9 Things to Review & Do in 2013

A New Year means that certain items in your life may require attention. We’ve put together a list of the most common tasks to complete or review as soon as possible.

1) Prescriptions: Review prescriptions and toss any that have expired. Make note of the ones that are in need of refill and contact your doctor to process the order before it becomes urgent.

2) Documents: Take a look at your passport, driver’s license and any other documents that expire to determine if they require a renewal in 2013.

3) Annual Appointments: Schedule annual appointments for doctors, dentists, optometrists, and accountants.

4) Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Change the batteries on the detectors and mark on the calendar when the next change will occur.

5) Pantry & Fridge Contents: Review the food in your pantry and fridge for expired goods. Purge anything that’s expired and make note of the items that have upcoming expirations so that you can use them soon.

6) Filters: Change the filters in your HVAC unit and mark on your calendar the next swap out date.

7) Credit Report: Get a free annual copy of your credit report and review the past year’s changes.

8) Policies: Review any policies that may require updates or renewal in the new year, such as insurance and product warranties.

9) Taxes: Take a look at your income tax withholding from last year and determine if your personal situation has changed in a way that affects your number (i.e. marriage, divorce, children, etc.)

Good luck!

TWOW

The Container Store Buckhead Reopens in New Location

Yesterday the WOW team had the privilege of attending a blogger preview event for the opening of the relocated Container Store Buckhead. The new store, located on the corner of Peachtree St. and Wieuca Rd., is significantly bigger than the old store and appears to carry a greater variety of products. For frequent shoppers, the parking is also much easier!

The WOW team absolutely loves The Container Store for their multifunctional and innovative storage products, but also for their commitment to conscious capitalism. If you’ve never heard about the store’s corporate culture, you might be interested to know that it is dedicated to running their business in a way that is good for the environment, local communities, and their employees, as well as the bottom line. For example, their employees are paid significantly higher than the average local wage for similar jobs and receive 263 hours of training in their first year (compared to an average of 7-10 in the industry). Learn more about their Founding Principles here.

In celebration of the store opening, there will be events and giveaways held this Saturday and Sunday (11/10-11/11). Some of the reasons to check out the new location this weekend include:

  • Prize giveaways every hour, on the hour, including a $1,000 Elfa Space Makeover
  • $10 Store More Gift Cards for the first 100 Facebook Check-Ins &
  • 10% of all sales throughout the weekend will be donated to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Thanks again to Container Store Buckhead for inviting WOW to be a part of your grand reopening events. We loved the new location and will certainly be shopping there soon.

TWOW

A Place for Everything: The Biltmore Estate

Earlier in the Summer my family met for a long weekend in Asheville.  Despite my general attraction to minimalist spaces I am in love with Biltmore Estate and could probably spend a week or two there touring the house and taking part in all of the amazing outdoor activities offered on the property.

On our trip we took a behind the scenes Architect’s Tour and found ourselves up on the roof and in rooms not typically available to visitors.  Combined with the self-guided tour through the rooms open to the public we got a great taste of the design, functionality, and beauty of the house.

Most striking to me, as a person with organization and efficient planning often on her mind, is the care taken by George Vanderbilt and his architect, Richard Morris Hunt, to address every possible need for a home this size used for constant entertaining and with an eye toward complete self-sustainability.  Biltmore is the ultimate example of the classic adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place!”

The basement of Biltmore house is one the best examples of a place for everything I’ve ever seen!  In the food preparation and storage areas in particular you will find a canned goods storage room, a produce storage room, a rotisserie cooking room(!), cold storage, a pastry preparation and keeping room, and a beautiful general kitchen area with sinks and prep counters with views out to the gorgeous countryside behind the house. The incredible upstairs living spaces include a breathtaking library, great hall for gathering and dining, reception rooms, storage rooms, and a multitude of guest rooms.

Despite the difference in the size and purpose of our homes and this great manor house, we can reflect and take a cue from this well-planned home in designing our own calm retreats.

-Take a look at each room in your house and evaluate, moving from left to right through the room, if each area of the room is serving its purpose well.

- Identify the areas where too much is happening in one place: do you have books overflowing your bookshelves, is your living room overrun by dvds, magazines, toys, or stacks of paper? Analyze what can be culled down and what is truly meaningful or actually used.

- Use the space you have as a guide to what you can keep: We have a tendency to want to find the perfect organizing item to create more space to keep things. We usually cannot make more space so living well in the space we have often requires some intense analyzing and a little creativity.

-Make tough choices: If you have 50-60 hair care products (and we have seen this many and more!) and nowhere to put them, really ask yourself what you are using daily and at this stage of your life.  If 30 of the 50 are never touched, give to a friend or donate to a women’s shelter.

