Living with Less: How to Regulate the Amount of ‘Stuff’ in Your Home

One of the main ways we become overwhelmed with disorganization is by accumulating more ‘stuff’ than our spaces can accomodate. Over time, even the most conscious consumer can find themselves in excess if they do not take steps to regulate the inflow and outflow of things. In order to assist our readers in managing their personal collections we’ve put together a few rules for regulating the amount of ‘stuff’ in our lives.

1)  Know What You Have: If you are planning a shopping trip to the grocery store or the mall, before you leave, take an inventory of what you have and what you need. This will help you to avoid buying duplicates.

2) No Spend Commitments: Often times, homes will have packed pantries and freezers and still continue to bring in more food each week. Committing to one week of eating only the items in your home will help you eat down the current stock and save you money. This process is great for using food items that may be expiring in the coming months.

3) Borrow & Share: If you just need the use of something once or twice, consider borrowing the item from a friend or family member instead of purchasing it. This trick works great for specialty cookware (i.e. pasta maker), tools, special occasion clothing, and sports equipment.

4) Don’t Be Afraid to Return: One common issue we see in homes with disorganization problems is that they have a lot of never-used items that are in someway wrong. Instead of keeping those items indefinitely, make an effort to return them asap. To help you do this, immediately place the return item in your car with the receipt once you decide it is not needed.

5) One in, One Out: The one in, one out strategy is fantastic for maintaining the right amount of things for your space. The way it works is before you bring something new into your home, you must first let go of something else. By employing this method you’ll be encouraged to eliminate the things you don’t need and also monitor the incoming items.

6) Scheduled Purging: It’s easy to get distracted and push organizing projects to the bottom of our to-do lists, but if you commit to a regular purge you’ll begin to develop a more clutter-free existence. We recommend setting aside a Saturday once per quarter to complete a full-home round up of all un-used, broken, and unnecessary items.

Good Luck!

TWOW

5 Ways to Make Your New Years Resolution Stick

Over 60% of Americans that make New Years resolutions will keep them through January. After that, the number continues to decline as the months go by. There are many reasons as to why so many resolutions are not maintained, but there are ways in which to improve your chances of achieving the goal.

1) Make it Positive: Resolutions that involve denying yourself something, such as diets, can be difficult. Instead, make the goal something positive, such as attending a fitness class 3 times per week for the year. This type of resolution can help you obtain the ultimate goal of weight-loss, but it will seem less restrictive in the process.

2) Be Specific: The most essential part of developing a goal is to outline in specifics what the goal is and how you will achieve it. For example, if your resolution is to read more, perhaps you could make a goal to complete one book every two weeks, at minimum. Create a calendar and keep yourself accountable to noting when the next reading deadline is and you’ll have greater chances of finishing the goal. 

3) Reinforce Yourself: If you’re working towards a goal, it helps to have reinforcement to encourage you. This can come in many forms, such as positive support from friends or family or perhaps a reward of a shopping spree after a benchmark has been met. When setting your goal timeline, add in benchmarks of when you will receive said reward and you’ll have something to look forward to while you are working.

4) Automate: The best way to achieve a goal is to remove yourself as the active participant. For instance, if your goal is to save more money this year, set up at automatic savings transfer to your savings account each payday. Without even thinking about it, you’ll have more money saved by the end of the year.

5) Be Realistic: Goals that are attainable are easier to work towards. Select resolutions that you have a high likelihood of achieving, such as losing 15lbs instead of 50lbs or attempting to have a more organized calendar instead of having a more organized life. Once you obtain the initial goal you can re-plan for future improvements.

We wish you luck in acheiving your New Years Resolutions and a Happy New Year!

TWOW

Best Holiday Shopping Apps 2012

Finding the perfect gift for each person on your list, and within your budget, can be a challenge. Luckily, we’ve got some ideas for managing the process and helping to keep costs down.

Online Shopping: 

  • When shopping online, visit coupon websites, such as retailmenot.com for discount codes and free shipping offers.
  • Google Shopping is a simple way to aggregate all online prices for a particular item, including shipping, into one page. Simply search for what you’re looking for and Google Shopper will list all online availability with pricing totals.
  • Slice App enables you to track and organize all of your online shopping, including receipts, shipping and arrival tracking, and order details.

