Posts filed under ‘organization’

An Overabundance of Clothing – Taking Up Space and Wasting Money

hangers

As a result of all of the remodeling taking place in our house my husband has become mildly obsessed with the topic of removing clutter from our lives. This is nothing new for me. As a small child I worked hard to keep the smooth surfaces of my room clean. I found a place for each and every toy and put them back in their place after playing with them. Neat and orderly and a little bit strange, yup that’s me.

My parents don’t keep a particularly messy house, but I don’t believe I inherited this trait from them. I think it’s just a way of keeping my mind at ease. I suppose I need a lot of physical space in order to free up mental space. It’s one of the reasons I often cleaned my room before writing a term paper or studying for an exam. The distractions of the physical world make it difficult for me to concentrate so I do my best not to allow messes to build around me.

My husband has always been relatively neat, but his spaces in the house, (a table for tinkering, his office and the garage), are far from tidy. It’s funny to see how this renovation is causing him to jump on the less is more band wagon.

In fact, he’s been so excited about the paring down of stuff in our house that he recently started talking to coworkers about his desire to corral toys and organize common household items. He took pictures of my super organized closets and shared them with a few close friends.

They returned the favor by sending him photographs of their own homes, which are the complete opposite of mine. Mounds of clothing cover kitchen tables and every inch of counter and surface space. In fact, there are so many items in those homes that the homeowners are unable to close bathroom doors or sleep on their beds without moving the clutter out of the way first.

This is not the first time we’ve seen or heard of a situation like this. When a family member set up the nursery for her son she could only set aside three drawers of a very tiny dresser. The rest of the closets and dressers in her home, including closets in the basement and hallways, were filled with clothing she wouldn’t part with. Every inch of space was filled to capacity and it was nearly impossible to slide a hanger on or off of any rack. The closets couldn’t contain everything she owned. The rest of her clothing was draped over couches and other furniture in the basement.

I’ve written many times about my inability to find clothes that fit. I find it terribly frustrating to search for clothes, so most of the times I simply avoid shopping. When my son was born I did feel a strange desire to shop for him. Between hand-me-downs and trips to the store his dresser quickly filled with adorable little outfits.

In the beginning I photographed him nearly every day and I liked looking at different shirts and pants each time I glanced through the photographs. These days I take a lot less pictures. I also realize that it’s silly to buy clothes for a kid that will outgrow them so quickly.

How many articles of clothing can one little boy wear anyway? These days whenever I receive a bag of hand-me-downs I quickly pick through the things I like best and donate the rest. I buy very few new items and typically only shop from the clearance racks. I keep the tags on most items and the receipts in case I look in the closet and see too many of one particular item. If I’ve learned anything in these three short years it’s that my son gets hot easily, so a handful of sweaters and sweatshirts are all he needs. He typically wears long sleeve or short sleeve t-shirts.

My grandmother told me she owned four dresses as a child. It cost a lot of money to buy clothing back then so she told me most families owned very little of it. Now clothing is so inexpensive that it’s easy to stock up and get overwhelmed by the sheer weight of it.

I know houses can be filled with all sorts of clutter. In our house the source is typically toys, but in many other households the culprit appears to be clothes. Particularly shirts, pants, sweaters and dresses that take up space without getting worn.

At one point in time I probably wore less than 30% of my overall wardrobe. I owned a closet full of clothes but typically only reached for the ones that were soft and comfortable. After purging that number has probably increased to closer to 80% so it seems I still have room for improvement.

Do you suffer from an overabundance of clothing? How many of the items hanging in your closet are actually worn?

January 28, 2015 at 10:58 AM Leave a comment

That’s One Way to Clear Out the Clutter

clutter

If you are looking for a good way to purge all of your possessions might I suggest a large remodeling job? In order for contractors to dig up our floor, build new walls and reconstruct a bathroom we had to remove each and every item we own from our basement.

I began purging the stuff that was located down there many months ago, as part of my crazy nesting process, but when the contractors arrived a few weeks ago they began moving everything else out too.

Thankfully the pile was much smaller than when I started back in November, but surprisingly there is still quite a bit to process.

