Organizing Your Next Road Trip

Being organized will make a family road trip an amazing and memorable experience. When everyone knows the route, schedule, activities, and food, the trip will go as smoothly as it can. Here are some ideas to help get organized for the family road trip.

Map out the Route in Advance

Map out your route to help plan your trip. Understand where there may be traffic jams, construction, and road closures so you can plan for detours. Print your map, even if you are using GPS there may be areas without service. The kids might also enjoy a copy of the map to follow along. Plan for frequent stops to swap drivers and get some exercise. Consider worksheets, stories, and games that are themed around the geographic location you are traveling through. It will add value to the travel experience.

Schedule Car Activities

Have a schedule for activities in the car, stops along the way, and arrival time. A schedule will help ease anxiety and limit the “Are we there yet?” questions. Break the schedule into one- or two-hour segments for making stops, meals, and changing activities. Have a variety of activities for the kids to complete amongst themselves, independently, and as a family to make the time go by. Ongoing activities and competitions such as a license plate game, road trip treasure hunt, and bingo allow for some friendly competition. Independent activities can include simple crafts, coloring books, activity sheets, and reading for nice, quiet time.

Plan Snacks and Meals

Create a plan for snacks and meals for the trip. Healthy food options that are well thought out will keep energy up and appetites satisfied. Kids like to eat often, so allow them choices for healthy snacks every hour or so. Schedule in special treats too so they have something to look forward to. Fresh veggies, fruit, veggie chips, granola bars, finger sandwiches, and cheese and crackers, are great choices to help you avoid expensive stops for unhealthy fast food. A road trip meal plan will also keep the captain’s and co captain’s energy levels maximized. A little preparation before the trip will keep everyone nourished.

Organize Car Ahead of Time

Organize the car at the start of the trip. Have a place for food, activities, personal items, and emergency items that may be needed while in transit. Overnight items can be packed a little deeper in the vehicle. We suggest having items needed for any overnight stops on the way packed in a separate bag or area for easy access.

When the trip involves daily travel to new locations and lodging, consider separate bags of clothing for each stop to reduce the need to completely unpack and repack. Have the kid’s activities and materials organized for each child to prevent panic and frustration as they will know where everything is. Have your personal items organized too such as cash, water, snacks, sunglasses, umbrellas, and maps. You will want to have extra water, plastic bags, wet wipes, medication, and emergency contacts available. For the return trip, keep the same level of organization to reduce stress and keep the vehicle tidy.

Have fun planning your next family road trip. The more organized the plan is, the more enjoyable the experience will be.

How to Know What to Keep, Donate and Toss

Deciding what to keep, donate, and toss through your organizing journey can help relieve the pressure of organizing. Identifying these three categories will depend on your personal needs and the time of your life. Your reason to get organized may be to keep your busy family functioning efficiently, to prepare to downsize and simplify your household or free up some space for the things you love. Everyone has a different “why” for their organizing journey.

Have a plan before beginning this process! Take an informal inventory of everything you have in your home. This inventory can be done with a simple pen, a legal pad of paper, and a walk-through of your home. Write down general categories of everything. While taking this informal inventory, make a preliminary note of where each item might go. You can also take note of what categories to start with. As this plan evolves, remember the goal is keeping what is really important and what you really love.

Top Shelf has prepared a guide to help you think through what to keep, donate, and toss.

The Keepers

Needs
The easy part of deciding what to keep is identifying what you need. These items are needed for daily life and are simple and basic. If you were to move into a camper or very small house, what items would you need to live? Basic cooking tools, a simple assortment of dishes, clothes, towels, and some toiletries are examples of items that are needed. In a larger family, there will be additional items that each family member needs to live and function.

Wants
Going beyond needs, there will be many other categories of items you would keep. The categories go on and on. We will touch on a sampling of these items such as heirlooms and memories, toys, household items, clothing, personal care, and hobbies. Wants is where we have balance practicality and excess. Your home is full of useful items, but if there are not being used, they are not useful to you at all.

Heirlooms and Memories

Heirlooms and memories are important to carry on your family legacy. These items should be just that, your legacy. Heirlooms and memories that have the strongest, happiest memories are what represent you. Items that do not represent your legacy and do not have the best memories can move into the donate or toss category. You might come across love letters, trophies and medals, a wedding dress, artwork, schoolwork, photos, and more photos. A sampling of these items that represent you and what you want others to remember is important.