In-Store Shopping:

  • When shopping in store, use RedLaser to scan the bar code and ensure that you’re getting the best available price on the market.
  • The Coupons App is an excellent tool for locating coupons for nearby brick and mortar stores.
  • SnapTell let’s shoppers compare items on store shelves with Amazon.com prices. If you’re planning on shipping the gift anyways, you may as well buy it online and save the hassel.

Other Great Tools: 

  • Gift Plan is the perfect app for anyone who wants to keep an organized gift list on-the-go. It even syncs with your calendar for future birthday and holiday reminders.

We hope these apps will help keep your organized and within budget this holiday season.

TWOW

7 Time Management Tips for Thanksgiving

For some people, the Thanksgiving holiday is a source of stress. Whether it’s the hosting responsibilities, the cooking, the traveling, or dealing with family, it is perfectly normal to feel a bit overwhelmed this time of year. In preparation for the big day, we’ve come up with 7 tips for managing your time and minimizing stress this holiday.

1) Prep Early: Much of the day’s stress comes from preparing such a large meal. Lighten the cooking load, by preparing certain items a day or two ahead. Things that work well for this include, veggie chopping (onions, carrots, etc.), pies, bread doughs, and baked goods.

2) Use a Cooking Timeline: Having a set timeline or schedule for when dishes will be made can assist in keeping you on track. We’ve developed our own version, called The Turkey Timeline, which is available in our printable Holiday Planning ebook.

3) Clean as You Go: In order to minimize the after-dinner cleaning efforts, attempt to clean as you go. You should also aim to have a load of dishes running in the dishwasher before you sit down to eat, so you will have an empty washer to use after the meal.

4) Enlist Help: Just because you are the chef in the family doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself. Enlist help (children, partners, family members) for tasks that are easily handled, such as setting the table, taking out the trash, or organizing the beverage station.

5) It’s Okay to Cut Corners: While we would all love to play Martha Stewart for the day, sometimes it’s unrealistic to think that everything will be made to gourmet standards and from scratch. Cut corners with things like frozen pie crusts, pre-chopped veggies, and pre-purchased Honey Baked Hams. You can also utilize a YouTube video trick for pealing potatoes that cuts the prep time down to practically nothing.

6) Schedule Personal Time: Don’t forget to schedule in time for things like getting dressed and showered, socializing with friends and family, and having fun. Taking a few minutes away from the kitchen can help you relax and make the day more enjoyable.

7) Oven to Table Strategy:  Whenever possible, cook items in the dishes you will serve them on. For example, if you are cooking a side dish, make sure that it’s already in the presentation dish you will later use. This will cut down in time needed for transferring items around.

We hope these tips assist in making your Thanksgiving a happy and efficient one.

TWOW

Getting Ready for the Holidays: Decorations

Holiday decorations are an important part of the season. They help to get us all in the holiday spirit and bring a touch of fun into our homes. While each family has their own traditions for how and when they will decorate, we’d like to offer some suggestions on how to prepare for the decorating process in an organized manner.

Before you decorate:

  • Remove your holiday decorations from storage and review the contents. If anything is broken or needs repair set the items aside and take appropriate action. Then determine if there are gaps in your collection that need to be filled or if there is anything special you’d like to add this year. Take care of all decoration shopping before you start the actual decorating process.
  • Decide if you have a particular theme or type of decoration that you’d like to highlight this year.
  • Check your Christmas lights to ensure they are working properly.
  • Double-check that you know the location of miscellaneous, but important items, such as the Christmas tree stand or stockings.

If you are limited on time, there are several local options for enlisting help for your decorating needs:

  • Tradition Trees in Metro Atlanta offers a service that will deliver, install, remove and recycle your Christmas Tree. They can also provide wreaths, roping, and other related items. Prices vary depending on tree size, so visit their website for details.
  • The Christmas Light Pros also in Metro Atlanta provide professional holiday light hanging services, including installation and removal in January. Call for a free estimate.
  • And of course, The Well-Organized Woman offers full interior holiday decorating services, including decoration purchase, concept design, and organized packing following the holidays.

For more tips and ideas about the holiday planning process, check out our recently released Holiday Planner eBook on Lulu.com. The printable planner is filled with helpful worksheets, checklists, and timelines to assist in your organized planning process.

TWOW

 

Getting Ready for the Holidays: Gift Wrap

It is officially the first week in November, which means that the holidays are just around the corner. Each Friday until Christmas we will be posting ideas for how you can get organized for the upcoming festivities. Additionally, we are very excited to announce that The Well-Organized Woman will be releasing it’s first eBook on Organized Holiday Planning next week. Please check back then to download your very own copy.