- Use Peter Walsh’s best organizing principle and envision the lifestyle you want to be living.  Does your physical space and the belongings that reside there support that vision? It can be a  joyful existence to live with less, but in an environment that is calm and well-planned!

For inspiration on living well with less check out The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life

Dorm Room Essentials

Dorm living is just around the corner for many incoming college freshman. In order to help you prepare your child for independent living we’ve put together a list of our favorite dorm room supplies from Bed Bath & Beyond. These essentials will help keep them organized and hopefully productive during their college years.

Be Organized: Cube shelving with pull-out drawers make excellent storage for a variety of items. Hanging closet shelves will add additional storage for sweaters, jeans, and shorts. Over-the-door shoe racks keep shoes organized and out of sight and finally, bed lifts will add significant space under-the-bed.

Be Clean: Communal living often requires your personal belongings to be mobile. A shower caddy will help keep bathroom items together, a popup hamper will allow students to cart clothing to the laundry room, and colored towels will minimize the risk of mistaken use.

Be Studious: Extension cord/surge protectors will definitely be useful when multiple people are sharing just a few outlets. Dry erase boards are great for roommate communications, to-do lists, and notes and this iPod charging and playing lamp will allow your student to study late while not disturbing roommates with overhead lights.

Be Well Fed:
A mini fridge is key for rooms without full kitchens. They’ll also need a small set of dinnerware and utensils. Depending on your student’s meal plan and eating habits, you may also want to invest in a microwave, toaster oven, or coffee maker.

Be Stylish: While the basics are important, you’ll also want your student to feel at home in their new room. Select some spirited or fashionable bedding, frames to hold family photos, and decorative pieces like throw pillows or floor chairs.

The important thing to remember when purchasing dorm room goods is that it is not necessary to stock them with all of the amenities of home. The new experience is certain to distract them from the less than ideal living situation, so don’t feel the need to go overboard.

TWOW

Our Favorite Multifunction Products

Last week our guest blogger, Lisa, gave us some great tips for utilizing furniture and spaces in multiple functions. We love the idea of minimizing the amount of ‘stuff’ in our lives, so this week we’re going to highlight some of our favorite products that have multiple uses.

Dirty Jobs Complete Cleaner: Although many people think cleaning and organizing are similar tasks, here at WOW we dislike cleaning just as much as the next person. That’s why we loved sampling the new Dirty Jobs Complete Cleaner. The product, available at Walmart, was inspired by the Discovery Channel show and really works wonders. The best part is that unlike single-specialty cleaners, this works just about anywhere. Use it in the laundry, the bathroom, on upholstery, or the carpets; it will get the job done.

Food Processor: We love kitchen appliances, but sometimes they can be space hogs. Food processors, however, combine the functions of blender, chopper, cutting board, specialty knives, mortar, cheese grater, and more. If you are low on storage space in your kitchen, consider switching to this multifunction appliance as your go-to tool.

Ice Cube Tray: This everyday item, that many people no longer use, due to integrated ice makers are great for organized storage. Use them for earrings and rings, small junk drawer items, cuff links, hair accessories, sewing materials, crafting supplies, etc.

Dryer Sheets: Instead of tossing out your used dryer sheets, use them to freshen up other areas of the home. Rub them on the inside of smelly shoes to reduce odor, place them in the bottom of your underwear drawer or under your car seat for added freshness, or run them along a couch to pick up animal hair. The new ones will work best, but even the old ones can be put to good use.

Toothpaste: It can be a bit odd to consider using something you put in your mouth each day for other purposes, but toothpaste has a variety of household functions. It can fill in small holes in your walls, soothe bug bites, polish chrome and silver, remove crayon coloring from walls, and reduce blemishes, among other things.

These are just a few interesting multi-purpose products. What are your favorite tricks for making the most out of your belongings?

TWOW

Storage Units: When to Keep and When to Let Go

Storage units can sometimes be a necessity, but often they sit untouched for years. Not only does this allow for unnecessary clutter to build, but it can also be a drain on your bank account. Taking the time to review and cull the contents can save you money each month and help you break free from the physical commitment of storing items you rarely, if ever, use.

If you decide to organize your storage unit we recommend the following strategy. Set aside a day, or two depending on how big your unit is, and commit to using the time to thoroughly review your belongings. Once the date has been set, secure a few things to assist you in the process, including a friend, some gloves, a dolly, and a trash bin or truck to haul off the items you chose to cull. If you do not have access to a truck, there are companies you can pay to pick up the storage contents, but remember to book this ahead of time.