You certainly would not want to burden your family with an excess of items that do not reveal your legacy or bring on sad and hurtful memories. For example, a medal from a marathon you actually didn’t complete, participation trophies, your 3rd-grade spelling test, love letters from an abusive partner, and repeat photos of the same event are items that don’t represent your legacy. Instead consider keeping your diplomas, a piece or two of artwork, taking photos of important trophies and metals, keeping important metals (military metals), and a love letter from your current spouse. Admittedly, heirlooms and memories are a tough category, but one that certainly needs to be addressed and organized.

Toys

Toys the children still engage in will remain on the keep list. Toys that no longer keep kids engaged or are damaged, might belong on another list. Saving toys for grandkids, and nieces and nephews may become a burden as toy safety is ever-changing. The size of the toys is another consideration. If it does not pack away nicely, the toy may not be worth saving.

Household Items

There are items that fall into the need category, but excess may need to move to the donate category. Think about items like dishes, linens, towels, makeup, self-care products, sporting goods, shoes, décor, etc. These are the areas you will want to think about how much of each item is reasonable to keep.

After you have determined what items are an absolute need, you can then determine a reasonable amount of wants in this category. This topic has been discussed over and over in the professional organizing world. This category ranges from the linen closet to the kitchen, to the china cabinet.

Make an informal list of all the categories within household items and place a quantity on a reasonable amount of each item you would like to keep. For example, you may want to keep two bath towels for each person in your household plus an additional four just for guests. Any excess towels are great candidates for donating to a charity that can utilize them. You may only need two or three pots of different sizes in your kitchen. Wine glasses may be reduced if you do not host large parties anymore.

Clothing

Clothing is a topic all on its own. We spend a lot of time and money on the purchase of clothing which makes it difficult to part with. Clothing that is worn and stained are candidates for textile recycling where the material itself is used to create new products. Clothing that does not fit, flatter, or function can be donated to a charity looking for clothing. Saving clothing of a previous size or two may cause you to stress trying to be a size you were in a different season of life. Love what you wear now, and reward yourself with something new when weight and fitness goals are reached. Be ruthless in this department. If you do not truly enjoy wearing an item, it is time to pass it on to someone who needs it.

Personal Care

Personal care items can quickly accumulate, especially if they are not organized and inventoried regularly. Once you gather and categorize the items, toss anything that is old, expired, and open, and not wanted. Unopened items that are not wanted can be donated to local shelters. Take note of what you have remaining.

Have a central storage location for these items for better inventorying. Understanding what you have will reduce over purchasing of these items. Additional information on organizing these items can be found in Simplify and Organize Your Linen Closet.

Hobbies

We have hobbies that we once enjoyed, hobbies we currently enjoy, and hobbies we aspire to pursue. All these hobbies require supplies and equipment. Focus on just keeping supplies for the hobby you are currently into and have time for and hobbies that are likely on hold. The supplies and equipment for past hobbies and aspirational hobbies might have a better life with someone else who has the time for them. They make great donations for resale.

Off to Donation

Donating items can be a simple as dropping off all items at a donation center, or you can carefully select what charity will put each item to its best use. Be realistic about how much time you spend deciding on what goes where. The goal is to put your useful stuff back in use by someone who needs it. Donation centers can be overwhelmed with items so be mindful of what you send their way.

What to Donate

Donate items that are in usable condition. Items that are missing parts, broken, stained, or torn can be recycled or sent to a landfill. Donation centers typically do not take electronics, certain baby items, mattresses, or furniture. Expired items should bypass donation and go right to the landfill.

Where to Donate

Different organizations need different items. If time allows, you can send different items to different organizations. For example, animal shelters can use linens and towels, hospitals can use clothing for patients to wear home when their clothing has been destroyed or is needed as evidence, shelters need toiletry products, and food pantries will take unperishable food that is not expired. This Donation Guideline published by Goodwill Industries is a great resource for general donation information.

Off to the Recycling Center or Landfill

When items are no longer useful or functional, they can be recycled or disposed of. The local refuse and recycling service publish what items can be picked up for curbside recycling and disposal. Understand what can be recycled through this service in your area. Additional items can often time be picked up for recycling for an additional fee. Other items may need to be brought to a specific recycling center. These items can include textiles and clothing, plastic gardening pots, plastic shopping bags, motor oil, and wood.

There are items such as oil-based paints, batteries, and hazardous materials that will need to be brought to a household hazardous waste drop off-center. Learning your municipality’s rules will help make decisions on what items can go where.