I’ll need to perform another round of should this stay or should this go and then figure out where on earth to store the remaining items we wish to retain. While everything is tucked away nicely in plastic storage bins I really don’t want to stare at those bins while enjoying the new open spaces of our basement.

I feel the urge to purge, which means at least a few more bags will be headed out to the donation center this weekend. Taking a second glance at the same pile of stuff is helping me reevaluate my desire to store stuff. It seems I’m more willing to part with items I wanted to keep just one month ago.

All of my nesting and purging has driven my husband to want to donate everything we own to charity. All of the sudden the guy who wanted fine china wants to get rid of the entire china cabinet. “Why keep things around we aren’t using when we can make room for the things we do use?,” he asked.

It’s a good question and one I can’t argue with too much. If we removed the china cabinet we could make room for my son’s art supplies and bounty of play dough. Perhaps it’s time to officially give up on the notion of entertaining. We’ve owned that china for 10 years now and taken it out of the cabinet a mere two times!

It feels weird to consider removing it though. Can I really get rid of it all together? We don’t use our china and fine glassware but I do use a number of bowls and serving platters located within it. Where would I store those? Ugh, I’m completely on the fence about this one.

On the plus side remodeling forced us to clean out our spare refrigerator and freezer. In order to install flooring everything had to be moved to the upstairs fridge. It was a great time to throw out old condiments and half opened jars of sauce that would never have been eaten.

Prior to this point I donated and recycled just about everything I didn’t want in our basement, but during this last pass through I decided to eBay a few items. I’m honestly not sure that it will be worth my trouble to do so, but I couldn’t resist the desire to see how much I could earn. I have a feeling I will be terribly disappointed by the results. That’s usually what happens when I list items on eBay.

I also bundled and sold a small pile of books to the highest bidder. I used bookscouter to select the highest paying companies and will ship off the books after the snow melts this week. I know I could sell these for more on eBay or half.com but I really don’t want to go through the hassle of individually mailing books. I’m much happier sending a big pile out the door all at once.

I whittled my book pile down to ten books, five of which have never been read! I also pruned my son’s library, but I kept the majority of his books (all five boxes worth). He is a voracious reader who began spelling words long before he turned three. I don’t want to curb his enthusiasm for the written word though I really need to make better use of our library. It’s right around the corner from our house so distance is not an excuse to ignore it. I took my son last week and he loved picking out books and bringing them home. I also realized the baby board books take up a ton of space. I won’t mind getting rid of those after baby #2 outgrows them.

I am growing tired of sorting and reorganizing this stuff and the longer I do it the more I want to part with the majority of our possessions. My philosophy for things is definitely changing each time I open another box or take another trip to the donation center.

Where I once thought let’s keep this in case we need it I now think let’s get rid of it and buy it again if we really need to. This is certainly not the frugal approach, but it does free up a lot of space in our lives. On the flip side of this coin I now think very carefully about all new purchases. If I never bring it into the house I don’t have to wrestle with storing it and eventually struggling with the decision to part with it.

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January 27, 2015 at 5:59 AM 2 comments

A Few Things I Learned While Nesting, Purging and Streamlining

boxes

With my obsessive nesting nearly complete I stepped back last night to reflect on my decluttering, purging, streamlining process. I actually learned quite a bit about myself from this experience.

