Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Organizing for the holidays

Tis the season for gifts and more gifts. While we love all the fun of giving and receiving, you may be worried that your home is cluttered enough with stuff that you don’t use. In anticipation of the new goodies, why not clear the clutter?

Spend 15 minutes a day going through one small area at a time. Pick a drawer, a cupboard or the corner of a room to do in one time period. As you are going through, keep reminding yourself that clearing clutter is also opening up space for new and useful things. Once you receive all your fabulous new gifts, you will have a nice neat place to store them.

This is a great activity to do with your kids as well. Teach them a lesson in organization by showing good clutter management habits. Set aside some time with them before the holidays to go through their belongings and get rid of what is broken, no longer used or still in the box because it was never used at all…. Not only will they learn clutter management, but they can also join in the holiday spirit by donating these no longer needed items to a worthy charity.

Don’t let the happiness of receiving be overshadowed by the stress of adding to a cluttered space. Just a small amount of time per day can transform your space into a functional and stress free environment. Happy holidays!

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at clear_theclutter@yahoo.com

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Simplify the holidays: Tips to make holiday cards and gift giving easier.

It’s November and do you know where your Holiday Card list is? It should be in your to-do file. Now is the time to get this task completed. Every year I hear people complain endlessly about how overwhelmed they are by the holidays. Every year I scratch my head as I hear about what they waited to do until the last minute and are now stressing out over. Does this sound vaguely familiar?? If so, read on….

Holiday Cards: Holiday cards are something that can be done long before the holiday season even approaches. Sit down in October and pick (or take) a cute photo for the card. Address the envelopes and start signing the cards. Does it matter what month you write “Seasons Greetings, Love the Turner Family” in your cards? Knock this task out long before you are inundated with holiday parties and gift exchanges.

And as long as we are discussing holiday cards, here are some tips for making this job easier.
Invest the time to input the list into your computer and create mailing labels. Since your list probably doesn’t change much during the year, this will serve you for years to come.
Go to Costco, Target or any other store and get those holiday photo cards made. You can email them the photo and pick the design online. Usually in an hour, you can pick them up and voila, your cards are done!
If you are crafty and like to make your cards, start in January. Make 10 a month and by November, you will have 110 ready to go. Unless you are famous, I think you will have plenty.
Put the kids to work. Have your kids attach the stamps and wet the envelopes. Not only are you spending quality time with your child by doing this, but you are working on their fine motor skills.

Gift Giving: This is another area that continually baffles me. The holidays always happen in December. Knowing this, you can venture out in January and February when all the sales are going on, and start your shopping early. I remember being in Target the day after Christmas and seeing a woman at the check out with three carts full of stuff. She announced that her Christmas shopping for the next year was officially done. All power to you sister! Even if you aren’t that organized (or don’t have the space to store the gifts), you can still shop in the early fall before the masses come to storm the mall and making parking a living nightmare.

Want to make the gift giving portion of your holidays something less than ulcer-creating?

Start shopping early. You know the holidays are coming, so keep a list with you year round and check people off as you find the perfect gift for them.
And speaking of the perfect gift, how about gift certificates or cold hard cash? Honestly, unless you are very close to someone or they have dropped some major hints about what they want, it is pretty hard to find the right gift. Almost any place sells gift cards – even Clear the Clutter!!! Instead of adding to their pile of stuff, why not give the gift of clearing it up and alleviating their stress (shameless plug, I know, but call it author’s privilege).
Reduce your list. Why oh why do people insist on giving gifts to everyone they know? I am always amazed at how many people some insist they *must* buy for. Try talking to your friends, family and/or co-workers. Agree to only buy for kids or not exchange gifts at all. Or how about donating to a favorite charity in lieu of gifts?? Not only will you save time, but money as well.

Hopefully these tips will make your holidays brighter and full of cheer! Get everything done early so December can be about enjoying family, friends and egg nog!

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at clear_theclutter@yahoo.com

Friday, October 12, 2007

Organizing games, dvds and books

Video games, books, DVD’s – what do they all have in common with rabbits? The answer – they seem to breed in the closets, multiplying exponentially when you aren’t looking. Have you ever opened your drawer/closet or wherever you store these items, only to wonder how you got so many?? Some great tips for keeping these collections under control are as follows:
· Regularly go through your collection, say, every 6 months or so. Be honest with yourself and pull out the items that you truly do not use or will not likely use again any time soon. If you haven’t read, played or watched it in the last six months, it is time to bid it farewell.
· Not sure about a particular item? Maybe you come across a book that you don’t think you want, but aren’t ready to part with yet? Put it in a bag in the garage for a few months. If you don’t go looking for it, you can move it on out.
· Set aside a period of time and focus solely on your task at hand. Many people will set out to de-clutter and instead find themselves playing that game that has been lying at the bottom of the pile for the last year. Don’t get distracted. Create a pile of books you want to re-read, dvd’s you want to watch tonight or games you want to play again soon. Leave that pile alone until you are done organizing.
· Keep your collection organized so that you can see what you have. I have worked with clients who have multiple copies of the same book or game because they forgot what they had and bought duplicates. I have helped clients organize shelves with books behind books, all covered with dust. If you don’t know what you have and you can’t easily access it, you won’t use it. WWW.organize.com has some fabulous products for organizing these types of products.
· When you are ready to get rid of movies, books or games, list them on www.half.com. Half.com is a division of Ebay where you can very quickly and easily list these items. All you have to do is input the UPC number and the item will be listed. Once you sell what you don’t want, you will have the funds to go buy some new stuff that you do want.

Enjoy what you have by keeping your collection under control and neatly displayed. Not only will you have more fun with it, but chances are whomever you share a living space with will be happier too.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Preparing for the Holidays

Depending on when and how you celebrate your holidays, you have approximately two shopping months left until the big season. Do you feel like the weight of the world (or maybe Santa’s sleigh) just fell on your shoulders? Never fear.

Christmas, Hannakah and all other holidays should be treated like any other big project. Since the holidays come at the same time each year, we can anticipate them and prepare so December is not a month you dread as much as the dentist. Right now I want you to sit down and make two lists. The first list will be of all the people you want to buy gifts for. The second list is a “to-do” list of everything that needs to be done in preparation for the holiday season.

Done? Great! Now it is time to break it down. Let’s start with the gift list:
Can you make this list any smaller? What I mean is, do you really need to buy all the people listed gifts? Do you think that anyone on that list might give a huge sigh of relief if you suggested to them that you skip swapping gifts this year? I made this suggestion to my siblings and they jumped right on board. We agreed to exchange kids’ gifts only, cutting my shopping list by four.
Shop online!! You may pay a bit more, but think of what you save in gas, time, stress….need I say more?
Group gifts that need to be bought by the store they will come from. Then find times between now and December when you will be in the area of those stores. Keep your list with you and get that shopping done when you are in the neighborhood so you aren’t running all over town later.
Not sure what to get people? Carry the list in your wallet year round. When you are out running errands, pull out your list and remind yourself who you need to shop for.

With your to-do list, group items according to when they need to be done. For example, in October you can pick a photo for your holiday cards and stock up on wrapping supplies (thanks to our friendly retailers who have had holiday displays out for a month now), but you need to wait until closer to the holidays to decorate the house and bake cookies. Once things are grouped according to when they need to be done, start plugging them in to your calendar, spreading tasks out by doing a few little things each week. “Getting ready for the holidays” sounds overwhelming. “Go buy stamps for my holidays cards” does not. Break big projects down into small tasks. Assign them to yourself months in advance, depending on when they need to be done. Have peace of mind knowing that everything that needs to be done is written down and that you don’t have to worry about most of it today.

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at clear_theclutter@yahoo.com

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Back to School Time Management

It’s fall and the kids are finally back in school. Phew! You are back into your usual routine and things feel a bit saner, right? Wrong. For many of you this may not be the case. Life may actually feel more stressful than ever.

Many people feel like they are just barely getting by. Between work, meetings, clubs, kids activities, family obligations, there is just not enough time in the day.

Meagan Farrell, Professional Organizer from Clear the Clutter has some tips for staying sane.

Set limits and stick to them. Get out a large calendar and start filling in the activities/obligations you already have. If there is overlap, it is time to prioritize. Now, add in things you would like ideally such as family dinner time, exercise time, sleep. Do your activities and obligations overlap with those as well? If so, time to do more prioritizing. Keep this calendar up in your house all the time. This will serve as a visual account of what you have to do each day/week.

Prioritize. Make a list of your activities and obligations in order of importance. Are the things at the bottom of the list really necessary? If not, consider resigning or limiting activity with those groups. For your children, try giving them a limit of 1-2 activities per child. Your kids may find that once they have less going on, they are happier and less stressed out as well. Be an example to your children on how to manage time.

Say no. Sounds simple, but somehow that two letter word can be hard to say. A nice way to say it is, “that sounds like a neat activity, but I don’t have the time right now.” Practice saying this to a friend or partner. After you have said it a few times, it will be easier when you are confronted off guard. Remember, you are not doing anyone any favors by being stretched too thin.

Post a daily routine in your home. This will help you to stay on track. Getting yourself on a time schedule at home will help you to keep pace in your day. The posted schedule will serve as a visual reminder until you get into a regular habit.

Use a timer. We all tend to get side tracked – a really good show is on, a good friend calls, a fun new game on the computer….. All this is fine in moderation, but how much time do things like this really claim? When you sit down to watch t.v., set a timer. Give yourself an hour to watch per day. Or if the phone rings, set the timer for 20 minutes. When it goes off, politely excuse yourself as you have other things to tend to. Time easily slips away when we are preoccupied. Get that time back by watching it more closely.

Set boundaries – it is okay not to answer the phone. It is also okay not to invite the unexpected drop in neighbor in if you just don’t have time. People feel obligated to give up their time to whom ever demands it. I have seen people literally drop whatever they are doing and sprint for the phone every time it rings. Why? If you are not expecting an important phone call, then let it go to voice mail. You can always call them back, right? If you have other things to do, let it go. Stay focused on what you really need to get done.

Time management is a habit like eating vegetables and brushing your teeth. It may take a few tries, but once you get into the swing of it, you will find it easy to stay on top.

Meagan Farrell, professional organizer, is the owner of Clear the Clutter organizing services. She can be reached at (360) 631-7268 or at clear_theclutter@yahoo.com