Monday, May 28, 2012

Setting Goals

I find the following statement to be extremely powerful.  "A goal without a deadline is just a dream" - Alex MacKenzie

How many of you have made the same New Year's resolutions over and over again?  Maybe each year your resolution is to lose weight or get out of debt or perhaps to get more organized.  These are wonderful things to aspire to but they are too vague to be goals.  This is why over 90% of people who make New Year's resolutions don't end up keeping them the entire year.  In fact, more than one third of them will break their resolution before the end of January.

Many people do not know how to set a proper goal.  Follow these 5 tips in order to S.T.E.E.R. yourself on a path to making your dreams become reality.

1. Specific - Your goals must be specific.  It is not good enough to say, "I am going to get my house organized".  It's too vague.  You need to make your goal more clear by saying, "I will organize the inside of my bedroom closet".  Do you see the difference?  Making your goal more specific will allow to to recognize when you have achieved it.

2. Time-Limited - As the quote above indicates, you need a deadline to achieve your goals.  "I will organize the inside of my bedroom closet by June 30, 2012."  You have now given yourself a deadline for meeting this goal and it will motivate you to get started.

3. Executable - Now you need to give yourself a clear set of actions that will help you to achieve your goal.  "I will organize the inside of my bedroom closet by June 30, 2012 by purging all of the clothes that I no longer wear and don't fit and by sorting what's left."  These are the actions that you need to execute in order to get this job finished.

4. Evaluable - By setting specific, time-limited and executable goals, you should be able to evaluate whether or not you have reached your goal.  You should be able to say, "Yes, I did it!" or, "No, I did not".  In our first example of, "I am going to get my house organized", how do you know when you have reached that goal? 

5. Reasonable - The goals that you give yourself must be reasonable.  If you have a large, walk-in closet that is crammed full with clothes, even some that you wore in high school, it is not reasonable to think that you can organize this space in a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon between grocery shopping and getting ready for a party in the evening.  Break your goal into smaller, more manageable tasks.  Perhaps you could organize one shelf at a time or one group of clothes (like tee shirts) at a time.  By setting reasonable goals you increase the chances of actually achieving them.

Now is the time to S.T.E.E.R. yourself onto the path of achieving your dreams.  Although I have stayed with organizing goals in this post, S.T.E.E.R. will work for any goal that you have, whether it is losing weight, saving money or even writing a book.  What goal will you set?  Feel free to share it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Boiling a Frog

I assume that most of you have heard the anecdote of the frog that, when put into boiling water, will jump out immediately, but when put into cool water that is heated slowly, it will cook to death because the changes in the water temperature are so gradual that the frog does not perceive the danger.

I want you to think of yourself as the frog and your home as the pot of water.  Clutter seems to make its way slowly into our homes.  It took a long time for our homes to get messy and often times it was so gradual that it seems as if we wake up one day and our homes are a disaster area.  For me the waking up process usually involves company!  We don't seem to notice because the changes are so small over time but when we stop and look around we can see that those small changes have added up to huge piles of clutter.

Now I want to tell you the story of another frog.  This frog leaped into a pail of milk.  He could not reach the bottom and had to keep kicking his legs in order to survive.  He could not leap out because he had nothing to spring from and so he kept kicking and kicking, trying not to drown.  Over time all of his kicking began to churn the milk into butter.  With enough kicking he was able to make enough butter that he could leap to safety.

The moral of the my story is that, even though the mess appeared gradually, small steps taken regularly will add up to huge success in the long run.  Even though you may feel like you are just keeping your head above water (or milk in this case), you are doing things that will eventually allow you to leap to a better place.

Keep doing the small things around your home.  It may not feel like much but each of these small things add up to great achievements.  Who knew frogs could have so much relevance in keeping our homes clean and organized?!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Eat The Frog First

Mark Twain once said, "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day."  Now you may be wondering what this has to do with organizing.  Let me explain.

How many of you have that one thing on your to-do list that you just hate doing?  For me it's folding laundry.  I hate to fold laundry and will procrastinate doing it the entire day until it's all wrinkled and I have to throw it back into the dryer.  I need to tackle this job first thing in the morning and get it out of the way.  Once that is done, the rest of the day seems easier.

There is always something on the never-ending to-do list that we just hate doing but, of course, it still needs to be done.  By getting the most dreaded task out of the way, you set your day up for success. You will no longer spend your day dreading this chore and will find that you will accomplish more of your to-do list because you have eliminated the biggest reason for procrastinating.

Conversely, you should save the task you enjoy doing the most until the end of the day.  If you consider weeding the garden as your personal quiet time, then leave that task to later in the day.  Since you enjoy doing it, the chances of it getting done are much higher.

Now what do you do if you have two chores on your list that you dread doing?  Well, Mark Twain has an answer for that too.  "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first."  Mark Twain seems to have an unnatural fascination with eating frogs.

What is the one chore that you hate doing the most?  Can you get it out of the way first thing in the morning?  Check in tomorrow because I am going to relate frogs to organizing in a whole new way! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Organizing the Upper Cabinets

Today I have been busy organizing and painting my lower cabinets in the kitchen.  I finished the upper cabinets a few weeks ago and so I decided to show you how they turned out.

The first thing that I did was completely empty all of the upper cabinets.  They were in desperate need of painting so, once they were empty, I cleaned them thoroughly and proceeded to paint them.  Then it was time to put things back.  I really thought about how each space is used in my kitchen before I started to purge the contents of my cupboards.

I'll show you the before and after starting with the cupboard on the left and working my way right.

The first cupboard is where I keep the plates, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc.  I know that keeping plates next to the dishwasher is more convenient but, because my kitchen cupboards are so old (1930's), the ones on the right side of the kitchen not deep enough to hold the plates.  This is the only place that they will fit.


Since this cupboard is closest to the stove, where my kettle is, I decided to keep the instant coffee, tea and hot chocolate here.  I moved the salt and pepper and olive oil to the spice cupboard that I already showed you in this post and I brought the teapots in from another cupboard to be kept with the tea bags.

The next cupboard is where I keep my bowls, insulated bottles, water pitchers and dessert dishes.  It's always been rather disorganized because the insulated bottles take up so much room.  I found another place for them and now things look much better.



I can now see everything that is in this cupboard.  I kept a few travel mugs in here and the very large Coca Cola cups which are for making smoothies with the hand blender.

Next comes the place where I keep my mugs, measuring cups and glasses.


By grouping all of the glasses together and getting rid of or moving some others, the space now looks much more organized.

The next cupboard holds all the canned goods that are not in the pantry and other food.



Some of the canned goods were moved to the pantry and now I can see that I have way too much tuna and salmon!  I'm going to have to think of something to make to use it up.  I also found some crackers that were stale but instead of throwing them out, I ran them through the food processor and made them into crumbs that I then use when making hamburgers and meatloaf.  I also do this with tortilla chips.

I keep more food and medication in this next cupboard.


Directly below this cupboard is my coffee maker.  This is the only side of the kitchen that has outlets to plug things into so it has to stay over here.  I moved all my coffee supplies to this cupboard so that they would be close to the coffee maker.  I also moved a lot of the medications into the medicine cabinet in the downstairs bathroom.  Since there is no shower in that room, I don't have to worry about the humidity damaging them.  Mr. P is diabetic and so the striped basket holds his testing kit and extra strips.  I found a metal condiment holder at Home Sense that was divided into 3 .  I have prescription meds in one, pain relievers in another and allergy meds in the third.  On the top shelf is a plastic bin to corral all of my rice packages.

Last is the small cupboard above the microwave.  There is an outlet on the bottom shelf and the cord for the microwave that tends to get in the way.  I tried making a charging station there but it looked untidy and I would forget my phone if I couldn't see it.



I found these awesome plastic containers at the dollar store and I put all of my baking stuff in them - cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, etc.  I added a tie strap onto the microwave cord to keep it in place better.  I like that I can see how much of certain baking items I have left and I also like that they stack so that they use more of the vertical space in the cupboard.

I added a little something else to the door.

I love this magnetic knife holder and I wanted it on the spice cupboard door so that it was right next to the cutting board and stove but the spice cupboard is too narrow.  The only spot that it would have fit on that side of the kitchen was on a lower door and I was worried that it would be unsafe, especially if a young child came to visit.

I added this for a finishing touch.

Just a little something extra to make me smile when I open the door because, if I haven't had my coffee, I need something extra to make me smile!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fifteen on the Fifteenth

For most people tax time is over.  How did it go for you this year?  Did you have all your receipts in one place and ready to go?  Did you procrastinate because you had to hunt for important forms and ended up leaving everything to the last minute?