Have a Plan

There is no doubt going through personal and family items is emotional, exhausting, and can feel endless. A strategic plan to tackle this daunting task will help keep you on task. Start with easy items such as food and toiletries. Making some simple progress, in the beginning, will feel good and motivate you to keep going. It is not about getting rid of everything. It is about keeping what is really important.

Top Shelf Home Organizing has helped dozens of households simplify, reduce, and get organized. If this process is overwhelming to you, we can help. Contact Jayme to see how Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you.

14 Fast Winter Organizing Projects

Winters are long and hard in the Midwest. So how about tackling some quick and simple organizing projects on the long, cold days to beat the winter blues? We put together a quick list of projects you can have ready to blast through on the next snow day.

Simple organizing rules apply to anything you are organizing: gather, sort, purge, organize and label. Have a rag and cleaner ready to wipe down the area after it is emptied out before you organize and label. Sort by category to get a clear understanding of what you have and what you can purge. When organizing and labeling, use clear containers with labels and keep items in their categories. This will help keep the area organized and inventory under control.

1. Craft closet

Gather all craft items into one area. Sort the items by category. Purge items that are not useful (scraps, dried products, dull scissors). Organize the items and use fun labels to inspire creativity.

2. Game closet

Pull all games out of the area. Reassemble games with loose pieces and cards. Give a little TLC to damaged boxes with some strong packing tape. Sort games into age categories. Remove any games that no longer interest your family or games they have outgrown. Organize the games by category and include labels for simple replacement.

3. Pantry

This is a great project for any season. Remove all items from the pantry. Sort by category. Remove any old, spoiled, or expired food. Donate food that is unopened, not expired, but not wanted. Find a new home for any non-food and non-kitchen items. Keep all food in the same pantry or area of your kitchen. Categorize your food into grains, pasta, soup, fruit, vegetables, snacks, lunch items, etc. Utilize clear bins with labels to help keep food in their categories and help you identify items you are getting low on.

4. Storage Containers

Gather all storage containers and lids. Pair up the containers with lids. Recycle containers or lids that don’t have a partner. Organize containers by size and nest them together if possible. Keep a reasonable number of containers. Excess containers make staying organized a challenge. Place storage containers in an easy to reach location and label the shelves. Having to bend over or reach too high is an invitation for this category to become messy again.

5. Sock Drawer

Socks are a quick and satisfying project. Like any other category, you’ll gather all socks and put together pairs. Make sure you have your socks from the laundry hamper washed and included in this step. You may choose to fold or ball them together or roll them up. Remove the socks that don’t have a partner, have holes, have failed elastic or the socks that you don’t like to wear.

6. Refrigerator

Place all items from the refrigerator onto your countertop. Wipe down the shelves, drawers, gaskets, and door. Toss food that is expired, spoiled, and unwanted. Categorize the food into categories such as fruit, vegetable, dairy, condiments, lunch, leftovers, etc. Deep, clear bins with labels may help keep items in their categories. Place items back into the fridge in their categories. You may need to adjust some shelves based on the size of your items.

7. Freezer

Organizing the freezer is just like organizing your refrigerator. Empty the freezer and wipe down all the surfaces. You may need to complete a quick defrost. Categorize the food items from the freezer into categories such as vegetables, fruit, desserts, prepared meals, meat, etc. If you have a large freezer, you may want to write down an inventory. A formal inventory will help you with meal planning and inventory control. Toss any food items that are expired or have gone bad. Consider clear freezer bins for the loose items. When returning the food to the freezer, keep the older items closer to the front and new items to the back for first-in, first-out inventory control.

8. Winter gear

Gather and sort all winter gear by the person and then by category (glove, hats, scarves, face masks, etc.). Inspect for holes, tears, wear, and damage. Donate items that are still functional, but may no longer fit your size or your style. Use bins or an over-the-door, clear organizer to keep everyone’s gear organized by person and category.

9. Photos

Grab a box of photos from the basement or a file from your computer. Sort through the photos and place them into chronological order. Remove any photos or photo files that are duplicates or don’t display a picture you want to keep. Tag people in the photos for future reference. This can be done with a photo-friendly pen on the back of physical photos. Use index cards or subfolders to identify special events within the photo box or file folder. Clearly label the photo box or file folder with the date range of the photos and any major events that are included.

10. Books

There are so many ways to organize books. Keep this task simple by gathering all your books into one area. Categorize your books into categories that you would use to retrieve them (cookbooks, reference books, professional development books, mystery books, children’s books, etc.). Donate books that no longer interest you. Place books by category to an area where you use them or on a central bookshelf. Use labels, if it will help family members remember where to replace books when they are done reading them.

11. Spice cabinet

Gather all the spices from the spice cabinet and other areas of the kitchen. Categorize the spices by name. Toss spices that are old. Many spices now have an expiration date, or you can use the one-year rule of thumb. Place spices back into the cabinet in alphabetical order, reserving the front and center for the few spices (and seasonings) you use most frequently such as salt, pepper, cinnamon, etc. You may want to consider a riser or bins to help keep spices organized and visible. Labels can also help quickly identify if a spice is in stock.

12. Linen closet

Gather and sort all items of the linen closet into categories. Pair down and donate excess items. Remove items that are cluttering up space such as seasonal items and items with limited use (beach towels, humidifiers, extra hair dryers). Neatly fold items and use clear bins for toiletries and other loose items. Label shelves for easy retrieval and replacement.

13. Office supplies

Gather and sort all office and school supplies in one central area. Use clear bins and containers to organize items by category. Store all the items in one common area so family members know where to go for supplies, know where to replace them when done, and to keep a good inventory. Be sure to label all categories.

14. Media cabinet

Tackle your media cabinet by removing all items and wiping down all surfaces. Straighten and organize cords and cables. Categorize all movies and music CDs if you still have physical media. Gather gaming devices and gadgets, and place them into a bin. Place all categorized items back into the cabinet and label.

Refresh your mood and your home with these quick organizing projects. Just a little bit of organizing can take your mood a long way. Select projects that fit the time you have so you can feel accomplished and complete. Jayme at Top Shelf Home Organizing would love to guide you through your organizing journey. Let’s talk!

Four Steps to Organize Learning Space with Ever Transitioning Learning

Transitioning from in-person learning to remote learning can be exciting and challenging for families. Setting a plan and expectations can help this transition when it occurs. Four areas that you can help organize for your learner include the daily schedule, location of learning, learning supplies, and learning materials.

1.     Schedule

Know, print, post, and set the schedule for the day. To ensure punctual attendance to synchronous class time, the class schedule needs to be known. Schedule class times into your and your child’s calendar with a reminder. Print and post the daily schedule in your child’s workspace, your workspace, and at the family command center. This can help keep everyone on schedule.

2.     Location

Help your learner select a good location for learning at home. A space that is quiet, well-lit, promotes creativity and productivity. For some learners, they may focus well sitting at the kitchen table. Other learners may need a secluded place to effectively learn. You may need to consider a station in a bedroom or other less traveled space.

Doing a quick declutter of the learning space will help with focus and productivity. If learning is happening in their bedroom, have your child make their bed, place dirty laundry in the basket, and limit the toys and distractions in the space. The same concept applies to the dining room, kitchen, and learning nook. Your student may need to change locations throughout their workday. A change of scenery, lighting, and distractions is good. Maintain a consistent location where they will keep their supplies and materials.

3.     Supplies

Equip your learner with the supplies they will need to complete their work. These materials are very similar to what they have available at school. Ask your child and your child’s teacher what supplies they use daily at school. Have a simple selection of these materials at your learner’s workspace. Keep in mind their age and learning level. A young learner may need some sharp pencils, an eraser, a selection of markers, and some paper. An older learner may need a calculator, paper, charging cable, a mouse with extra batteries, and a headset to keep their day going.

A printer, stock of extra ink, and paper will also be necessary when physical documents are needed. Make sure everyone’s computers and learning devices are set up to the Wi-Fi and printer before the day begins. Remove any extra supplies that may act as a distraction to learning.

4.     Materials

When learning transitions to at-home, learning materials will need to be prepared and available. Teachers may share the learning materials with you and/or your child.

Have the materials available and ready to go in the workspace by the start of the workday. This will help avoid frantic searching for materials or bottleneck backups at the printer throughout the day (you know this is when the ink runs out and the paper jams). Classroom learning links should be open and waiting on internet browsers to ensure timely attendance to meeting times.

Being prepared and having a plan for a shift to, or from, remote learning can help your learner succeed through the transition. Organizing these four areas, schedule, location, supplies, and materials will help with effective learning from home.

If creating a workspace is overwhelming for you and your learning, Top Shelf Home Organizing can help. Jayme would love to talk about creating a learning space in your home.

Inspiration Behind Top Shelf Home Organizing

I was recently asked by an organization I belong to, to share my inspiration to start a business. I then realized what a better audience than all of you to share that inspiration with, as well.

Top Shelf Home Organizing started in 2014 after having a discussion with friends about what our dream job would be if we could do anything. After watching all their jaws drop when I said I would organize people’s closets and basements, I knew there was a need. Since then, my business has been effectively helping people organize their homes and offices, simplify their routines, and clear their schedules. I am personally involved in all projects and have six wonderful ladies that help on various projects.

We help busy families with projects that range from pantry organizing projects to full-home, plus storage units. Some individuals just need the accountability to get through an organizing project, and others need full-service help where we handle the complete organizing project.

I have always had a bit of an entrepreneurial mind. Going back to babysitting jobs, waiting tables, and working as a consulting engineer, I always tracked the time I spent on a project, the revenue each project brought in, how my job could be done more efficiently, and what types of projects brought the most value. I treated projects like my own little business.

After 15 years of professional experience working in various leadership roles, I knew it was time to do something I was passionate about. My youngest of four kids was about six months old, and I was in the thick of balancing parenting and a career. So I knew my skill set would be valuable to other busy professionals.

My favorite part of Top Shelf Home Organizing is the clients. It can be a very personal thing helping them to organize their home, basement, or closet. I often hear stories from their childhood, past careers, current life struggles, and their aspirations. It is not uncommon to get a message from a client on a Sunday afternoon asking how my kids are, how big our puppy is, or asking for a recommendation on a carpenter, decorator, or just a simple hello. Clients become friends.

If you want to learn more about Top Shelf Home Organizing or just want to chat about an organizing project you have going, you can find me at:

Phone: 262-373-9416

Email:   jayme@topshelfhomeorganziing.com

Web:    topshelfhomeorganizing.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/topshelfhomeorganizing

Pinterest:    https://www.pinterest.com/TopShelfHomeOrg/

Instagram:  www.instagram.com/jaymeradomski

Four Rules to Kid Friendly Closet Organization

A simple closet that functions well is easier for a child to maintain than a complex, overstuffed closet. We consider the closet size, items in the closet, and implement simple solutions for kid-friendly closet organization. We share our secrets with you, so you can keep your kids’ closets neat and tidy.

Picture of a well organized kid closet to show kid friendly closet organication.Keeping a kid’s closet organized comes down to four considerations:

1. Size

Consider the size of the closet when determining how to organize. A small closet will need to be supplemented with a chest of drawers and hooks on a wall. A large closet can actually make the extra storage furniture in a room unnecessary, as most clothing items and accessories should fit. Be real about what can fit in the closet neatly and remove the rest. Lots of hanging space versus many shelves will allow for more items to fit. If you can hang all pants, tops, dresses, t-shirts, and leggings. Socks, undies, swimwear, and shorts can be stored on shelves or in bins.

2. Remove

Bedroom closets are for clothes. Unless you have an abnormally large closet, the toys will have to find a new home outside of the closet (and bedroom). Other family members’ clothes can also be removed. Keepsakes can make their way into storage. Allocating a closet to only clothes will simplify the organizational system and make retrieval and replacement of items clear and simple.

3. Relevant and Current

A child’s closet should house clothes that are relevant to their size and style. Outgrown clothes that are being saved for another family member can be stored in a clear bin with a label, in a storage area. If you have clothes that the child does not yet fit in, also place those in a clear bin with a label, in a storage area. Keeping only current and relevant times will help keep the closet practical.

4. Keep it Simple

Did we already mention this? Yes, keep the closet simple. Hang as much as you can. It is easier for a child to maintain tidiness when it is easy to see. The items a child wears frequently should be placed within reach so the child can access easily. If your child wears a uniform to school, place those on a lower rod. If you child wears athletic clothes to school, those should be front and center.

When items require a bin or drawer, don’t stuff them full. Leave plenty of room so the items can be seen.  File or roll the clothing versus stacking, so items can be seen. The easier it is to see the items, the less likely a child will rummage through them and create a mess. Lesser-used clothes can be placed higher on the rods and shelves.  Off-season items that still fit your child can be placed on the top shelf with a label.

Follow these simple rules to help your child keep their closets neat and tidy.

We can help!

If removing items and visualizing storage solutions are too time-consuming or overwhelming for you, Top Shelf Home Organizing is happy to work with you. Contact Jayme for some great ideas on keeping your kid’s closets neat and tidy.