Start the project by going through each item, front to back. The contents will then be placed in one of 4 categories, including storage unit, home/alternate storage location, donation/sell, and trash. While reviewing the contents, make critical decisions regarding the item’s need, value, and frequency of use. If you haven’t used the item in years, much less thought about it, culling is likely the best option. If the item’s value has been far out weighed by the cost to store it in the unit, it’s time to toss. This is a particularly common issue overlooked by storage unit renters. If what you are storing could easily be sold and replaced for cheaper than one year of rental fees, it probably makes sense to let it go. After sorting through everything, load the donations/sale items, trash, and moving items into the truck. Review what’s left and make one more culling pass to ensure you’re only keeping the bare minimum.

The final step is to reassess your need for a storage unit. If you were able to cull most of the contents, perhaps you could move the remaining belongings elsewhere (home = free storage) or downgrade to a smaller unit. Often times, downgrading alone can save you hundreds of dollars a year. If you decide to keep a unit, replace the items in an organized fashion, grouping like with like. It’s also important to ensure that delicate or fragile items are stored in a manner that protects them. Space bags, mothballs, and locking, waterproof bins are great for protecting such items. If using cardboard boxes, write detailed content descriptions on the outside of the box for easy accessibility.

In general, we recommend conducting this process twice yearly to ensure unnecessary items are not held onto indefinitely.

Good Luck!
TWOW

Guest Post: Tips for Cleaning in the Lazy Days of Summer

With the weather warming up, the last thing anyone wants to do is stay inside and clean. It seems that once summer hits, everyone’s schedule begins to fill up. Here are a few quick tips on getting the house clean in no time by THE MAIDS.

Thirty seconds is longer than you think. You can easily maintain trouble spots or reduce pesky clutter by following these cleaning tasks:

  • Prevent soap scum buildup in your shower with a few quick squirts of daily shower spray.
  • Swipe the bathroom counter with a disinfectant wipe, clearing it of hairspray, toothpaste and soap scum.
  • Shake out entryway rugs to rid them of excess dirt and minimize traipsing it throughout your home.

With two minutes, you can:

  • Gather stray clutter into a laundry basket. Just be sure to put everything in its proper place at a later time.
  • Sweep high-traffic areas, like the entryway or bathroom floor.
  • Spritz the bathroom mirror with glass cleaner and wipe dry with a microfiber cloth.
  • And at the expense of sounding like your mother, make your bed.

Are you lucky enough to have won a time windfall? Use your five minutes wisely:

  • Start a load of laundry.
  • Wash the bathroom floor. Clean-up is simple if you have already swept it during your two-minute hiatus.
  • Wipe down kitchen counter-tops. You don’t want harmful germs finding their way into your food preparations.
  • Sort through your pile of mail and toss the junk. Remember to shred and recycle!

Busy lifestyles necessitate taking small, time-efficient steps when it comes to maintaining an orderly and clean house. If you need an extra hand, call THE MAIDS and experience the healthiest, most thorough housecleaning in the industry.

This post was generously written by the folks at THE MAIDS, a trusted and respected residential cleaning service.

Recipe Organization: Controlling the Clutter & Increasing Efficiency

One of the major organizational challenges my clients face during the week is finding and/or taking the time to prepare a meal at home. And when I do, it’s as if I (re)discover for the first time how wonderful it tastes and feels to eat homemade cooking – not to mention the cost savings per person on just one meal!

Though cooking at home comes with so many positives, there is one negative that comes to mind that. I’m talking about the clutter of all of those recipes you collect. These days, there are so many places where you can find a way to make a meal for yourself and your family, be it through cookbooks, a trusted friend or a recipe website. And with each of these comes a piece of paper with ingredients, directions and notes for next time you make it.

While it’s wonderful to build a collection of meals and experiences, it’s often hard to keep them all in one place – I know I’ve found myself searching for a needed recipe the moment before I’m heading to the grocery store, and if I can’t find it online again, it’s lost!

The simplest way to keep track of paper recipes is to contain this potential clutter in one folder in one place in your home. Though it may seem counterintuitive to keep your recipes in your paper office files, you’ll be more likely to locate them given that ‘like is with like’. Try to alphabetize by name of dish so you won’t have to flip through the stack for too long!

If you want to take it one step further – you can also add additional folders to a hanging file separated by type of meat or type of dish. But again, only if you have the energy and organizational style to do so.

If you are a little more technologically savvy, most recipe websites, like allrecipes.com, have digital recipe boxes where you can store your favorite recipes with notes. Taking the time after you’ve prepared the dish to store the recipe online will give you the freedom to recycle the paper and cut down on physical clutter completely. Tastebook.com is a fabulous idea for compiling all of your random paper receipes into a digital and nicely bound book with photos. I also love the idea of using Pinterest to find and organize recipes. If you find a great recipe on another site, simply pin the photo to a board and you’ll have a photographic collection that is easy to access anywhere. Feel free to label boards by type of dish for additional organization.

