June Missions: Tackle your Laundry & Bathrooms

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 6:25 am on Thursday, June 1, 2017


Here are this month’s do-it-yourself organizing assignments. Try to complete all four missions by the end of the month!

Mission #1: Do the Laundry

Mission #2: What are you hiding in your medicine cabinet?

Mission #3: The Functional Linen Closet

Mission #4: Bathroom Basics

Happy Organizing!


December Mission: Organize your Laundry and Bath zone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 2:17 pm on Thursday, December 1, 2016

Here are this month’s do-it-yourself organizing assignments.  Try to complete all four missions by the end of the month!

Mission #1: Do the Laundry

Mission #2: What are you hiding in your medicine cabinet?

Mission #3: The Functional Linen Closet

Mission #4: Bathroom Basics

Happy Organizing!


July Mission: Declare your Independence from the Paper Monster!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 9:54 pm on Tuesday, July 5, 2016

This month, we’re conquering our paper monster, and all those other items that are cluttering our office areas. Whether you have an office, or you store your papers in a corner of your home, we’re tackling this often dreaded area of the home. Here are your 4 missions to work on this month.

Office Mission #1: Conquering the Paper Monster:Part 1

Office Mission #2 : Conquering the Paper Monster:Part 2

Office Mission #3: Desk Decluttering

Office Mission #4: Office Wild Card

Happy Organizing!


Happy Earth Day!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 8:55 pm on Saturday, April 23, 2016

One of the things I love about my job is that I get to rescue items from the landfill. Items that appear to be trash may be able to be used by someone else, or may be able to be easily recycled.

I also get to help share donations with others in the community who benefit from the excess of others. I love seeing the staff and volunteers light up when they see how generous my clients are!

The link below contains many of the recycling and donation options available in Central Pa. It is a growing list to help you find homes for items that might not taken by Goodwill or Salvation Army, or in case you want to support other local charities.

I’m always adding to the list. Share with me some of your favorite donations or reycling locations!

Happy Earth Day!

Recycling in Central PA

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 8:01 pm on Thursday, April 23, 2015

Happy Earth Day!

Getting organized can leave you with large amounts of items that you need to dispose of.  So what can you easily rescue from the landfill?

Here’s are some local options to help you properly dispose of your recycling.   This is a work in progress, so please send me your recycling tips and recommendations!

Here is the link of what I’ve put together so far:    smfrecycling


A Busy Mom’s Guide to Organizing your Family Budget

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 9:59 am on Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Living within your means can be a challenge, especially when more than one person has access to the bank account.  How do stay on budget when you don’t always know what the other is spending?

I created this handout for a presentation at my Moms Club in September 2013.  I’m happy to report that my husband and I have stuck to this budget and it works!  In that time we have paid off several debts and even got to take a trip to Disney.   The Home  Budget app we use (shared below) has helped us finally get on track.  We love it so much, it frustrates when we think about all those years we weren’t keep a close eye on our daily spending.

Step 1: Determine your expected monthly income. How much income can you expect to make each month? Avoid including bonuses or commissions unless this is a typical form of income for you.

Step 2: Determine your guaranteed monthly expenses. Use a budget worksheet as a guide. Here is an example: http://frugalliving.about.com/library/pdfs/BudgetWorksheet.pdf Usually these expenses are mortgage payments, car payments, average energy costs, cell phone, minimum loan or credit card payments, etc. Don’t forget bills that may only be paid quarterly or annually. Assign those items a monthly amount. Also include a monthly savings goal (a percentage of your income) that you would like to save. If you tithe, this should also be included.

Step 3: Determine the expenses that fluctuate. Which line items from the budget worksheet are in constant flux? For us, it is groceries, gas, kids’ activities, clothing, personal care, co-pays, gifts, etc. Basically “everything else” that you spend money on that isn’t listed on Step 2.

Step 4: Determine how much of your money is already spent! Subtract the $ you get from Step 2 from Step 1. This is how much money you have left on a monthly basis for all your expenses that are in flux (from Step 3) that you have some control over. (Sure, it would be nice to have a budget for each of these line items. And it would be nice to have the time to track all of that. But wouldn’t also be nice to have time to take a shower? Or make a phone call without being interrupted. Or….)

Step 5: Communicate. This is the tough part. Sometimes the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing! This is especially true if you each have access to different “pots” of money. Daily or weekly meetings with your partner are essential to keeping on budget.

