Taming the Paper Bill Monster

Do you have a ton of paper staring at you in your office or on your kitchen counter? Most of the time this is a big complaint.

Are some of those papers your monthly bills?

Many of us have files we’ve labeled “Telephone”, “Utilities”, “Water/Garbage”, “Cell Phone”,  “Credit Cars”… Sound familiar? We’ve set up these folders because that’s how our parents used to do it. So when we moved out of their home we did the same thing. Only, we hate to file them. Do you really need to keep those bills?


Probably not. While what I am going to say may make you feel a bit queasy or uncomfortable, I say it to help you eliminate the paper monster in your life.  No, I am not recommending that everyone go paperless, don’t worry.  I am recommending, however, that you embrace technology. Create passwords to your utilities, phone, and credit card accounts so you can access your information online at any time. Get comfortable with their websites so you begin to use this valuable resource.  You can look up past bills, see recent statements at the touch of a button. If you are reading this blog then you have access to the internet so use it and eliminate the need to keep all those paper bills.

It’s okay if you still want to get your paper statement (or you can request that they be sent to your email in box).  The point here is that you don’t need to file or keep those bills. After you pay a bill, shred it. The information is still there online anytime you need it.

So get comfortable and let go (if you haven’t already) – I double dare ya!


The Dreaded Paper Filing System

I recommend revamping your paper filing system, when you have time. Although this is not a high priority activity, revamping your file systems will help you save time in the long run.   Here are a few reasons why you may have been avoiding this:

  •  The drawer is jam packed with paper files and there’s no room.
  • Once filed, you are not sure you can find it again.
  • You don’t know what to name the file.
  • The file cabinet itself is ancient and the drawers do not operate properly.

The first two bulleted points above are usually due to not purging your information on a regular basis. At least once a year or every six months, it is a good idea to go through your file drawers and eliminate those paper files that you have not used in the past 12 months. The exception to this would be any files that contain tax or legal information. There are rules for how long to retain that documentation. Ask your CPA or go to www.irs.gov for suggested guidelines. Once you get in the habit and purge on a regular basis, the time it takes to get through your files will shortened considerably.

While some files may need to be kept, some of the information it holds can be purged or updated. For example, you do not need to keep all the prospectuses for your investment portfolio, or at work, there may be updated forms that replace some that you have in your file drawers.

As we add files to our file cabinet we oftentimes complicate the system by micromanaging the data. Think in terms of broad categories. In other words, keep it simple. The fewer the categories, the more success you will have in retrieving your information. When making the decision where to file papers, put like with like. Each piece of paper does not need its own file.

Lastly, if you file cabinet does not function properly then you are less likely to use it. If your file drawers stick or do not close well, consider purchasing a new file cabinet. Your time is certainly worth more than the cost of aggravation over some square box that holds your papers! Use hanging file folders whenever possible. They are a big help in moving files forward and backward to access the information therein. They also are a replacement, not in addition to, manila files.

It may be the case that you shouldn’t use files at all.  You have them but never file things in them.  There is more than one way to manage the paper information you wish to keep.  Here’s an article with more about the variety of ways to file.

Project Wrap Room

You won’t believe this but my client has a small room in her home dedicated to gift wrapping!  She not only enjoys giving gifts but she is quite the artist when it comes to gift wrapping!

Follow along as I walk you through what we accomplished last week.
Here’s what we started with:

The room had a hodge podge of items that needed to be cleared out.

photo-1 photo-3

Since this was a small room, we needed to maximize the vertical space if she was going to have room to move around in there.