As you can see, just a few simple changes can help you take that one step towards a little less clutter in your house. Bravo to you for taking the time and care to cook at home. I’m sure your wallet and body thanks you.

Enjoy!
-TWOW

Planning a Well-Organized Vacation

Summer has arrived, and that means it’s time to start planning that well-deserved and well-organized vacation with friends, family – or both! Though the anticipation of getting away can be motivating and exciting, organizing a trip can be downright overwhelming. It takes a lot of time to get all of the moving pieces together, but with the right order of operations, you can plan the perfect getaway with an eye towards organization and efficiency.

Luckily, the fun part comes first – choose your destination and the dates you’d like to depart and return. When choosing a destination, be sure to take into consideration the weather, price increases for peak seasons, and any deals that you may have access to (airline points, hotel rewards, etc.). From there, your to-do list should be categorized simply: hotels first, then flights, followed by activities and finally, packing.

When searching for hotels at your vacation destination, do your research. If you’re heading to a less-travelled place, spend some time online reading reviews and travel blogs to get a sense of what types of lodgings there are to suit your style. Tripadvisor.com does a great job of rating and reviewing hotels with plenty of real feedback from previous guests. Whether you book through a discount site like hotels.com or through the place directly, I recommend calling the hotel to speak to the reservation staff and can give you helpful advice on what airports and ground transportation options are best. They can also provide recommendations for dining and activities in the area!

Now that you have intel on the best lodging, I suggest heading to a site like kayak.com that searches a number of travel sites to find you the best possible deal on flights to your destination. If you are connecting to another flight or heading to another airport to catch a second flight, make sure to build in the extra time you’ll need to make that connection. If your flight gets in later in the day, give your hotel the heads up that you”ll need late check in.

You’re on your way! Now you should head back to the internet to learn more about what you can do while you’re there. Many hotel websites have sections that recommend local activities, and a number of travel blogs (Johnny Jet, Time Travel, Frugal Travel Guy) can give you insider insight into the best way to make the most of your vacation. For those activities that require advanced planning, go ahead and make those reservations, so that you’re guaranteed the experience.

Now that your itinerary is laid out, you’ll have a better guide as to what you’ll need to pack and for what days you’ll need it. Creating a packing list in an excel sheet by family member will help you track what you have and what you’ll still need to purchase before your departure. In our previous post, we break down the packing process in detail. Give it a read and apply the tips and tricks that work best for you.

And finally, make your vacation count-down calendar! You’ll have something to look forward to as the departure date approaches, and you’ll also be able to set a timeline for when you need to have all items purchased and packed. An app like TripIt can also help keep all of your reservations in one place while on the vacation.

Bon voyage and happy summer!

How to Organize Your Car

If you’re an Atlanta resident, it’s likely that you spend much time in your car. Just like in your home, if you do not maintain an organizational strategy things can quickly get out-of-hand. Luckily, we have plenty of experience with helping to organize cars and have devised a simple 4 step strategy for getting things under control.

1. SORT & CLEAN: Remove everything from your car and sort through the items to determine what stays and what should be returned to the home. Ideally, you should keep only the essentials, including things you use on a daily basis and/or may need for emergencies. Clothing, personal items, work materials, and kids stuff should be returned to the home as much as possible. Once everything is out of the car, take some time to do a deep clean. It may be a rare opportunity to clean the carpets, bins, and compartments without the clutter, so take advantage.

2. CONTAIN: One of the keys to maintaining an organized car is to set yourself up for success by purchasing or utilizing certain products. A car size wastebasket will ensure that trash is not stuffed in random places. Bins or crates can be used in the trunk to hold umbrellas, emergency items, and other loose belongings. If you often transport sports equipment consider getting an separate box for these items. Finally, behind the seat pockets can hold items for children to easily access while sitting in back.

3. ORGANIZE: Once you have gotten the necessary organizing products, begin to refill the car with your belongings. As you do so, consider which items you will need to have easy access to and place them in closer spots. These can include change for tolls, tissues, sunglasses, and garage openers. Items with infrequent use can be stored in the trunk, under seats, and in storage compartments. This is also the time to ensure that your driving/car documents are stored together. A plastic lunch bag can easily contain these papers together in your glove compartment.

4. MAINTAIN: Keep your organizational strategy with a few simple maintenance tips. First, make a habit of removing unnecessary items from the car once per week. Choose one day when you know you will use the car, but also have spare time, and commit to clearing everything out upon parking at home. Second, when you’re filling up with gas, take a few moments to toss the trash and clean out the cup holders. Lastly, discuss with family members who also ride in the car the rules for taking items that they brought in with them, out when they leave.

Happy driving!
TWOW

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