Some options:

  • Keep a running tally of your expenses on a wipe off board in home. Deduct expenses as you make them! (We did this for awhile. But sometimes I couldn’t remember if I remembered to deduct an item. And you don’t really get to see where you money is going, just that it is gone! So it does curtail your spending!)
  • Only use cash! Determine how much cash you can spend each week and keep to this budget. (I can’t stand the thought of paying cash for gas, figuring out how much to split up the money between me and the hubby, or not getting my Costco card rewards, so this just doesn’t work for me)
  • Use an app like House Budget (House Budget Lite is free for the first 20 transactions). You can easily record transactions as you spend money. The app works for multiple devices, so you partner can also update the money that is spent in real time! Upgrade to the full app for $4.99. (This is my current addiction. I love that I can quickly categorize my spending and that I now unfortunately know how much we spend on fast food/ restaurants last month! I love that my husband accesses it too!)
  • Have weekly meetings to discuss expenses. Keep tract of expenses using Quicken or a free program Mint.com. Mint.com also has an app that allows multiple devices. However, I have not yet tried this app yet.
  • Discuss limits for gift giving. Just because you always spent a certain amount for birthday gifts, doesn’t mean you need to continue to do so.
  • Include your children in the conversation. Teaching them that you also don’t always get to buy what you want is a lesson in money management. When your money is spent, it is gone, just like theirs.
  • Discuss together what to do if you go over budget for the month. Does the money come out of the next month? Does it come out of savings? Do you need to keep a balance on your credit card?

Step 6: Evaluate your spending. If you are struggling to stay on budget, evaluate your shopping habits. Ask yourself “Do I need it?” “Is there something else I have on hand that I could use instead?” “Do I need this now, or can I wait until next month?”

Also evaluate items that may feel like they are “set in stone”. Visit papowerswitch.com to see if you could save money with a cheaper electric company. This information is always changing, so check often. Contact your cable and phone companies to make sure that you are on the best plan for to meet your needs.

Step 7: Be creative! Figure out ways to stretch your dollar.

  • Use coupons. Couponmom.com is a great resource!
  • Have a date night using a Groupon or a gift certificate from Restaurant.com . Or just put the kids to bed early and plan a date night at home! Sushi take-out and a bottle of wine is a fraction of the price of hiring a babysitter and going out to eat! Or cook a special dinner at home.
  • Shop from your pantry! You’ll be amazed by what you can make with Ramon Noodles and stir fry veggies from Costco. Graham crackers and icing are a hit when we have no desserts in the house. And if you are really having a bad day, you can’t go wrong with chocolate chips and raisins or pretzels.
  • If you are low funds for the month and you run out of shampoo or soap, it’s a great time to use up your travel sized products!
  • Freeze your leftovers! Or double recipes and freeze half for later in the month.
  • Make your own pizza dough!
  • When you stock up on snacks, hide some of them from the kids so you can stretch them out over the month!
  • Collect all the coins in your house and cash them in (for FREE) at the CoinStar at Giant for a Giant gift card at their cash value.
  • Sign up for texting coupons with Redbox at http://www.redbox.com/textclub for cheap family movie nights!

The 2015, 6-week Clutter Makeover with cash prizes!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 9:50 am on Saturday, January 3, 2015

Is your New Year’s resolution to be more organized in 2015?

Great news! I’ll be re-launching my 6 week Clutter Challenge this month—-but this time with CASH prizes!

For $2 a week, you can join my supportive Facebook group working together on weekly organizing projects and receive personal professional organizing tips.  We will work on a different zone of the house every week.    You’ll get support and motivation from the other members, as well as myself, a Professional Organizer.   I’ll share with you tips on what you should consider getting rid of, and suggest where you can donate or sell the items.  Each week, you will have the option of posting before/after pics which I will share on my business page (and you can share with your friends). Every week for 6 weeks, the before/after with the most likes will receive $10 from me via PayPal.  Yes, folks, that’s CASH for your progress!

ALL PARTICIPANTS will also receive $20 off an organizing session with Set Me Free!  (travel fees apply 20 miles outside of Harrisburg, PA).

What have you got to lose, besides your clutter? Go recruit your friends!  Ready to make a commitment to be organized in the New Year?  Email me at colleen@setmefreeonline.com or inbox me on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SetMeFreeFromClutter. Once I have at least 15 participants, you’ll be sent a Paypal invoice for $12 for the 6 week program and upon payment you will be invited to the closed Facebook group. The target start date is 1/15/15.

I look forward to working with you and helping you create the peaceful home you deserve!

Happy Organizing!


School Command Center

Filed under: Kids,Office,Uncategorized — Colleen at 11:08 pm on Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My kids headed back to school today.  In preparation for the back to school season, we recently transformed our sunroom into a “School Command Center”.   Since our sunroom has an outside exit, we started using it as a “mud room” last year and had the kids exit and enter the sunroom door to and from school.  This prevented the kids from dropping their school items throughout the house.   (Imagine 3 bookbags, 3 sets of shoes, 3 coats on a small living room floor!)    We saw a significant improvement last year, so this year we stepped it up to make our school supplies a little less visible.

First, we needed a place for the bookbags.  We decided to hide our bookbags by repurposing an old kitchen pantry into a “locker”.  Our backpack “locker” is pictured below.  Each child has a section and the lower portion houses our arts and crafts.

Next, we needed to hide the shoes.  With 4 kids, we were constantly tripping on shoes.  We had shoe racks last year, but they just didn’t look nice in the space.  So we solved that problem with a trip to Ikea.  We purchased the TRONES shoe cabinet (sold in sets of 3 for $39.99).  Each child now has their own cabinet for their frequently worn shoes.  Since we need to buy 2 sets of cabinets (for 6 separate bins in all) , we are using the 2 extra cabinets to house their sports shoes, having 2 kids to  a cabinet.

Here is the TRONES shoe storage system.  I love how it is low-profile and can be  installed behind the door.   The older kids have the higher bins.  I am really enjoying not looking at shoes anymore!

As shown below, the two “extra” shoe bins are being used to house the seasonal sports.  Right now they are storing basketball shoes, soccer shoes and chin guards, and ice skates!  How awesome is that?  Above the bins is a filing organizer I got from 31 Gifts.  Each child has a section for me to put any school papers they may need to reference (or that I find laying around the house).  The bottom file is devoted to general school papers, like the school transportation forms, the calendar, and the school directory.  A small bulletin board posts the kids’ weekly activity schedule, the kid’s weekly “specials’ in school, and (most importantly to them) the Hot Lunch calendar.

Here is a close up of our bulletin board:

And finally, what drive me the craziest with back to school is getting 3 kids ready.  It is so exhausting to ask each child if they are ready for school and if they have brushed their teeth and packed their lunch and whether they have library that day.  So instead of repeating myself everyday, I created “The Nagging Mom Morning Checklist”.  Posted on the exit door is every question I tend to ask them in the morning.  It is their job to read it each morning to make sure that they are ready.  I’m sure it will evolve as the year goes on!

I’m happy to report all well well this morning.  They were actually all ready about 20 minutes early.  And I didn’t have to nag once. :)

Organizing your Christmas List

Filed under: Holidays,Uncategorized — Colleen at 7:36 pm on Tuesday, November 12, 2013

iPhone Screenshot 1Last year on my Facebook page, I recommended an app called “Better Christmas List”. This app allows you to create a list of everyone you are shopping for. You can create groups and budgets for the list. As you shop, just enter what you purchase for each person, and it will tally how much you spend on each person and group and will tally how many gifts you have for each person. And to make this app even better, it is password protected for curious eyes. (But I did learn that you must close the app! I discovered last year that if you leave it open, it doesn’t time-out with inactivity. So be sure to close it! We had a close call last year that required some, uh, creative explanations to my Ipad stealing daughter).

My husband and I have established a tradition of shopping for our four kids on Veteran’s day. Since it’s a holiday for my husband from work and the kids have school, it’s the perfect day for us to get a lot of shopping done. Last year, we fell in love with the Better Christmas List app. After a morning of shopping, we entered our purchases over lunch and could see at a glance what we still needed to get.
Well, this year, the app got better. No, I didn’t notice any new features or frills. But we were able to open up the app, see what we spent last year so that we immediately could compare last year’s Christmas budget with what what we had planned to spend this year. And we discovered that the app allowed us to archive all of our purchases from last year, while still retaining our shopping list of people that we had created last year. This app is well worth the $1.99 price tag.  Click here for more information.

Another helpful app is Amazon Price Check. This free app allows you to scan the barcodes of items that you are planning to buy from a store and let you know if the item can be found cheaper online. We found that Amazon.com often had the cheapest prices. So while we shoppped in stores to get ideas, our purchases were often placed in a virtual cart instead of a physical one.