How to Become More Productive Working from Home

Learning and working from home are most productive when you are prepared. Here are three tips to help your home become an area of productivity and focus. These tips include the proper supplies, a thought-out workspace, and a consistent schedule. Here are some details on creating the most productive workspace your home can provide.

Supplies

How to Become More Productive Working from HomeHave the appropriate supplies available for completing professional and academic tasks. A basic school supply list is a great starting point. Be sure to have extras for when the crayons break, the ruler is misplaced, the printer runs out of ink and erasers fall off the pencils. Also, consider electronic supplies such as a calculator, headphones, and charging cables.

Organize Supplies by Type

Organize the supplies by type so they are easy to locate and easy to put away. Open cups or containers work great for pencils, pens, markers, etc., because you can take the entire container to your workspace and grab as you need. Label all containers, shelves, files, and areas that house school supplies. Follow the “place for everything and everything in its place” rule. Even the most obvious storage location should have a simple label.

Keep Supplies Simple

Keep the supplies simple. A fresh box of crayons, matching pencils that are freshly sharpened, a simple set of markers will make it easy for students to select the appropriate tool without overstimulation. A simple, clean file system and basic notepad will keep professional tasks organized. Store supplies in a location that is convenient for everyone to use and put away. If there are young learners, place supplies in an area that they can reach. Older learners will also need a convenient location too, that retrieval and replacement are mindless. The proper supplies will keep your home a well-supplied environment for productivity.

Work Space


Workspace Lighting

A well-thought-out workspace makes working and learning at home possible. Space will need to have good lighting, be well organized, have space to think, and have minimal distractions. The lighting of a workspace is very important to aid in productivity and alertness. Natural light is important for mental well-being. In the darker, winter months, lamps, and lighting with a warm light can help students feel alert while putting less stress on their eyes. Select a work area that has the best lighting for learning and working.

Organizing and Setting Up Work Space

Keeping a workspace organized will foster learning from home. Students will know where to find what they need to complete their work. The consistency of an organized workspace will also foster learning and reinforce a stable learning environment.

Work areas should have open space on the walls and on the floor to encourage creativity and thinking. While a good selection of wall art and learning posters will create a fun work area, a complete covering of the walls may create overstimulation and distractions. Limit the number of distractions in a work environment. If there are multiple people in the house, try to create smaller work areas for times when independent learning and working is necessary. The workspace should be separate from areas where there is a lot of traffic, younger children may be playing, or where adults will be on calls. Creating a productive workspace is a mix of art and science. Remember to keep it simple and clear for productivity.

Scheduling with Time Blocking

A consistent, time blocked schedule will help you stay focused and be the most productive at home. For adults and children, a consistent schedule is key. Keeping consistency day-to-day will help keep everyone focused on the tasks for the day. When creating a daily time block, you will dedicate each period of the day to a specific category.

What to Include in a Time Block

Time blocks include self-care such as sleep, grooming, exercise, fresh air, and breaks. The work and school day can be blocked out by subject or work tasks. However, meetings and face-to-face time with colleagues, teachers, and teams, may not have much flexibility, so your workday time block may be created around these meetings. There will need to be an end time for your work and school day. The end time gives everyone a time limit to their work and will encourage focus and productivity during work time. Your time block will also need an allocation for meals and meal preparation. Allowing enough time for meal preparation or planning will help keep the day on schedule. Allow for take-out and convenience meals occasionally, so this task doesn’t flood your schedule. The time block schedule should also allow for any housekeeping, yard work, and cleaning, as these are equally important tasks to keep your home a productive environment.

A general time block day that simplifies the details and includes only sleep, self-care, school/work, and family time is completely acceptable. You may personally want to include more details in your time block such as exercise, meetings, planning, etc. Keep it simple when working with the family as a whole. A consistent schedule that is communicated to everyone will promote productive work at home.

Whether your family is working from home full-time or part-time, a well-planned environment will reduce stress and encourage productive work and learning. Take time to select the proper supplies, plan out workspaces, and create a schedule. These three areas will help make working from home as productive as it can be.

Need help?

If planning and organizing are a challenge for you, Top Shelf Home Organizing can work with you. Contact Jayme if you want help setting up for a productive home.

Three Phases to Organizing a Garage

Organized tools on the wall of a garage.Due to the size and location, a garage organizing project should be completed in three phases (gather and sort items, cleaning and painting, and organizing systems). Consider the garden shed to be included with the garage, as the items stored here are similar to items in your garage. Before you get started on this project, make a quick list of all the items in your garage and shed. This list can be general categories such as tools, toys, automotive supplies, lawn care, snow removal, camping, etc. Think about what you need to keep, can sell or will dispose of, and take note of these items.