Our inspiration for the Wrap Room was this lovely organizer made by Elizabeth FordPegboard wrap station

We started with the dresser.  It’s on the top of this dresser that my client will do her wrapping.  In the top drawer we put ribbon “shorts”, tags, stickers and colored pens.tags-and-shorts

The second drawer contains the tissue paper.  We have two types: the recycled paper from gifts received and the new tissue paper.  I was able to fan out the new tissue paper so that it was easy to grab the color of her choice.  I folded the used tissue paper and stood them on end so that it was easy to choose from as well.tissue-paper-drawer

The bottom drawer holds white tissue paper, Christmas tissue paper and pre-made bows.tissue-paper-and-bows

The first thing to go on the wall was the ribbon holders.  I purchased 2 of these – one with 4 shelves and one with 3 shelves.  In this photo you will see that there was enough room to include her paint supplies that she uses on gifts (I told you she was an artist!).ribbon-rack

Next, we gathered up all her gift bags and organized them by size.  The medium sized gift bags are used the most, so they were arranged in this cute basket.  The small and large gift bags were placed on the bookshelf.basket-o-bags

We brought in a low bookshelf to hold the other gift bags, raffia and silk flowers.  The bookcase is more than half empty (some of the containers you see are empty) so there is room for more.photo-1-3

I found the cutest vintage container to hold her rolls of gift wrap!  I screwed it to the wall so that it is stable and can’t be knocked over.  Her Christmas gift wrap is stored in the closet so that its not mingled with the rest of the years’ supplies.photo-4

Remember the inspiration for her wrap room? Well, I made one for her! Here’s the burlap covered pegboard; it measures 4′ x 4′.

I inserted hooks at the bottom to hold 2 dowels for gift wrap rolls.photo-1-2img_1915img_1919

And here it is, hung above the dresser!  She can easily switch out the rolls of wrapping paper and she has easy access to her scissors and tape. Because this is a pegboard, she can re-configure this however she wants.  She has already added a bucket of pens and has her curly ribbon bow collection hanging in a gift bag!  Her super-sized rolls of ribbon hang above her so that she can reach up and cut a length when she needs some.burlap-pegboard

Can I just say that I was just as excited as my client to see this room come together?!!! Here are the before and after shots.photo-2

Can you visualize doing this in your wrap or craft room?  The possibilities are endless!


Too Little Time, Too Much to Read

This week I had a client ask me to help her with a strategy to get ahead of her reading, and I couldn’t help but think that was an interesting way to put it.  Most people want to “catch up” on their reading.  In fact, I wrote a blog post about that very thing. There seems to be too little time and too much to read.

 Here are my best tips for “getting ahead” of your reading:

  1. Analyze what you currently have in your library and make some decisions.  Make a list of all the books  that you’re in the middle of and decide which two books are worth your time – a great story line, almost finished or amazing writing and finish those two books. Put the rest back on the bookshelf for another time. Re-evaluate your magazine subscriptions; choose to let some magazine subscriptions lapse. Take any magazines that are more than 2 months old to the library and donate them.  Newspapers and flyers that are more than a week old need to be put in the recycling bin.  For the articles you’ve printed or pulled from magazines, put these together in a folder and put in the car.img_1833

  2. Decide how much time you can spend reading each week.  For example, can you commit an hour a day? How would you do this? One half hour on your lunch break and one half hour before bed? In order to read, you must carve out time. Carving out time consistently is the only way to get ahead on your reading.  Even committing 15 minutes a day to purposeful reading would be a great start.  Decide how much time you can commit and when you will read.

  3. Carry your reading material (Nook/Kindle/iPad/Hardcopy) with you so you can take it out during your lunch break or coffee breaks.  Fight the urge to surf the net and pick up your story.  In tip #1 I recommended putting a folder of reading materials in your car.  Use that folder to read while you’re waiting somewhere (ie: the doctor’s office or for a meeting to start etc.) or at the kids’ sports practices. Always be on the look out for places you can read, even if it’s just a few minutes.books-n-nooks


Try these tips and see if you can get ahead on your reading.  If you have other tips you can share on this topic, please share them with our Facebook community at https://www.facebook.com/OrganizedHabits!

