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It’s Easy Being Green – AND Organized!

Kermit-the-muppets-3206566-1024-768As a professional organizer, I use the word simplify in my daily vocabulary. We’ve all heard the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle”. But what not everyone recognizes is that ‘simplify’ is just a more palatable synonym for ‘reduce’. I’m, quite frankly, in the business of reducing.  It’s no mistake that ‘reduce’ comes first in the mantra. Our culture often obsesses about the end game, but recycling is actually the last step. The goal is to acquire less, creatively reuse what makes sense and recycle what you can. The good news is there are many resources locally and nationally to help!

 

Reduce

Shop with the idea of ENOUGH in mind.  When you know what ‘enough’ is, your inventory of possessions stays consistent.  Whether it’s in your pantry or your closet, keeping a consistent inventory of items is key to staying organized.  Take this mindset with you to the grocery store and the mall and watch how decision-making changes.  Do I really need this? Where will I put it? And how will I pay for it? Are three questions that change the way things flow into your life. Thinking outside the box is made easy with great alternatives to purchasing new items. Instead of buying a new second car check out a car-share program. Instead of getting a new dress for a one-time event, try renting instead. It is as simple as using your local library or Netflix instead spending a beautiful inside organizing your books and DVDs.

One of the biggest barriers for people who are ready to simplify their lives is the idea that there needs to be infrastructure to accommodate an organized lifestyle. In reality a significant amount of change can be made without any fancy new bins, cubbies or built in storage. This is because everyone has things to get rid of, but many people try to find a place to put them instead. There are simple tricks to identify what is excess. One of my favorites is to hang all of my clothes in the ‘wrong direction’ at the start of a new season, then as I wear items, turn the hanger back to the ‘right direction’ when I hang them again. If by the end of the season I have not worn something, as proven by the hanger position, I get rid of it. You can adapt this trick to work with lots of aspects of your life: books, holiday decorations, cleaning supplies, files, dishes, and sports equipment. This is a way to prove to yourself that it is unused and ready to be let go.

Reuse

It has never been easier to resell, repurpose and reuse items. With eBay, Craigslist and Freecycle at your disposal, and even services that sell your items for you, cashing in on clutter is painless.  Pickups can now be scheduled online for the Vets, Salvation Army and Goodwill. These well-known locations are only the tip of the iceberg.  Sites like Earth911 pull together multiple resources so its one stop shopping to find the best home for your items.  These outlets coupled with the resurgence of the DIY trend, popular on sites like Pinterest and Etsy, make this a great time to give your unwanted stuff new life!

Recycle

It is possible to get stuck if you don’t know what to do with the items that you have already decided to get rid of.  No one wants their home to look like a recycling center because they are paralyzed by all the rules.  A green organizer knows the rules and helps you check with your local municipality to see what can be recycled. They also have resources for collections of special items. Some companies like ours take items to a warehouse where they are delivered to or picked up by proper companies.

Green organizers not only help you decide what to get rid and how to do it responsibly, they set up systems that work as long term solutions. When you want to get organized, think green! Reach out to an expert that can help you in making the right decisions about your stuff, your space, and your planet.

Check out the version published on Angies List: http://www.angieslist.com/articles/get-organized-going-green.htm

Spicey Organizing

Spicey Organizing

http://www.houzz.com/built-in-spice-rack

http://www.houzz.com/built-in-spice-rack

We often find clients who  have too much spice in there lives!  Oftentimes people want to cook more but are having trouble making time.  They over-buy in case they ever get the opportunity there will not be any barriers, they will have everything they need.  Some people identify providing with having everything they can possibly think of on hand.  It is their way of showing their love.  These people purchase spices (and other items) “just in case”. Others have inventory issues.  Either, they do not know or cannot see what they have.  This is a vicious cycle because spices tend to get lost behind other spices.  No matter what the root of the problem is, keeping spices in an appropriate place and for the right amount of time can make a difference.

Seven Day Challenge
If you want to find out which of your spices are actually active, try this trick.  Turn all your spices upside down and go through a week of your normal cooking habits.  When you use a spice, return it to the cabinet right side up and at the end of the week it will be easy to see what you actually use!  Active spices can go on a more available shelf or in a spice drawer.  A good rule of thumb is to keep the number of active spices to what can fit in the front row of your spice area.

A-B-C Order?
As an professional organizer, I get this comment all the time.  “You are so organized, you probably alphabetize your spices”. Truth be told, I have one shelf that is grab and go for active spices and then another shelf for less used favorites, which are sorted by size and are generally in alphabetical order.  Alphabetizing the spices helps me because often times the labels are covered by other spices but when they are in order I have a better idea of where to reach.  This is not necessarily for everyone but works well when not all of your spices can be fully displayed.

Stadium Seating Please
Keeping things visual is key.  That is why I put all the small jars together, in front of the larger jars.  It’s just easier to see.  My husband measured and cut a small piece of scrap wood so I could elevate the back row and see it better.  I do not recommend any of the shelf extenders that stack spices three deep because I find that I knock items off the shelf when I try to get to the back row. I will admit that I do get joy from buying the same brand when I can so the shelf looks tidy.

Keeping It Fresh
Spices last for a few years before they start to loose their kick, but they will never spoil.  If your spices are on the outs, I buy smaller jars for things I use less of and resist the urge to buy large amounts to save money by thinking of quality first.  Storage of large spice containers can be a problem.  To increase their shelf life, do not store spices directly next to heat because they will lose their freshness faster.

Check out my Pinterest for ideas!

There’s An App For That…

I have an App for thatIn my last blog post I mentioned how there is an app for everything? Well I thought that I should elaborate and tell you about some of my favorite apps that I find useful!

Shoeboxed (Free) The fastest way to turn a pile of receipts into digital data for effortless expense reporting, accounting, bookkeeping, and tax preparation. Snap a photo of your receipt and create an expense report on your phone that will sync with QuickBooks, Wave Accounting, Xero, Excel, FreshBooks Outright, Xero or dozens of other tools. Great for those little business expenses that used to get lost in the shuffle. Be aware that there can be some fees incorporated into the app if you start using it heavily. Free Runner Ups: PaperPhobic, Expensify & Skyclerk

MyFitnessPal (Free) First of all, it is not just fitness. Although it tracks that, most intriguing is it’s ability to read a bar-code on an item and add it’s nutritional information to what you’ve eaten. Many restaurants are getting on board to input their menus into it’s already massive database of over 2 million foods. Plus, you can add your own foods, like your famous chili, and it will remember it for next time. You can access your info from a computer as well but you do not need Internet to use the actual app and the social aspect of it is optional. The app even helps calculate how many calories you need to eat/burn to reach your weight goals.

My Gratitude Journal ($0.99) This is one of my personal favorites! Just write down five things you are grateful for each day. You can add photos, rate the day, record the weather and bookmark days. I have seen my attitude change by using this app. Even when I am not having a great day, it forces me to see the silver lining. Free Runner Ups: Gratitude Diary & iGratitude

Daily Tracker ($9.99) This app tracks just about anything. Whether you are organizing your notes or to-do lists, counting calories or pushups, tracking sleep or expenses, Daily Tracker can do it. If you’re feeling like you already have an app for everything this is the next step, because it allows you to track all of your information within one streamlined app. It also syncs with the cloud. It is definitely pricey, but has great ratings.

Period Plus (Free) Ladies, we have all been there. The doctor asks and you have no clue. You make a mental note to start writing it down but never get around to it. Period Plus knows can even predict your periods, fertile days and ovulation dates for the next 12 months so if you are hoping to get pregnant, this is also a handy tool. Plus you can also track breakouts, breast tenderness, cramp intensity, weight and more. Do not worry, there is a password too. Free Runner Ups: iPeriod, Period Tracker Lite, My Days, Pink Pad Period, Monthly Cycles & Period Diary

Stylebook ($3.99) A visual wardrobe organization and closet management tool that can make a cupboard sized closet seem more like a walk in! Whether you want to make sure you do not wear the same outfit to that second job interview, are packing for a getaway, or want to remember what the clothes you put in crawlspace look like, this is the app for you. It is fun to edit the background out of your pictures and design magazine style outfits. You can include accessories as well! Free Runner Ups: I Wear…, Closet Lite, My Fashion Closet & Stylish Girl & Cool Guy

Task Rabbit (Free) Always wishing you had time for that one last errand or another hand around the house? TaskRabbit can help. It connects you with friendly, reliable people right in your neighborhood who can help you get the items on your To-Do list done, and you set the price. Task Rabbits go through a thorough application process and a screening so you can be confident that they are trustworthy people.

CardMunch (Free) You know when you get the business card of someone you really intend to follow up with, but then lose it? That does not have to happen anymore with CardMunch. Take a picture of the card, it will be converted into a contact entry that can be synced with your address book and if the person has a LinkedIn account, the app will ask if you want to connect.

Some other cool apps I stumbled upon in my research were LastPass, ReQall, Timr, Remember the Milk, BillMinder and HomeRoutines. I’ll let you investigate those on your own!

Get Organized Month!

Getting Organized is one of the top three New Year’s Resolutions every year.  Now that we are a month into the New Year, motivation may be starting to fade. The best thing you can do to keep energized is to add a big dose of accountability!

There’s an app for that…

It is true.  If you are a smart phone user, there are apps for everything from tracking exercise and adding up calories, to tracking mileage and even an app for posting daily gratitude journal entries. Receiving automated nudges from a tool that is almost always by your side is a powerful way to stay on track.  Below are some of my personal app suggestions.

Go Public with Social Media

Studies show that the combination of accountability and group mentality yields powerful results when it comes to meeting goals.  Posting intentions and progress reports make you feel like you have a team behind you cheering you on.  You might even find friends who are working on a similar goal. People from all of your different networks are able to reach out and support you when you share your story.

Dig Deep

Re-connect to the why.  When I have clients that are starting to give up on something, I often ask, “why did you want to do it in the first place?”.  I follow up with a series of why questions to identify the core reasons for making the resolution in the first place.

For example, if I want to work out more in 2013 and you asked me, “why?”, I may say I want to be more fit.  If you asked again, I may say, “I need to stay active”.  Ask a third time, I may explain that I need to be fit to keep up with my husband and kids. The fourth “why?” really makes me think and get to the core; I don’t want to be alone. I want to be with my family and do what we do for a long, long time.  That is what gets me to go out there and get fit!

Most importantly, even if your resolution has had a rocky start, you can’t consider it doomed! Any time of the year is a great time for self improvement. Now get to it!

Holiday Stress: Worth It or Not?

Traditions change. Yes, it’s an oxymoron, but it’s true. If you think about it, year by year new traditions and expectations are added to our holiday celebrations. Relaxation and joy are sometimes replaced with guilt and stress while we try to keep up. Awareness is the first step to making a change.

If you want to make a change start by thinking about the details of your traditions and ask yourself these questions:

  • Think back on how many family traditions got started.
  • Think about the “why” behind each tradition.
  • Is the tradition aligned with your family values?
  • Is it something you “should” do or something you “want” to do?
  • Try to think about the joy/stress ratio for each tradition and ask yourself if the stress is worth it?

Slimming down traditions by asking these questions or at asking these before connecting to new traditions might be a great way to add peace to your holiday season.

 

Big Announcement: New Site Launch!

Over the past few months we’ve been a bit quiet here because we have been working in the background on a whole new look for our entire online presence and we launching it today! We are very excited to share them!

Our new look celebrates a few things, first, we have been in business for 12 years this month. Through those 12 years, I had noticed as we grew our business, our web site evolved too. However, we just kept adding on to what was already there and it started to be a bit cumbersome. We have a website for organizing, a website for our Closet Systems site, a website for The Resource Database and the Simplify Life blog. As time went on they ended up looking like four different businesses so we decided it was time to rebrand and expand their usefulness.

The process started with a new look, went through many ideas and color palettes but we finally settled on this. We all just love it!

When we finally committed to the new color scheme, I started noticing funny things that were already happening in my life. Apparently, my husband dresses in those colors, because as I passed his closet I noticed his shirts were arranged in a way that mimicked our new branding choice. No wonder I was so attracted to them and I hope clients will be too!

In addition to celebrating a birthday for our business, I am also celebrating my 50th birthday this month! On my 49th birthday, I set my mind to rolling into 50 feeling great and have spent the last 365 days taking care of me! I added a new workout to my routine (and I mean new as in I never worked out seriously before), a new diet and a bunch of new fitness related activity. I really feel healthy and strong as I enter the half century mark.

It’s fun to celebrate my personal and business transformations. Life is good and I am doing exactly what I want to do everyday. I have a wonderful husband and partner in business, the greatest kids that are growing to be my very favorite people on the planet, and the best friends and clients in the world. Thank you.

Spring Fling: The Bedroom

GETTING STARTED
Think of the feeling you get when you walk into a hotel room. You have only what is needed for the trip, and everything has a home. There is peace in the simplicity. Perfection seems so possible! Let’s bring a little of that “hotel feeling” into your own bedroom.

'Bedroom at Art'Otel, Budapest' photo (c) 2010, Heather Cowper - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

TODAY’S TASKS
* Start with your night stand. First, resist the urge to point to your partner’s night stand. You can tidy up your nightstand and inspire him or her to do the same via example.
* Clear everything off the top, empty the drawers, and move everything that is stacked beside or under.
* Return only items that bring you peace and replenishment. Ask yourself this: What would be on a bedside table at a hotel?

A NEW WAY TO THINK ABOUT IT
What just landed on your nightstand as a catch-all, and what was truly meant to be there? Avoid placing to-do type things on your nightstand. They are energy zappers. What would you like to be on
there? Do you really want that pile of work to be sitting next to you each night? Consider replacing it with just one, current book or your iPod. Take away the pile of books collecting dust and making you feel guilty because you can’t get to read them as you seek rest from a hard day. Remove unnecessary medical items. Think of what you want to look at as you wake up. A picture of a loved one? A single flower from your garden? Yes, pampering yourself is OK!

If racing thoughts keep you awake, consider putting a little notepad there with a pencil. If you think of something at night or in the morning that you need to do, you can easily write it down for later and move on to enjoy relaxing and a good night’s sleep.

Here’s to creating restful spaces in your room!

Procrastination Motivation

Do you ever feel like you are overwhelmed with tasks? So much so that you end up putting things off until later? Well, just know that’s normal. Here are some tips on how to overcome those obstacles and move forward without letting the hard tasks bog you down.

Procrastination Statistic

“Based on some figures, it is estimated that as much as 95 % of the people are prone to procrastination. Amongst them, 20 % of them are…” Read More…

Be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for all of our up to date tips and tricks too!

Organizing Couples: Over 50

Continuing to the final post of our three-part series on working with couples, please see part one Organizing With Couples and part two about Organizing New Parents.

The “Odd Couple”:
This is a couple who wants to work on some common issues together. This usually means detail work is very different for each of them. I encourage each of them to both define spaces where they can be themselves in but they also must define common spaces where there are different rules. These rules are for spaces where everyone needs to coexist and be happy. It’s interesting to see what people are asking for in this sort of setting because if they are asking for organized common space, they are usually doing so for the good of the family verses if they are looking for personal space they are usually doing so for themselves.

A Couple and Their 2nd Marriage:
In most cases there is double the stuff. Two coffee pots, two sets of living room furniture, two sets dishes and so on. This couple is either moving into a new house or one of their existing homes. Typically, there is a lot of hope with this couple because it’s a new situation for both of them and they are looking forward to a new life. Their big issue is to really just week out their stuff and they usually need help working through it.

The Aging Couple:
This situation can be difficult on the couple, usually they need to make adjustments in their home for medical equipment and sometimes even re-purpose rooms so that they are easier to access. Usually emotions are running high but at the same time the able spouse wants to make things easy for the spouse in need they also are upset and worried about the health of their spouse. Helping them think about alternative ways to use the space they have is my main goal along with making sure pathways and room access are clear and easy to maintain. My main rule of thumb here is safety first. If an item is blocking room access or isn’t structurally safe then a decision needs to be made for the sake of safety.

Organizing With Couples: New Parents

As we continue through our three part series about working with couples, please see part one about Organizing With Couples. In part two I thought it might be interesting to share some thoughts with you about working with new parents and how organizing yourself and your new roles as a new family is so important as you welcome a brand new member to the family.

New Parents:
I love working with new parents, they are fun because they’re full of possibility and are engaging in a really positive process and are usually very open to new ideas and systems. If you were slightly disorganized prior to becoming a parent, it is really important to acknowledge that and see the need to have systems for your new needs in order to make it work. Otherwise, that new little bundle can swiftly amplify the problem.

New parents are really looking for an answer and it’s a really good time to find these new systems because they haven’t really established the rules yet. It’s nice to help them make those rule together so that one person doesn’t end up doing it all only because they are the one who put the system in place.

Responsibilities:
When talking about roles for couples, there are a lot of different things that happen within a family that need attention like daily money managing, long-term financial estate planning and insurance. When a couple decides on who is responsible for these items it is important to consider which person might be better suited for the day-to-day finances verses who might be better working with the long-term planning and insurance. You might be surprised to find one person may not fit both roles. The same process should be used for deciding who would be better at keeping the family social calendars or making travel plans. Think about who is in charge of what duty and clearly establish the roles.

Historical Roles – Do They Still Work?
We typically fall into similar roles that our parents were responsible for. But it’s important to take a step back and question those roles.
Ask yourself these questions:
Does this work for me in my current position in life?
Can I do what my dad did?
Does that makes sense?
Does the role my mom played work for the life I’m are leading now with the job I have outside of the home?

I think for the most part this is the first generation where previous roles really do not work like they used to. I tell new mothers that you have no role model for this. This is new territory so you need to organize it and think about how you want it to happen because it’s not going to come from the seat of your pants.

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