Phase 1: Gather and Sort

The gather and sort phase can be a big task. Feel free to work through this phase category by category or area by area. Once you have gathered and sorted each area, identify what you will keep and group into categories. Grouping like items together will help plan for storage of these items. Selecting bins of appropriate size and purchasing storage systems will be much easier and purposeful with a plan. Remember, items that are used in the garage or outside your home get stored in the garage or shed, items that are used in your home get stored in your home. These are the steps for the gather and sort phase:
• Gather all items from garage, shed and areas that have garage related items
• Sort items into categories
• Purge items that are not needed (sell, donate or dispose)
• Organize and categorize into storage containers
• Identify storage location (garage, shed, other)
• Label

Phase 2: Cleaning and Painting

Phase 2 is where you prepare your garage for storage. You will want to remove any existing storage systems, thoroughly clean the floors and walls, and apply a fresh coat of paint to areas you want painted. A light gray, light beige or white color on the walls will make the garage feel larger and brighter. This is also time to refresh the lighting and apply a sealer to the garage floor if you desire. Here are the basic steps to this phase:
• Remove exiting storage systems
• Clean
• Paint

Phase 3: Organizing System

A well -planned organizing system for your garage will help keep your garage organized. You will need to go vertical to maximize the storage capacity. Wire shelving works great as it allows for airflow and is easily adjustable for your changing needs. Clear bins with labels allow you to see the contents of each bin. Cabinetry can make your garage visually appealing if your budget allows. Yard tools can be displayed with peg board or other tool hanging systems. What ever you choose, be sure the system is adjustable and simple. Over designing and overthinking exactly where each little tool will go may restrict your changing needs.

At Top Shelf Home Organizing we make garage organizing manageable and easy. Contact Jayme to see how we can help you get your garage organized.

Improve Productivity by Organizing Your Digital Files

Organizing Digital FilesHaving organized digital files will improve your productivity at home and at work. There are three areas that need to be considered when organizing your digital files. The file name, the file folder structure and where the files are saved are all important. Each area is discussed in detail here.

There are a couple things that need to be considered before digital files can be set up. Consider who will access the files. If you are sharing files with a team of people, they all need to understand and agree with how the files are named. Having those agreements will ensure the success of your organizational system. Be consistent with how digital files are organized so that retrieval is streamlined.

File name

File name is unique to each file you save. When determining a name, consider the files you have and your unique needs. Consider how you retrieve the files. What is the subject you will look for? Is it a client name, date or project number? You will want to include this information in the file name. Use short, but descriptive names. Underscores are a good way to keep proper spacing in the file name.

Include three items in the file name in a consistent order:

  1. Date – Keep the format of the date consistent (year, month, day, i.e. 2020-04-21)
  2. Subject – The subject part of the file name will have a few key words that will tell you what to expect when the file is opened (client name or number, project name, or other subject such as “Lectures,” “Contract,” “Invoice”).
  3. Code – A special code or unique identifier in the file name can help understand the file. These codes could include terminology such as draft, template or final, initial or name of author, version, or other information to help the file stand out.

Directory or File location

The directory or file path, should be simple and consistent across files.

How folders are named is an important part of the file name.

Business files may have names such as the client name, project name, project number, author name, administrative, vendor, contractor and/or facility.

Here are examples of how I would label my files for teaching, business and personal:

School

  • Course Number and Name
  • General Course Information
    • Lesson Sheets
    • Lecture Notes
    • Handouts
    • Assignments
    • Laboratories
    • Exams
  • Professional Development and Training
  • Human Resources
  • Department

Business

  • Administrative
  • Client Last Name, Client First Name
    • Contract
    • Receipts
    • Invoices
    • Photos
  • Marketing Contractor
  • Graphic Design Contractor
  • Carpenter Contractor
  • Organizing Contractor, Last Name, First Name
  • Vendors
  • Network

Personal

  • Taxes
  • Medical
  • Utilities
  • Phone
  • Automobile
  • Insurance
  • Kids School
  • Kids Activities
  • Investments
  • Bank
  • Pet
  • Boat

Saving Files

Common Mistakes
  • Saving to your desktop, instead just put a short cut on your desktop.
  • Overcomplicating and over thinking where files get saved and what the name should be. Keep it simple.
  • Avoid confusing abbreviations and acronyms.