May is Combating Clutter Month at Organized Habits

This month I wanted to kick off May with Combating Clutter. For fun, I looked up a web definition of the word “clutter”. Here’s what I found:

clut·ter /ˈklətər/

A collection of things lying about in an untidy mess.

Crowd (something) untidily; fill with clutter.

confusion – muddle – mess – disorder – muss – jumble

clutter photo

Do those synonyms ring true when describing your home? Do you have a muddled mess filled with untidiness and disorder? Do you need to organize your home? You are not alone. Clutter is a problem many are combating on a daily basis. Many do not know where to start in getting the clutter under control and moving toward a more organized home/life. That’s what I am here for! As a Professional Organizer I help my clients create the new habit of being organized and living a clutter-free life.

This month I want to offer tips, tricks and solutions to help you get organized and on the right path to combating the clutter that has invaded your home. Stay tuned…..and be sure to share your own victories in combating clutter in the comment section below.

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Tips to Include Your Kids in Your Time Management Plan

 the organizing mentor
It seems everything in life takes on a whole new dimension when we are parents, doesn’t it?
Does that mean we have to run late? Does it mean life always has to be chaotic?
Does it mean our homes are destined to be a disorganized mess?
No! My children are all grown, however, when kids are little it is very important to include them in your time management plan. Not just for your own sanity but also for the good of your children.
Here are 5 tips to include your kids in your time management plan:
1. Children thrive on a scheduled routine. A routine not a strict schedule, after all flexibility is a necessity with young children (and adults!).
2. Children are usually fast learners. Do not underestimate their ability to learn to manage their own time, they learn fast! Set a timer that will allow them to know when the time is up for tasks that need to be completed in a certain amount of time. This helps everyone at home stay on task.
3. Post a schedule for children who can read to follow. Incorporate your children into your time management plan with a “loose” schedule. Once they learn what to expect, children are generally eager to embrace what needs to be done.
4. Allow them to check off tasks as they are completed or earn stickers. Children are no different than adults in that they love to check off what they complete. Earning a sticker is just icing on the cake, so to speak.
5. Give your children small organizational tasks to accomplish according to their age and ability. A two year old can be instructed to take his clothing and put them in his dresser drawer, while being supervised. He can also be taught to pick up what he takes out of drawers or toy bins. 5 years and above are capable of helping fold clothes and put them away. Find what works with your kids and set up a plan to spend just a few minutes of the day guiding them in simple tasks.
These 5 tips to include your kids in your time management plan will help get you gain ground in your time management, as well as enable you to see some positive strides towards your home becoming more organized.
Feel free to share your own tips of how you include your kids in your time management plan and keep your home organized.

Organizing Baby’s Room

I am always happy to hear from clients who have a particular organizing question. Today’s post is about one such question – how best to organize the baby’s room.

The dilemma:

babys room   babys room closet
We are living in a small house and want to move baby into her own room. Because we lack storage closets, half of the closet in the baby’s room is used for dad’s clothes. While we have the baby’s toys in another area of the house, the room needs to hold all of the baby’s clothes, shoes, jackets, diapering needs and stuffed animals. Working with what we have, what do you recommend?

The Solution for Organizing Baby’s Room:

 1. Sort and Purge

Start by sorting through everything on the floor. Have 3 baskets or bins at the ready- one for garbage, one for donations, and one for things that need to leave the room. As you sort, put the baby’s clothes into categories- wears now, too small, and too big.

 Next, take everything off the dresser and sort and purge again. This is a great place to keep any baby mementos that you don’t want played with (or broken).

 2. Location

This is where the planning comes into play. Based on your photo of the room, I recommend adding an additional shelf to the top of the closet and use it to store the file box and things you rarely access. On the original closet shelf I would put the bulk purchase of diapers and wipes for easy access. Since it appears you have already removed one closet door, remove the left closet door as well.

 Purchase an additional hanging bar to increase your hanging space and put baby’s hanging outfits there. I would use the left side of the closet for baby’s clothes so that dad can still have his clothes on the right side.