The first item on our holiday to-do list is to review our gift wrap supplies. The act of looking through your supplies and determining what you have and what you need is important for two reasons. First, it ensures that you do not buy duplicates of things that you already have. Second, it should serve as inspiration for how you choose to wrap presents this year. If you have a lot of ribbons or bows you could make those the focal point of all wrapping this year. In other words, try to use as much of the supplies you currently have before purchasing anything new. Below are a few additional tips and ideas for maintaining organization of your wrapping supplies this holiday season.

  • Keep wrapping supplies organized in a portable carrier, such as the Gift Wrap Work Station from Container Store or the over-the-door option pictured below from Better Homes & Gardens.
  • Purge anything that is torn, ripped, or in other ways poor quality.
  • Sort decorative supplies by category. For example, keep all ribbons together, tissue paper together, and bows together, etc. Then sort wrapping paper by occasion, such as all Christmas paper together, all baby shower paper together, etc. This way you know exactly what you have for each potential gift-giving event.
  • Store gift bags inside of one large gift bag.
  • After wrapping gifts, make sure the supplies are returned to their rightful homes.
  • Donate any gift wrap you no longer want but is in good condition to Goodwill – another shopper might love something you no longer use!

 

Emergency Preparedness Checklist

Hurricane Sandy currently has a lot of people in the Northeast frantically making last minute preparations for the storm. As planners, we’d prefer to ready ourselves for possible inclement weather before it is ever an issue. In order to help prepare for future weather-related emergencies, we’ve put together a list of must have items. This checklist was developed in part from the emergency preparedness lists of FEMA and the CDC, as well as our own recommendations.

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS SUPPLY LIST:

Baby

  • Diapers, 5 day supply per child
  • Baby Wipes, 5 day supply per child
  • Formula or baby food, 3 day supply per child

Clothing

  • 3 day supply of clothes per person, accounting for cold and warm weather
  • Rugged or distance type shoes

Documents

  • Copies of S.S. cards, birth certificates, marriage records, immunization records, passports, and drivers licenses for all family members
  • Copies of insurance policies for home, health, and vehicle
  • Checking & savings account # information
  • Current photo of each family member for identification purposes
  • Written phone numbers and addresses for important contacts

First Aid Kit & Contents:

  • First Aid Kit Box with contents inside
  • Tweezers
  • First aid booklet with CPR ‘How To’
  • Two pairs of latex or other sterile gloves
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Ipecac syrup (induces vomiting)
  • Needles
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Razor Blade
  • Cleansing agents or soap and antibiotic towelettes
  • Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
  • Burn ointment to prevent infection
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Thermometer
  • Prescription medications for family members that need them, check expiration dates every year
  • Petroleum jelly or other lubricant to prevent dryness, chafing, or cracking of the skin during extreme weather conditions
  • Calamine lotion (sunburn/insect bites)
  • Prescribed medical supplies
  • Nonprescription drugs, such as non-aspirin pain relievers, feminine supplies and personal
  • Antidiarrheal medications, antacid for upset stomachs, and laxatives

Food & Water

  • A 3-day supply of water (1 gallon per person per day; more if you live in a warm climate)
  • A 3-day supply of ready-to-eat foods, such as canned meat, canned fruits and vegetables, and ultra-high temperature milk (also called UHT milk)
  • High-energy foods such as peanut butter, nuts, dry cereal, granola, and crackers
  • “Stress foods” such as hard candy or cookies
  • A manual can opener
  • Eating utensils and supplies (for example, paper plates and plastic forks, spoons, and knives)

Hygiene:

  • Tampons or pads
  • Towlettes
  • Bar soap
  • Tooth Brush and Toothpaste for each family member
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand Sanitizer

Kids:

  • Games and activities for children

Medical:

  • Extra prescription eye glasses, contacts, hearing aid or other vital personal items

Money:

  • Several hundred dollars in small bills
  • Quarters for phone calls

Safety:

  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Hand crank-powered radio
  • Dust masks for each family member
  • Batteries in several sizes
  • Work gloves
  • Plastic garbage bags and ties for sanitation
  • Flares
  • Candles
  • A whistle
  • A wrench or pliers to turn off utilities (such as water or gas)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape for sheltering in place
  • Universal or wind-up cell phone charger
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Emergency reference materials, such as a first-aid book or a photocopy of such a book or manual
  • Warm blanket or sleeping bag for each person
  • Rain gear – ponchos or rain jackets, umbrellas
  • Paper towels
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A tent
  • A compass
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Signal flares
  • Paper and pencils
  • Medicine dropper
  • Household chlorine bleach, which you can use as a disinfectant to clean surfaces (mix nine parts water to one part bleach). In an emergency, you also can use it to purify water. Use 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water.
  • Eyedropper for bleach
  • Backpack, bin or other portable bag for ‘Go Items’
  • Ziplock Bags to keep everything separated in the bins
  • Pocket knife
  • Safety ladder for second floor evacuation

We encourage all of our readers to work on putting together their emergency supply kit as soon as possible. You never know when it might become needed.

TWOW

Guest Post: Storage without Stowaways

It’s finally that time of year when we’ve had enough cool, crisp autumn days to pack away our summer clothes and bring our jackets and sweaters out of storage. This year, like every other, I approached the task with the anticipation of wearing some of my woolly favorites, only to find a less pleasant surprise when I opened the drawer: the unmistakable signs of case-bearing clothes moths.
As an art conservator who owns a pet and lives in an old building with the accompanying drafts and dust, I’m especially aware of pest control challenges and follow vigilant preventive measures. While the single moth casing I spotted means that these silent, destructive insects are nothing if not persistent, it’s possible to prevent a damaging infestation with non-toxic, inexpensive materials and a few easy steps.
● Prevent clothes moths from entering your home. Seal gaps in windows and doorways. Keep your home as clean as possible by clearing cobwebs and vacuuming regularly to remove dust, hair, dead skin cells, and other moth-friendly treats.
● Wash or dry clean your clothing before storing it. Developing moth larvae feed mostly on protein-based fibers but are more likely to be found among items containing sweat, skin cells, or food stains.
● Moths prefer humid environments. Control the humidity of your home and storage areas. This can be challenging here in the South, so I recommend the purchase of an inexpensive temperature and humidity monitor.
● DampRid makes a great series of inexpensive, moisture-absorbing products for use in closets and small storage areas. Silica gel packets, great for inserting in drawers and sealed containers, also control moisture and are available in different sizes for online ordering. It’s a good rule of thumb to change these when rotating your seasonal items. In addition to preventing moths, you’ll control the growth of mold and mildew.
● Traditional moth balls are effective but toxic. Along with lavender and clove oil, cedar blocks, shavings, and oil provide effective and inexpensive alternatives. For an easy DIY solution, simply purchase a bag of cedar shavings from a pet supply store, fill the feet of old pantyhose with shavings, and tie off the top of the “sachet”. Place the sachets in drawers, containers, closet shelves, or suspend from hangers to repel moths.
● If clothes moths, casings, damaged textiles, or other signs of infestation, are identified, inspect the affected area and all stored items thoroughly. If possible, check your stored items every two months or so for signs of pests.
● Insect infestations, mold growth, and climate control problems affecting art and artifact collections are best handled by an art conservator. Likewise, any major household pest control problem is best addressed by a professional exterminator, following with the steps listed above to prevent recurrence of the problem. For additional help in recognizing and controlling moths, check out this article.

 

This post was generously written by Erin Kelly.

Erin L. Kelly, M.A., C.A.S., M.Ed.

Art Conservator / Educator / Outreach
[email protected]

10 Ways to Start Living With Less

Many of us would love to minimize the amount of stuff we have in our lives, but don’t really know where to start. The culling process can, for some, be scary and for others, downright unimaginable. For people that fall into this category, we’ve compiled our favorite suggestions for minimizing your stuff.

1) 365 Items in 365 Days: If getting rid of a lot of stuff all at once gives you anxiety, commit to ridding your life of one item per day for a year. The item can be anything you wish it to be, but it must be donated, trashed, recycled, or gifted that day.

2) Expired Items: It’s very likely that you have medicine, beauty products, and food items in your home that are past their expiration dates. Throwing these items out is usually easy for most people, so it’s a great way to get into the spirit of culling.

3) One Item In, One Item Out: Although it won’t lessen your current possessions, committing to the goal of one item out for every item that comes into your home is a great way to maintain the current collection size.

4) Buy Multi-Purpose Products: Instead of buying many single-use products, choose products that have multiple functions. For example, you can save 3 products by buying a makeup with moisturizer, SPF, and anti-aging ingredients built in.