  1. Over the years we’ve bought a lot of stuff we just don’t need. The amount of wasted money made me sick to stomach. How many items did I find that were rarely if ever used? Way too many! I’ve gotten much better about not buying unnecessary stuff over the years, but this big dig was a great reminder that I don’t want ever want to revert to buying things that we won’t really use. I will be much more careful about future purchases!
  2. Unwanted gifts will no longer be kept in our house. I love all my friends and family, but I will not hold onto something just because someone else bought it for me. That sounds rather heartless but I don’t want to keep unwanted items just to spare a family member’s feelings.
  3. When I got married I registered incorrectly for a life I don’t have and don’t particularly want to live. Fine china, silver serving platters and glass vases are all taking up space in my very fancy china cabinet. China that has only been used two times in ten years!
  4. Having kids changed my priorities. These days the focus is on things that can’t be broken or destroyed when dropped or colored on. I don’t want to buy anything that doesn’t meet this criteria.
  5. What goes on sale today will probably go on sale again a day, week or month from now. Stocking up on clothes and toys is often unnecessary and an utter pain to store, organize and keep track of.
  6. Moving stuff to the basement is rarely a good idea. Odds are if I don’t need it right now I won’t need it at any point in the future. The majority of books, knickknacks and other items that made their way into the basement never returned to see the light of day. It was a waste of energy to move them from point A to point B only to remove them entirely from my home a few months or years later. Next time they head straight out the door.
  7. Books are a huge waste of money if I never find the time to read them. I am not allowed to bring any new books into the house until I read the ones I already own. After I read them I will pass them on to someone else. I almost never read the same book more than one time so why on earth am I putting them on a bookshelf for later.
  8. I shouldn’t be afraid to purge things I’m not using. Looking over the large bins of clothing in our basement I now wonder if our next child will wear any of the items I stored. Most people probably have better luck conceiving than I did, but given that our two children will be born in opposite seasons I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to pass down.
  9. Stocking up on pantry staples can be a good idea, but not if we don’t eat the items I purchase. One spare bottle of ketchup, salad dressing, mustard, etc. is plenty to keep on hand. If food in the pantry gets more than two layers deep I tend to lose track of what’s inside of it.
  10. I want to limit the amount of paperwork we retain. Other than handwritten notes everything else will be scanned and shredded. Goodbye, huge filing cabinet and good riddance!

I don’t need to purge everything from our house, but I do want to make sure the items we retain from this point forward are actually useful. I don’t want to waste any more time reorganizing!

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December 27, 2014 at 6:08 PM 4 comments

The Price of Nesting

colors

So it seems the start time for remodeling our basement has moved up by nearly two months. Rather than beginning in late February or early March the contractors may be able to squeeze us in the first week of January. That means stepping up my game and digging everything out of the basement much earlier than expected.

Today I tackled the pantry. We don’t keep a lot of food in the basement, but we do store two or three shelves of excess items like spare bottles of ketchup, salad dressing, sauces and seasonings. Our kitchen is incredibly small so we don’t have a whole lot of room for storing anything but the bare necessities. I managed to move things around ever so slightly in an upstairs closet to make room for the surplus. While we probably won’t need any of these items during construction I didn’t like the idea of leaving food in a place that is bound to fill with dust and debris.

I also carried up a box or two full of glass items that might have incurred damage during construction. I initially planned to migrate these upstairs, but after digging through everything I changed my mind and decided to donate them instead. We haven’t touched many of these things in years and it seems silly to find new storage places for things we simply aren’t using. Some of these items were rather expensive. I’m certain the priciest were cut glass vases and drinking cups that cost at least $100 when purchased new. It pained me to get rid of them, but I am hopeful they will find a new home where they can be used much more frequently.

My pregnancy is beginning to catch up with me. Last week I could have walked up and down the steps a hundred times. Today I was tired after just a few trips. I decided it’s probably not wise to haul too much more stuff out of the basement. Whatever is left down there will probably remain. I may place a few last things in plastic tubs, but after that I’m officially finished. At least for the time being. I know there are at least a few other toys I could donate without making a dent in our overall toy pile, but for now they will be boxed up. After the remodeling is complete I’ll probably pass them on to another family.

Upstairs I bought a new elfa shelf to further organize the little room we use for storage. I put it where the filing cabinet used to reside. It wasn’t cheap. I spent just over $175 for the shelves and corresponding parts, but that corner of our world is now neatly organized. We needed a more efficient way to store towels, sheets and other bedding so I bought an extra wide version, which serves its purpose quite perfectly.

I also bought a few square containers to corral toys. I bought three at $5.99 each. This still isn’t the best solution, but for now it freed up much needed floor space. My son is getting better about putting his toys away before heading upstairs so that’s definitely helping too.

We bought a new bed for our little guy with hopes that he’ll happily hand over his crib and a new dresser for the baby’s room. That added another $900 to the overall total.

As I mentioned in my last post I set a deadline of December 31st for all nesting, but it seems I only have four more days until we head out of town so I am clearly running out of time to do much more. As I look around the rooms I cannot believe all that I have organized and purged. I want to focus the next three months on spending time as a family of three. Removing the clutter from our lives will definitely help me make mental and physical space for that.

December 22, 2014 at 3:56 PM Leave a comment

The Things We Keep

treasure

My nesting obsession continues to haunt me. When my son was born I had absolutely no idea what to expect. This time around I know there is a good chance that I’ll be absolutely exhausted for those first two to three months. Three years ago I exclusively nursed and my son was not a good sleeper, which meant waking up around the clock to feed him. My husband would take on diaper duties and pick him up and hand him over, but the rest of the work was up to me and I was quite frankly exhausted. If I was that tired three years ago with just one kid I cannot imagine how depleted I’ll feel this time around. Everyone tells me the bounce back time is shorter the second time, but I’m not so sure I believe them.

In addition to the typical decluttering, cleaning, nesting compulsions I recently had the wacky idea to pay someone to gut and remodel our basement. Since I’m in the second trimester and filled with a ridiculous amount of energy I decided to take on the sea of plastic containers myself. Demolition won’t actually begin until sometime in late February or early March, but I certainly don’t want to wait until the third semester to begin sorting through stuff and I don’t want to deal with any of the dust and debris that construction might kick up down there.

I’ve located all of the baby related stuff we might need for the first month or two. As I mentioned in a previous post I didn’t keep very many baby clothes in the zero to three month range, but there is a decent amount of baby equipment, blankets and co-sleeper related items hiding down there. I corralled the majority of it, but still need to spend some time sorting through the bins to see what’s really useful.

While I was digging I rummaged through the rest of the basement and purged and organized as much as I could. I can only work on this when my son is in preschool or taking a nap, so while this task may have taken just a week to complete it has actually been a work in progress for the better part of a month.

I donated a lot of things I didn’t love and took more trips to the donation center than I can count. The majority of items remaining are clothes that may or may not be used by our second child. Since the first and second will be born in opposite seasons I’m not certain much will be reused. Part of it will also depend on the height of this baby. My son is unbelievably tall for his age, but if the next one is an average height some of the clothes may actually fit during the appropriate seasons. I got rid of some hand-me-downs that weren’t in the best of shape, but decided to keep everything else a little bit longer. After all, some of this stuff has been hiding out in our basement for over three years, how is a few more months or even another year of storage going to hurt me?

The basement isn’t the only area I’ve tackled. In the midst of my reorganizing I decided to dive into the contents of a very large filing cabinet. That awful metal contraption took up a lot of space in a tiny room and I really wanted it out of there.

I shredded and recycled a small portion of the papers it held then got to work scanning the rest of them. I wish I had one of those ultra fast, high speed scanners at work, where I could load fifty papers and call it a day. Our scanner can only handle one page at a time so this process feels like its taking forever. I’m sure I’ve scanned at least five hundred documents over the past week. I scan as many as I can while my son is napping and I’m happy to see the pile dramatically dwindling. I can now fit all of the remaining papers in one box and the filing cabinet has already made its way out of the house!

Its actually been quite fun to comb through that filing cabinet. Among the treasures are love letters from my husband that were written over eighteen years ago, a postcard from a now deceased friend, piles of notes from my middle school years and a long lost envelope full of stickers I collected as a child. I also found handwritten stories I wrote as a teenager and journals I honestly didn’t remember writing in the first place. I am keeping some of the handwritten mementos and shredding others. With a digital copy available I don’t feel the need to retain all of the originals, but some things are too sentimental to shred.

I’m not finished organizing everything but I can feel the end is near. I still haven’t thought much about the baby’s future room, but I did ask my husband to remove an old dresser so I can make space for the things I’ve dug out of the basement. It’s strange how preoccupied I am with the rest of the house. I am trying to make space for all of the stuff that is about to make its way out of closets and drawers. Before my son was born we had plenty of room for baby swings and bouncy seats. This time the nooks and crannies of our home are filled with toys, which means a lot of things need to be moved out of the way to make space. My next goal is to tackle a toy rotation of sorts. I need to limit the number of toys swelling in our living room, which is also the room where my son plays.

My goal is to be done with this crazy nesting by the time the third trimester begins. Considering we’ll be on vacation when that time comes it seems I have exactly two weeks to finish!

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December 11, 2014 at 11:51 PM 3 comments

Nesting Progress

baby baskets

As I clean out the house in preparation for our new little bundle of joy I am perpetually amazed by the sheer amount of stuff that exists within the confines of our walls. Every time I revisit the closets, dressers and drawers in my house I find something else that can be dragged off to the donation center.

Although I love reorganizing I absolutely hate seeing how much money I’ve wasted over the years. After moving things from room to room one too many times I finally decided to get rid of a box full of dishes, platters, plates, vases and candle holders. I hate to admit it, but most of these items were gifts from our wedding ten years ago. If I could go back in time I would definitely register differently.

In my mid-twenties I pictured entertaining quite frequently on all the fine serving pieces I selected. Now in my mid-thirties I cannot remember a single get-together that involved formal dinnerware. Most of our parties occur outside with disposable plates and party supplies. For the time being I kept the fine china, but everything else that hasn’t been used more than once in the last ten years was sent out the door. I cannot say for certain, but I believe I just piled hundreds of dollars worth of gifts into my car. For the record I cringed each time I pictured the sticker price of those items.

Some rooms have certainly been easier to organize than others. While the kitchen and dining room were relatively quick and painless; the craft bins have been a whole different story. What’s a girl to do with all that paint, gift wrapping supplies, thank you notes, colored pencils and a whole host of other miscellaneous stuff that seems to sit around in drawers just waiting to be used? I didn’t have the heart to get rid of any of it. It definitely feels like I will use these items some day and I like having some of these things on hand for last minute gifts bought and received. I got rid of a number of things, but kept quite a bit. I moved them to a new location, sorted and labeled everything.

Although I’m able to recycle my son’s artwork, (thank goodness he doesn’t get attached to those), I also gathered two plastic containers worth of play-doh, art projects, construction paper, markers and crayons. At least I know these will be used at some point in time. Then there are the bins of brand new toys I purchased for future birthday parties and baby showers. While I like saving the money for each event I hate storing everything for months on end. As our space becomes more limiting I believe the gift closet is officially coming to end. I’ve made similar statements in the past but this time I’m sticking through with it. Thanks to stores like Marshall’s and Ross nearby it’s always easy to find toys at bargain prices.

In digging through my son’s old baby clothes I was amazed by just how many little outfits I’d gotten rid of over the past three years. I gave two bags full of onesies and sleepers to a friend who delivered fourteen weeks earlier than expected and purged a few more things here and there along the way. The final count in the 0 to 6 month range is rather pathetic; just a handful of sleeping bags, onesies and sleepers. I certainly don’t regret giving those things away and since this child will be born in the opposite season, (spring versus fall), I have a feeling most items in the three to nine month range wouldn’t work anyway. My first child could wear the same outfit all day, which meant we didn’t much in the way of clothes. Let’s hope the second baby doesn’t get reflux either.

It wasn’t all bad news. I decided to return a few maternity items and unrelated office supplies. I found a number of maternity shirts on sale at Old Navy last week and decided to return the more expensive items I purchased at Kohl’s. I file the receipts to everything I buy so I just dug through my handy-dandy organizer and returned them to customer service this morning. I also found a bunch of unused pens and shipping labels that have been sitting in the drawer for a month or so. I located the receipt and returned them too; between the two transactions I recouped $75.

I still have a long list of nesting tasks I want to accomplish. There are quite a few closets, cubbies and plastic storage bins to process!

