Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Announcing Arlington's Messiest Place Contest!

Functional Places is on the hunt for Arlington's Messiest Place! Enter your "messy place" in our contest for a chance to win a 3-hour session with a professional organizer and a $250 gift certificate to The Container Store to help take it from messy to functional!

The winner will be chosen by the public at the Functional Places booth at Town Day on September 26th. Everyone who votes will be entered into a free drawing for some organizing goodies of your very own! So even if you don't think you have the Messiest Place, come by and vote and help us choose a winner.

To enter the Arlington's Messiest Place contest:
Email or mail a photo of your messy space to Functional Places (contact info at the end of this post). Include a description of your space, the challenges you are facing with getting it organized, and a paragraph about why you think you should be the contest winner. Also include your contact information so that we can contact you if you are voted the winner. And then tell your friends to come by our booth at Town Day and vote!

The details:
- All photos will become the property of Functional Places and may be used in marketing materials, on the Functional Places website, or through the blog/social media sites.
- Submissions may be made by residents of Arlington, MA or Arlington-based businesses/offices.
- All submissions must be received by Friday, September 18th, 5:00 pm EST to be considered.
- Functional Places will select up to 12 finalists from all submissions based on individual's need, level of organizing support needed, and personal story/submission. Winner will be selected based on votes received by the public at the Functional Places booth at Arlington Town Day, September 26, 2009.
- No individuals' or businesses' names will be used publicly except for the winner. Winner agrees to provide permission for use of their name and before/after photography for publicity purposes. Functional Places respects your privacy and adheres to NAPO's code of ethics.
- Winner of the voters' drawing at Arlington Town Day will be selected at random from all ballots received at the end of the day. Winner does not need to be present to win. One vote/entry per person.
- Current or past clients of Functional Places are eligible to win.
- Winner of the Messiest Space Contest will be contacted by Functional Places during the week of September 28th. Winner will have up to one year to redeem gift certificate for organizing services.

Please contact us with any questions and act fast to get your Messiest Place entry in!

Functional Places
13 Medford St
Arlington, MA 02474

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Packing is Underway...

I got started on the packing effort for our move yesterday. Here are some tips for making packing manageable:

1) Start with the infrequently used items. I began by packing up serveware and my "nicer" set of dishes that we use for entertaining. Since I know we won't be having guests between now and the move, it's easy to pack that stuff up without impacting our daily lives. My next "sweep" will be holiday decorations, knick-knacks, out of season clothing and artwork. Then on to books and CDs, and I'll be saving our everyday dishes, clothing and our office supplies for the final week before our move.

2) Label the boxes! I can't stress enough how important this is. First of all, I bought brightly colored neon labels on which I'm writing the destination room so that the movers will know where to put the boxes in our new house. Then, I'm using a larger white label to jot down an inventory of what's inside, so I know where to find things when we arrive.

3) Take this opportunity to purge. More likely than not, there are items that you simply don't use or need anymore. I have started a pile for Goodwill and will be making a run there later this week. Better to give items away to people that can really use them than to pay to move stuff you don't need.

4) Consider your new space/storage options. As I am packing boxes, I am thinking about where the items will go in our new home. For example, our new kitchen is much smaller than our current kitchen, and we have about half of the cabinet space available. However, we will have much more storage in the basement. So, I am packing up rarely used serveware and kitchen items to be stored on a shelf in the basement. So they are going into a "basement" box rather than a "kitchen" box.

5) Don't pack things too heavy. Even though we've hired some burly movers, it's easier for them to move smaller, lighter boxes than ones that are super heavy.

6) Pace yourself. I'm going to try and pack up just a few boxes each day so that I don't get overwhelmed or fatigued. Oh, and stretch and bend at the knees when lifting those heavy boxes!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

How a Professional Organizer Plans Her Move

The Book Baron and I have decided to move, and the big day is September 1st. In the Boston area, 9/1 is a big moving day as students return for the fall and many leases change over. So we have our work cut out for us - and just a month to pull things together.

I thought I would share tips, ideas, and real-life experiences as we go along. As a professional organizer, I have helped many clients prepare, pack, coordinate, and settle in from their own moves. And I personally have moved 14 times - and this will make Move #15. So I've seen it all. But this might be the tightest turnaround time I have experienced, so we are going to have to be organized to keep our sanity. We have just 30 days (and a mini-vacation squished in there) to get it all done.

We signed our lease over the weekend and are hosting a Book Rack Employee BBQ today, so packing won't begin until later this week. But, I accomplished the following things last week:

1) Booked a mover. Since 9/1 is such a popular moving date, I needed to move fast to get a quality mover scheduled for that day. A tip for those moving: Always take the morning appointment. Many movers overbook themselves or underestimate the time required for a job, so if you are the 2nd or 3rd move of the day, you may be left waiting on the curb with your stuff. (Been there.) I also walked through each room of the house to put together a detailed inventory so that I could get an accurate estimate from the movers. It's easy to forget about the air conditioners in the basement or folding chairs that can make a difference in the time and space required for your move.

2) Bought some gently used moving boxes and bubble wrap on Craigslist. Often, you can check sites like Craigslist and Freecycle and get a supply for free. Purchasing moving boxes can get expensive, so why not re-use and recycle? I also picked up some packing tape and labels, so that I can inventory what goes into each box and mark the appropriate room destination to make things easier on moving day. Benezra Boxes in Arlington sells used supplies and offers free delivery and pick-up service for orders over $50 in their service area.

3) Scheduled installation of our satellite TV at the new house. Installation appointments can be hard to come by, so the earlier you can notify your cable, internet, and phone service providers the better. I'll be wrapping up the other calls tomorrow to try and minimize our "downtime."

More to come!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Surviving Chaotic June

Ahhhh, June. The month of graduation parties, family gatherings, weddings, showers, Father's Day and the end of the school year. It seems that for many people, the month of June brings a chaotic schedule and jam-packed social calendar that can be overwhelming. After a particularly busy few weeks, I am taking a quiet moment to reflect and take a proverbial "deep breath" and thought I would share some ideas and tips to help folks survive the mayhem of the season:

1) Clear the clutter on your calendar. If you're feeling overwhelmed by family commitments and party invitations, consider what is most important and where you get the most return for your time investment. Are there things looming on the books that can wait? Reschedule routine appointments - your teeth can wait another month for cleaning, and you can skip a book club meeting if you're feeling tapped out. Plan regular social engagements like lunch with the girls for later in the summer. It's OK to decline invitations or take a rain check if you can't fit something in.

2) Delegate, delegate, delegate. Are errands and a long "to do" list keeping you up at night? You probably don't need to be the one to do it all. Can another parent handle driving to soccer practice, and you do the next week? Maybe your spouse can pick up a few extra errands or your neighbor would be willing to grab your dry cleaning when they go to get theirs. You can return the favor or do something else in return when things calm down.

3) Make lists. Even if you are not usually reliant on lists, the act of writing things down can empty your head of little nagging items, and you'll be less likely to forget that graduation greeting card or cashews for Dad when you are out and about.

4) Take advantage of waiting times. Keep a folder in the car with things to read or notes to send and use downtime at the car service shop or salon to knock a few things off of your list.

5) Let go of the need for perfection. If you're throwing a party, remember that it's more important that you have the energy and time to spend with guest than if the fence is freshly painted. Don't go too crazy trying to make everything perfect. Chances are, your guests will remember more about their interactions with you than the minor details.

6) Communicate with the family. Make sure everyone is clear on schedules, commitments, and plans so that there are no (or at least fewer) surprises.

7) Schedule downtime for yourself - and stick to it. Build in time for relaxing activities so that you have the energy you need to get through the month.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Moms need their space, too!

All too often I find that busy moms don't have a dedicated work space to call their own. As busy as that job is - I think it's critical that whenever possible, a mother identifies a home office space where she can set up shop and efficiently manage the family's activities. I think people tend to forget that a busy family sometimes needs to run like a business; scheduling appointments, managing schedules and activities, coordinating health care and education, planning vacations, supervising homework, arranging for household repairs, paying the bills, and keeping the pantry stocked are tasks that only scratch the surface of the full responsibilities. And that doesn't even take into account a mother's own business/work responsibilities, volunteer activities, and her own hobbies and interests. It's easy to underestimate the space that is required for managing all of this.

This is not to say that you need to dedicate a full room to a mother's home office; but shared space on the kitchen table just doesn't cut the mustard.

One of my clients is a busy mother of two who is learning how to prioritize her own time and interests, and limit her volunteer activities (which is not an easy thing to do). We had the luxury of a spare bedroom that was being used for storage and was full of clutter. We cleaned out and set up a fantastic office just for her. And now she's getting more done in less time, and finding that she can choose to put her energy into things that really matter. We even included a family wall calendar so that the kids can support her in managing the daily schedule of activities.

Whatever your home space allows, finding a place to set up your office as Family Manager is a great first step in having everyone recognize the importance of the role and the full set of responsibilities on your plate - so that each family member can support you in their own ways.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Unemployed? Get a free planner!

On April 24th and 25th, Franklin Covey is offering free planners for those who have recently lost a job as a way to get a "leg up" on organizing your time and planning your life. Here is the email promotion that was sent:


Lost Your Job?
FranklinCovey Products Gives Those Unemployed A Boost

FREE FRANKLIN PLANNERS on April 24-25, 2009

WHO: Individuals who recently lost their jobs are invited to visit a FranklinCovey store nationwide or call the FranklinCovey Call Center at 800-654-1776 to receive a free 2009 Franklin Planner*.

WHAT: FranklinCovey Products is giving those who have recently lost their job a leg up during these recessionary times. Individuals recently unemployed can receive one 2009 Franklin Planner for free by providing the names of their last employer and supervisor, and the date they were laid off.

WHEN: Friday, April 24 (in-store and call center) and Saturday, April 25 (in-store only)

WHERE: Your local FranklinCovey store (Friday and Saturday) or the FranklinCovey Call Center at 800-654-1776 (Friday only)
Find a store
Call Center hours are Monday-Friday 7:00 am to 6:00 pm MST

WHY: Getting organized for a job search can ultimately save much time and frustration. Having one place to track all information, contacts, appointments, job leads, and interview notes can make a job search less stressful and more productive. Planning and organization are an integral component of a job search. FranklinCovey products and tools can bring focus, direction, and a sense of purpose to an individual's daily decisions and can help lessen the panic that surrounds a job loss. Capturing details and committing them to the planner will free up the job searcher's mind, reducing the stress associated with juggling lots of details. Sarah Merz, CEO of FranklinCovey Products, said this is FranklinCovey's way of helping out in a tough economy. This free FranklinCovey product event is a natural extension of the company's corporate philosophy to help people achieve everyday greatness.

ABOUT: FranklinCovey Products helps individuals and organizations achieve greater productivity, effectiveness, and success. For more information, please visit www.franklinplanner.com.


* Offer limited to supplies on-hand and specific products. Customer must pay shipping & handling if free planner is requested through the FranklinCovey Call Center. Offer not valid online.

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© 2008 FranklinCovey Products, LLC.
2250 W. Parkway Blvd. Salt Lake City, UT 84119.
FranklinCovey is a registered trademark of Franklin Covey Co. Used by permission.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The "Low Energy" List

I went to a fantastic workshop yesterday put on by an organization called EnvisionAction. One of the participants was talking about the fact that she is learning to recognize her periods of high energy (best productivity times) and low energy throughout the day. And she plans accordingly. She saves certain tasks that don't require a lot of thought or physical activity to do during her "low energy" times, like emptying the dishwasher.

I think this is a great reminder for us all that it can be very useful to monitor yourself and your work habits throughout the day, and to plan around your own natural highs and lows. By saving certain tasks for your down time, you can still get things done and feel a sense of accomplishment. And similarly, by tackling that big proposal or detailed project when you're at your best, you'll actually get it done faster and better. Maybe you get a bit of food coma after lunch and can't concentrate as well as you can first thing in the morning.

