Friday, May 21, 2010

Label, Label, Label

Say "Hello" to my little friend.  No, I'm not going to to go on and on about my labelmaker.  I think everyone knows the merits of labels.  In fact, I don't really think you need a labelmaker if you have nice handwriting...which I don't.  As a matter of fact, my handwriting is so bad I can't even read it most of the time.  So, if your handwriting is as illegible as mine, you might want to invest in a labelmaker.  This Brother model is my weapon of choice...simple with a typewriter-style keyboard.  Quick and efficient labels can make organizing your office and your home easier.

However, I wish my handwriting was better, because I love the look of handwritten labels, cards and notes.  I get a warm feeling every time I see my mother's or my grandmother's handwriting on the back of an old photo or a recipe card.  Making fun, handwritten labels can also bring some style to your organizing, the way scrapbooks give your photos an attractive presentation.  Attach your homemade labels to storage jars of buttons or nails, or use the file folders specifically designed with "writable" tabs and mark with different colored pens.  I have a very creative friend who uses vintage suitcases as decorative storage...a modern, stick-on label just wouldn't look right on those cases. 

Organizing and de-cluttering can be fun and creative.  Writer Julie Morgenstern author of "Organizing from the Inside, Out", talks about how organizing should be personal, designed to meet each individuals needs and work style. 

Happy Organizing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tools Of The Trade

As an organizer, a realtor and a home stager I know the importance of having the right tool for the job.  But long before these labels attached themselves to me, I began a love affair with tools and gadgets.  And it all began with my first cordless drill.  Before that drill, my tool kit consisted of a nail file, a wooden platform shoe and my good looks.  It would be in my early thirties that I purchased my first real tool...a Black & Decker cordless drill.  A whole new world opened up for me on that day.

These days, I keep two tool kits, one in my car and one at home.  My "traveling" tool kit contains extra items I need to put together real estate signs and my home kit has a more traditional grouping of tools.  Even if your husband or significant other has a garage full of tools, I believe every woman needs her own.  Here's a list of what I consider the basics:

Ratcheting Screwdriver with exchangeable heads
Pliers (standard and needle nose)
Wrench (small one to handle bolts and small pipes)
Allen Wrench with assorted sizes
Tape Measure

Extra items I use a lot, so I keep them handy:

Hot Glue Gun
Zip Ties
Laser Level (you really shouldn't hang pictures without this)
Exacto Knife
Scissors (yes, keep a pair of scissors in your toolbox so you don't ruin your good sewing scissors opening hard plastic containers or cutting zip ties)
Yard Stick (I keep a yard stick at home and at the office...they are great for quick measurements and retrieving dog toys from under the sofa or socks from behind the dryer)

Tool manufacturers have recognized the rise of the "handywoman" and make tools designed just for ladies in pretty colors like pink or floral patterns...I have no problem with using a pink handled tool as long as it works.  And be creative with storage options for your tools.  You can certainly opt for a traditional tool box, but I found a great canvas handle bag designed to hold scrapbooking tools at the hobby store that I love.  Also, put your tool kit in a place that you can access easily like the pantry, or laundry room, or a linen closet.  Do not...I repeat, do not store your tool kit in the garage.  If you put your tools in the garage your husband might be tempted to borrow them, and besides, the garage is dirty and full of icky spiders...pretty soon you'll be back to tightening kitchen cabinet door hinges with a butter knife just so you don't have to go into the garage.

So the next time you feel the need for "retail therapy"...skip the shoe store and hit the tool department at Home Depot.  And if you think you're woman a cordless drill.

Happy Organizing

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How About A Big Hand For The Little Lady

Dear Hearts, let us now sing the praises of the great, American Housekeeper.  I don't mean those frazzled wives and mothers trying to keep their families and houses in order while working full-time jobs.  I mean those wonderful gals (or guys) who are paid to come into your home weekly or bi-monthly, and, like magical elves or Snow White, clean your house while you're at work.

For soooooo many years, like many of you I suspect, I never saw myself hiring someone to clean my house for me.  I thought only frivolous and neglectful women admitted to being unable (or unwilling) to scrub their own floors and bathtubs.  I saw this as particularily sinful and indulgent for myself because I didn't have any children to blame, just me and my husband.  Then one day, said husband made a fatal mistake.  When I asked him to help clean house because I had a really busy schedule at work, he joked that he, "was in charge of the outside," and I, "was in charge of the inside."  That's when it dawned on me that he had hired a gardener 10 years earlier.  We didn't even own a lawnmower!!  I immediately overcame my previously held notions about housework and grabbed the classifieds.  That is the day an angel named Julie came into my life.  Julie turned out to be a wonderful soul with a sunny disposition, a love of animals ,and she was a darned good housekeeper,  Every other week, for 5 years, Julie worked her magic on my dirty house.  My heart would quite literally skip a beat with delight on those days as I turned the corner on my street coming home from work just knowing she had been there all afternoon putting my nest back in order.  And why not...I deserved it.

When I decided to move from California, back to Texas after my divorce, I think I cried more about leaving Julie behind than I did over my failed marriage.  I can remember her helping me clean my house after the movers had loaded up my furniture.  We stood in the driveway and hugged like sisters being torn apart by CPS, then I gave her all the contents of my liquor cabinet, my yorkie licked her kind face one last time and she got into her Lexus (Julie had a very successful cleaning business) and drove out of my life.

Ladies, if you don't think you can afford a housekeeper and you are killing yourself trying to do it all...think again.  We all have busy, busy lives and there is more shame in denying your family and yourself precious time together than there is in paying someone to scrub your toilets.  I could kick myself for the days I spent cleaning when I could have been doing something I love.  Besides, getting your environment clean and keeping it clean is a big component of getting organized.  It's a lot easier to focus on cleaning out that closet in the guest room or sorting out the papers on your desk when you're not stressed about housework.

Whether you're a full time employee or a full time mom, consider hiring a housekeeper.  Then enjoy those precious days every two weeks when you can walk into your house after a long day and without a worry in the world, pour yourself a glass of wine, kick off your shoes, sit back and smell the Pine Sol.

Happy Organizing

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Think Inside The Box

I confess an obession with boxes.  Boxes, baskets, bins and containers of all kinds.  The thought of gathering related objects and storing them together in one box or container is my idea of nirvana.  Quirky?  Maybe.  But this obsession is really the cornerstone of my organizational philosophy which is to organize the "stuff" essential to your life and work so you can find it and utilize it fast, efficiently and easily.  I like to create storage bins for essential tasks or items that I have to perform or utilize on a regular basis.  For instance, I have to bath my little yorkie, Dixie, about every two weeks.  I keep all the essentials for her bath like shampoo, grooming spray, brush, her little hairbows and even the apron I wear to keep from getting soaked, all in a pink plastic bin on the shelf in my laundry room.  Of course I have to make sure I have Dixie under one arm before I reach for that bin, because she has learned to recognize it and will hide if she sees me bring it out.  Aside from a towel, all I need is in that pink bin...once she's bathed and groomed, and looking so cute, everything goes back in the bin and back on the shelf, ready for the next bath.  Other bins on that shelf include one for light bulbs (I have a lot of lamps in my my age ambient light is essential!), one contains dusting supplies (I'm allergic to dust and in Texas you get a lot of dust), and my toolbox resides on that shelf as well.  Your repititous tasks are probably different from mine, but identifying them and gathering the essentials for those tasks and keeping them handy will organize your life and save you tons of time.

My favorite box is a 2'x1.5' plastic, Rubbermaid container, whose lid I lost somewhere along the way, that I call my "project box".  Whenever I have a specific project to work on, I gather all the items needed to complete that project in this box so once I'm ready to begin I have all I need in one place.  For instance, several months ago I decided to sew curtains and cushions for the window seat in my dining room, I thought I'd re-cover my dining table chairs as well.  Bit by bit, I began placing fabric, thread, sewing notions, staple gun, etc., into the project box.  I was pretty busy and I didn't know when I would get the time to put the window seat together, but when I finally found myself with some free time I had everything for the project in one place, ready to go.  After completing the window seat, I then used my project box to gather up all the papers I needed to file my taxes.  Currently, the project box contains a jar of spackle and a small paint roller...I have holes to patch and paint where I installed new curtain rods.  I don't know when I'll get to that project, but because of the box I know I WILL GET TO IT.  The project box resides on the daybed in my home office so I can easily toss in the things I need and serves as reminder to eventually complete that project.

I said I was obsessed,

Happy Organizing

Friday, May 14, 2010

Leave It At The Door

OK, let's assume you have tossed out all those lovely garbage bags full of your old "paper piles" and you're feeling pretty good about yourself.  Not so fast.  Now you need to keep those piles from cropping up all over the house again.  Don't worry...I have a solution.

Solution:  Leave it at the door.  Place a good sized basket or deep tray with handles right inside your front door (or whatever door you always enter through).  Drop the mail, door hangers, shopping receipts, flyers, etc...all of the day's incoming paper right into that basket.  If you have groceries, after putting your groceries away, drop in one of those empty plastic bags (you could even drop your car keys in if you're one of those people that has to search for their keys every morning).  Later that evening, while your favorite TV show is on or even from the comfort of your bed, grab that basket.  Go through its contents, setting aside bills to pay (or grab your checkbook when you grab the basket), sign the kids' permission slips, set aside the magazines you want to read and clip any good coupons.  Once you've gone through all the contents, stuff all the paper you don't need to keep into that plastic bag and...HELLO...throw it away.  Put the basket back by the door and enjoy a good night's sleep.  If you are an early riser like me, you might wait to go through your basket while enjoying your morning coffee.  This system works even if you can't get to the basket for two or three days.

Happy Organizing!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Let's Get Started

Welcome to my blog! I have never blogged before so, dear reader, please pardon my baby steps. I decided to venture into this medium because for years my friends, family and professional colleagues have called on me to advise or help them get organized. Quite frankly, I give really good advice on this subject so it occured to me I should put my organizational tools and tips out there in cyberspace. It is my hope this blog will provide someone help and inspiration to get organized or live a more clutter-free life. It is also my hope readers will feel free to ask advice on specific organizing or de-cluttering problems, or even better, like-minded individuals will write back and share their own organizational tips. So here's my first tip for getting organized and cutting the clutter...Get Started. If you are a real "Clutter Bug" this may feel overwhelming, but getting started doesn't require a master plan or huge block of time. You also don't need to drop a fortune at the Container Store before getting started either. My de-cluttering always begins with one simple tool...a garbage bag (if I'm organizing an office a shredder is really helpful as well). Getting rid of all the unnecessary junk mail, magazines, newspapers, and all that paper that piles up so quickly is a great first step to clearing your decks. I know throwing things away is often the hardest step for some people, so those folks might want to get a friend to lend support. How ever hard it is to toss out that first garbage bag, the sense of empowerment you get as the garbage truck drives away is intoxicating and well worth the effort.

Well, it seems I've gotten started on my blogging journey and it wasn't so hard after all and the best paper to throw away!

Happy organizing,

The Clutter Diva