Simple Steps to Pantry Organization

Autumn is a great time to clear out the pantry and make room for fall foods, baking supplies and entertainment planning items. A fresh pantry will reignite your love for cooking and give your kitchen a little refresh. Clearing out and inventorying the food in your pantry can help with your meal planning and grocery shopping. We have put together four simple, practical tips for getting your pantry organized this fall.

 

  1. Remove all food and other items from your pantry
    You will also want to gather food you have stored in other areas of your home.  While the pantry is empty, it’s a great time to thoroughly clean all surfaces for a fresh start. Ahead of this project, consider purchasing the food you typically keep on hand. This is an important part of allocating adequate space in your pantry.

 

  1. Sort and categorize your food
    During this process, you can categorize the food on your kitchen countertops and dining room table. Remove and dispose of expired food. Relocate nonfood items, especially if your pantry space is limited to another storage area of your kitchen or home. Categorize your food into snacks, canned goods, grains, pastas, nuts & seeds, etc.Strategize where food will go in your pantry based on the categories, quantity of food and convenience. You will want frequently used items within reach. Occasionally used items can go on higher, less convenient shelves. You may or may not want kids snack items within their reach.

 

  1. Purchase storage products
    If you need them, explore and purchase storage containers that will work well for your pantry.  Clear bins work great for corralling snack bars, chips and items that come in soft packaging.  If you tend to purchase bulk grains, nuts, etc., you may want to consider tight sealing, clear containers for storage of these items that do not come with their own packaging.  Measure your space carefully prior to buying storage items, as you want them to fit well in the space they will be used.Also be careful not to overcomplicate containers.  Many times, placing pre-packaged food into containers may be more work than needed. Consider food rotation when deciding on containers. You will want to make sure the older food gets used first.  Coordinating containers can make the pantry aesthetically pleasing.I also suggest labels for all containers. This will help ensure everyone knows where to return food to the pantry.  Adding pull out drawers and baskets are nice for deep shelves to make all items visible and accessible.  You can utilize the pantry doors for storage of lightweight, narrow items.

 

  1. Return food to pantry
    Returning food to the pantry is fun. This is where you get to utilize any new storage products, decide on the best location for the food, and label the bins and containers.  Remember that food goes with food in the pantry. Non-food items go with non-food items, and may need to be stored in other areas.  The slow cooker you use two times per year, the holiday candles, or kids craft supplies may not have a home in your pantry, especially if you are low on space.  Limit food storage in other areas such as the hall closet, bathroom, garage, and basement unless necessary.

 

Bonus Step: Create a meal plan that utilizes the food you have in your pantry. This will save you cash on your next shopping trip.

Pantry organizing can be a fun and easy organizing project that is good to do with the season changes.  For a kick start on organizing your pantry, see if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you.  Contact Jayme for advice. We love what a fresh pantry will do for you.

Organize Your Office to Increase Productivity

We have researched tips and tricks on how to create and maintain an organized office to increase your productivity.  An organized office includes a system to manage information and an environment that encourages productivity.  You can create a comfortable and organized workspace to make your work time more productive and enjoyable.  Here are some of our favorite tips.

Workspace
Your work environment is so important to your productivity. How the space feels to you and where items are located affect the quality of your workspace.

Lighting
Consider a well-lit workspace. If natural light is not an option, look for lighting that mimics that of natural light. Be generous on the quantity and location of light fixtures.  Also consider the type of light bulbs you install.  While fluorescent and LED light bulbs are more economical, those sensitive to this lighting may consider traditional incandescent lighting or warm colored LED bulbs.

Desk Location
Place your desk or work surface in an area that embraces productivity instead of distractions. You may not want to sit where passersby are tempted to stop to chat, or where noises are a distraction.  If you have a home office, your most productive place is likely not in the kids’ playroom.  Instead consider a room that is relatively far away from the family action.