Be consistent across all file and folder names. Consider: Google Drive, Box, iCloud, Drop Box, and Email Folders. Pick a method to back up your files. You may select cloud-based storage or an external hard drive. Personal information should be backed up to a removable drive.

Like any organizing project, there are five basic steps to getting your files organized:
  1. Gather: Make a list of all the categories of files you have. Include physical files, digital files, and email files.
  2. Sort: Group them into logical categories. There will likely be main categories and subcategories
  3. Purge: Remove the files that are not needed anymore.
  4. File: Create files for all of the main categories and subcategories. Place files into the folders in chronological order with the newest files toward the front. When a new file comes in, it is front and center.
  5. Label: Label the folders. Keep labels consistent across paper files, digital files and email files.
Too Overwhelming?

Start from ground zero if you are truly a hot mess. Set up an organized file structure and begin organizing the files that are current. Don’t worry about old files right now. Take some time to work out the bugs of your new file structure. Once you are settled into a routine and your file system has proved to be effective, go back and organize your older files.

At Top Shelf, we love to help busy professionals and families establish an effective filing system to improve productivity and reduce stress. See how we can help you get this area of your busy life organized. Reach out to Jayme for some tips on getting your files organized.

Organizing an Emergency Kit & Plan

Emergency KitBeing organized can be especially helpful in times of emergency. It is a good idea to have an emergency kit ready to go, and to have a plan that is communicated to all members of your household. The list of items that could be needed is exhaustive and endless. The importance of being prepared means you have the supplies and documents ready for your household in case of an evacuation, as a worst-case scenario. Keep in mind, business could be closed, banks could be closed and the internet could be down. Here is a guide of suggestions to getting organized for emergencies. A formal kit can be found at ready.gov.

Food and Water

  • 7- to 10-day supply of non-perishable food and water
  • Include some comfort foods to help ease anxiety
  • One gallon of water per person per day as a guideline

Money

  • Small denominations, ten-, five- and one-dollar bills
  • To purchase food, gas, other daily needs
  • Amount depends on the size of your family ($2,000 cash is a good starting point to allow for basic needs and travel if evacuation is needed)

Medications

  • Prescriptions for at least two weeks
  • Non-prescription including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold remedies, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins
  • Medical records

Documents

Store copies of these in a fire proof safe inside a water-tight container, in a bank safe deposit box, and copies at a trusted friends or relative. You can also keep a digital copy in a removable drive.

  • Personal Information
    • Driver’s license or another photo ID
    • Birth certificates, adoption certificates, custody documents
    • Marriage license, divorce degree
    • Social security card
    • Child identity cards
    • Passport/green card, naturalization documents
    • Military: military id, military discharge record
    • Pet: id tags, prove of ownership, microchip information, emotional support letter, certification for service animals 
  • Household Information
    • Name, date of birth, place of birth
    • Address and mailing address
    • Name of spouse or partner
    • Employment information including supervisors with contact information
    • Spouse employment information
    • Emergency contact
    • Children information: name, address, date of birth, email, phone, school
  • Financial and Legal
    • Estate planning
    • Living will, trust, power of attorney and advanced directives
    • Financial
    • Checking, saving, investments, retirement
    • Print and keep a hard copy of the most current bank: name of institution, type of account, account number, institution phone number and website
    • Sources of income
    • Pay stubs, government benefits, alimony, child support, rewards accounts 
  • Tax Statements
    • Previous year’s tax return, property tax, personal property tax
  • Insurance
    • Health, property, life, automobile, disability, appraisals, pet, flood, funeral
    • Firm name, name of policy holder, policy number, claims phone number, type of policy, value, coverage period, website
    • Understand how your home or renter’s insurance can assist you in an emergency
    • Video or photograph rooms in your home and valuable belongings
  • Financial Obligations
    • Housing, utility, loan, credit card, child support
    • Have a list of what bills are on autopay, download and print a copy of your last statement or applications to enroll
    • Document and print your FICO score 

Fuel

  • Keep tank of gas above half full at all times
  • Have fuel available for your back up generator

Supplies

  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle
  • Dust mask
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to create a shelter
  • Moist towelettes or wet wipes, trash bags with ties for personal sanitation
  • Tools (wrench or pliers) to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for canned food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with charger
  • Battery pack charger for phone
  • Personal hygiene supplies

At Top Shelf, we love to help busy families plan and prepare.  If thought of planning for an emergency is overwhelming, see how Jayme and her team can help.