If you have children in school: preschool to high school or anywhere in between, you know there is a tremendous amount of paper that comes into your house. Some papers require action, some are sentimental keepsakes, and others can make their way to the recycle bin. Here are some ideas on keeping track of all these papers before you become overwhelmed (or fixing the problem if you are already overwhelmed).
A system to deal with papers when they enter your home is the beginning of an organized paper management system. Upon entry into your home, papers need a place to go otherwise they will end up on your countertops, dining room table, desk or floor.
An inbox of sorts works great. You can have a general family inbox or an inbox for each person. This is the most basic form of paper workflow. This inbox would be addressed frequently to avoid overflowing.
You can take paperwork management to the next level by creating a paper workflow system.
Immediate Action File This system has an immediate action file for parents. Which is the location where papers requiring immediate action are placed. That way when your kid is shoving a field trip permission slip in your face, while you’re in the middle of making dinner or on a phone call, he will instead know where to put it for you to address it when you are ready.
Holding Zone The paper workflow system also has a holding zone for each person. So each person can initially manage their own papers. This can hold homework that is due later in the week: notes from friends, invitations, artwork and completed homework. To manage the paperwork, let it pile up in the holding zone all week. As part of the workflow, establish a time each week that you and your family can go through the papers. During this time, you can review their work (artwork, graded homework, homework to be done, etc.) and decide what papers go to storage, need further attention or can be recycled. Your child may identify what papers they are ready to recycle after you see them.
The paper workflow system also has a holding zone for each person. So each person can initially manage their own papers. This can hold homework that is due later in the week: notes from friends, invitations, artwork and completed homework. To manage the paperwork, let it pile up in the holding zone all week. As part of the workflow, establish a time each week that you and your family can go through the papers. During this time, you can review their work (artwork, graded homework, homework to be done, etc.) and decide what papers go to storage, need further attention or can be recycled. Your child may identify what papers they are ready to recycle after you see them.
The papers that are going to storage, should be filed or stored soon after you go through the papers to prevent overwhelm. Papers for recycle go right to the recycle bin.
To-Do File Have a personal To-Do file for papers that need to be addressed or dealt with. Set aside time each week to work through the To-Do file.
Create a file bin for each child. Have one folder (or two) for holding a nice representation of the work they completed each school year. Some great items to keep are: nice samples of their homework, quality art projects, certificates of participation, awards, and a few photos to represent their age.
Digital storage is a great storage option for both children and adults. Digital
storage is great for less physical papers when storage space is limited or not
desired. By scanning your children’s work, you have the option of creating a custom
photo or art book for their work. These books are great for kids that like to
look back at their work and memories. Older kids can help create the books to
add a personalized touch.
Organizing kid’s papers is an ongoing job, but remember to
keep it simple and have fun. Staying on top of their papers will reduce your
stress, allow you keep what is meaningful, and address or recycle the rest.
If you want help getting started on filing your children’s
paperwork, an organizer can help. See if
Top Shelf Home Organizing can
help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a
consult or chat about organizing.
Organizing your library is fun when you select an organizing method that fits your personality and needs. There are two main methods for organizing books: by visual appeal and by topic. Which method you select will depend on a few things. Who accesses the books? Are you the only person who uses the books? Do you loan books to friends and family? Do your household members store and access the books as well? Are you a visual person or more of a systematic person? Consider these things when you determine how you want to organize your books.
Organizing your books visually is a great way to organize your books if you recall your books by color and design of the spine. This is also a great method if you are looking to display your books versus reference your books. Visual organization includes organizing by color, size, orientation and cover type. You may choose to use a combination of visual methods in your library. Additionally, sorting books by hard cover versus paperback, and then by color, is an option for combining different visual strategies.
You may select this method for its visual appeal and allowance for creativity. Creating a rainbow array or color block pattern may be your desire.
Size Aligning your books by height might create an interesting visual appeal for your collection. Organizing tall books with tall books and short books with short books will give your library a clean, structured look.
Physical Orientation Create visual interest when you arrange your books horizontally, vertically, or a combination of horizontal and vertical. Stacks of horizontal books can add a nice variety to your library and allow for select books to stand out from the rest. This is most practical for books that you don’t access regularly.
Cover Type Organizing your books by cover type is another visual method for organizing your books. Hard cover ‘heavier’ books on the bottom and paper back ‘lighter’ books toward the top of the shelf will give your library a nice structural look. This method is also great if you tend to recall your books by the spine design.