Another great idea is to keep a list of things you'd love to do if you ever find the time. Then, when a meeting gets canceled or you find yourself with an unscheduled block of time, you can choose something off of this list and make the best use of your found time.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Organizing Advice for the Unemployed

It seems that everywhere I turn someone has lost a job. Countless friends, clients, and family members are being affected by the economy, and find themselves in a confusing new environment - overwhelmed about what to do next. This major life change can cause a big disruption in your everyday routines, habits, and organizing systems. Your goals and objectives need to be re-evaluated; plans re-set; and working space within the home re-defined.

Here are some tips for surviving the organizational challenges associated with a layoff:

1) Communication. Now is the time to start a regular family meeting if you haven't already. Schedules will be in flux, morning routines changed, and you're likely to have more availability to participate in family activities and errands. It's also important to have open and honest communication about finances, emotional states, and short term goals. Your family will be better able to support you during this time of transition if you address issues head-on, rather than avoiding conflict or trying to be a self-sufficient superhero.

2) Treat your job search like a job. Set up your computer email files and workspace as you would your office, and set "office hours" for yourself where you will essentially go to work. Your job will be networking, checking job postings, writing letters/resumes/correspondence/social networking/etc. In setting office hours, you can also manage the temptation to constantly and obsessively be on the computer, which isn't healthy. Remember that this time of unemployment is also a time for reflection, self-evaluation, and re-connecting with your family and friends. Don't forget to set time aside for all of this, which is ultimately more important.

3) Re-evaluate your home office space. If you don't have a designated desk or workspace in your home, now is the time to set up some dedicated space for yourself. Even a small desk in the corner of a room will suffice. The important thing is that you identify a space where you will conduct your job search activity and that serves as your office. Shared space is OK as long as you can work effectively. Remember that Functional Places is never an advocate of having a desk or office in the bedroom if it can be avoided! You will also need to set up appropriate filing systems for your outplacement and severance materials, job leads, contacts, etc.

4) Consider meeting with a financial planner. Find a fee-only financial planner who is not tied to promoting any specific products. He or she can help you look at your current budget, spending habits, and scenarios. You'll know how long you can get by on your severance/unemployment, and what choices you will need to make short-term and long-term. This can help take the stress out of the unknown, and also set up guidelines for family activities during this transition.

5) A professional coach can help you re-evaluate your career goals and do some valuable self-assessment work. Sometimes a layoff offers an opportunity for a much-needed career change or shift; but it can be overwhelming to know where to start or what steps to take. A coach will work with you to identify your goals, set an action plan in place to get you there, and keep you accountable to completing tasks along the way.

6) Take advantage of outplacement services - but don't overdo it. Outplacement services are a wonderful resource, but it's easy to get caught up in trying to take advantage of every seminar, resource, and workshop. Choose the ones that have the most interest for you, and that will give you the most return on your time investment.

7) Keep a daily journal. It's all too common that feelings of depression and low self-worth can do a number on your self-esteem. Rationally, it's easy to say that a job loss in nothing personal; but emotions will certainly be up and down. Keeping a daily journal of what you have accomplished towards your goals, what you are feeling, and monitoring your self-care activities is a great way to keep you on track and give you some positive reinforcement. You will also begin to see patterns about which times of day are your most productive - so that you can set up your daily schedule accordingly.

8) Organize a support group of friends or colleagues that are in a similar situation. Use your meeting time productively - to share ideas, be accountability partners, and help with goal-setting (rather than as "vent" sessions).

9) Keep detailed notes of your networking efforts, and use systems like Outlook to set reminders to yourself for important follow-up phone calls and correspondence. Take notes about each conversation. Next time you speak with a particular contact, you can ask a follow-up question about your last conversation that really shows you are paying attention and on top of your game. Even something as simple as "How did your trip to Chicago go last week?" shows that you have attention to detail.

10) Make a list of projects that you want to complete around the house and prioritize them. Set a goal for what you will do each week so that you don't fall into the temptation of throwing yourself into home improvements and neglecting important job search and self-care activities.

Stay positive, organized, and focused on your goals. Remember that things happen for a reason, and take advantage of this time to make sure that the next step you take is the right one for you and your family.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Justifying the Junk Drawer

We all have one - the infamous junk drawer. Full of items without a home, like rubber bands, scissors, pens, stamps, crazy glue, sewing kits, missing buttons, safety pins, WD-40....

I'm here to tell you it's OK to have a "junk" drawer - provided you follow these guidelines:

Rule 1: You may only have ONE junk drawer. If you have too much stuff for one drawer, that's a sign that you have things that need to be given a home somewhere else. Or discarded.
Rule 2: Nothing that has a home elsewhere goes into the junk drawer. This is not a place to lazily toss stuff in when you are in a hurry.
Rule 3: No trash in the junk drawer. Don't drop in receipts, dead batteries, broken electronics "to be dealt with later."
Rule 4: Organize and review your junk drawer periodically (see below). It's pointless to toss things into a junk drawer to keep them if you have no chance of finding them again.

Organizing your junk drawer can be a quick and easy project that can get you in the groove for organizing other areas in your house. Here's how:

Step 1: Empty the junk drawer entirely. Wipe it out if necessary.
Step 2: Sort the loose items into categories. Put "like" things together in little piles, like all pens/writing utensils; sewing supplies; tape/glue; electronics/batteries; etc.
Step 3: Discard any trash, broken items, or excess/unnecessary items.
Step 4: Measure your drawer and select a drawer organizer that will take advantage of as much space as possible. If the drawer is deep enough, consider a two-level organizer.
Step 5: Place items into the organizer compartments, keeping "like" items together.
Step 6: Repeat annually.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Container Store: Sale, sale, sale!

Well, you can tell the economy is tough when retailers roll out the big sales. Continuing their marketing with Oprah Winfrey's "Clean Up Your Messy House Tour," TCS is now offering 25% off the entire store for nearly a month - through April 13th. To take advantage, visit their website and download a printable coupon to use in store. Or, use the promo code at check-out and try their Click & Pick Up Service.

And, their Elfa line of closet and storage systems is on sale at 30% off through May 10th. This is a great opportunity to invest in some tools to make your space work better. But buyer beware: shopping here is addictive, and too many containers can become clutter, too!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Great Products: Miche Handbags

I'm a sucker for product commercials on TV. In fact, I'm pretty sure Billy Mays could sell me anything. So a few weeks ago, when I saw the spot for Miche handbags, my inner voice said "Don't do it! You don't NEED a new handbag. They're probably not great quality..." You get the idea. But before I knew it, my Amex card was out and I was completing my online order.

It took a few weeks for the shipment to arrive, and during the "cooling down" period, I'd pretty much prepared myself for disappointment. But I can honestly say, I'm thrilled.

What won me over the most about the Miche bag is that it's a very streamlined way to have many different handbag styles without needing all of the storage. The concept is this: you buy one bag and it comes with various "shells" in cute designs, that attach to your bag with credit card-safe magnets. No more swapping out the contents of your purse or stuffing out of season bags on the top shelf of your closet. My Miche also came with a hanging organizer, in which I can store the folded/flat shells. Now I can swap out the shell and have a new look, and the bag comes with two strap lengths for added flexibility.

I expected not-so-great quality, but the bag itself is cute and the shells attach easily and look great. There are a few good compartments inside the handbag itself, too. Two thumbs up!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Reader Question: Office Paper Overload

I got a great question from a good friend who is a young adult author on the Functional Places Facebook page, and decided to post the answer here as part of this blog.

How do I keep my office from becoming awash in paper? I have folders for bills to be paid, and an accordian file for receipts, but somehow my desk ends up *covered* in junk mail, slips of paper, business cards, magazines, and other crap. Help!

Hi Erin, thanks for the great question! Paper management is the biggest challenge my clients face everyday. It takes a lot of work to get it under control, but here are some ideas to get you started.

1) Cut down on how much paper comes into your office in the first place.
  • Consider going paperless and requesting electronic copies of your bank statements, bills, credit card statements, etc. This will greatly reduce the amount of mail that you receive. Of course, you will need to set up folders on your computer to save PDF versions for tax purposes, and remember to back up the files. Check out Carbonite for an easy back-up service.
  • Visit Catalog Choice to opt out of catalogs you don’t want to receive. Remember that most stores have their full inventory online anyway. But be careful…it’s easy to opt-IN for MORE catalogs on this site, too!
  • Opt out of unwanted junk mail at the Direct Marketing Association’s DMAChoice website.
  • Take a hard look at your magazine subscriptions. Which ones are your must-reads? Do you keep up with them? Could you get articles online instead?

2) Purge papers you don’t really need.
Contact your accountant for some advice about how much you need to keep for tax records and for how long. And then take a hard look at what you’re saving and see if some of it can go. Shred anything with personal information on it, or use a shredding service like Northeast Data Destruction.

3) Try scanning (or scanning services) to reduce even more paper.
If you need to hold on to copies of papers for any reason, consider that they can be electronic copies. Here are a few services that I love for this purpose:

  • Pixily is a Netflix-style service for paper scanning. For a subscription plan, you get pre-paid envelopes in which you send in documents for scanning.
  • NeatReceipts is a scanner combined with software that lets you turn your loose receipts and slips of paper into electronic files approved by the IRS.
  • ScanDigital will scan and digitize photos, slides, and even home movies.

4) Set limits and create “homes” for the papers that will remain.
  • Magazine files work well for establishing a space limit for periodicals and catalogs. And when the new one comes in, it’s out with the old issue.
  • Use labels to clearly identify what paper belongs where. It may seem obvious at first, but over time lines can blur, so a label will help you keep everything straight.
  • For business cards, try to enter information into a contact management system and then toss the card. If you prefer to keep the actual cards, look for a rolodex or binder with business card insert pages and organize them by category rather than alphabetically – it’s much easier to maintain.
  • Set up systems that treat papers according to what the next step is that you need to take: to pay, to read, to file, etc. Color-coded folders work really well for this purpose.
  • Consider that ultimately, papers you keep will fall into three categories: be for immediate access, “I might need it in the short term,” and “I have to keep it but will probably never look at it.” The first category of papers (for immediate action) should be located at your fingertips, in action files. The second should be in a filing system that is accessible to you. And the third should go into cold storage or somewhere that doesn’t impact the usable space in your office.

5) Don’t let it build up.
Tackle the mail every day. Recycle or shred junk mail immediately and put the rest into your appropriate action files for processing later. Working on your paperwork in a batch mode can be very effective and efficient. And if you don’t let it build up, it will be far less overwhelming. Set a goal for a once-weekly attack of the paper pile.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Monday, February 23, 2009

20% off at The Container Store!

Click here to get your coupon for 20% off everything now through March 1st courtesy of The Oprah Winfrey Show. This is a great, rarely-offered discount! A good time to get a jump on some organizing products to help with spring cleaning.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Addicted to Facebook?

For those of you who are enjoying the numerous social networking sites available, you know that it can be extremely addicting and difficult to curb your usage once you get on a roll. The sites are a lot of fun, and it's a great way to stay connected to your friends and business colleagues. Under normal circumstances, this activity isn't a big deal. But like email, many of these sites and programs can be a real productivity and time-sucker. If you have a real deadline or an in-depth project to work on that requires your full attention, it can become easy to slip into procrastination mode and check out your friends' status updates and wall posts instead. Or if you are out to dinner with friends or family, maybe you are tempted to pull out the Blackberry and update twitter with your current status, thereby missing out on the time with the ones you love.

I always recommend to clients that they set aside specific time for web surfing and personal email as much as possible. If they have a big project and shouldn't be interrupted, I recommend closing the email program for at least an hour at a time so that there are no distractions. The same holds true for the social networking sites. If your daily responsibilities involve answering short emails and phone calls throughout the day, and you don't have a significant project ahead of you, there's less harm in multiple visits to your favorite site. But if you really need to focus, turn it off. Try giving yourself a time limit - of say, 15 minutes. Set a timer or alarm on your cell phone if necessary. When the time is up, close the browser and focus on your task at hand. You can always check back in during a break later in the day.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Benefit of the Weekly Business Meeting

Any successful family relationship revolves around good communication.