This year, we made the most of free-shipping deals. Target has free shipping if you use your Target card. If you are shopping at a store online, google for a free shipping code before you pay for shipping. I scored a free shipping code at the American Girl Store and Kohl’s. Or consider enrolling in Amazon Prime, for $79 a year you get free 2-day shipping, plus many other benefits. You can try it out for free here http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200444170

Whatever methods you use, be sure to start with a list of who are are shopping for and some general ideas.  It’s easy to get distracted by the Christmas music, sales signs, and lights.  And if you’re shopping for your kids, be sure to ask yourself what your kids need and whether there is space in your home for the item.   Happy Shopping!

Confessions of a Professional Organizer: Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 4:21 pm on Monday, January 14, 2013

Three days ago, I confessed that I had a HUGE bin of clutter.  Not large.  HUGE.


Scary, huh?

It was even scarier when I opened it.

Now can you understand why I’ve been avoiding it?

The good news was that this houses all the kids’ memorabilia—there aren’t more piles squirreled away.  It was pretty full so I was forced to make sorting the memorabilia a priority because starting a second bin was not an option.   Just this one bin drained me whenever I saw it.  It just felt like a huge emotionally heavy task I had to deal with.  And I was never quite sure how I wanted to deal with it, so I just kept collecting sweet thing from the kids.

With a sick kid home Thursday and an expected stretch of time available I faced this monster.  And I’m happy to say that 3 days later.  It is done!  I’m also happy to say, that while it took me 3 days, it really only took 5-6 hours to do.  It just took me 3 days to find 6 hours in which the kids were content so I could focus on it!

So here’s what I did….

First I came up with a plan.  I loved this idea I had found from Pinterest.

With a sick kid home, I couldn’t run out a get all the recommended supplies- the pretty matching hanging files, the manilla folders, or the printable file tabs/stickers.  Instead, I made do with what I had.  I’m not a huge fan of putting manilla folders inside hanging folders.  It just gets too bulky.  (I would rather get to hang on to an extra special keepsake or 2!).  So I printed the labels using heavy photo paper and used my paper cutter to cut them down to size to use them in my file tabs.   I also skipped the pretty cover sheet for the school photos.  Maybe I’ll add that someday, but right now photos were not my concern.

Next, I did a rough sort, sorting the keepsakes by child and pitching duplicates and less meaningful memorabilia as I went.  I was happy to discover that I had actually had a great deal of the papers organized in folders and boxes by child and some by grade.  This made made sorting pretty easy.  After 30 minutes I was finished!  My 10 year old and my 8 year old each had a laundry basket full of papers.  My 5 year old and 3 year old each had a small box.

Here’s what it looked like after 30 minutes:

Using the files I created from the Pinterest link above, I filed the papers by grade.  The file tabs began with pre-K, so I made each child a label with their name and wrote the ages 0-4 so I had a place for their early drawings and early letters.  Sometimes it was hard to remember when something was made.  The kids were helpful at times and other times I just followed my gut.  Somethings may be off by a year.  (Perfectionist that I am, it was hard to guesstimate at first, but as I saw myself making progress it got easier.  My goal was to be able to find the treasures, not to have everything in chronological order!)

I kept most of my favorites…. handprints, journals, and “firsts”.   For other papers that just captured their personalities or were bulky I took pictures of them with my phone and saved them to the app, Artkive .  The app allows you to save the images to the cloud (for free) or you can purchase them in a book format.  It organizes the pictures by child and by grade.  And it’s much faster than traditional scanning.

In about 3 hours, I had filed and Artkived all the papers of 3 of my children.  It felt fantastic.  But those kids were home with me that day and nd needed my attention.  So I had to put my daughter’s papers aside.

It took a couple days, but I got back to the project today.  Today’s task was easier because I already had a plan of attack.  However, it was harder because my daughter loves to draw and to write so there was so much more to sort through.   The Justin Beiber years resulted in notebooks full of songs she wrote.  How can I part with that?  (I didn’t).

Due to some time constraints, I focused today on purging the pile, scanning the bulky items, and filing the rest.   Her files are a bit thicker, but I now can grab one at a time, review them, and scan more when I have more time.

After about 5- 6 hours of hand-on time, the contents of my huge scary bin now fit in 1 file cabinet drawer, and in a huge box of recycling.  I may purge more, but right now I have 26 years (10 + 8 + 5+ 3)  of my kids memorabilia housed in just one file drawer and my phone.  I’m content for now!

Happy Organizing!


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