Organizing your books by topic works well when you have
multiple people in your home, and when you reference your books frequently. There are many, many ways to organize by
topic. I have listed some ideas below. Think about what works best for you. Combining
a couple methods may be required. For example, if you want to separate books by
family member and then alphabetically.
Read vs. Have Not Read This method is great to separate out the books you have not read yet. When you are ready to start a new book, you know right where to go. This is perfect for the person who buys a lot of books or receives a lot of books as gifts. For the books you have already read, consider keeping only the ones you have loved and plan to read and reference again. Consider donating the books that you are done with.
Favorites You may want to designate a special place to distinguish your favorite books. These are the books that have made a strong impact on you, and you want to display, share and admire.
Alphabetical If you tend to reference your books by title or author, alphabetical arrangement may work best for you. This is a great method if you have a lot of books. It is easy to find and return books as you will know right where they go.
Owner or Family Member If your library contains books that belong to many people, you may want to organize them by person. Place the kids books on a lower level of a shelf to make it easy for them to see, access and put away their books. If your husband still has all his college text books, those can go in his section. Each person can be responsible for their own books including how they are organized, which books they keep and which they donate.
Subject or Genre Arranging your books by subject or genre makes sense if you have a lot of books. This method is great when you tend to reference your books by subject. Subjects can include cookbooks, travel, history, professional resources, science fiction, educational, etc. Another simple method is to separate your books by fiction and non-fiction.
You may desire to combine two or three methods, possibly
both visual and topic methods. However, before you get started physically
organizing your books, make a list of the types of books you own and how you
like to use them. Remember to gather all the books in your home (basement,
attic, office and bedrooms) so you can see the entire collection before sorting
them into categories.
Have fun organizing your books and remember to keep it
simple. Donate the books you are done with that don’t bring you any joy.
If you find organizing your books to be stressful, an organizer
can help you complete your library organizing.
See if Top Shelf Home
Organizing can help you on your journey.
to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
This is the time of year to get your finances organized! That
way you can have a plan for the year, and can get ready to prepare your tax
returns. This is not an article on how
to save money, or where the best place is to invest your fortunes. Before we
can think about heading in those directions, we need to know where and what our
current finances are. Here are some tips
on getting your finances organized.
Where is my Current Money? Jot down where all of your accounts are and their current balances. These accounts include savings, retirement, trusts, loans, credit cards, mortgages and medical debt. Share this information with your spouse or another responsible family member. Then if something happens to you, someone else knows where your finances stand.
What is my Monthly Income? When tallying your income, remember to account for dependent care reimbursements, child support, social security, rental income and your income from your job. I like to think about my income after benefits and tax income (the income that is available to live on). This helps to put in prospective what I have to spend.
Make a Plan Reflect on the last year or the last month. What where your expenses? Be honest. Then you can look forward to what expenses you will have in the coming year. Be honest. If medical expenses were $5,000 last year, will they be similar this year?
Divide Your Money
into these Four Categories:
Fixed –These are the monthly expenses that are probably not going to change. They may include housing, utilities, medical, food, tuition, etc.
Philanthropy – This is the money you plan to give each month. This can include religious contributions, charitable giving, capital campaign commitments and pop up fundraisers (think neighbor kid raising money for the class trip to Washington DC, or the Scout selling wreaths).
Future – This is where you plan for your and your family’s future. This may include retirement, savings, college savings, etc.
Fun – This is the category that we all live for. This could include traveling, movies, sporting events, dinner out, golfing, gym memberships, a photography class, and so on.
Simplify Your Spending Consider using a cash only system or using one standard credit card for your purchases. This makes tracking your spending (and debt) simplified by having one platform to review your spending. Knowing where all your money is and where your money will go, will help you to get a grasp on getting your money organized. There are great apps available to assist you with budgeting and tracking where your money goes. Mint, Wally and NYAB are popular apps that are user friendly.
Organizing your money will help you to make better decisions when unexpended expenses or fun opportunities are presented to you.
An organizer can help you determine where your money is and detail where your money will go. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
Giving experiences does not have to cost a lot of money or put you into debt. An experience can be as simple as an afternoon in the park, inviting someone into your house for a homemade dinner or going for a hike together. No one wants you to go broke purchasing material gifts for them.
2. Make Memories
The memories created when you spend time one-on-one with friends or family are kept forever. The anticipation alone of an experience can bring much more joy than a material gift. They are not tangible like a bottle of wine or a set of decorative towels that will soon be used up or packed away into storage.