Office Equipment
Have your work equipment in a location that is convenient, but not necessarily on your desktop. Equipment that is used frequently throughout the day should be placed near your workspace. Computer and phone are located on your desk. If you do a lot of video conferencing, your camera should be on your desk ready to go.  If you do a lot of scanning, keep your scanner near your desk. Needing to run to another room or another floor to retrieve a print out will have an impact on your productivity.  Other frequently used equipment should be placed on a separate piece of furniture nearby, or where it can be easily accessed.

Storage
If you are a visual person and tend to create piles on your desktop so that you know right where things are, consider open shelving for your files.  If you feel most productive when things are tucked away out of site, then a file cabinet system will work well for you.  Either system should be well-labeled so that everything has a place and retrieval of information is easy. Other office basics are important to your workspace, as well. These basics include a good sized trash can and recycle container, a supportive chair, right-sized desk or work surface, and containers to corral office supplies such as pens, pencils, tape, stapler, paperclips and notepads.

Information Management

Information management, traditionally referred to as paper management, is best completed by a structured system in place to receive, store and reference all the information that comes to you.  A structured information management system works if your information is primarily in paper form, digital form or a combination.  Similar management systems are set up to manage paper and digital information.  Keep in mind that you want to have current projects and information accessible, while past projects and information can be filed away. This will free up space for what you are working on now, but you will still have past projects organized and accessible for future reference.

When you receive information, have an initial place for this information to go.  There are five categories for this initial storage system. This system works for emails, physical papers and digital information.  This initial storage system is designed to hold information for a few days to up to a month depending on the pace of your work.

  1. Follow Up
    This file is where you place information that needs to be addressed in the near term.  This file is addressed during a scheduled time you allocated to follow up on these items. You may need to allow for this time daily, weekly or even monthly. Sub files can be created based on the timeframe required for each action.
  2. To Do
    This file is very similar to your to-do list. This is where you place items that have a deadline and cannot be overlooked. This may include membership renewals, client follow ups, etc.  This file may also include emails and publications that you wish to unsubscribe from. This file may also be called “Waiting on Response,” if your workflow is dependent on others to respond or complete tasks.
  3. To Read
    This file is where you place items that you intend to read and absorb at a later time.  These items do not necessarily have a deadline, but instead are items of interest to you. This file is designed to prevent you from getting distracted by an interesting article when you are in the process of completing other tasks.
  4. To Pay
    This is the file where you place items that have to be paid by a certain date. This can include vendor invoices, utility bills, credit card statements, etc. This file is kept separate from the to-do file since it involves money, and timely payment is important due to budgets and due dates.
  5. To File
    A file designated to items that need to be filed is also important. This is where you place items that have been addressed, but eventually need to be filed for long-term storage.  This includes physical files, digital files and emails.
  6. Long-term
    A long-term file is where information that needs to be saved can be archived. When you receive an email or piece of mail that can go directly into longer term filing, set up a system that does this for you automatically. Emails can be automatically labeled and filed without any additional work on your part.

Be Consistent
Setting up a consistent filing system for the long-term files is very important. For example, if you have file folder on your hard drive or in the cloud for storing client invoices, you will likely have an email file for the same client. Naming these similar files in a consistent way will make retrieving information much more efficient. If you have an invoice from Top Shelf Home Organizing, you might consider creating a file titled “Top Shelf Home Organizing” on both your drive and your email. If you identify your clients with a contract number, consider utilizing the contract number in your file naming convention. The important point here is to keep the naming convention consistent across physical files, digital files and email files.

IF setting up and/or maintaining a productive office environment and structured filing system is overwhelming, consider having an office assistant or a professional organizer help you. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you get your next organizing project started and completed.  Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.

Questions An Organizer Will Ask

Questions an Organizer Will AskWhen consulting with a professional organizer, they will ask a set of important questions. To prepare you for your own organizing project, or for your first meeting with an organizer, a list of these standard questions is below. Why these questions are so important is included as well.

  • Name
    Who will the work be done for? Are you getting yourself organized or is this for a family member or a friend?
  • Address
    Location where the organizer will be working so travel time can be planned, as well as access to stores where supplies may need to be purchased to complete a project.
  • Phone and Email Address
    Phone number and email address are needed for contacting you with questions before, during and after the project, as well as invoicing and follow-up coaching.
  • Area(s) to be organized
    Create a list of areas you desire to have organized in order of their priority.  Have this question prepared before you have an on-site consultation with an organizer so they can help you set goals and prioritize your needs. Setting a reasonable timeframe for when you would like the projects complete is helpful for planning and budgeting the project.
  • Who uses the space?
    It is helpful to know who uses the space to be organized.  This could be employees, children, adult family members, your self or nanny/babysitter.
  • What is the space used for?
    What a space is used for helps prioritize what items should be left in the space. If a kitchen, for example, doubles as an office or kids craft area, space may be allocated for storing those other supplies.
  • What is your time frame for meeting your goals?
    Do you want your spaces organized in the near term, or do you want your top priority completed sooner and the rest of your goals spread out through the next months or year
  • What are your biggest obstacles to getting this space organized?
    Understanding what your personal obstacles for organizing and maintaining organization in the space helps the organizer plan the project. Obstacles often include time, family members and budget.
  • What are your goals?
    What does an organized space look like to you? Everyone has a different perspective on being organized. One person may prefer everything sorted by category in neatly labeled and matching containers. Another person may feel organized by having items in their correct location, but not necessarily neatly labeled with matching bins.
  • Will you be working with the organizer the entire time, some of the time or not at all?
    Do you plan to work one-on-one with the organizer? Or do you plan to have the organizer complete the project independently? Working with the organizer for part of the time is also an option. Think about what works best for you and your schedule.
  • What is your budget for organizing?
    Communicating your budget with the organizer helps them plan for your custom project and what materials may need to be purchased. A lower budget project can reuse boxes and bins that you currently own. A higher budget project may allow for new storage solutions.
  • Have you worked with an organizer before?
    Understanding if you have worked with an organizer before and what you enjoyed most about the experience is helpful for customizing your session.
  • How many people live in the home?
    Knowing how many people live in the home or work in an office is also important. Clear labels and communication on storage solutions is more important to the success of an organizing project with more people involved.  A single person is able to maintain an organized space with less labels and communication.
  • How long have you lived in your home?
    Learning how long a person or family has been in a home gives insight to the duration and quantity of items that may be in a home.
  • Do you have a storage unit?
    It is helpful to know if and what items are stored offsite.
  • Do you have storage in your attic?
    It is helpful to know if you do and what items are in storage in your home.
  • Do you have storage in your basement?
    It is helpful to know if you do and what items are in storage in your home.
  • Do you have any questions for the organizer?
    Preparing a list of questions upfront for your organizer will help you determine if hiring an organizer is a good fit for you, and if he or she is someone you think matches your lifestyle, personality and needs.

These are great questions to think about before contacting a professional organizer.  The questions will help you prepare for and make the most of the initial phone conversation or on-site consultation.  At Top Shelf Home Organizing, we love to help busy people get organized.  See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you get your next organizing project started and completed. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.

Ideas for Organizing Kid’s Papers

Ideas for Organizing Kid’s Papers

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).

Paper Workflow

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. 

Basic Inbox

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. 

Workflow System

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.

Storage

File Container

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.

I like the clear plastic bins from Iris and legal size accordion file folders from Smead. The legal size folders allow for storage of artwork and projects that are a little larger than the standard 8 ½ x 11. Avery file folder labels allow you to add a fun personal touch to the file bins.  You can handwrite the labels or use your computer to create graphically designed labels. Iheartorganzing has some great pintables to make your file folders look great.  Be sure to label each bin with the person’s name and age or grade.

Digital Storage

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.

Tips for Organizing Your Books

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.

Visual

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. 

  • Color
  • 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.

Topic

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.  Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.

How to Organize Your Money

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:

  1. Fixed –These are the monthly expenses that are probably not going to change. They may include housing, utilities, medical, food, tuition, etc. 
  2. 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).
  3. Future – This is where you plan for your and your family’s future. This may include retirement, savings, college savings, etc.
  4. 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.