5) Clothing: According to statistics, we wear 20% of our clothing, 80% of the time. This says to us that you can donate a good portion of your clothing and not really notice the loss. Use the flip hanger technique once per season and cull the items that we’re not turned once.

6) Meal Planning: Americans often over-buy at the grocery store. Keep from committing this sin by planning your meals and grocery list before heading to the store. Do not buy anything off the list while there and you’ll notice less expired and wasted food in your kitchen over-time.) Unnecessary Buying: Have you ever gone to Target for toothpaste and come out with $200 worth of stuff? Keep the Target syndrome from happening to you, by taking into the store only the amount of cash you need to purchase the items on your list. By leaving the credit cards in the car, you’ll find you only leave with the items you absolutely needed.8) No Paper Rule: Almost all paper items in your life can be found in digital version. Bills, magazines, newspapers, coupon mailers, etc. can all be accessed online if necessary. Stop these things from entering your home by: signing up for a junk mail stop list, opting for paperless billing, reading magazines and news online, and committing to not printing unless absolutely necessary.9) Eliminate Duplicates: If you have multiples of certain items, donate, trash, or recycle them as an easy way to minimize the amount of stuff in your life. An common example of this is kitchen utensils. Often people have 3-4 of the same type of utensil, but typically only use their favorite. Get rid of the extras and you won’t even notice their gone.10) Examine the Excesses: Once per year, examine the things you have and decide what is really necessary. For example, if you pay for a gym membership, but have been once in the past few months, it’s not the best use of your finances. If your children have moved out and there are now just two people living in a 5 bedroom house, it could be time to downsize. If you pay for the premium movie channels in your cable package, but rarely watch them, shut them off and pocket the difference each month.

We hope that these ideas have given you some inspiration for how you can live with less while not sacrificing in terms of lifestyle and happiness.

TWOW

Get Organized for Halloween

Halloween may not be one of the most important holidays, but for families with children the day can require much preparation. In order to avoid last minute scrambling, we’ve put together a list of things to get organized ahead of time.

1) Costumes: By shopping for costumes earlier in the month of October you’ll not only have a better selection, but you may also get a better price. Costume stores typically offer coupons in early October, so keep a look out in your coupon mailers or check online sites like retailmenot.com for discount codes for online shopping. For optimum organization, you should aim to have all costumes purchased by the second week in October.

2) Decorations: Halloween decorations can help to get your family and neighborhood in the holiday spirit. Plan on decorating your home and yard by the weekend of October 20th. If you’re carving pumpkins, ideal timing is the weekend before (27th) Halloween to ensure they stay fresh. Keep in mind when you are decorating that the weather changes quickly this time of year, so if you have delicate ghosts or spider webs, be sure to bring them in before any rain hits.

3) Candy: Stores like CVS, Costco, and Target have deals on large bags of candy early in the month, so now is the time to stock up on the sweets you’ll need for trick-or-treaters.

4) School Activities: Schools often plan Halloween activities, such as costume parades and trick-or-treating. Find out the dates of these events now and mark your calendars to ensure your child will be prepared. In addition to the activity dates, also add deadlines for costume and accessory (candy pails) purchases.

5) Trick-o-Treating Plans: Plan on setting up your trick-or-treat plans two weeks ahead of time. If you are coordinating with other families, set a meeting time, location, and plans for child supervision and safety. It’s also a good idea to assign each child a ‘buddy’ to stay with for the evening to ensure no one is left alone.

6) Party Plans: If you plan on throwing a Halloween party, you’ll want to send out invitations the first week of October. During the second week, you can start to plan decorations, food, theme, music, and other party needs. The third week is the time to firm up these plans and finishing buying necessary non-perishable items, such as decorations. The last week leading up to the party is the time to decorate your space and complete the grocery shopping. On the day-of, you’ll prepare the food and drinks, set up last minute items, don your costume, and get ready to have a spooky evening with friends.

7) Holiday Food: Although Halloween is best known for candy, some people have traditions that include certain Halloween foods. Ensure you’ll be able to make these for friends and family by making a list of foods and necessary ingredients two weeks before the holiday. When making the list, keep in mind the little items, such as spices for pumpkin seed roasting and drinks such as apple cider.

We hope that by getting a head start on your Halloween plans this year you’ll have more time to enjoy the festivities on the day of.

TWOW

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