3. Quality Time
Time with a loved one brings you closer and allows you to focus on the relationship you hold dear. Friendship is spending time together listening, learning and helping. Memberships, lessons and outings together are great quality time.
4. Less Stuff
Material gifts soon find their way into storage or are left to feel more like clutter. Toys are left on the floor to be tripped over and pieces lost. Eventually, a material gift can add stress and burden to the recipient.
Still not sold on the idea of giving an experience instead of a material gift?
Start slow. Consider a fun photo frame to give with the experience so a photo of them enjoying the experience can be placed in the frame. Create a memory book of the past year’s activities, outings and experiences. Give a puzzle or game that you can play with your friends and family. These options still give you the opportunity to spend time and create memories together.
Have fun and enjoy making memories. If organizing and planning are overwhelming, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
Take some time to organize your holiday décor this year. You likely have décor and ornaments that you have in storage, but typically don’t display them. Here are some tips on getting them organized.
Get all the ornaments and décor out from storage including the attic, basement and storage unit. Then, unwrap, touch and hold each piece.
Sort each piece into groups:
1. Use this year – I love these decorations.
2. Not going to use this year – I am keeping it simple this year, but love these decorations.
3. Not going to use this year – Actually, I never want to use these.
4. Not going to use this year – Family heirlooms, I must keep these forever, but will never use.
After the sort is done, plan for storage. Allow storage space for the décor and decorations you will use this year. Then, carefully pack up the family heirlooms that you want to keep, but will not necessarily display often. Lastly, take careful considerations to remove the items that do not bring you joy.
Have fun and enjoy this process. If organizing your holiday decor is overwhelming, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
The cool weather is here and it is time to organize your fall and winter wardrobe. Here are some basic steps for refreshing your wardrobe for the cool seasons ahead.
1. Pack Away Summer Items
Take all spring and summer items out of your closet and dresser. Have all your items cleaned before placing them in storage. Moths love food remains and sweet smelling scents. Use storage containers that will allow air to flow. You don’t want to trap any moisture into the fabrics by sealing up your clothing in plastic bags and containers. Store the clothing and shoes away from your fall and winter shoes and clothing. Storage areas could be an extra closet, basement, attic, or simply in the back of your closet.
2. Organize Fall and Winter Items
All fall, winter and year-round items should be pulled out of your dressers and closets. You will want to sort items into categories; piles of pants, tops, sweaters, shoes, scarves, etc. Take some time to assess what pieces serve you well, what pieces can be removed and what pieces should be replaced. Before returning the items to your closet and dresser, neatly fold and hang them. If any items need cleaning, take care of this so your wardrobe is clean and ready for the season.
3. Remove Items
This is a great time to assess your wardrobe. Donate and consign items that no longer serve you. Women’s centers are always delighted to take in clothing. Consignment sales, such as Divine Consign, are a great way to recoup some of your investment, and purchase items to complete your current wardrobe.
4. Replace Basics
Replace items that are stained, stretched, faded or no longer fit. Adding some fresh new basics to your wardrobe can make seasonal favorites feel fresh and new. This is also a great time to update undergarments and socks.
If wardrobe changeover and organizing is overwhelming, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
Fall brings the feeling of nesting for us all. The season change and a cold winter ahead has us planning and preparing. Getting a start on fall organizing will make your fall more relaxed. Here are some things you can do right now to prepare.
With any organization process, the key to cleaning is clearing away the clutter.
Spread everything into your driveway, to go through everything you’ve piled into the garage.
Group by use such as toys, tools, garbage and equipment.
Get rid of anything you haven’t used in two years.
Get rid of anything broken, or otherwise considered junk.
Buy hooks and shelves to get as much as you can off the floor. Storage is important. Peg boards, wall shelves, rolling carts and wall hooks should be used whenever possible.
Buy clear bins with labels to help keep smaller items organized and easy to find when needed. Consider open bins for toys and equipment that are frequently accessed.
Mark areas where items get stored such as labels on the walls and shelves, and painter’s tape on the floor.
With your outdoor areas packed up, you can enjoy the cooler month’s guilt-free and tucked indoors.
Take care of and pack up your outdoor living items.
Clean any pieces you plan to store: cushions, hammocks, umbrellas.
Stack patio furniture and cushions, and store in your garage or on a covered porch. If you don’t have the room, you can leave furniture outside with heavy-duty waterproof furniture covers. These will stand up to winter weather and keep everything protected. Most granite pieces can withstand the elements so you can leave those alone, but softer stones like cast stone, marble or manufactured stone should be either covered or moved.
Clean and cover your grill, but you don’t need to pack it away. Keep your grill available for grilling all winter.
The beginning of fall is the perfect time to prep your lawn for a lush spring. You won’t be planting any new plants, but you’ll want to prep your green areas for the impending cold. And cooler temperatures mean you won’t be boiling in the summer sun while you work outdoors in the yard.
Reseed any bare spots in your lawn and use a winter fertilizer that builds resistance to the cold.
Prepare for the fall and winter by fertilizing, mulching and pruning shrubs and trees.
Always rake fallen leaves.
Plant bulbs for spring flowers.
Pull out summer entertaining items and outdoor dishes to free up space in your cabinets and countertops.
Clear the pantry of summer convenience foods.
Before your next trip to the grocery store (or delivery), empty the refrigerator. Toss items that are expired.
Wipe down all shelves and walls of the refrigerator.
Inventory what food items you have and plan some meals around those items.
Jot down some favorite fall meals to make your meal planning a bit easier.
Enjoy the cooler weather. Remember to take your organizing journey one step at a time. Focus on what matters and what will have the biggest impact for you.
If finding the time and creating a strategy to organize is overwhelming, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
In March, I shared with you, general tips on how to save time. These ideas included staying organized (of course!), identifying time wasters, making the most of running errands, finishing what you start, readjusting priorities, keeping healthy snacks on hand and outsourcing where it makes sense.
This month, I would like to share with you how I personally try to be more efficient and save time. Like you, I too juggle family, jobs, bosses, meals, schedules and fun. Here are my go-to concepts for saving time and reducing stress.
Kitchen Time Savers
Kitchen time is not enjoyable for me, but I know the importance of good nutrition. I use a couple resources to help with this.
Each week I have a simple plan for meals. I don’t make large, multi-course meals, but I will always have a refrigerator stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, and a pantry full of nuts and seeds. Meals are always prepared for plenty of leftovers. I also leave a day or two for take out or going out to eat.
Health Heather with Better Health by Heather has been wonderful with helping to keep our meals on track, limit processed food and eat meals to sustain energy throughout the day.
Prepared Meals Jess with Cream City Casseroles has been a huge time saver for the weekday chaos. Her casseroles are made from scratch weekly, and are delivered frozen on Wednesdays. My kids love them. Her menu changes monthly. We haven’t had the same casserole yet this year!
I have an ongoing shopping list with Woodman’s online grocery delivery service. Every week, I import my standard list into the shopping cart and then make changes and additions based on the meal plan for the week. I no longer spend three hours grocery shopping each week.
Laundry Time Savers
I have a laundry day. Instead of running a load or two of laundry each day, I do it all in one day. On laundry day, I do not schedule any other appointments or meetings. To complete one week of laundry for six people, it takes six hours of non-stop focus. This includes sorting and stain treating to folding and putting away. Doing laundry in one day saves time overall because I fold, sort and put away one time. Doing laundry multiple days would force me to repeat the same process multiple times.
Cleaning Time Savers
We do not allocate funds for a full service house cleaner. Instead, our cleaning assistant, Jackie, comes every other week for three hours. She focuses on the main areas of the house, alternating certain details each visit. I handle the other areas (office, bedrooms and bathrooms). Having Jackie help works two-fold: the house has to be tidy so she can see the areas that need to be cleaned, and it forces me to do my share of the cleaning. My house stays clean without breaking the bank.
Keeping a Master Calendar
Everything goes in the Google calendar. All entries include first names of who is involved, addresses and any other pertinent information. All calendar items are differentiated to show which items are family, business related, and so on. I can then print the family calendar so the kids know what to expect each day, and my husband is always in the loop of appointments and activities. I can rest easy each evening since all the next day’s activities are scheduled to the minute.
Lists keep me accountable, focused, structured, and also help to reduce stress. A small notepad is in my bag at all times to make my lists. This is used to jot down things that come up throughout the day, reminders, shopping lists, and notes during client meetings all go in my little notebook. There are great apps for this same thing, but I find my notebook to work best. My husband likes to use Trello to track all of the household projects that he is involved in. There are many list making apps available including Wunderlist, todoist and Evernote.
Sticking to a Limited Wardrobe
My wardrobe consists of a limited number of items that mix and match, and can go from running kids around, to consultations with clients, to teaching college lectures, to volunteer work, to dinner prep., and running kids around again. It is a capsule wardrobe of sorts. My good friend LeAnn Conway with Conway Image Consulting helps me with the selection of each item (she’s great). I have some personal restrictions: no dry clean only, no wardrobe changes throughout my day (with the exception of tossing on a blazer or sweater), and no heals. What I put on in the morning has to take me through the entire day.
Packing Swim and Sports Bags in Advance
Gym bag, swim bag and sports bags, stay packed and stocked. This way we are not running around last minute to grab swim suits, soccer cleats and baseball socks. As soon as it’s washed, it’s back into the bag.
Despite my ability to be organized, I still struggle to get projects done. Having Jeanne, my organizing assistant, come help me with projects, allows me to schedule time to stay focused on the project in front of me. She keeps me accountable, offers another perspective and keeps me on track.
“Three hours working with an organizer is like 12 hours of working on my own.”
My Advice to you: Outsource
Where it makes sense, outsource. Look at the value of your time. It may make sense to outsource a couple tasks, in order to help you focus your time on more important items. Consider getting help with cleaning, laundering, yard maintenance and meal preparation. Your family may be the first option for help in these areas.
Getting organized will save you time and money. Here are six ideas on how this can really happen.
Meal Planning When you plan meals, you spend less money at the store (or eliminate a trip to the grocery store altogether), eat healthier and waste less food. Having a plan prevents impulse purchases of overpriced convenience food and last minute carryout meals. When you know what food you have in your pantry, you can build meal plans around the ingredients you already have.
Sell your clutter Sell the items you no longer use or love, and the items you have multiples of. In addition to making a little cash, you will love the extra space to breathe.
Limit repeat purchases Getting organized helps you keep track of what you own so you don’t run out to purchase something that you can’t find. Like items get placed with like items… you’ll soon discover how many bottles of sunscreen and kitchen spatulas you actually own.
Late fees vs. discounts You’ll avoid late fees, and you’ll be able to see new ways you could save on your expenses. Instead of spending time trying to settle delinquent bills, you can ask your providers for discounts for being a good customer. Being on top of bills and due dates will keep your budget on track.
Save time Once you’re more organized, you will spend less time trying to find things and making multiple runs to the store. You can use that extra time for to be more productive, make more money to pay off your debts or add to your savings. Also, once you realize what you own, you will less likely go out shopping. This will save time, money and gas… double bonus!
You’ll discover more ways to save Once you get rid of the clutter in your house, you’ll free your mind up to figure out more ways to cut back or earn more. You will also see how little you really need, realizing you do not need to shop.
If planning and orgainzing are overwhelming, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
Productivity is all about being efficient and accomplishing more in less time. Schedule your day to be the most efficient you can be by having a plan for every day.
Here are a few tips to make the most of your day whether you work in your home, run a business, or work for a large company.
Difficult Tasks Schedule your most difficult, undesirable tasks for the time of day when you are most focused. For many, this time is first thing in the morning. And doesn’t if feel good to get it out of the way?
Meetings Prepare, review and stick to a meeting agenda to ensure everyone stays on topic. Issues that may come up during a meeting can wait to be discussed at a later time with only the people involved. Set up video conferencing equipment ahead of the meeting so you can tackle the agenda on time and save everyone valuable minutes with each meeting.
Communication Schedule a couple times in your day where you devote time to checking and responding to emails, voicemails and messages. Having a set time to do this will help you avoid being interrupted throughout the day, and keep you focused on the project you intend to accomplish. Also, use the phone to communicate more often versus the never ending back and forth of email and other messaging communications.
Breaks Schedule blocks of breaks throughout your day to keep your mind fresh.
Me Time Schedule me time every day. Taking time first thing in the morning to focus on your health and faith will get your day off to a good start.
Checklists Use a checklist for daily repetitive tasks. This will keep you focused and help minimize errors in the tasks you do everyday. Also, create a weekly checklist to help keep your week on task, so you can accomplish your goals. Create your weekly checklist at the end of the previous work week so your week is off to a strong, focused start.
Work Space Keep your work space neat and organized to ensure focus. Keep only the current project on your desk. If it makes sense, plan certain tasks to be completed offsite or at home. Offsite work allows for focus without the office interruptions and can save commute time.
If scheduling and organizing are challenging, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.