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November 18, 2014 at 9:04 PM 8 comments

Nesting: The Second Time Around

nursery shelves

I love second trimester nesting! I’m currently twenty-one weeks pregnant and suddenly feel a compulsive need to clean the house, remove all the clutter and organize everything. I started in the kitchen, moved to the dining room, tried my best to wrangle the chaos that is our living room and then moved upstairs.

I don’t feel as anxious about getting everything ready this time around. Before my son was born I wanted every little detail to be complete. I asked my husband to paint the nursery, I assembled the crib and dresser and applied jungle themed decals to the walls. Long before he arrived everything was washed, dried, folded and hanged. This time around I’m taking a much more relaxed attitude to preparing, especially as it pertains to the nursery.

The truth is my son didn’t sleep in his room for a full six months. Since he was exclusively breastfed I kept him in the same room with me. I didn’t see the value in keeping him in separate quarters when I could just walk three steps to lift and feed him. For the first month or so he slept in a co-sleeper, but after that his little body grew too long to fit comfortably in there. We disassembled the crib and reassembled in our room. It was a tight fit, but we managed to make it work. I couldn’t access my dresser for four months, so I moved everything I needed to a small nightstand.

My post-pregnancy wardrobe included a bunch of pull-down nursing tops. They are the kind that pull down in the front so you don’t have to lift your shirt to nurse. I added a couple pairs of pants, bras and underwear and had plenty of room to spare in those drawers. This time around I’m considering adding some of the baby clothes and blankets to that same dresser. That way everything we need will be in one general area. I might even toss the changing pad on to the top of my dresser so I don’t have to leave the room to change the baby.

I moved all of my pre-pregnancy clothes to the basement for the time being. I did this for two reasons. First, I don’t want to move them out of the way every time I reach for something to wear. Second, I figure it will give me the opportunity to further purge my wardrobe after the baby is born. Things that fit will come back upstairs; everything else will be gathered for donation. Pregnancy has forced me to revisit my wardrobe on more than one occasion. Whether I like it or not various parts of my body changed while I was pregnant and even after I delivered. I got rid of anything that didn’t fit well and decided not to hold on to things that might fit again one day.

My son is still sleeping in his crib, (converted to a toddler bed), and I’m not certain when he’ll give up the comfort of that cozy spot for a larger bed. I don’t need to rush him out of there for quite some time. We still have 19 weeks, (technically I think it’ll be closer to 17 or 18), until the baby arrives and then another two months of the new one using the co-sleeper.

We still own most of the baby equipment my son used, so we just need to find, assemble and figure out where on earth we are going to put it. With only one child in the house we seemed to have plenty of room for that giant baby swing, rock-and-play and bouncer. This time around my son’s toys can fill the entire living room floor, so I’m not quite sure how we’ll squeeze everything in.

Since I haven’t touched the nursery yet, the majority of my nesting seems to revolve around all the other stuff contained within the walls of our home. I’m taking a closer look at the items we actually use on a daily basis. When I cleaned out the kitchen cabinets I removed anything we don’t use regularly. In the past I would have moved it to some other location, but this time I dropped it off for donation. I was more hesitant than I would have preferred. I kept thinking “we might need that one day” and then decided we would just buy again if and when that time came. I got rid of a few storage containers that cannot be stacked even though they were in perfectly good condition and a couple of vases and pitchers that have barely been used.

Unfortunately, I find myself moving things around much more than actually disposing of them. My days of bargain shopping for office supplies are long over, but I couldn’t bear to get rid of all the printer paper in our home. A two foot stack has been moved to the hall closet where it waits to be turned into drawing paper and printable coupons. The same goes for a mound of thank-you notes, ribbons and wrapping supplies.

My hope is to corral all of these miscellaneous items into one place for the time being, then make a second pass through a few days or weeks from now. Everything other than clothing is getting stored away in labeled bins and drawers in one small room. I’d like to reduce the pile by half. I’ve also decided that anything that cannot fit into this space will be purged.

I feel like I have a long way to go to get everything sorted and organized, but I love that I have the energy and desire to make things better. The first step is to clean out the house, the last step will be to work on the nursery.

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November 13, 2014 at 5:12 PM 10 comments

Why It Pays to Be Organized

to do list

I maintain a number of lists to keep my life organized. One is a to-do list full of simple actions that need to be completed in the next few days/weeks. Another is the collective buying list that includes a list of coupons and their expiration dates. This ensures those Groupon purchases no longer go to waste.

I also maintain a list called Things to Look Out For. This list includes items like Look for Survey Payout or Keep an Eye out for UPS Package from eBay. There are a lot of things going on in my life in any given day and I have a lot of trouble keeping track of checks, payouts and packages. I write down a description of the item, the amount and the date I expect it to arrive.

This list has paid for itself more times than I can count. Just today I ran down the list and realized that I was still awaiting payment for returned car tags. I shipped them via USPS and received a confirmation of arrival on March 31st, but months passed and a check never arrived in the mail.

If I hadn’t written myself a note I never would’ve thought about those tags or I would’ve thought about them long after the window for receiving a refund was over.

Thanks to that note I spent five minutes on the phone with the Maryland MVA and should expect a $90 check in the mail in the next three to four weeks. I updated my note with today’s date and the expected arrival. If a month passes without a check I’ll be sure to call again.

I’m sure many of you are much more organized and in tune with the items that should or should not be arriving in the mail, but unfortunately I am no longer one of those people. This list helps me keep track and since it’s inception I have recovered over $600. Not too shabby from simply writing down the amount, date and item I expect to receive.

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June 9, 2014 at 7:02 PM 1 comment

How To Make Life Run Just a Little More Smoothly

Life is busy. To make it a little less hectic I adhere to the following rules. I hope you find them useful too.

mailbox

  • Write down all those little thoughts floating around in your brain. I use an application on my iPhone, but a pen and paper would do the very same trick.  I maintain a number of lists, but I reference my to-do list more than all the others. I write things like: return order to Amazon, check credit card statement, buy trash bags, find a notary and review tax statements. When applicable I add a date to the task and receive a reminder twenty-four hours in advance. Any item that requires action on my part gets written into this list and every time I finish a task I check it off. Doing so ensures that I don’t forget anything important. It also ensures I don’t miss the mundane tasks like stocking laundry detergent downstairs or buying trash bags to hold our garbage.
  • Reduce clutter and organize rooms. The easiest way to reduce work around your house is to purge your possessions. Minimalists have this all figured out, but I am not a minimalist. I keep various pots and pans in the kitchen to serve different purposes. I own a blender, juicer, crock pot and waffle maker. The trick for me is finding a place for everything. The appliances all reside on a basement shelf, which leaves room on our kitchen counter for chopping and mixing. Those tools that I use only one time a year, (for some reason the turkey baster comes to mind), reside in a small plastic box that I also keep in the basement. One drawer in my kitchen contains our silverware, the other contains a pizza cutter, ice cream scooper and the utensils I need for flipping, stirring and whisking. That is all. Everything in my house has a place. We have bins for toys and cubbies for hats, scarfs and gloves sorted by owner. In our case: Dad, Mom and Son. When we get home from an outing we put things away immediately. Coats go into the closet, hats into the box, shoes in a special spot on the floor. With that stuff out of sight and out of mind we have much more space to play and when we go back outside we don’t waste time looking for misplaced items.
  • Clean out your wallet, purse, briefcase or backpack everyday. Before my son was born I almost never carried a purse. Instead I tucked a very small wallet into my back pocket that contained one credit card, my license, a AAA card and insurance information. These days I carry a much bigger bag full of snacks, toys, stickers and training pants, but every afternoon when we come home from our daily excursions I dump the contents of that bag out onto the table and then put everything away. Garbage is tossed and food is placed back into the fridge. This allows you to start over tomorrow with a clean slate.
  • File your receipts. Buy an inexpensive accordion binder. I bought mine from the $1 bin at Target. As you clean out your bags and wallets check for receipts and file them into your binder. Mine is compartmentalized by the stores I most frequently visit: Target, Macy’s, Home Depot, Marshalls, etc. If the description on the receipt looks too vague take a minute and write the details of what you purchased on the back of it. Every few months I weed out the receipts and shred the ones that are over six months old. Receipts for more expensive items like a television are kept longer, since these items often come with one year warranties. If you need to return something to the store you’ll know exactly where to find that receipt.
  • Read the magazines that arrive every month. If you subscribe to magazines make certain that you stack them in one location in the house and actually take the time each month to read them. Every time you finish a magazine donate or recycle it. Do not leave it in the house to collect dust. The stack should remain the same size each month as each time a new magazine arrives the old one should be read and discarded. If you find the stack growing larger and larger consider ending your subscription. This probably means that you are paying good money for something you aren’t using.
  • Ask to be removed from all catalogs. Email or call the company who sent the catalog and ask to be removed from their mailing list. Make certain to include the details found on the back of the catalog; sometimes a company will not stop solicitations without those special codes.  Getting rid of catalogs helps you on multiple fronts. First, you won’t feel tempted to buy things you don’t really need. Second, you will save the environment as less trees are cut down and less fuel is utilized to get those magazines from point A to point B. Third, you won’t have to deal with them in your mail anymore.
  • Unsubscribe from all unwanted email. Go through your inbox and click the unsubscribe link for each and every email that you are not interested in. It only takes a second or two to open these, but removing them from your inbox means you don’t have to waste any time at all.
  • Open and read your mail every day. This is an easy one. Pick a room in the house and set up a shredder, scanner, trash can and recycle bin. Dump the spam into the recycle bin, this may include circulars, unsolicited mail, (without your name on it), and anything else that you don’t want. Dump envelopes into the recycle bin. Shred all unsolicited credit card offers and anything else that could make it easy for someone to steal your identity or wreak havoc on your credit score. Whatever is left is real mail. Much of this may include bills and bank statements. These documents should be scanned and digitally filed by date. We save all documents as yyyy-mm-dd – description. This ensures that items are sortable and easy to find when needed. Once things are scanned shred the physical documents. Don’t forget to set aside time to pay your bills.
  • Create backups of your data. I must admit that my husband has taken over this particular task for our household. The key is to backup everything you can. Family photos, bank statements, medical records, you name it. Make sure everything is backed up so a broken hard drive doesn’t force you to lose everything.

This may seem like a lot of tasks, but after awhile it will become second nature to complete them. With less mail to process, less email to read and less time wasted looking for lost objects you’ll free up a good chunk of time in your day.

Photo Credit

February 12, 2014 at 11:52 PM 1 comment

A Storage Solution for Toys

Storage Bin

For over a year I’ve been on the lookout for a storage solution for my son’s toys. We originally bought a shelving unit with multiple compartments but it was difficult to actually keep the toys corralled on the shelves. It seems a lot of my son’s toys are round and spherical in nature, which led to a bunch of toys falling off the shelf whenever he tried to grab just one.

He’s actually a very careful child, so he learned how to work around this, but when playmates came over toys inevitably crashed onto the ground. I got so frustrated by the shelves that I moved them to another location and began using it for a different purpose.

I tried moving my son’s items into plastic bins and storage drawers, but he wasn’t able to view all of the toys and grew disinterested in digging around to find them.

I searched around the Internet and found the perfect solution. It comes in two versions. One in pastel colors, like the one at the top of this post and one in primary colors as seen below.

Storage Bin Primary Colors

The new unit isn’t the most robust thing in the world. It’s made of two pieces of particle board and a bunch of metal rods, but it does serve it’s purpose perfectly. It took me about ten minutes to set it up. My son actually helped me put the unit together and move all of the toys onto the shelves. The shelves are tilted down so my son can easily see everything in side of the bins and the bins can hold all of his balls and other items that were constantly rolling off of the old shelves we used.

Now he can see everything he could possibly want to play with. Whatever doesn’t fit on the shelves will be moved into temporary storage and rotated.

It also makes clean up a breeze. All of the legos fit in one storage bin. My son can take the entire bin off of the shelf, play with the toys and then put everything back in the bin. Everything is self-contained, which I love!

The unit is currently on sale at Amazon for $54.99.

December 13, 2013 at 11:31 AM Leave a comment

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