Let's make next year's tax time much easier by taking 15 minutes every month on the fifteenth to gather up all of our important receipts and keep them in one place.  Today, I want you to decide the best place for you to keep all your receipts.  If you hate to file or already have a lot of filing to do, then choose the old, shoe-box method.  Perhaps a large, manila envelope in a kitchen cupboard would work better for you.  Because Mr. P. and I run our own business, we actually have a banker's box that we keep all our tax receipts in.  I label the top with the year and each year in January I take the box dated 7 years earlier out and shred all of the documents in there - be sure to check how long you need to keep tax files before you do this.

If you do your taxes online, write your password somewhere with your receipts (like on the envelope, the shoe-box lid or on the inside of a file folder) so that you don't lose it.  If you send your taxes forms to an accountant to be filled out, then have all of the contact information nearby so that it will be easier to make arrangements to drop everything off come tax time next year.

Each month on the fifteenth we will go through the tax receipts and make sure that everything is in there.  If you signed your child up for soccer in May, it will be easier to remember to include the receipt in your files in  June than it will be trying to remember that receipt in March of next year.  If you quit a job in February, make sure that you write yourself a note to be sure that you get the proper forms from that employer early next year.

Let's take this small amount of time each month to save us a huge amount of time next year!  Twelve months of 15 minutes each month is 3 hours saved next April and I really believe that it will save you at least twice that amount of time since you won't be spending hours looking for receipts and calling to get the proper forms.  Paying taxes can be stressful enough; let's not add to the stress by being prepared next year.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Creative Organizing

Do you consider yourself a creative person?  Do you like to draw or paint?  Maybe you enjoy singing or playing an instrument.  There are endless ways for people to show their creativity.

Creative people love to have fun and are often the life of the party.  But did you also know that, for the most part, creative people are also the most disorganized people?  It's not really their fault because creative people tend to be right-brain dominant and organizing comes more naturally to people who are left-brained dominant.

Those people that just seem to be born organized tend to think of things in parts whereas creative people tend to think of things as a whole.  Naturally organized people like lists and putting things in a linear order.  It's much harder for someone who is right-brained dominant.

"There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all.  Without creativity, there would be no progress and we would be forever repeating the same patterns." - Edward de Bono

However, don't give up hope!  You simply need to get, well, more creative in your method of organizing.  Creative people are visual people; out of sight, out of mind.  So with that in mind, here are a few ideas that will help someone who is right-brained dominant organize some areas of their home.

PAPER - Creative people struggle with paper.

-  Place a bulletin board on the wall near your desk to place all of your important reminders.
-  Do not put unpaid bills in a drawer in your desk, rather keep them in a basket on your desk or posted on the bulletin board.
-  Use clear, see-through file drawers to file your papers and use colourful file folders to keep track of important documents.
-  If possible, choose a digital version of a to-do list and calendar.  However, leave these open on your desktop or phone because once they are closed you will tend to forget about them.
-  Sort the mail everyday and throw out any advertisements and envelopes.
-  Stop delivery of the newspaper and get your news updates online.
-  Try getting digital versions of your favourite magazines.


-  Hang the majority of your clothes instead of putting them in a drawer.  If you don't have enough space, consider investing in a rod that hangs over your existing rod to double your hanging space.

-  Place a clear, over-the-door shoe organizer on the inside of the closet door and roll your t-shirts like you are going on vacation and store them in there.

-  Be sure to hang like with like in the closet.  All your pants should be hung together and all your long-sleeved shirts should be hung together.

The more visual you make things the more your organizing system will work for you.  Everyone is different and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another, but give some of these a try if you think that you are a creative person.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Organizing DVDs

Today I thought that I would show you how I organized my DVDs.  With two teen aged boys in the house, we have a lot of movies!  Let me show you.

I had two of those plastic, three-drawer storage containers stacked in the closet.  Every single drawer was filled with movies.

They were organized by genre and then put in alphabetical order.  Even these six drawers could not contain all of our movies!

They were stacked on top of the organizing unit.

This is the left cupboard of the entertainment centre.

This is the right side of the entertainment centre.

They were even laying on top of the DVD player!  Like I said, we have a lot of movies!  I'm kind of ashamed to admit it but there are still many more in the eldest P's room.

The majority of them were bought, previously-viewed, at Blockbuster.  We had a trailer that we used to go camping in every weekend.  There was no cable in the trailer so we decided to start buying movies at Blockbuster.  At the time we could then sell them back to Blockbuster (we generally bought them for $5.00 and sold them back for $2.00 which made them cheaper than renting).  Unfortunately, we ran into the problem of nobody agreeing on which ones to take back.  Inevitably someone would want to keep one of the movies chosen to be returned.  So here we are today with well over 200 movies in our collection.

I needed some way to contain them all.  I decided to get rid of all of the plastic cases since they were taking up so much room.  I bought some CD/DVD sleeves and I took all the DVDs out of the cases and inserted them into the sleeves.

I bought coloured sleeves and if I had to do it again, I would have stuck with just white.  My plan was to put each genre into a different coloured sleeve but I quickly discovered that I had more DVDs in each genre than that particular colour so I had to start a second colour.  There were not enough DVDs to to fill the second colour and so I ended up with some left over.

The sleeves came with some cardboard labels that slid into a pocket at the top.

Now all of our movies fit into two cardboard containers that I picked up at an organizing store called Solutions.

The storage containers are now empty.

And so is the entertainment centre.  There are still some home movies that are being stored in the right side along with my entire series of the TV show Dark Shadows.  I once estimated that if I were to watch 2 episodes of Dark Shadows while exercising each day, I could exercise for a year before the series was finished!  There are over 800, 25 minute episodes in there!  Needless to say, I am looking forward to the new Dark Shadows movie coming out this week in theatres.

I got rid of all of the VCR movies since we don't even own a VCR any more.  I ended up with a medium sized box of VCR movies that were donated and even more astonishingly, I ended up with four large garbage bags of DVD cases that were tossed!

I am very please with how it turned out and I did  it all while watching TV!  Is it time to go through your movie collection?  Did your VCR break months ago and yet you still have VCR movies and nothing to play them on (this was me)?  Maybe it's time to let them go or at least try and have them converted to DVD or digital so that you can continue to enjoy them.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

20 Organizing Jobs That Take 5 Minutes or Less

There are so many reasons that we all procrastinate from time to time but the main reason is that we are feeling overwhelmed by our never-ending to-do lists.  There are just so many things to do and nothing every seems to get done.  Sound familiar?

But what if you could mark something off of your list that only took 5 minutes or less to accomplish?  You would feel empowered wouldn't you?  It may even motivate you to continue!  Here are 20 things that you could add to your to-do list to keep you motivated.  Now don't add all of them!  Just one a day or whenever you feel the need for a mental boost to keep you going.

1.  Clean out your purse, or if that will take longer than 5 minutes then clean out your wallet.
2.  Straighten up the utensil drawer.  I know that my forks and spoons tend to wander in the drawer when I'm not looking!
3.  Get rid of any old sock with holes in them.  You deserve better!
4.  Skim through your Spam folder and then delete all those emails.
5.  Do you know what all your keys are for on your key chain?  Get rid of any ones that you do not use regularly.
6.  Throw out any spoiled food in the fridge.  Now don't let your perfectionism kick in and start taking out shelves and wiping them down, just toss the old food.
7.  Get rid of any old lotions in your bathroom that you never use.  Honestly, old, peach scented hand lotion smells like a dirty dish rag when applied to the skin.  Don't ask me how I know!
8.  Bring in all the extra change from your car.  You can leave a little in there for emergencies but bring in the bulk of it so that you don't encourage someone to break into your car.
9.  Throw out any empty bottles or slivers of soap in the shower.
10.  Pick up any litter on the lawn.
11.  Toss 3 magazines.
12.  Wash your garbage pail.
13.  Change your furnace filter.
14.  Clear off the top of your fridge.
15.  Hang up any coats that have been left laying around.
16.  Gather up all the wire hangers in your closet and put them in your car to return to the dry cleaners next time you are there.
17.  Gather up any junk mail laying around and recycle.
18.  Pick up toys (dog toys for me), inspect and either put away, donate (if they are never used) or toss.
19.  Clear off your night stand.
20.  Put any movies that have been left out back in their cases and put away.

All of these are easy and doable.  Let me know if you can think of any other 5 minute jobs that we can do to make our homes feel more organized.