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!


Back Up your Data in the Cloud

It’s important to back up the data and photos you have on your computer.  We all have so much data on our home computers today, especially if you have started scanning paperwork. One of the ways to back up your data is in “the cloud”.  Many of my clients are not sure what ‘the Cloud’ is and if it’s a secure place to store their data.

This is a short and simple explanation of backing up to the cloud from The Today Show:

backing up to the cloud>

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Key points:

  • You can store data off site, on the internet.
  • You can store documents, pictures and other data (not programs).
  • Not everything on your computer needs to be backed up.
  • You can access your data on other equipment –  your phone, your tablet and other places that have an internet connection.
  • You won’t get 100% safety on the internet, even on the most secure sites.  Encrypt your data and use strong passwords.
  • Having multiple back-ups is a good idea. For example, using an external hard drive in addition to the cloud services.

Providers of cloud services:

Some of the following links are affiliate links, if you choose to do business with one of these companies, Organized Habits may receive a small referral fee.

Having back up is part of maintaining the organization of your photos, paperwork and documents. Create your back up plan and start to implement it today.  We all hate to lose our data because there is never a good time to lose data!  Do you use other cloud services? I’d love to hear about them.

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.

The Unfinished Business of Maintenance

One Saturday morning I looked around my house and it felt cluttered. After a few busy weeks of business, travel, and other commitments things were looking a little shabby.  I felt like it was out of control and I also felt a little guilt for letting it get this way. Then I thought, “This is probably some of what my clients are feeling.”  The clutter came from different places in my home but things hadn’t been dealt with, much less put away.  This is where the fourth principle of organization comes in – The unfinished business of maintenance.

Our lives run the gambit – busy then slowed down, crazy then peaceful, planned out then unexpected, happy then sad. This is why we must make time to maintain our organization. Our lives are not static and neither are our organizing systems.  By taking a few minutes each week (or month) to do some maintenance we can make sure our homes stay organized. Since I believe in walking the talk here’s what I did that Saturday to maintain my home:

3. Grab 2 or 3 more books to create your stack. If covers don't coordinate, make more covers.

  • Put away sweaters that were laid out to dry after laundering

  • Put away new book I received & want to read later

  • Hung up the sheer curtain in the bedroom

  • Cut out and filed my grandmother’s obituary

  • Put away nail file and clippers

  • Returned my scrapbook to the bookshelf

  • Recycled a few magazines

  • Filed away a recipe given to me by a friend

    Organize-To-Downsize workbook


Now I didn’t time myself but this honestly did not take a huge chunk of my time.  After this was done, even before doing my house cleaning, my home felt better… It was visually more organized and that made me feel better. Our external clutter can cause internal angst and that’s something we don’t need to add to our already full lives.  Take a few moments and do some maintenance today; it will make you feel better!  By the way, if you need to learn the four principles of organization then you may want to get my ebook, Organize to Downsize; it’s all explained in there.

Leave a comment and let me know what you did with the unfinished business of maintenance in your home.

Managing the Calendar, Appointments and Tasks

Well, it’s back to basics for me. Over the past 60+ days I just really been struggling with managing my calendar, my appointments, and all the things I have to do. Yes, I know … I’m the organizer!

I had been using Google calendar via my iPhone and iPad for well over a year. It’s ideal in several ways, but there were the aspects I struggled with:

  • on my phone and my iPad I couldn’t read all the events for the entire month, in one of view; it was best to be sitting in front of my computer

  • on my phone, I could only read my appointments day by day

  • Google calendar took too long on my phone, in my humble opinion

  • on a few occasions appointments went missing on my phone (can’t figure that one out!)

Now for those techies out there, it may be that my iPhone and Google calendar are not ideal mates. In the grand scheme of things though, what is important?

What is important is that I have a system that works for how I do things.

And the same could be said for you…

What is important is that YOU have a system that works for YOU?

Let’s just say, for the sake of this post, my system was broken. I thought about trying something new but also remembered that what I had used before worked. It never broke, I just got bored with it and thought I should try to get all my “essentials” on my phone. Or, as my friend Jessica would say, I had BSO syndrome.  BSO stand for bright-shiny-object; you know, that thing that catches your attention and lures you toward something else.

So, what did I use before? I used a Planner Pad.  This year, I am back to the Planner Pad. I even made a YouTube video about it a couple of years ago. I highly recommend going to view it if you want to know how it differs from the other paper based planners. (It’s just easier to show you than explain in writing.)

Here’s a couple of photos of my Planner Pad to pique your interest.

Why I went back to my Planner Pad:

  • I have immediate access to my calendar

  • I can see my whole month on 2 open pages

  • I can also see my whole week on 2 open pages

  • I can list my tasks based on the roles I play

  • I can funnel tasks into the week around the timed appointments of the calendar

  • I can jot quick notes on the same page as I am making appointments

  • I can see at a glance what was not completed

 So what kind of calendar or planner do you use? Is it a system that works for you? Have you ever struggled to maintain a calendar, your appointments and tasks? Would love to have you share your comments below.

4 Tips for Back to School Organization


It’s back to school time. In other words, it’s how we know to settle into another routine; summer has ended and fall is at our doorstep. I don’t have little ones in school any more but it still affects me because my husband teaches and my clients are all adjusting their schedules based on the school schedules in our area. I’d like to share 4 tips for back to school organization to help make your back to school transition a little easier.

  1. Have a Launch Pad

    This area of the home is for everyone who comes and goes daily. It should be near the door you most use to exit and enter your home. This is a place for shoes, coats, bags and backpacks, sunglasses, keys, and other things to leave with you.  It can be a coat closet, a piece of furniture or a simple bench with hooks on the wall above. When setting up your launch pad, look at the things that tend to collect near the door. Make a plan for the best use of the area you have to work with.  Check out my Pinterest Board called Mudroom/Launch Pad for ideas.
  2. Create a Collection Area for each Child

    This is especially important if you have children in elementary school. They are bringing home graded homework and artwork that they want you to see. Just like in your own office, make them an in-box.  This can be a plastic container, a wall pocket, a basket or even a cardboard flat (the kind from a case of soda). The idea is to give them an area to collect their papers and art. Want to know what to do with the papers after they land in this box? Read these blog posts : Managing the Paper Memorabilia and School Days memorabilia.
  3. Set up a Homework Station (or Homework Supply Station)

    It’s important to have an area for your children to do their work. No matter the location you choose, be sure that all the tools needed are at hand. Make up a kit of binder paper, notebooks, markers, pencils, eraser, pencil sharpeners and the like to have easily accessible for homework time. If the children do homework in their rooms then make sure the supplies are centrally located. Having a homework station is a key component to helping your children be successful with their homework habits.
  4. Establish Morning and Bed Time Routines

    Having a morning and bed time routine is critical for all members of your household, not just the children. Sit down and discuss with your family what things will make the mornings and bed time go more smoothly. Give yourself more time than you think it will take for these routines; you can always adjust after you have solidly established these routines. Some suggestions:
     – Lay out clothes the night before
     – End the day with reading rather than television or video games (the experts say this makes for better sleeping)
     – Pack lunches and backpacks the night before
     – Make the bed every day
     – Eat a good breakfast at home before leaving

Ready, Set, Organize!

You have decided to finally get this (room, bookcase, closet, whatever) organized.  You have set aside the time and YOU ARE FINALLY GOING TO ORGANIZE.

So off to the store to get some organizing bins and maybe some cute labels…..

Wrong – DON’T DO THIS – I have seen it happen over and over again.  Organizing is work, organizing is not shopping…..

Let’s start off on the right foot, shall we?

Find an area near the location you will be working and set up some boxes.  These can be cardboard, plastic or even laundry baskets- use containers you already have.

Label them:

  • Goes Elsewhere

  • Give Away

  • Garbage

Goes elsewhere is for the things you find that you want to keep, but that do not belong where you found them.  Don’t leave the room, just put them in the box labeled goes elsewhere and keep working. At the end of your organizing session, you take that box around to the various locations in your home or office and put those things away in their proper home.

