My clients hear that question all the time.

When they complain about the backpacks plopped in the middle of the kitchen floor, or the car keys that are never found when needed, or the pile of missing mail from two days ago…whether its backpacks, keys, or the incoming mail – whatever it is – I ask, “Where should that item live? Where is its home? We know where it doesn’t belong – where does it belong?”

This question is usually met with an eerie silence. That’s the problem in a nutshell, folks: you can’t put something away if it doesn’t have a home.

So: establishing a home is step one. The right spot should be logical, practical, and doable. Your child can’t slide a backpack into a cubby that’s four feet above her head, and it doesn’t make sense to walk through three rooms of the house to put away your car keys.Keys on hooks by the door Remember: logical, practical, and doable.

Step two is developing the habit of actually putting the item where it belongs, and that takes time. Have faith – we humans are smart cookies. We can be trained to establish new routines so that, over time, hanging keys on a hook by the garage door will become a habit. Teach your child that the backpack goes on a reachable peg every day when she comes in from school. Put the incoming mail in that one designated spot so you can find it when you’re ready to process it, and in a matter of weeks, maybe even days, some common daily frustrations will actually be eliminated by answering that one simple question: Where should it live?

 

 

I’m not a particularly crafty person – not because I don’t think creatively, but because sometimes it seems like it takes WAY more time and effort to complete some of the projects I see floating around out there than I’d be willing to spend. Plus, it’s often not worth it in the endHerbGarden if you put an actual dollar value on your time – but that’s a post for another day.

Anyhow. Craftiness aside, I DO like the whole concept of repurposing and recycling things; of using things for something other than what they were originally intended rather than tossing in the trash.

Here’s a link to an herb garden made out of a vertical hanging shoe rack. Totally cool, huh? I wouldn’t personally go out and buy a hanging shoe rack in order to make this, but if I didn’t have a big yard to garden in and I loved cooking with fresh herbs, this could be a fun, inexpensive and viable project. It could add some visual appeal to an otherwise boring fence, or even act as a screen on a porch if you hung it from above and somehow tethered it below.

I did notice a few things I’d tweak, though. It mentions you should test the drainage and if it’s not sufficient, poke a few holes in the bottom of each pouch. Plants need drainage; as a gardener, I know that.  I would put supplies in the top row of pouches instead of at the bottom so they don’t get wet when you water the plants. Even if water drains down the back, the bottom row would probably still get wet. So I’d move my supplies up high and eliminate that worry.

The other thing I noticed is that the items and steps suggested for making plant tags is WAY more effort than I’d ever put forth. This was obviously written by a legitimately crafty person, which I’ve already confessed I am not:

Round up some fabric scraps, ultra-firm stabilizer and iron-on adhesive. Adhere the stabilizer to the middle of the fabric (leave enough fabric around the edges to fold over) using an iron and the adhesive. Cut triangles out of the corners so you can make a nice fold. Attach the flaps with iron-on adhesive. Attach a piece of canvas or other heavy cloth to the front of the tag so you can label it. Use a permanent marker to write the plant name. 

Yeah, not gonna happen. I’d probably use some of the little plastic lawn stakes from our lawn care dude, (since we pull those out and recycle them anyhow) print the herb names on mailing labels, stick ’em to index cards, trim, “laminate” with clear packing tape and I’m done in less than ten minutes and I’m STILL utilizing things I already have around the house. My point here is, don’t be put off by a project with components that seem beyond your skill set if you can tweak it and make it more doable for you.

Have you got a favorite  reuse/repurposing project you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Sometimes I read tips by the upper echelon of organizers (you know, the ones Oprah made famous, or who’ve written best-selling books) and I think, “Hmm. That doesn’t seem very practical to me.”

Just because “So-And-So” says it’s a great idea doesn’t automatically make it the right  solution for you. There are no cookie-cutter answers – at least there shouldn’t be. What works for one person might not work for another, and a good organizer should be able to help figure out a solution for you based on your needs, your style, and your stuff.

A recent tip in an online newsletter suggested this way for dealing with receipts:

To organize receipts, a simple, low-tech solution is to use two bankers’ spikes. Get in the habit of cleaning receipts out of your wallet or purse daily. Place receipts on one of the spikes as they come in. When one spike is full, start the other. If you haven’t needed any of the receipts by the time you fill up the second spike, throw out everything on the first spike.

First of all, I would never recommend banker’s spikes in a household with small children or pets. Those things could be lethal in the wrong hands!

Secondly, not all receipts are created equal. Receipts for consumables that cannot be returned? I get rid of them once I’ve verified that the right amount showed up on my credit card. It’s not like I can return the gas I put in my tank or get a refund on the pizza from last month, right? BUT. What about the receipt for patio furniture that has a 10-year warranty? Just because I might not need it by the time the second spike is full doesn’t mean that I won’t need it three years from now if a leg falls off my table.

Do you want to rifle through all your receipts when reconciling one credit card statement – you do reconcile your credit card statement, don’t you? – or would it be helpful to separate them by each credit or debit card used?

I’m also not a big fan of this oft-repeated tip about kitchen utensils: expandable utensil drawer

Not sure what you use and what you don’t in your kitchen? Here is a tried and true way to find out. Empty the contents of your kitchen utensils drawer into a cardboard box. For one month, put a utensil back into the drawer only if you take it out of the box to use it. If it’s still in the box after four weeks—you don’t need it. Pass it on to charity.

What about my turkey baster? Or the whisk I use for hollandaise sauce? I don’t use those things monthly or even quarterly – but I use them. I think a more practical way to thin down your utensil drawer is to sort “like with like.” Once you realize that you have seven spatulas, you might decide that you can whittle it down to four. If you’re an avid baker, you may need more measuring spoon sets than I do – one set is plenty for me.

Go ahead and read those tips, but if they don’t seem logical or practical, no matter who’s offering the advice, maybe “Because I said so…” isn’t a good enough reason to incorporate it into your daily routine.

 

Aretha RespectWhile working with a client in her basement one day, I pulled a box out from under the stairs. The area was dusty, full of cobwebs; the box, water-stained and dilapidated.

“What’s in here?” I asked. She didn’t know.

The top of the box was filled with yellowed, age-worn newspaper. As I dug a little deeper and unwrapped the first item, my client exclaimed, “Oh, those are my grandmother’s dishes! Those are very special and precious to me – that’s all I have to remember her by!”

Really? The first thing I felt compelled to gently point out is that things are not memories. Things can trigger memories, but the memories reside within us.  Imagine what your life would look like if you required a thing in order to remember any other thing – a person, a place, an event – we’d be overwhelmed with a huge clutterpile of things. Aha – you’re beginning to see an issue I deal with on a regular basis.

The second point I made was that if, indeed, these dishes were special and precious, they didn’t belong in a water-stained box under the basement stairs. That was not a place of honor for the one tangible thing that represented the memory of her grandmother.

We took the box of dishes upstairs. We unpacked them, washed them, and made a place for them in the dining room so my client could actually use them. She loved the idea that with each use she would think fondly of her grandmother, who had been an important and influential person in her life.

I think that’s how you show respect – for things and for the memories they represent.

If and when the time comes when you can no longer keep the “thing” or no longer have a use or a need for it, passing it on –  releasing it out into the universe – is another awesome way to show respect. Think of the positive energy created by allowing someone else to love and use what was once precious and special to you. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Craigslist can be a blessing or a curse, depending on what you use it for.Craigslist

It’s a great way to advertise free stuff with “curb alert” notices. You simply post a description of what you have and where folks will find it and wait for the stuff to disappear. We recently did that with a futon we had no more use for. It had a bent bar – not as bad as the sofa bed Elaine slept on in Seinfeld where she torqued her back, but still – it was nothing we were going to get any real money for. The mattress was in decent shape, but had its share of orange soda stains from years of kidly abuse.

So I put up a “curb alert” post in Craigslist with a photo of the futon, our address, and this message: “Please do not call me, email me, or text me with any questions or requests to save this for you. If you want it, get here first. Period.”

Less than 30 minutes later, somebody stopped, threw the mattress off to the side and tossed the frame into the back of his truck. A few minutes after that, a woman came by and snagged the mattress. Done. Gone. Mission accomplished.

We had a mixed experience with an ad after The Albatross was torn down. (see my previous post) Around the perimeter of the pool was a deck and under the deck were stones – bigger than pea gravel, smaller than golf balls. We figured it would save us some work if other people shoveled them up and hauled them away. Up went the Craigslist ad for “FREE STONES!” with our address. We posted pictures of the stones so people would know the size, and a photo of the area so they could gauge the quantity. I’ve lost count, but I know we got over two dozen inquiries about the stones. Who knew it was such a hot commodity?

The first man came prepared: he had a wheelbarrow, a rake, and a shovel. He filled half a dozen good-sized bins.

The next person had no wheelbarrow, no rake, no shovel; only a couple of beach-sized kiddie pails. I can’t imagine going out of my way for a few handfuls of stones just because they were free but hey, he left happy.

The next person wanted to know if they had to rake them up themselves. Huh? This isn’t a gravel pit with a front loader, so yeah, you’ve gotta rake them up yourself. He left stoneless, complaining that it was too much work.

After that, I explained that there weren’t a ton of stones left, but that there were still binfuls to be had if someone wanted to put in a little sweat equity to get them. Only one more person showed up; he got at least half a dozen 5-gallon bucketfuls of stone for his efforts. I took the ad down.

Craigslist is also an effective place to advertise garage sales, because it’s free. It’s especially great because you can list everything – the more detail you put about the items in your sale, the bigger the crowd you’ll draw. Make sure to post on Tuesday or Wednesday before the weekend of your sale; veteran garage sale shoppers put serious effort into planning their routes.

The dark side of Craigslist is that it’s a breeding ground for scammers. One son collects skateboard videos, and some dude in California put up an ad with a list of vhs and dvd skate movies that included some rare ones my son really wanted. The dude insisted on a money order, which seemed reasonable. Problem was, he never sent the videos. And, unbeknownst to me in spite of my years in the banking industry, you can’t put a stop payment on a bank money order. Hard lesson learned.

Speaking of the dark side, I was going to tack an image on to this post for visual appeal. I did a search for “Craigslist” images and yikes – apparently there are lots of people selling on Craigslist who use their bodies as advertising. Trust me, you don’t wanna go there.

Garage Sale Success

Garage Sale Success

Garage sale season is upon us! Before you commit to having one, ask yourself this one important question, and be realistic:

Do I have enough to sell to make it worth my time and effort, or should I just donate everything and be done with it?

If you decide to proceed, be ruthless when going through the house looking for items to sell. Pick an area where you can gather everything that’s “gotta go” and encourage other family members to add to the pile.

Here are some tips for holding a successful garage sale:

  • Signs should be big, easy to read, and neatly written. Quality signs signal a quality sale – half the success is in your marketing and advertising. And remember, people should be able to read signs from a moving vehicle!
  • Get other neighbors to join in. People are more likely to come if they know they’ll be able to hit a handful of sales at the same time.
  • Advertise in your local paper and on Craigslist. People scan the listings and plan out their route, so make sure they’ll find your sale. If you have some big-ticket items, include photos in your Craigslist ad. 
  • Price everything, and price it to sell. It doesn’t matter if you paid $10 and it’s practically like new; if you’re not using it, the main goal is to get rid of it, not to recoup your cost.
  • Be willing to haggle. If you know you want $25 for something, either mark it, “Price Firm” or mark it $29 so you can come down and still get what you want.
  • It’s also ok to say “no” to a ridiculous offer. I’ve sometimes told people that I’d rather donate something to a worthy cause than to sell if for what they’re offering me.
  • Display items on tables; hang clothing on a rack/clothesline. People don’t like to stoop to the ground or rummage through messy piles of stuff.
  • Put “like with like” so people looking for tools can easily find them, books are all together, holiday decorations are easy to see.
  • It pays to clean things. A damp microfiber cloth works miracles on dusty glassware, dishes, and decor items.
  • Make sure to have plenty of change on hand. I recommend $50 in ones, $30 in fives, $20 in tens, plus $5 in quarters. That should be enough to get you started. It’s amazing how many people will offer you a $20 bill for a $1 purchase.
  • Have a check-out table set up, and keep smaller, easy-to-steal items near you on that table. I’m sorry to say, sometimes people try to help themselves to things that are either easy to pocket or highly desirable, such as collectibles, jewelry and video games.
  • Schedule a charity pickup for leftovers the day after your sale. Promise yourself the stuff is NOT going back into the house. It’s time; let it go. 
  • List leftover big-ticket items on Craigslist if you want to take one more shot at selling.

Sometimes you can tie a sale in with another event in your area such as a festival, a garden walk, or a real estate open house. Anything that brings people to your neighborhood is a good thing when you’re having a garage sale.

The more effort you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Make it a fun experience for people – offer treats, have some lively music playing, mix and mingle and even if it’s not true, act like you’re having fun! People are more likely to buy from someone with a smile on her face than from Ms. Grumpy McGrump.

Stamp Out Hunger 2013Saturday, May 11, 2013 is the National “Stamp Out Hunger” Food Drive, sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers.

 

Place a bag of non-perishable food items next to your mail box or mail slot this Saturday, and your letter carrier will deliver it to your community’s local food bank for distribution to those in need.

 

What can you donate? This is directly from their website:

 

Donate items like canned meats, fish, soup, bottled juice, vegetables, pasta, cereal and rice that do not require refrigeration. Please do not include items that have expired or are in glass containers.

 

Now is a great time to go through your pantry and food cupboards. Pull out those items that are still good but, for whatever reason, you don’t want, won’t eat, can’t use, have plenty of, or simply want to donate to those less fortunate.

 

Will you be heading to the grocery store in the next two days? Grab an extra box of pasta or cereal; use a coupon for three of something that you only need one of and donate the other two.

 

Go ahead, fill that bag and put it out before your mail delivery on Saturday. You’ll feel great, and your pantry could gain some much-needed wiggle room!

 

 

 

I’m really excited to unveil my new website, from the bold header to the drop-down menus for easier navigation. I’m especially pleased with the addition of a blog, which I’ve affectionately titled, “Organized Thoughts.”

So, welcome! Noodle around, take a self-guided tour, and let me know what you think.