Wednesday, October 31, 2012

November Is Eat From the Pantry and Freezer Month

Have you ever dreamed of having a pantry that looks like this? (You can only buy food in royal blue packaging.)

Or a well organized freezer?

One way to keep your freezer and pantry organized is by using up all the little bits and partial packages on a regular basis.  In my household each November is "Eat From The Freezer And Pantry Month".  There are 3 reasons why I do this.

1. It clears up some space for all the Christmas baking and dinners that I do.
2. I save tons of money at the grocery store that I can then use for Christmas gifts.
3. I don't waste money by throwing out food that has gone bad.

When I do up my menu plan and grocery list I go through the pantry and the freezer to see what needs to be used up.  I can tell you right now that I have 10 cans of peaches in the pantry and about 6 cans of salmon.  I need to come up with a menu that will include both of these (probably not together).  Although, sometimes meals can become a little odd around here during the month.  Like finding a way to use up a partial package of perogies along with that partial package of chicken nuggets.  For lunch I will fix myself some of the partial packages of hors d'oeuvres leftover from a recent party.  And if all else fails there is always some way to make soup out of a lot of it.

I impose rules on myself to keep my grocery list in line.  Only fresh fruits and vegetables and things like bread and milk.  The rest has to come from the freezer or the pantry.

Cleaning out the pantry and freezer a couple of times a year (I do this again in March) is a good way to keep it organized.

Will you join me in Eat From the Pantry and Freezer Month? 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Is It Just Me Or Does Every House Come With A Tombstone?

In October of 2000 Mr. P and I purchased our beautiful, old Victorian home.  We were thrilled to say the least.  It is the exact home that Mr. P had always dreamed of living in one day.  I had another smaller one in mind, never dreaming I could ever own something as grand as this one.

We were moving from an 800 sq. foot home to one that was over 4500 sq. feet.  That is a huge difference and we were extremely fortunate that the previous owners were retiring to their cottage at the lake and were selling most of their furniture.  Between the time that we agreed to buy the house and the actual closing date we made an appointment to come and view some of the furniture for sale.

After buying several pieces the lady of the house airily announced, "You can keep the tombstones in the basement.  They're too heavy to move and I want you to know that they were here when we bought the place and my children didn't steal them!"  Mr. P and I glanced at each other.  "Tombstones?!  Where are they?" I asked.  "Behind the furnace and they are simply too heavy to move", she replied.  I gave Mr. P a look that said, good job checking out that furnace.

In buying a new home my job was to check out the size of the rooms, the decorating, if there are enough closets and if the kitchen is big enough.  Mr. P's job was to make sure the building wasn't about to collapse, the roof didn't leak (it did but we knew that), there were no problems with the plumbing and if the furnace was in good shape.  Apparently he missed the tombstones.

She never took us down to show us the tombstones and so when we finally received the key upon closing the first thing we did was go looking for the tombstones.  I guess one wasn't too heavy to move because we only ever found one tombstone.  I had been envisioning  a scene like the one above, but in my basement.  What I got was this.

It's a rather modern tombstone with the inscription "Mattie J. Lindsay wife of Archie J. McMillan".  When we first discovered it we starting making inquiries.  Nobody had ever heard of the McMillan's.  We checked the local paper.  Nothing.  We even asked the place that makes monuments two blocks away if anyone had ever stolen a tombstone from them.  They told us no.  After a while we dropped the whole thing and the tombstone took up residence in my laundry room.  Every now and then I would dust it off and wonder just how does one declutter a tombstone?!

In thinking about doing a blog post about the tombstone I decided to try one last time to find Mattie J. McMillan.  This is what I found.  Mattie was born 1895 and died in 1980.  Archie was born in 1882 and died in 1974.  They were married in the summer of 1915.  I could not find out if they ever had any children but I did discover where they were buried!  They were in a small-town cemetery about a 45 minute drive away.  It was time for a road trip!