Give away is for those things you feel you can, well, give away.  You can donate them and get a tax deductible receipt or you can pass these items along to your family and friends (but ask them first if they even want it, don’t assume they do).

Garbage is for those things that just need to be thrown away.  If you are working in an area with lots of paper you may want two garbage receptacles – one for shredding and the other for recycling.

These boxes will help you stay focused and be clear about the decisions you are making.  And remember, no shopping (at least not at this point…)!

Organized Habits are Simply Routines

Do you remember Kindergarten?  organized routines

You walk into a magical room, filled with color and miniature chairs… Okay, while that’s true that’s not where I am going with this….

Kindergarten is the perfect example of having a routine.  And routines are essentially habits.  So… if you need “organized habits” you need to think about setting up some routines.   It is said that the best way to create a new habit is to pair it with an old habit.  Here’s an example:

I had a client who was the mother of 5 year-old triplet boys.  Can you imagine how busy she was?!  I came to help her with time management.  There was always so much going on in their life, that she felt like she was suffocating under the weight of trying to keep up  with everything.  She wanted to be a better time manager so that she would have a better handle on her day. 

After interviewing her, I learned that she would get up early, before the rest of the family, and make herself a cup of coffee then sit at the dining table to soak in the serenity (while it lasted). This was her morning routine.  So to incorporate some better time management strategies we decided that her calendar would be placed by the coffee pot every night before bed.  When she got up in the morning, she would go about her normal routine, with one change.  She would take her calendar with her to the dining table and review the days’ plans as she drank her coffee. She still had her quiet time but she also had a bird’s eye view of the rest of her day and what she would need to prepare,pack,etc. 

What new routine can you start to get more organized?

Use these questions below to help you can start a new routine:

  1. What is one new routine/habit you would like to have that would help you to be more organized?

  2. What tools (if any) are involved with this new routine/habit? (i.e. my planner)

  3. How much time is needed for this new routine/habit?

  4. What time of day do you want to do this? (i.e. at night before going to bed)

  5. What other routine do you have during this same time of day? (i.e. brushing my teeth)

  6. Can the established routine be paired with this new routine? Or at least act as a trigger to begin the new routine?

  7. When will you start this?

I would love to hear how you used these questions and what your new routine/habit is that you are wanting to start.  Please leave a comment.

10 Small Summer Projects

Summer time can be the best time to get a bunch of the little projects out of the way.

“Little” projects are defined as things that will take an hour or less of your time every week to sort through, purge, and put away.  Most of the time these projects can be put in a basket and set next to your favorite chair. Just taking an extra 10-15 minutes whenever you sit in your chair each day to attend to a project can go a long way.  There’s still at least 10 weeks of summer left so here are 10 small summer projects that can be tackled:

file organization by Natalie Conrad, organzing consultant

  1. One drawer of old files

  2. The junk drawer in the kitchen or office

  3. The leaning tower of magazines

  4. A dresser, one drawer at a time

  5. Shredding old checks/bank statements

  6. That old, unlabeled box in the bottom of a closet

  7. A shoebox full of receipts

  8. Going through all the computer CD’s

  9. A container of greeting cards you’ve saved for years

  10. Going through all the first aid supplies and medications

What tools are needed for this job?

I recommend a basket that can be filled with “the little project”, a timer (if you really want to stick to 10-15 minutes a day), and bags for garbage and items you want to give away.

I’d love to hear from you if you tackle a “little project” (or ten) this summer. Please leave a comment!


Causes of Clutter

I was helping a client this week who has a beautiful home. Everything seemed to have its place and the home was very warm and inviting. I was asked to help with the home office. The office had a desk piled with papers, bills and receipts as well as boxes of more of the same tucked under the desk. I have seen much worse than this, but my client was struggling to get the home office organized and back into a functioning room. As we began to work, we talked about the reasons for the room’s unorganized state. There is always a reason behind the clutter. I am not saying this so that we can justify the clutter but to help us recognize that there is something behind the physical clutter we see. Here are a few examples of the reasons why people now have clutter when they used to be able to handle it: