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Author: Barb BermanFamily General Home Organizing Project Management Seasonal

From Bedlam to Brilliance – Three Outdoor Organizing Tips

Container Garden pictureThe weather is finally starting to cooperate, and I am in my ‘container garden’ mode- of- thinking. This is the perfect time to talk about outdoor organizing, as I am in the process of gathering all of my gardening essentials (potting soil, pots, gardening gloves, watering can, etc) to plant my flowers.
Whether you live in an apartment, condo, or single family home, you should organize your outdoor items such as your gardening tools, lawn equipment, and/or outside furniture. Sorting like items together allows you to know what you have, which in turn will help you to know what you may need to purchase, as well as to help you find things more easily.
Below are my three Outdoor Organizing Tips:

  • Gardening Tools – Place all your gardening tools in one area. Set up some kind of potting station or shelving unit, so you’ll have all your pots, watering cans, potting soil, etc in one place.
  • Lawn Equipment – Make sure your lawn mower, edger, hoses, sprinklers, etc are all in one place (e.g., garage, shed).
  • Outside Furniture – Store in one area (e.g., garage, shed, basement) so it is easy to get to when you want to set it up and easy to have a place for when it is ready to be stored.

Take advantage of this glorious weather to plant. Then, all you’ll need to do is to sit back, relax, and enjoy the longer days of summer. Some of the best parts are being able to barbecue and to watch your flowers and plants grow.

Author: Margit NovakFamily General Holidays Seasonal Seniors & Aging

Passing the Passover Plate

this hand decorated table cloth has become a family traditionIt happens in every family — a rite of passage that marks a new life stage — when you give up, or take over, hosting family holiday dinners. As I take out our Seder plate and Passover dishes, I think back to when I assumed this function for our family, and wonder when my children will assume it for me.

If you’re lucky, these role changes occur over time. You offer to make the chicken soup or brisket, you arrive early to help set up or stay late to clean up. And then one day — you are hosting the holiday meal — and your parents and children are helping you. These are happy transitions, that you make of your own will and where you control the timing. But sometimes, change is thrust upon you, because someone passes away or is ill. These changes are no less natural, but metaphorically and physically, there is an empty place at the table.

There seems to be no set age when you “become the grown up.” Some people host holiday meals well into their eighties; others shift the responsibility in their fifties, sixties or seventies. I’m not sure how families decide when to change their routine and custom.

Passover is unique, perhaps, because you can host the holiday meal while a parent can lead the Seder. You can assume the physical work, and an older family member can still have the role of patriarch or matriarch. Perhaps every religion has holidays and rituals that pass this same way from one generation to another.

My husband and I are hosting Passover this year, but already my kids have started the Passover passage. My daughter is arriving the night before to help set up and prepare her famous matzo-spinach lasagna. My older son is helping his dad make chicken soup, and my younger son will help arrange our furniture to accommodate a crowd of 20. We plan to hold Seder at our house for many years to come, but we are grateful for the help, and thankful that our kids are interested in preserving the tradition.

As with all holiday traditions, initiating change is hard. When we once suggested moving away from brisket, there was widespread family rebellion. Every departure from a favorite dish, it seems, is suspect or outright vetoed in advance.  Dishes served year after year become comfort foods that define the holiday. And in part, I like this. For decades, a friend’s mother prepared a broccoli-corn casserole for Thanksgiving. Although her mom died five years ago, my friend and her dad still prepare the same broccoli-corn casserole together every year. In doing so, they honor her mother’s memory, and more important in my mind, they celebrate the relationship she has with her dad.

I heard today about a new custom, a lovely one, and although I am not sure it is right for us, it may be for others. Each year, everyone who attends this Seder signs their name on the tablecloth. My friend then embroiders the names, and the next year, the same tablecloth is used and that year’s names are added. They are starting their third year of this tradition, and already her children have said that this tablecloth is one of the things they most want when they “grow up.”

Personally, I like incorporating new traditions in with the old. It makes holidays into living things that evolve and change over time. Passing the baton to the next generation on Passover is like that too. It is as if, through change, we keep things the same.

Author: Naomi CookFamily General Home Organizing Seasonal

Kick Off the Organizing Season

 

Cartoon quoting Charlie Brown, "Never Ever Give Up!"

Now that the Super Bowl is over, wouldn’t it be great if you could pass the fun of football into the fun of organizing? Try following these game rules to motivate your household during your next home organizing project!

Huddle Up Take on the role of Coach and gather the team (a.k.a. your family) on the couch. Get them running by warming up some Queso dip and letting the smells waft up to their rooms. You could even invite everyone to put on their favorite football jerseys.

Strategize While you are munching, decide on a room to tackle, such as your living room. Make a plan; assign a specific task to each member of the team. For example, have the kids put their toys and games away while the adults go through the mail, sorting out the junk mail from the bills and other important papers.

Snap into Play – Set a timer for 15 minutes, which is a good amount of time to get a task done, or to work on a task without it being overwhelming. Coincidentally, it is also the length of time of a quarter in a football game! Then move on to another task for an additional 15 minutes.

Halftime – Time for a break and some entertainment! Have some snacks and drinks, play a board game, or watch a show that everyone will enjoy.

Snap into Play (again) Repeat two more tasks, each lasting 15 minutes. If you are having fun and can’t seem to stop, just consider it as overtime!

Touchdown for the Win! – Congrats! You are the winning team! But just remember, whomever wins goes on to play another game — there is another room to organize in your near future!

Author: Naomi CookClutter Donating General Holidays Recyling Seasonal

Recycling Christmas

Recycling arrows decorated for Christmas

The magical holiday season has come and gone and now it’s time to face the reality of the New Year…and the inevitable task of taking decorations down and cleaning up. You can just toss your tree to the curb, but what if you want a more meaningful way to lay your tree to rest? Read on for some great ways to tackle your clean up list and do some good for the planet at the same time!

Recycle Your Christmas Tree: Yes, you can recycle your tree! Just make sure that you take all the light strands, tinsel, and ornaments off before doing so. Earth 911 (earth911.com) offers a great link for anyone to be able to recycle their tree and turn it into mulch.  Type in your zip code and find the closest drop off spot near you.

Recycle Your Shipping Boxes: Of course you can break them down and put them into the recycling bin, or pass them along to a friend who will be moving soon. Note to my colleagues — as Professional Organizers, you can also offer them to clients who are moving, for their belongings and/or for taking away any donations.

Recycle Your Wrapping Paper: If you were careful to unwrap your presents because you love the paper — hang onto it for another gift. Or if it’s a larger piece, create a placemat (by simply cutting the sheet into a small rectangle) or a pretty tray liner. Another fun idea is to use a hole puncher on your wrap scraps to create confetti for your next party!

Recycle Your Gift Bags: Keep your holiday spirit going throughout the New Year! Use them as a lunch bag to bring to work or as a catchall for coupons and sale ads when you’re headed out shopping.

Recycle Your Greeting Cards: Treat your favorite cards to a frame and use them for your décor next year, or keep them up year round. You can “re-gift” them by cutting off the back of the card, which has the writing on it and give it a postcard look, writing on the flipside of the front of the card.

Recycle Your Gift Boxes: Smaller cardboard jewelry boxes work well as organizers in your catchall drawer, while shirt size cardboard boxes can be used to separate stacks of items in drawers and keep them vertical.

I hope you learned some fun tips to make recycling fun. Here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year full of special times ahead with your family and friends, and of course…a clutter-free home!

Author: Annette ReymanClothing Clutter Donating Family General Goal Setting Home Organizing Paper Room Transformation Seasonal

De-Clutter Countdown to 2014

Annette's blog picAs you anticipate watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, why not use these last days of 2013 to start your own countdown to the New Year? If clutter’s been an issue, here’s a countdown that will help you shake off the dust of the past so you can embrace the promise of the future. Ready? Here we go:

10!  De-clutter your family room –  Choose ten catalogues or magazines to recycle.

9!  Lighten up your bookshelves – Select nine books to donate to your local library.

8!  Make room for your new holiday clothes –  Go through your closets and drawers to see what you still love and what still fits. Remove eight articles of clothing to donate to your local Good Will Store.

7!  Unburden over-stuffed cupboards – Remove seven old, broken, or mismatched mugs, glasses and plastic cups.

6!  Manage a messy ‘junk drawer’ – Recycle or toss six items: old pens, dried up white out, and unknown stray parts that have been there for too long.

5!  Streamline your pantry – Remove five food items: throw out any food past its expiration date and find something you could donate to a church or local food bank.

4!  Freshen up your sock drawer  Remove four pairs of socks that have holes, worn-out elastic or that you no longer like to wear.

3!  Reduce bathroom clutter – Discard three toiletry items that are expired or used up.

2!  Clean out your jewelry case  Find two pieces of broken jewelry like mismatched earrings or broken chains, which you can discard or bring to have repaired.   

1!  Reclaim lost counter space in your kitchen – Remove one large item that you do not use daily such as an appliance or basket that’s serving no useful purpose. Store it away or donate it if you no longer need it.

I raise a glass to you – here’s to a healthy, happy, and organized New Year!

Author: Vali HeistClutter Family General Holidays Organizing Seasonal Shopping

CLUTTER-FREE GIFT GIVING

image showing 3 wrapped giftsI spent this past Thanksgiving holiday with my son and his extended family in Florida. Traveling during a major holiday has never been my first choice, but as a professional organizer, I realize that being organized helps to lessen the stress that holiday travel can bring. Most would agree that Thanksgiving has the best part of Christmas (family gathering) without the gifts getting in the way. In my profession, I see many gifts go unused regardless of the generous spirit in which they were given. Some of my clients dread the pending influx of additional clutter and want suggestions on how to curb the CRAP.

As a result, I often recommend clutter-free gift giving. A clutter-free gift is the gift of time, memories, an experience, or health. You can also give a gift that helps others who have needs beyond our imagination. Here are some suggestions:

CLUTTER-FREE GIFTS

  • Car wash coupons
  • Cooking lessons
  • Dance/Yoga lessons
  • Gym membership
  • Movie tickets
  • Museum membership
  • Pottery/glass-making glasses (think Goggleworks)
  • Savings Bonds (purchase online at www.treasurydirect.gov)
  • 529 plan contributions
  • Self-defense classes (think young women)
  • Tattoo in honor of someone (my son did this for my husband and me)
  • Tickets to the symphony/theatre

GIFT CARDS (not entirely clutter-free)

  • Garden nurseries, home improvement stores, and bookstores
  • Gas stations, grocery stores, and convenience stores
  • iTunes, eMusic, and Ticketmaster
  • Restaurants, coffee shops, and fast food restaurants
  • Spa, facial, and massages

NON-PROFIT GIFT GIVING

  • Cash donation to a charity in honor of the recipient. Let the recipient know via a card.
  • Give a gift certificate so they can choose what charity to donate to: www.justgive.org.
  • International Relief Fund: www.oxfamamericaunwrapped.com
  • Green gifts for global impact: www.thegreenguide.com
  • Life-sustaining gifts to help abolish global poverty or renew our planet’s environment: www.altgifts.org
  • Donate an animal in honor of someone: donate.worldvision.org or www.heifer.org/gift
  • Participate in the local toy drives
  • Give a tree in honor of someone: www.newgrowth.com
  • Donate a book on health information to communities all over the world at www.hesperian.org

GIFTS OF TIME

  • Join a friend (instead of exchanging gifts): local art studio classes, yoga, book club, film club, craft and scrapbooking classes
  • Babysitting coupons for nieces, nephews and grandchildren
  • Take a child: to lunch, on a day trip, to the museum, to a local college for a sports event, to the zoo
  • “First Christmas Together” (or other name) coupon book: Make a list of the things you know your partner would enjoy and include practical and fun things: e.g. a back rub, do the dishes for a week, make a candlelit dinner, do grocery shopping, etc.

Finally, if you can’t go clutter-free, choose a gift that donates a portion of its profit to a favorite non-profit agency of your choice. Verify the charity at www.give.org.

Organize your best holiday season by starting early and focusing on family. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson