How to Organize Holiday Stuff for Good

Organizing Holiday DecorationsYear after year, you want to get all your holiday stuff organized completely. At the end of the holidays you are tired, life gets back to usual busyness and holiday items quickly get stashed away. Here are Top Shelf Home Organizing’s tips to get your holiday items organized and packed away properly. Organizing holiday items really is not different than organizing any other category of items in your life. Gather, sort, purge and store.

1. Gather

Retrieve all items from storage including the attic, basement and storage unit.  Gather all items that were put on display this year. Unwrap, touch and hold each item.


2. Sort

Sort each piece into categories:

  • Tree Décor
  • Interior décor by room
  • Exterior décor
  • Holiday cards received
  • Food storage
  • Other

Within each of these categories, you will sub-sort items as:

  • Used this year and will use again
  • Used this year, but will not use again
  • Did not use this year, but will use next year
  • Did not use this year and I never want to use these (this includes defective lights and broken items)
  • Do not use these and will not use next year, but they are family heirlooms, I must keep these items forever

3. Purge

Remove the items you have classified as “Did not use this year and I never want to use these,” and “Used this year, but will not use again.”  These items can be donated, offered to friends and family or potentially recycled and disposed of.

4. Store

After the sort is done, plan for storage. Create ample space in one location to store holiday items.  This is when you purchase storage containers and shelving if needed.  Clear, small- to medium-sized containers that stack and nest well, work great for these delicate items.  A shelf dedicated to holiday décor keeps these items organized and together. These items are readily available at most home goods stores immediately after the holidays.

Keep track of your categories created.  Items should be stored and labeled in the same manner to keep next year’s decorating as simple and organized as possible.  Holiday lights can be neatly wrapped individually for ease of install next year.  Ornaments are carefully wrapped and stored. Carefully pack up the family heirlooms that you want to keep, but will not necessarily display often.

Top Shelf home Organizing loves to organize holiday décor.  Contact Jayme to see how Top Shelf can help.

Professional Organizer’s Toolbox

Taking on an organizing project is a big task. I often get questions from friends and family on what products they need to purchase before beginning a project. You will want to be prepared with the correct supplies without buying the wrong supplies or too many supplies. Before you run out to the store to stock up, take a look at the supplies a Professional Organizer has on hand. The items are in order of importance so you can gauge what you should invest in.

  • Permanent markers for labeling bags, boxes and bins.
  • Large trash bags for removing trash and donations, and for storing large, soft, bulky items.
  • Scissors for trimming, cutting, and opening packages and boxes.
  • Packing tape for sealing boxes and bins.
  • Zip close plastic bags of various sizes to contain small items.
  • Label maker for printing neat, uniform labels that can be adhered to nearly every surface.
  • Sticky notes work great for temporary labels on files, piles, bins and boxes.
  • Work gloves for moving items around and protecting your hands.
  • Bandages for nicks and scrapes on your hands and fingers.
  • Rubber bands and Velcro for wrapping, separating and containing.
  • File boxes with lids for sorting and storing files and other items. File boxes work great while organizing as they let you plan for purchasing bins.
  • Tape measure helps you measure what will fit where, so you aren’t moving items multiple times to see what fits where.
  • Multi tool kit for hanging, leveling and disassembling items.
  • Scanner for retaining files and photos digitally to reduce papers and photos in your home and office. Preferably, a high capacity scanner than can handle many sheets per minute while scanning both sides of the document.
  • Paper shredder for destroying personal files. Preferably, a high quality shredder that can handle many sheets at one time, and won’t get clogged up with an overlooked metal staple.

At Top Shelf Home Organizing, we love to help people get stuff done. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you get your next organizing project started.  Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.

10 Tips for Summer Preparation

Preparing for a season transition can be stressful, especially if you have school aged children wrapping up their school year and end of year performances.  While May is a busy month, I have created a list of things to do before summer is in full swing.  The key to summer is to have a plan. Summer Preparation Tips

  1. Budget 

    Summer days feel carefree and wide open. Your budget, however, may not be. Take some time to think about your summer budget. Summer time brings extra childcare and camp expenses. You may also be working a reduced schedule. Sticking to a budget can make your summer less stressful and more accomplished. No one wants to end the summer in debt and stressed out.

  2. Schedule
    A change in schedule for the family will bring new challenges. Plan ahead for summer activities and childcare. For you, schedule time for self care and exercise. If you are good about getting to the gym during the school year, you will want to schedule similar exercise time in the summer.  It’s easy to put other family member’s schedules before yours in the summer.  Your local library and school are great resources for scheduling activities for your children.
  3. Travel 

    Its time to plan your travel routes and lodging for summer travel.  Choose your destination, and schedule and research the best flights, routes and lodging.  If you have your travel plans nailed down, its time to get into the details.  Research the best local cuisine, fun day excursions, the best parks in the area, and free things to do with kids.  It is also a good idea to gather all important travel documents, and know where the local medical clinics are and drug stores for necessities while traveling.  For the weekends you are local, research your city’s summer bucket list for fun local explorations.

  4. Lazy Days 

    Plan plenty of lazy days for you and your family.  Allow yourself some time to read a book, nap in the hammock or putts in the garden. Kids love exploring in the backyard, creating fairy gardens, collecting bugs and camping in the backyard.  These creative activities are tough to accomplish with an overscheduled summer.

  5. Self Care 

    Do a few things for yourself in advance of summer time.  Schedule a hair appointment for a fresh cut and color. Pay attention to your feet by starting the sandal season with a fresh pedicure.  Stock up on sunscreen for both your body and your face. Declutter your makeup, toss the old items and add a fresh lip color to your collection.  This is also a great time to clean out your medicine cabinet. Dispose of expired or unneeded medications, and ensure your first aid kit is stocked.

  6. Your Wardrobe 

    If you have not yet transitioned your wardrobe, do it now. Purge the fall, winter and spring items that don’t suit you, instead of packing them away. If you didn’t like them this year, you won’t like them next year (even if you lose the ten pounds you are working on). For your summer wardrobe, get all items from storage. Carefully select the items you want to wear, purge the rest.  Make a list of items you need to complete your wardrobe and carefully purchase only those items.

  7. Kids Wardrobe 

    This purge is very similar to what you would do for your own wardrobe.  The good news is that it is easier to work through someone else’s clothes than your own.  Remove the fall, winter and spring items that are worn, stained and will not fit your children next year. If you are saving clothing for a younger child, only save the items that you truly love and are in good condition. There is no reason to handle stained or worn clothes more than one time. Neatly pack away the clothes you are saving.  Make sure they are clean and neatly folded, and placed in clear plastic bins that are labeled so you know right where to find them.  Make a list of the items your children need for the summer season, so you can once again shop with meaning.  Keep in mind summer camp and extended trips when inventorying kids clothes.

  8. Purge Toys 

    With the kids spending more time outdoors, it is a great time to get into the playroom and basement, and purge the toys they don’t receive joy from.  Consider the plastic toy sets they received for their birthday that are now missing parts and have broken pieces, the toys they scatter around unproductively, the nostalgic toy your mother-in-law picked up at a rummage sale last summer, and the toys they have simply outgrown. Keep the basic toys that allow for creative play such as Legos, Magna tiles, dolls and a few Nerf guns.

  9. House 

    Prepare your house for a fresh start to the summer. Taking care of a few things inside and out gives you a neat and clean feel for the summer.  Inside the house a good deep clean and purge will free up some space.  Clean the windows for a clear view, and clean the oven now that roasting season is over.  Have your air conditioning system inspected and serviced.  Moving to the outside, give your grill a good scrub down.  You’ll be amazed how great a clean grill can feel.  Wash down patio furniture and the cushions for meals on the porch.  Tackle the weeds in the garden now while the soil is moist and soft, and weeds are small.  Apply a pre-emergent to your gardens as well to prevent new weeds from appearing.  Seed the areas of your lawn that are thin.  Add some fresh annual flowers to the front flower beds for some curb appeal.  Clean the walkway, driveway and garage floor.  Prepare your lawn mower by servicing the engine and sharpening the blades.  Inflate the bicycle tires and grease the chains for summer bike rides.

At Top Shelf Home Organizing, we love to help people get stuff done.  See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you get ready for summer.  Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.

Step by Step Guide to Transition from Paper to Electronic Files

Whether you own a business, run an office, are an entrepreneur or manage a household, going paperless can reduce clutter and improve efficiency.  Although it is nearly impossible to go completely ‘paperless’, you can benefit greatly by digitizing much of your paperwork. This will reduce the amount of physical paper you keep.

Benefits to reducing physical papers include increasing productivity, reducing time spent on paper management, and having a system that is easily accessible to you and your team.  This article focuses on creating a system of digital document workflow.

Document Workflow

Having a basic document workflow is the first step in properly establishing a reduction in papers. This simple workflow is described below.

Reception-Inbox-Capture-File


Reception

Reception includes receiving of both physical and electronic documents. Reduce the number of documents that enter your office by unsubscribing to emails and physical subscriptions. Eliminating the unnecessary saves time from having to manage useless papers. Recycle unnecessary physical documents and unneeded emails immediately. The remaining documents move to or stay in the Inbox.

Inbox

Have an inbox where documents are placed when they come in. This is where the documents reside until they are addressed. You should have a physical inbox and an email inbox for each person involved.

Once the document is addressed (read, paid, acted on, forwarded), it will be captured and moved the place it will be stored. How and when you move documents to file is up to you. You can save them for a limited period of time (day, week, month) and then have the documents filed.

Capture

Capture the information from the documents. Physical papers are scanned to electronic files, typically to a PDF (portable document file).  Emails and electronic documents are also converted to PDFs.  I find it helpful to go through and scan/create PDFs in small batches before filing. Letting the pile get too large can get overwhelming. This can also cause confusion if there are documents that need to be retrieved, but have not yet been filed properly.

How to Capture Documents
You can capture documents in many different ways.  A mobile device or a document scanner work well for this.

Document scanners work great for processing larger quantities of documents, and converting them to PDF files and searchable PDF files. Consider a scanner that can handle many documents at one time, and has the capability to capture both sides of a two-sided document. Neat and ScanSnap are couple tools that work great for this.  You can also outsource your scanning if you have a large number of documents and are short on time. Using a multi-function printer-copier-scanner can prove to be frustratingly slow, as it may allow only one side of a document to be scanned at a time.

From your phone or tablet, you can capture business cards, receipts, track mileage, and have documents signed on-site. There are also apps that can scan a business card and add the information right to your contacts and connect you on LinkedIn. I discuss a few of these resources below.

CamCard is great for capturing, saving and exchanging business cards

Evernote is great for managing all types of digital papers

MileBug mileage tracker app uses phone GPS and can export mileage to Excel

Expensify captures receipts and forms expense reports

Shoeboxed captures and manages receipts and mileage

Quickbooks is a full service accounting software that can invoice, track receipts, manage payroll and prepare financial reports

DocuSign and HelloSign allow you to receive full legal signatures from your mobile device and send them to email or your cloud-based storage

File

To effectively create useable file system, the file structure and naming convention of each file needs to be consistent and easy to follow.  Create a file structure and naming convention that makes sense to you.

File Structure

You will create an electronic file folder structure similar to a physical file cabinet. Think about how you will search for the file when you need to reference the document. Keep the file structure simple. Don’t have too many layers of folders that could over complicate things, or be too challenging to use. You will want to keep the file folders simple and shallow. For example, Insurance folder can store home owner’s insurance and automobile insurance.  The way you name the file will expose more details to the content of the documents.

File Naming Convention

Create a consistent file naming convention (how you label your files) that is easy to follow, and coordinates with how you would look for the file.  If you work with a team, have the team decide together on the best naming convention. That way it makes sense to everyone and everyone is willing to use the consistent naming convention.

It is good to include the date, subject or file folder title, client name, client code or number, and other words to help you recognize the contents of the document.  I like to start with the date so the files are nicely organized by date first. The subject or file folder name would come second. Remember, they will be placed in a folder that contains the main subject.

For example, in a “Contractor” folder you might have a file titled like:

04012019 Contractor Top Shelf Invoice.pdf “.  This could be your April invoice from Top Shelf Home organizing that you received on April 12, 2019.

In your “Insurance” folder you might have a file titled similarly to:

01012019 Insurance Automobile Jan thru April.pdf” This could be your automobile insurance for the first half of 2019 that was effective January 1, 2019.

Where to Store Files

There are a few places you can store your documents; the cloud, your computer, external hard drive and automatic backup service.  Select at least two locations such as your computer and the cloud, so when the inevitable happens your files are backed up.  Remember fires, floods and theft, and consider an off-site back up method.

Cloud storage examples include Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive.

Computer storage includes Windows folders, Finder on Mac OS.  There are also additional software products available for purchase that can streamline your files.

External hard drives are available for backing up your files. These drives are capable of storing very large files and lots of them for a reasonable price. You can also back your files up on simpler external ‘jump’ drives, which are more portable for storing backed up data offsite.

When implementing your file system, start with current documents. Get your system in place and bugs worked out. Once your system is up and running, begin to work through our backlog. It will go much quicker than you think.

Start your paperless journey with a plan. Jumping in without a good structure in place will lead to frustration and likely failure. The team at Top Shelf is happy to help you create your plan and guide you through the process.  Get in touch with Jayme when you are ready to take the next step.

Four Simple Reasons to Give the Gift of an Experience

 1. Save Money

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.

Steps to Refresh Wardrobe for the Cooler Season

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

Fall Wardrobe OrganizingTake 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.