 3. Containerize

In the dresser you have four drawers. Starting at the top drawer, here is how to organize the dresser:

 * Socks, tights, leg warmers and bibs

* Onesies, play clothes

* Outfits (folded together)

* Hats, sweaters, mittens

Use a hanging organizer on the back of the door to hold all baby shoes. Put the baby shoes that are still too big in the top pockets.

For the clothes that are too large for baby to wear right now, purchase a plastic tote with a lid. Place clothes in there with the largest sizes at the bottom. Label the outside of the tote. You can also use ribbon to bundle the like sizes together and label each bundle.

Purchase a toy hammock for the stuffed animals. Rotate them out two at a time for the baby to play with.

4. Maintain

As your baby grows, remove clothes that are too small as you notice them. Have a donation bag somewhere in your home at all times. Before shopping for more clothes, check your plastic tote for clothes that can be brought out and worn. Purge the toy hammock regularly or those stuffed animals will quickly outgrow the space!

10 Reasons to Organize Your Closet

Today we are focusing on your clothes closet.  Let’s get going by looking at 10 reasons to organize your closet.

organize your closet

1.) You find yourself wearing the same outfits week after week
2.) You can’t shut your closet door(s)
3.) You can’t move your clothes hangers because it’s packed so tight in there
4.) You can’t find your favorite shirt but you are sure that it’s “in there somewhere”
5.) Your closet rods are sagging
6.) You can’t see the floor of your closet
7.) There’s a layer of dust on the shoulders of some outfits
8.) You can’t find the other shoe
9.) You have clothes now hanging on hooks behind every door
10.) You have clothes piled around your bedroom with nowhere to put them

If you can relate to any of these reasons, read the following articles on my blog and follow me through my closet organization (you’ll get to see the before and after)!

The Basics of Closet Organization

My Closet Transformation, Part 1

My Closet Transformation, Part 2

More Closet Tips



Organizing Manuals, Instruction Booklets and Warranties

I have found product manuals in the weirdest places when helping my clients. Places like the cabinet under the bathroom sink, mixed in with a stack of recipes, and crumpled in the back of a kitchen drawer. It just goes to show you how frequently we even access this information, right? What if you needed to find a manual right now? Today’s post is about organizing manuals, instruction booklets, and warranties. I know it’s not a top priority on your organizing to-do list, but when you are ready to tackle this project, just come on back to my blog. (There’s always the handy dandy search bar to help you find these posts.)

1.  Gather and purge

As you gather your manuals and such, you will likely find many for items you don’t own any longer. Throw those away now. Don’t even waste your time trying to remember who you gave the toaster to so you can give them the booklet…most hand-me-downs don’t come with instructions anyway!


2.  Location

As I mentioned before, we typically do not need to refer to these manuals and warranties after the first time we look at them. They are reference materials. As such, they do not need to take up precious space in your home. Mine are located in an old file drawer we have in the garage. The point is not to have them taking up the space you have for more important things.


3. Containerize and Label

Get hanging file folders and label one for each room in your home. You will probably need 3 more files – Tools, Lawn/Garden, and Laundry. Having a file for each room in the house helps separate the multiples you may own. Take TV’s for example, you may have several TV’s and if you put the right manual in the correct room file, you won’t have to know the make and model when you go searching for it. For example, if you need to look up something about the TV in the family room, you only have to look in the Family Room file.

4. Maintain

The easiest way to remember to maintain your manuals is to purge every time you go in the file, whether you are looking something up or adding a new manual to it.
This is an easy project, once you have collected all those manuals, instruction books and warranties. It should take you about an hour to label and file. Now that we’ve talked about how to organize the manuals, instruction booklets, and warranties this brings me to another “soap box” moment.


Are you keeping all those empty boxes that once held the iPad, computer, printer, TV??
Leave me a comment and tell me what you think I would have to say about that!