On Saturday Mr. P and I grabbed the camera and went searching for the cemetery and we found the McMillans!  I am happy to report that Mattie now has a bigger and better tombstone than the one in my basement.

It's hard to read but it is hers.

So now I'm still stuck with the problem of how to declutter a tombstone.  Someone once told me to just turn it over and have our own names carved into the back.  That seemed a little disturbing to me.  I could always go with Mr. P's idea.  After leaving the cemetery he declared that we can now officially use the tombstone as a paperweight or a doorstop.  Since it's too heavy to even use as a Halloween decoration I think I will just leave it in the basement as a conversation piece for now.

What was the strangest thing you every discovered in a new home?

Friday, October 26, 2012

20 New Uses For Binder Clips

Did you know that the binder clip is quickly becoming almost as popular as Mason jars on Pinterest?  I always keep my eye out for incredibly simple organizing ideas and lately I have been inundated with binder clip posts.  Since I like to share with my readers here are 20 new ways to use binder clips that some fabulously, brilliant people have come up with.

1. To route cables along shelving.

2. Scarf organizer - Clip scarves onto binder clips and hang on S hooks.

3. Book mark.

4. To hold your to-do list or reminders on top of your monitor.

5. Food thermometer holder.

6. Changeable pictures.

7. Holding small objects or projects together.

8. Money clip.

9.  Bib holder.

10. Decorate a table.

11. Cell phone holder (ingenious!).

12. Cord holder.

13. Picture holder.

14.  Razor cover (great for when travelling).

15. Keep bottles stacked in the refrigerator.

16. Labels that hold papers on the shelf.

17. Labelling papers.

18. Cute teacher gift idea (cheap too!).

19. Display children's artwork inside a frame.

20. Hang boots on the wall freeing up floor space.

So there you have it, 20 new ways to use a binder clip!  And if that wasn't awesome enough, here is a link that will show you how to decorate your binder clips too!

Can you think of any other uses for binder clips?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Organizing For Someone With ADD

Trying to get someone that has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) to be perfectly organized is like trying to get a fish to climb a tree.  Most people with ADD suffer from Chronic Disorganization.  Not only do they have trouble organizing things, but they also have trouble organizing their time, their thoughts, and even data.  Their brains are wired differently.

I hate that ADD is considered a "disorder".  My youngest (18) has ADD.  He is charming, witty, creative, outgoing, funny, and very smart.  He has vast and varied interests and is extremely pleasant to be around.  Some of the greatest minds in history had ADD; John F. Kennedy, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin and even Albert Einstein himself.  I believe that ADD is a gift that can take a person far in life if managed properly.

The first thing that someone with ADD needs to do is let go of the idea of being perfectly organized.  A closet that looks like this is simply not a realistic goal.

Actually, a closet that looks like this is not a realistic goal for anyone unless you're willing to buy only grey, beige and white clothes and space your hangers precisely.

By trying to attain this lofty goal of having a place for everything and everything in its place, a person with ADD is setting themselves up for failure.  They feel ashamed of the piles and can't understand why they can't just get organized.  But they shouldn't let their lack of skill in this one area of their life destroy them.  And they shouldn't waste too much time or mental energy into trying to make it a strength.  Instead they should put their energy into getting well enough organized to reach their dreams.  I love that idea.  It comes from the book, "Delivered From Distraction" by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey.

If you or someone you love has ADD there are some organizing strategies that will help tame the clutter.

1. Minimize the surface area.  Most people with ADD think that if they just had more spots to put stuff that things would be better.  In fact, having fewer spots to put things forces someone to put items where they belong.  Having a desk that is only big enough to place essential items on will help stop the piles of paper on top of the desk.

2. Keep it simple.  Do not create elaborate filing systems.  Instead of having a folder for the electric bill, one for the gas bill, one for the cable bill and one for the phone bill consider putting all the bills paid for the house into one "Bills Paid 2012" folder.  Yes, it will take longer to find a particular bill in this folder but no longer than searching for it under piles of papers because it didn't get filed in the first place because it was too complicated.  The same with a closet.  Last week I showed you my youngest son's closet.  He has 3 bins in there; one for pants, one for shorts and one for work clothes.  I did not divide them into dress pants and  jeans or dress shorts and gym shorts.  The simpler the better.

3. Keep things open.  The less steps to putting something away the more likely that it will happen. Since people with ADD tend to put things in piles make it easy to put those piles into something that will contain them.  With the example above, instead of a "Bills Paid 2012" file folder try an open box.  As each bill is paid it can simply be chucked into the box.  The same with clothes.  My youngest would not put his clothes away in a dresser but he will chuck them into the open bins in his closet.

4. Keep things visible.  People with ADD tend to be the "out of sight, out of mind" types.  They know this and so this makes them procrastinate even more putting things away that they may need later.  In an office, try a filing cart on wheels like this one from Elfa.

Everything is still visible so that it won't be forgotten.  Elsewhere, choose clear plastic containers over solid colours so that the contents can still be seen.

5. Choose function over beauty.  It's your home and, if you have ADD, it has to work for you.  Besides, you don't live in a magazine photo shoot.  Perhaps you don't have enough space in your closet to hang all your clothes so that you can see them.  A free-standing clothes rack may be what you need in your bedroom.  It may not look pretty in there but it gets the job done.  If hanging clothes on hangers doesn't work for you then try a clothes drying rack in your bedroom to drape clean clothes over and keep them off the floor.  Again, not pretty but if it saves you time in the morning trying to find something to wear then use it.

6. Try using shoe organizers.  If taking the time to hang all your clothes on hangers is too much then try an over-the-door shoe organizer.  Roll your T-shirts and put them in the pockets.  Don't try to colour co-ordinate them, just put them in randomly.  Shoe organizers are great elsewhere in the house.  Put toiletries in the pockets in the bathroom, put office supplies in them in the office, put kitchen gadgets in them in the kitchen or use them in a child's room to keep their treasures in.  They keep things visible and there are no drawers to open and close.  You can even put one on the front of a door and one on the back of a door.

7. Use a timer.  If you know that cleaning and organizing will drive you crazy within the first 15 minutes then set a timer for 10 minutes.  You will be surprised how much can get done in 10 minutes.

8. Use a map.  If I sent my youngest to his room to clean, he would have no idea where to start.  Draw your room on a piece of paper.  Divide it into 4 or 6 or maybe even 8 sections.  Number the sections and then put those same numbers on small pieces of paper.  Put the pieces of paper in a cup and draw one out.  Set a timer and work in the corresponding area on your map.  This will help show you where to start.

9. Ask for help.  Can you build a deck?  I'm going to assume the answer is no.  So what would you do if you wanted to build a deck onto the back of the house?  You could hire a professional or perhaps you could ask your brother-in-law to do it for you in exchange for something that you are good at.  Being unable to organize is no different than being unable to build a deck.  The best bet is a professional organizer (especially one that specializes in Chronic Disorganization).  You can look for one in your area by visiting POC in Canada or NAPO in the US.

However, if a professional organizer isn't in the budget then ask someone you know.  Do not choose the super-organized friend whose home is always spotless.  Those types of people tend to have their own ways of organizing that simply won't work for someone with ADD.  They keep things in drawers and cupboards and often have elaborate filing systems that are just too difficult for someone who is Chronically Disorganized to follow.  Instead, ask the person whose home feels comfortable to you.  They still have some things out in the open and their home looks lived-in.  That is a more realistic goal anyway.

There are tons of websites out there that show how to become super-organized.  For someone with ADD that simply isn't in the cards and, although it is frustrating, trying to become someone you're not is even more so.  Embrace what you are good at and let go of what you are not.  Become just well enough organized so that you can reach your goals.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Organizing Systems In J's Room

On Monday I showed you the before and after photos of my youngest son's bedroom makeover.

On Wednesday I showed how I converted an old dresser into this entertainment centre.  Today I want to show you some of the organizing systems that I have put in place in J's room.

As a professional organizer it is my job to work with your organizing personality in order to set up systems that will work for you.  To say that my youngest, J, has an organizing personality is stretching it!  He is extremely disorganized.  J has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and sometimes chronic disorganization comes along with it.  When we decided to remodel J's room I knew that it was time to implement systems that would work for him and get rid of the ones that work for me (because those ones were not working).

On Wednesday I showed one of the things that I used to help J deal with his ADD.

I painted the end of the entertainment centre with chalkboard paint.  This way if J needs to remember something important he can write it down.  It also works if I need to remind him of something.

Another thing you may notice about J's room is the lack of flat surfaces.  To J a flat surface is simply a place to put more stuff.  By limiting the flat surfaces it forces him to deal with the stuff, either by putting it in the garbage (clearly labeled) or by putting it away.

He used to have a dresser where the chair now sits.  It was another flat surface for J to pile things on.

I have tried everything to get J to put things away in his dresser.  I even labelled all of the drawers so that he would know precisely where to put his clothes.  The thing is, the act of opening a dresser drawer, sorting the items, placing them in their proper place neatly and then closing the drawer again was simply too much for J.  His clothes never made it in there.  And, since the room is quite small, it made no sense to keep an empty dresser in there.

Before I show you the closet I wanted to show you one more thing that I am using to help J.  J's floor of his room was always covered in loose change.  He used to keep it in a mason jar.

It didn't take long to fill a mason jar and then the coin would get left on a flat surface and eventually land on the floor.  I saw this container at Home Sense and thought that it would be perfect for his change.

At just over 2 feet tall it would take a long time to fill it with loose coin.  It also has a nice wide opening at the top so that J does not have to drop the coins in a few at a time (because he would never do that).  He can drop in a whole handful at once and it is easier for him to retrieve the money too.

Now for J's closet.  Here is the before picture.

We were fortunate in that the closet was already full of shelving when we bought the house.  When we first converted J's room back into a bedroom we removed 2 shelves in order for him to have room to hang his shirts.  Hanging J's T-shirts is one way of keeping him more organized.  He doesn't have to put them neatly piled into a drawer and he can see them all at once.  J is also an out of sight, out of mind type of person.

Here's is J's closet after.

I painted the inside of the closet and we put all of J's T-shirts back in.  I also added 3 large, clear, plastic bins to hold his clothes.  They are labelled, pants, shorts, and work clothes.  I took the lids off of the bins because, in the same way that J can't seem to open a drawer, he also won't open a lid to put things away.  J can just chuck his clothes into the bins and the best part, the bins are clear so that he can still see all of the clothes that he has and won't forget a pair of pants at the bottom because he couldn't see them.

I picked up this set of wire drawers at Ikea.  They had one with a plastic top but I chose the one that was open on top.  This way J can simply chuck his socks and undies into the top drawer and won't have to open it to do so.  The next drawer holds extra sheets and pillow cases.  He can do whatever he likes with the bottom drawers.

I had J go through a lot of his stuff to purge some before bringing it back into his room.  It's hard for J to get rid of things because he has so many interests and upon seeing the object he becomes interested in it again.  I had a conversation with J while going through his stuff that went something like this:

Me - J, now that you're 18 do you think that we could finally get rid of your Pokemon card collection?
J -No way!  That's like the only good memory that I have from my childhood!
Me - Thanks J........thanks a lot.
J - You know what I mean.

I think he means that Pokemon cards were a better memory than Christmas mornings, birthday parties, fishing trips up north, hockey tournaments, tobogganing in the woods behind the house, home made chocolate chips cookies after school, and yes, even Disney World.  So, of course, J kept his Pokemon card collection.  And his coin collection and his stamp collection but I drew the line at the rock collection!

I added some hooks on the walls for his hats and some on the opposite wall for belts and whatever.

There's one last thing that we did to make J's room more manageable for him.  Mr. P built him a bed frame.

The bed frame is designed so that the box spring will fit inside the frame and rest on the 2x4's.  We covered the outside with faux leather.  The best part about this frame is that it was designed so that nothing can get under J's bed.  J would rather go to the dentist and have a tooth pulled than clean out under his bed!  And the junk that we would get out of there on a regular basis was awful.  It was the whole "out of sight, out of mind" thing again.  If he couldn't see the stuff under his bed then it wasn't there.  The same way that fewer flat surfaces in J's room forces him to deal with objects, no space under his bed also forces him to deal with items so that he can still see his floor.  There is no way that anything will be able to get under J's bed.  However, when we informed him of this his answer was, "Is that a challenge!"  (sigh)

Thank you for taking the time to have a look at this room makeover.  It has now been a couple of weeks since J has moved back into his room and I have to say that it is still looking pretty good, organizational wise.  Because of his ADD J will continue to struggle with organization his entire life.

Please come back on Monday when I will post about trying to get organized when you suffer from ADD.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Cheap and Easy Entertainment Centre

Last blog post I showed you the before and after of my youngest son's bedroom makeover.  J is really enjoying his new room but I think the thing he likes the most is the entertainment centre.

This is what J had before the renovation.

The cords and wires were a nightmare!  I tried so many things to try and corral them but nothing seemed to work.  I tried tie-strapping them together.  The problem with that was that sometimes J likes to have a few buddies over and if there are more than 3 of them he likes to move things to the family room where they have more room to spread out.  This means taking his video game system with him and that wasn't easy when it was strapped to other cords.  I also tried feeding the cords through a decorative box.  It didn't work either because the cords were still visible entering and exiting the box.  It just hid the middle of them.

I chose the wire rack because I figured that it would cut down on the surface area that would need to be dusted.  J does not dust.  However, it just meant that all his cords were now entangled with giant dust bunnies.  Think Medusa dust bunnies!  I'm surprised J didn't have nightmares!

When we re-did his room we knew that he could not keep the system that he had.  Mr. P and I ended up going to an auction sale where we bought this beauty for $30.  We may have over paid.

Boy, you have to have vision to think that this will turn into something wonderful!  However, I thought it was perfect!  It has a large cupboard on one side and an awesome pull-down drawer on the other.

It even came with those little wooden shelves and all the mouse droppings anyone could ever want!  A great deal for only $30!

I quickly set to work sanding the dresser and cleaning up all the mouse droppings before it ever set foot in my house.  I also took off those lovely handles and filled the holes with plastic wood.  These were not regulation sized handles!  I picked up some basic black handles to replace them with.

And this is what it looked like after only 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint.

It was hard to get a good shot because his room is so small.  I took out the top drawer and there was just enough room in there for his satellite receiver and surround sound system.

The drop-down drawer was perfect for his video game systems.  I labeled the other 3 drawers for his games and accessories.

Because the dresser was only $30 (did I mention that before?) we had no problem drilling holes in it to run all the wires.

The side cupboard now holds all the cords and power bar.  And all the holes are big enough that if J wants to move any of his equipment he has easy access.

One thing that I had wanted to put in J's room was one of those chalkboard menus like you would see in a restaurant.  With J's ADD I thought that it would be a perfect way to give him reminders on a regular basis.  But the room is so small that it really wasn't feasible to add anything else.  Then I noticed that the side of the dresser was about the exact size that I needed.  So I painted it with chalkboard paint.

I think that the whole thing turned out rather well.  And I can now only see one cord!

The chalkboard is just one feature of this room that is designed to help J with his ADD.  On Friday I will show you some of the other organizing systems that have been put in place that work with his organizing style (or lack thereof) rather than against it.