -- and place cedar blocks inside to fend off moths.

Knitwear, Stockings, and T-shirts: Create removable compartments that fit your clothes (placing small boxes inside drawers for items such as underwear and socks), and make the fewest folds possible in order to reduce creasing. Line drawers with acid-free tissue paper.

Pants Drawer: Save a drawer for khakis and jeans. Acid-free paper will protect them from splinters and acids in the wood.

Add Brackets for Neat Stacks

Prevent folded clothes and linens from toppling with wooden dividers. Choose shelf brackets with the long side measuring just less than the height of your shelf and the short side equal to or less than the depth; place the shorter side of each on the shelf and the longer side against the wall. To secure, drill two wood screws into each bracket from the shelf's underside.

Use Pegboard

Pegboard keeps items off the floor, in sight, and within reach. The board is sold in large sheets; have it cut to size, or use a circular saw or jigsaw. Place furring strips (thin pieces of wood) between the board and wall, so you'll have room for the backs of hooks.

1. Before installing the pegboard in a closet, carefully measure where clothing rods will go -- they'll need extra support. For added stability, put two furring strips side by side behind the pegboard at these spots.

2. Belts hang by their loops, while above, straight hooks hold bags and purses.

3. This pegboard panel maximizes otherwise unused space on the back of the closet door. Snap-in pegboard-hook holders (available at home centers) keep hardware from wobbling, which is especially useful when the board is hung on a door or any other moving surface.

4. Wire baskets provide a home for toiletries and other small items. A key ring and a lint roller hang nearby.

5. A series of U-shaped hooks keeps neckties in line and wrinkle-free.

Stay-Put Pants

The same felt glides that keep scratches off wood floors keep pants on wood hangers. At the hardware store, look for glides measuring between 1/2 and 3/4 inch. Stick two glides onto each hanger, 3 to 4 inches in from each end and over the top of the rod. Hang trousers; they'll no longer slide around or fall into a wrinkled heap on the floor.

10. Freezer

Store frozen foods and meats in easily accessible, labeled plastic bins, (REDBOOK ) You'll never freeze your fingers hunting through your well-stocked, over packed freezer again.

11. Recipes

Employ one system to help organize favorite recipes. The Recipe Nest ($39; is a binder with six tabbed dividers that you can customize with your own categories, such as Grandma's Secrets or Entertaining Menus. (PICTURE) It's nearly two inches deep, so there's plenty of room for you to add to your collection.

Start your own recipe blog, post your recipes and copy recipes that you want to try to the blog, this will eliminate clippings of recipes and clutter!

12. Ya Never Know Box

Make yourself a YNK (you never know) box, (Buttoned Up organizational products). Here's how: Empty the contents of a drawer (the kitchen utensil drawer, or a junk drawer) into a box. Then, every time you need one of the items, remove it from the box and return it to the drawer after you use it. After two months, whatever is still left in the box should be thrown out or donated.

13. Jewerly

Dangle necklaces and baubles from pushpins on fabric-covered bulletin boards, (REDBOOK)

14. Dishes

PURGE ~ PURGE ~ PURGE. How many pots can you fit on the stove at once? How many free pens do you really use? How many old T-shirts do you really need to save for the next paint project? PURGE ~ PURGE ~ PURGE

15. Magazines ~ Catalogs

Sift through your ever-growing stack of magazines and catalogs - (while on a plane, or road trip, or in doctors office waiting rooms). Bring a few clear plastic envelopes ($7.50 for three; along with you to stash recipes you want to try, decorating ideas, and reference articles you tear out.

16. Regifting

Give yourself permission to re-gift. Just because someone you care about gave you something does not mean you have to hold on to it for the rest of your life (even if you have room for it!). Pass it on to someone who will appreciate and use it.

17. Hot Spots

Corral clutter where it lands. Keep containers near mess hot spots, such as the front door, the bedroom dresser, stairs, and the kitchen counter. Then empty them once in a while (or when they get full), put the items away, and start over.

18. Photos

As soon as you upload your new photos to the computer, create a digital photo book. As for old photos that never made it into a album, try organizing them in photo boxes, categorizing by vacation or time period so they're easily searchable. To organize photo CD's use a file system and organize them by date/year.

19. House Cleaning

Clean house like you're moving. Keep only those things you'd take if you relocated.

20. Travel Information ~ Maps

If you travel a lot and collect cards and brochures from favorite restaurants, shops, and activities, throw them all into one box when you get home. When a friend is headed someplace you've visited, you can sift through your box (PICTURE) like the one below) to pass along some suggestions. Everyone wins: You have one spot where stockpiling a mishmash of info is allowed, and friends get travel tips from someone they know and trust.

21. Do a Clean Sweep Before Bed

“My rule of thumb is to pick up five things before I go bed every night and put them where they belong. It makes more of a difference than you may think, and it only takes a couple of minutes. The more people in your household that help, the better!”

22. Do Room-by-Room Laundry

I started doing laundry by bedrooms. I put a hamper in each room, rather than have a communal ‘dumping ground,’ and the clothes were taken to the washer and then returned to the room in the same hamper, where they could be folded on the child's bed and put away immediately. This helped keep the house neat, and made it easy to get the kids involved at a young age

23. Discover Multipurpose Uses for Items

No bathroom storage? Hang a canvas shoe organizer on the back of the door, (The Ultimate Accidental Housewife). In my bathroom, it’s perfect for my cotton balls, makeup and hairdryer, Put dental-care items in one row of pockets, makeup brushes in the next, your husband's shaving gear in another, and so on. “I also use hanging shoe holders inside my pantry and closet doors. In my pantry in the kitchen, I use it for my utensils, baking tips and small electronics. And in my closet, it allows me to keep my socks, undergarments and jewelry organized. They really come in handy.”

24. Keep Coupons Handy

“In addition to my coupon wallet for grocery coupons, I use a second expandable coupon wallet to keep track of all those restaurant offers, department store, entertainment and personal care coupons we often get. I keep both in the car so that they are always handy. I can also easily file and sort through coupons while waiting in the car, making good use of those extra minutes.”

25. Roll It Up

“To keep my kitchen towel drawer neat and to maximize the space, I roll my towels. First, I fold them lengthwise, then simply roll them up tight. I do the same with my bath towels and put an opened bar of soap between the rolls to create a fresh scent.”

26. 27 Fling Boogie – (Fly Lady)

Grab a trash bag and start throwing away ~ do not stop until you have gathered up 27 items and disposed of them. Take the trash bag out and don’t look back!

Now get another trash bag and find 27 items to give away (get rid of) ~ don’t stop until you have 27 items in the bag. Take it to the car and drop it off at the Goodwill Station on your next trip out!

27. Five Minute Room Rescue – (Fly Lady)

Spend 5 minutes a day for 27 days in your worst room. Set the timer and only spend five minutes, but do it every day. You will be surprised what you can accomplish in 27 days just one bit at a time.


Use baskets in cabinets, pantry's, drawers, to group items, create space, organize lids etc.

Organizing Your Paperwork

Keeping your paperwork organized has obvious benefits. The following strategies will help you bring order to your receipts, bills, and statements.

Keeping your paperwork organized has obvious benefits. After all, who wants to look at unruly stacks of bills that could instead be stored neatly out of sight?

But having a place for everything isn't just about aesthetics. Being disorganized can create extra work and subject you to late fees. The following strategies will help you bring order to your receipts, bills, and statements.


Leaving things scattered around the house is a surefire way to lose them, which is the reason financial experts recommend creating a command center. Ideally, this area -- whether a desk or another dedicated work space -- should encompass an ample surface, a computer, in-boxes for unpaid bills, files for long-term storage, a paper shredder, and office supplies. Other essentials include a comfortable chair and an appealing setting, because if you don't want to sit there, chances are you won't want to work there.

Navigating Bills

There are two phases of dealing with bills: paying and storing. If you're able to submit payment the moment you receive a bill, the first isn't an issue. However, most people must coordinate due dates with their pay dates. The most straightforward approach is to label two in-boxes with the dates of upcoming paychecks. As soon as you open a bill, put it in the appropriate box.

To keep track of bills after they've been paid, store them in file boxes or accordion file folders, organized by month rather than by type of bill. "People go file crazy, having separate folders for their cable bills, electricity bills, etc.," says Barry Izsak, former president of the National Association of Professional Organizers. "Its not necessary."

Reducing Receipts

The deluge of receipts acquired each week can be overwhelming. "One of the things that causes chaos is that people don't know what they need, so they save everything," says Julie Morgenstern, author of "Organizing from the Inside Out." You can, however, get rid of many of these receipts immediately rather than stuffing them into your purse, wallet, or desk drawer. Morgenstern recommends creating an "automatic-toss list," including receipts for groceries and other everyday, non-tax-deductible items. You can save the ones you need to hold on to -- for appliances, medical expenses, and home improvements -- in a separate accordion file, also organized by month. To minimize paper clutter further, consider scanning your receipts and saving them digitally.

Saving Selectively

The beauty of a 12-month filing system is that at the end of the year, you can simply mark the year on the box or the file, and place it on a shelf.

There are, however, a few documents that should be stored separately -- and indefinitely -- including medical bills and claims, tax returns, investment records (such as year-end statements for retirement accounts), anything pertaining to property and valuables (including mortgage contracts and assessments), and legal documents (such as wills and those pertaining to estate planning). Make copies of these and other irreplaceable documents, including deeds, titles, stock and bond certificates, and certificates of deposit, and store the originals in a fire-resistant safe or a safe-deposit box.

Maintaining Order

After you set up your new approach, dedicate some time to its upkeep every week. "The best system in the world won't work if you don't stick to it," Izsak says. Aside from proper and frequent filing, perhaps the most important ongoing chore is purging unnecessary and obsolete paperwork. A good way to manage what comes into your home is to open your mail near a shredder or a recycling bin, so you can discard instantly anything you don't need to retain.

Document-Retention Guidelines

The rules for record retention vary depending on whom you consult. If you have the space, it's better to err on the side of caution.

Auto RecordsWhile Active

Keep these for as long as you own the vehicle. Hold on to sales-transaction data for six years after the car is sold or traded.

Insurance Policies While Active

After you receive the updated policy, shred the old one.

Warranties and Contracts While Active

Toss them as soon as they expire.

Paid Bills While Active

After you receive a canceled check or a credit or bank statement, most bills and receipts can be shredded. For insured purchases, keep paperwork as long as you own the item.

Paycheck Stubs One Year

Hold on to these until you've checked that the W-2 from your employer is correct.

Quarterly Investment Records One Year

After you confirm that your annual statement accurately reflects your quarterlies, shred the latter.

Credit Card and Bank Statements Seven Years

These can serve as proof if you file an insurance claim and as backup for tax documentation.

Receipts and Documentation for Tax-Deductible Purchases Indefinitely

The Internal Revenue Service can go back at least three years if good-faith errors are suspected, and indefinitely if it believes you have underreported your income by more than 25 percent.

Tax Returns Indefinitely

These are useful references for checking income or medical claims from a particular year.

House-Related Records Indefinitely

Save documents pertaining to closings, deeds, assessments, and home-improvement expenses.

Most IRA Contributions Indefinitely

Keep these in case you need to prove that you already paid taxes on this income.

Annual Investment Statements Indefinitely

Retain these until you sell the securities. Keep the record of that transaction indefinitely.

Going Paperless

One way to minimize clutter is to eliminate paperwork.

Home Computer

Sign up for online banking and bill paying, saving statements to the hard drive. You can also use a computer to save scanned documents.


Turn paper documents, such as receipts, bills, and statements, into digital files with a scanner. Even an inexpensive one can achieve a resolution that's good enough for files that need to be archived.

External Hard Drive

Set up one to synchronize with your computer often, and back up your documents regularly. Look for an external hard drive that has twice the capacity of your computer's hard drive.

Compact Discs

Transfer files (at least one year old) to CDs for long-term storage, and keep the discs in jewel boxes for protection. CDs labeled "archival" are less susceptible to damage.

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