In the case of me and The BB, we are both self-employed and that creates an extra set of challenges for us as we grow our businesses, juggle the household budget and finances, and plan for long-term investments. In addition, we need someone to bounce ideas off of and to be an accountability partner so that we stay on track for our own personal and business goals. So we set up a weekly business meeting.

At first, I thought these would be short - 30 minutes max - but we're finding that it takes us two hours to go through everything on our list. We cover it all, from budgeting/bill paying and scheduling to business ideas and marketing plans. We always feel a little goofy starting the meeting, but once we get on a roll, there's no stopping us.

I share this with you because I think a family meeting is an often-overlooked communications tool that can make running a busy household much easier. You can meet with your significant other only, or you can involve the children if it's age appropriate. Set a "standing" agenda and leave time for everyone to bring up issues that impact the family. You can cover topics like:
- Everyone's schedule for the week (use this time to update the family calendar)
- Upcoming big expenses (kids can share in the decision making and learn valuable lessons about saving for luxury items, vacations, or household necessities)
- Travel plans/family vacations
- Household projects (let everyone know the expectations and their roles)

Set the meeting for a standard time every week so that you can plan around it, and everyone can plan to be there. And for the typical family, I think 30 minutes is more than enough time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Financial Benefits of Getting Organized

I read an article in The New York Times last fall about the trend of consumers focusing on home repair projects, rather than discretionary spending, in a down economy. Judging from what I have seen, this is definitely true. While we aren't out spending money on vacations and luxury items, this becomes a good time to evaluate our home environments.

Couple that with the cold, snowy winter we are having in the Northeast, and I think the time is right for taking a hard look at how well your living space is functioning. You can add value to your home and environment without spending a lot of money. In fact, organizing can have many financial benefits that will directly impact your wallet:
  • Spend less on items you don't really need by figuring out what you already have. Take stock of your wardrobe, kitchen pantry items, and more, and be better informed when you head out shopping.
  • Find those missing gift cards, gift certificates, and cash. I can't tell you how often we turn up real money when I am organizing with a client.
  • Donate unwanted/unnecessary items for a tax deduction, or sell your stuff online or through a consignment shop.
  • Avoid late fees by getting your bill paying center set up and paying bills on time.
  • Clean out your storage unit and avoid the monthly storage fees.
  • Get more out of the things that you already have and love.
With February vacation around the corner, why not set aside a day or two to tackle some trouble spots around your home?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Great Products: Smart Bin Recycling Center

I'm always on the hunt for great organizing products and will share as many as I can with all of you as I try them out myself.

Recycling has always been a challenge in my kitchen, with limited space for a large set of stacking recycling bins. Until recently, all of the recycling (paper, plastic, etc.) was mixed together in brown paper bags stuffed behind my trash can. Recycling day was always a challenging mess, and my items often didn't get sorted appropriately before heading out to the curb.

The Smart Bin Recycling Center looks great in stainless, and has three large pull-out bins and convenient foot pedals. I was able to label each bin for a different category and there is plenty of room for a week's worth of recyclables.

Target's website shows these for $99.99. But I recently got mine at Costco for $60. Two thumbs up! This product is making it even easier for us to do a better job with recycling.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Recycling Your "Technotrash"

I was doing some homework for a client who is cleaning out an office space and wants to responsibly get rid of old software, floppy disks, and unnecessary computer peripherals. I found a great service that I wanted to share with everyone called GreenDisk. For a box of 20 pounds in weight or less, GreenDisk will recycle a lot of computer-related items for $6.95 plus the cost of shipping. This is a great resource and makes it easy to clean out your old electronics without putting everything into a landfill.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

"Get Organized Month"

The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) has deemed January "Get Organized (GO) Month" once again. With a new year and a fresh start, it's no wonder that many people choose to "get organized" as a New Year's Resolution.

My advice for those who are starting out is to choose a focused project. The notion of "getting organized" is quite broad, and without some specific goals and focus, your efforts can easily fall apart. Try to start by dealing with one specific issue (like effectively handling the daily mail), or with a small, manageable area in your home (e.g. the linen closet). You'll feel great about the progress you are able to make, and it will get you into the groove of getting organized.

Is getting organized part of your New Year's Resolution plan? If so, what projects are you targeting?