Bedroom Mission #1: Straighten your rooms!

Filed under: Bedrooms,Monthly Missions — Colleen at 1:56 pm on Wednesday, March 4, 2009

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This week spend time just straightening up your bedrooms. Put away everything that already has a home. Also put away everything that doesn’t belong in your bedrooms (i.e. take that snack plate down to the kitchen, return those overdue library books and videos, bring the papers on your dresser down to be filed, etc). Don’t worry about what is lurking in your closet and drawers, we’ll get to that! Just focus this week on your floor, under your bed, and your furniture surfaces.

Suggestions:

  • Here’s great way to straighten your bedroom. Start by making your bed. Then put everything that needs to be put away on your bed. Put on some fun music. (Avoid putting on a movie, it may suck you in and distract you!) Now put everything away. If you want to get to bed tonight, you’ll be motivated to finish!

  • If you are overwhelmed by your clutter, declutter your floor and furniture surfaces by putting your homeless stuff into empty laundry baskets. Try to empty one of these “clutter baskets every day. Once you get one bedroom finished, move on to the next.

  • Remember, your goal is to make your bedroom a haven for relaxation! Don’t keep anything in your room that doesn’t foster relaxation. That means, if you keep your bills or work in your bedroom, find another home for them!

  • If you’ve got lots of clutter in every bedroom, it’s OK to just focus on one bedroom this month. Or if your other bedrooms have capable occupants, challenge them to complete each week’s task with you!

Overwhelmed by this project? Set Me Free! offers hands-on help.

Are you motivated by this mission or have a great organizing idea that works for you? Leave a comment to inspire others!

Living Zone Mission #4: Book Review!

Filed under: Living Areas,Monthly Missions — Colleen at 12:52 pm on Monday, February 23, 2009

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It’s time to assess your library. Are your bookcases overflowing? Or worse, do you have piles of books in the corners of your home? What about those unpacked boxes of books from your move 5 years ago?

Have you been wanting to free up some shelf space for your collectibles or photo albums? Thinning out your book collection may help.

Take a look at your home’s library. How many of these books do you actually read or refer to? How many of your books do you expect to read again? Are you still holding on to your dusty overpriced college textbooks?

Step 1: Sort your books into 3 categories. “Books I frequently read or refer to” , “Books I plan to read” and “Books I don’t plan to read again or ever and outdated text books”

Now take a look at your pile of books you plan to read. If it is overambitious, thin it out again.

Step 2: Donate or sell your third category of books. Libraries usually accept donated books and will issue a receipt for tax purposes. Or you can sell books online on sites such as Half.com or Ebay. I sold some of my books online and made a few hundred dollars in just a few months!

Step 3: Rearrange and reorganize your remaining books. Try to keep “like” books together into categories. Keep books you plan to read accessible so you don’t forget about them!

Step 4: Take a field trip! Check out just how much your local library has to offer. I introduced my husband to our library and he’s now addicted. He does book searches and makes book requests online then simply goes to the front library desk to pick them up! This is better service than bookstores and FREE! We save a ton of money this way and he reads so much more.

Overwhelmed by this project? Set Me Free! offers hands-on help. Are you motivated by this mission or have a great organizing idea that works for you? Leave a comment to inspire others!

Living Zone Mission #3: Taken over by toys!

Filed under: Living Areas,Monthly Missions — Colleen at 10:24 pm on Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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If you have little ones in your home, then you know how quickly toys can take over the house. If your living room is a carpet of toys, this is the week you’ll be reintroducing yourself to your living room floor.

If you don’t have children’s toys, spend this week organizing your board games, getting rid of the dusty duds and putting all your fun games together. Or you spend this week finishing up a previous project, like putting the finishing touches on your media collection.

Before you get started, be sure to pick a good time. If you think your children will work against you, wait until your kids are in bed or napping. Or if your children are old enough, use this time to teach them a valuable lesson about charity. When I’m overwhelmed by the number of toys in my home, I sit down with my 4 year old and 6 year old and say “You have so many great toys. Did you know that some kids don’t have any toys? What toys should we give them?”. I’ve been surprised with how much they’ve been willing to part with. This will also help you learn just which toys are the “favorites” and which toys you’re holding on to because of sentimental value.

Step 1: Clear an area. In order to sort the toys, you much first create a sorting area. This could be a separate room, or you can collect the toys in boxes or laundry baskets until you have created enough room to sort.

Step 2: Do a quick purge. Set a buzzer for 5 minutes and see how many items you can identify to trash or donate. Do you really need to keep every Happy Meal toy? Do you have games that can no longer be used because of missing or broken pieces?

Step 3: Sort. Separate the toys into categories: playsets, dress ups, action figures, cars, baby toys, books, games, etc.

Step 4: Minimize. Reevaluate each toy. Keep the favorites. If your child has outgrown a toy but you want to keep it for your next child, pack up the toys and put them in long-term storage. Don’t keep too many, just the favorites. Your next child will likely have new toys each birthday and holiday. Also consider packing up some of the toys for a rainy day. Rotating toys can keep your children interested in them.

Step 5: Assess your toy storage. What are you currently using for toy storage? Toy boxes are not ideal because toys become buried and can’t be found. Consider bookshelves or cabinets–be sure to properly secure them to the wall first. Use decorative baskets or bins to house each category of toys and then label each (Label with pictures for smaller children). Keep toys that require supervision on higher shelves or an unaccessible area.
When it comes to storing toys, be creative!

  • The dollar store has dish pans which make great storage bins for shelves. You can also buy their small sewing containers to house game pieces to boardgames. Label each container and simply stack the game boards. You can use empty egg cartons or empty margarine tubs to store game pieces or get this blue game saver or orange game saver to house your games and abandon your broken boxes.
  • Ice cube trays make great organizers for small toys–like Barbie’s shoes or accessories.
  • Use an over-the-door clear shoe organizer to sort Barbie dolls.
  • Use clear shoe boxes to house legos, cars, or other collections.
  • I love organizing toys in shoe organizers.

My kids love to dress up. When the dress-ups were in a toy box, they would pull everything out just to get the one item they wanted. I solved this by creating a dressing room for them using 2 shoe organizers from Costco. When my kids play, this little “dressing room” becomes a home, fort, or cave. They love it, can find what they want to play with, and actually clean up! In the pictures below, you can see I used one cubby for dress-ups and one for toys. ( If you can’t get to Costco, consider this stackable shoe cubby)

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Step 6: Maintain. Designate clean up times. Make it a routine and your children won’t be surprised by needing to straighten-up. Try cleaning up before each meal. Or make cleaning up more fun by setting a buzzer and play “Beat the Buzzer”, cleaning up before the buzzer goes off. Follow the 1 in 1 out rule: Whenever you child asks for a toy, be sure that they put a toy away first. TIP: When it comes to cleaning up, kids usually don’t know where to start. I keep a decorative laundry basket in my family room. I do a quick clean up and place their out-of-place toys in the basket. My five-year old is very successful when instructed to clean up everything in the basket. He calls it the “Basket game”. He doesn’t get overwhelmed because he can see his progress and knows when he’s done!

Click here to views some of my suggested organized products for kids.

Overwhelmed by this project? Set Me Free! offers hands-on help. Are you motivated by this mission or have a great organizing idea that works for you? Leave a comment to inspire others!

Living Zone Mission #2: Organize your Media

Filed under: Living Areas,Monthly Missions — Colleen at 2:35 pm on Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You are finally taking some time to relax and to curl up with your favorite movie. But when you open up your TV cabinet, all your movies fall on top of you! You frantically go through your movies and are relieved when you eventually find what you’ve been looking for. You quickly throw the other movies back into the cabinet, carefully closing the door. (You’ll get to organizing those movies some other day). You prepare your popcorn and flip open the DVD case only to discover that your beloved movie is not it the proper case! Sound familiar?

This week we are addressing this problem. DVDs, video tapes, video games and CDs have a way of piling up. If you don’t have a proper home for them, then you can’t enjoy them when you want them. Here’s what you need to to do to get control of them so that they are ready when you need them:

1. COLLECT. Gather your DVDs, video tapes, video games and CDs from all over your home and from your cars!

2. SORT. Make separate piles for each type of media (DVDs, video tapes, CDs). Open each case and make sure that the right item is in each. Decide how to categorize them. Pick a method of organizing that is easy to maintain. Consider categorized first by type. For example, I like keeping children’s movies and exercise videos separate from my regular movie collection. If your collection is large, you may need to alphabetize each category so that you can find what you are looking for when you need it. However, if your collection is relatively small, alphabetizing may be an unnecessary time-consuming step.

3. MINIMIZE. Now that you’ve sorted through your collection, take a moment to identify items that you can get rid of through donating, selling, or returning them to their owner.

4. CONTAIN. Consider how your collection should be contained. I like using large CD wallets to house my CD collections. I simply place the CD and the booklet in each pouch. Look for CD wallets with a 3 ring binder so that you can easily add you new additions alphabetically. You can use the same system for your DVDs. This method helps with storage issues as you will no longer need to house the cases. (If you wish, you can keep the empty cases in your long term storage, so that you will have the original cases if you were to ever sell part of your collection.)

KID TIP:  I put all of my children’s DVD’s into a DVD wallet.   The kids just flip through the wallet, “reading” each title by the images on the DVD.  After a DVD is viewed, it goes into the first empty sleeve I find.   Try to keep the collection small so that they can easily find their favorites.  And if you have a DVD player for the car or are just headed to grandma’s, all you have to do is grab the small DVD wallet, no need to repack!

Consider where you house your collection. Try to keep everything in a central location. Keep each category where you use them most. For example, if you only use your exercise tapes in your bedroom, store them there.

Need to contain your media?  Check out these organizing products:

A great space-saver for CDs and DVDs-  This small box holds 200 CDs/DVDs.  My husband got this for his movie collection.  He files them alphabetically.  It’s been working great for about 2 years now!
A CD Wallet

A wall organizer for CDs and DVDs

or this cool filing rack for CD’s and DVD’s
Overwhelmed by this project? Set Me Free! offers hands-on help. Are you motivated by this mission or have a great organizing idea that works for you? Leave a comment to inspire others!

Living Zone Mission #1: Straighten Up Your Living Areas!

Filed under: Living Areas,Monthly Missions — Colleen at 3:10 pm on Monday, February 2, 2009

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For your first project, spend this week straightening up your living zones:

  1. Put away EVERYTHING that already has a designated home.
  2. Grab a laundry basket and pile in any items that belong in another room. When the basket is full put the items away!
  3. Grab another laundry basket (or 2 or 3) and fill it with items that are “homeless” and you just don’t know what to do with them. Put them aside, we’ll get back to them!
  4. Find a box and fill it with items to donate or to sell.
  5. Have plenty of trash bags handy for items that need to be disposed.
  6. After your basic straightening is completed, go through any drawers of furniture that have become clutter magnets. Skip over drawers of toys, games, or media items–we’ll get to them in the next few weeks. Concentrate on “junk drawers” and papers.
  7. Empty your “homeless” basket, finding appropriate homes for each item.
  8. Repeat the above in as many of your living spaces as possible.

Overwhelmed by this project? Set Me Free! offers hands-on help. Are you motivated by this mission or have a great organizing idea that works for you? Leave a comment to inspire others!

Office Mission #4: Office Wild Card

Filed under: Monthly Missions,Office — Colleen at 6:44 pm on Monday, January 26, 2009

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We’ve attacked the papers and we’ve addressed the desk. Now take a look around your office area and see what remains. Make a list of office projects you need to complete and then see this week how many you can get done. Here are some suggestions:

1. Declutter your bookcases.

2. Clear out old files on your computer.

3. Sort your coupons. For help organizing your grocery coupons, visit Coupon Mom. Coupon Mom has a search engine which lets you check whether there are coupons currently out for specific products-without searching through your piles of coupons. You can create a coupon binder and place each week’s coupons in a separate pocket. With Coupon Mom you won’t even need to clip!

4. Get caught up on your filing!

5. Assess the area for items that don’t belong in your office. Give them a better home.

Overwhelmed by this project? Set Me Free! offers hands-on help.

Are you motivated by this mission or have a great organizing idea that works for you? Leave a comment to inspire others!

Office Mission #3: Desk Decluttering

Filed under: Monthly Missions,Office — Colleen at 12:09 pm on Sunday, January 18, 2009

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Now that you’ve gotten through your papers, it’s time to address the rest of your desk. (If you don’t have a desk, sort through the areas of your home where you store your stationary and office supplies).

1. Go through one drawer at a time, putting like objects together, throwing away trash, and donating unnecessary duplicates.

2. Create themes for each drawer, such as “stationary”, “office supplies”, “computer supplies”, “pens/pencils”. Be sure to put your most frequently used items in the drawers that are the most accessible.
3. If you pay your bills at your desk, place your necessary bill paying supplies (envelopes, check book, stamps) in an area of a drawer. If you pay bills on-the-go, put your supplies in a portable container.

4. Use drawer organizers. (Click here to shop for some) to organize smaller items. Or use containers your already have. Ice cube trays are great for storing rubber bands, paper clips, thumb tacks, and other small items. Be creative! Use gripping shelf liner to prevent your items from sliding around.
5. Clear off the surface of your desk. Can some of the items be stored in your drawers? Do you have too many knick knacks on your desk? Maximize your work space by minimizing these items.

Overwhelmed by this project? Set Me Free! offers hands-on help.

Are you motivated by this mission or have a great organizing idea that works for you? Leave a comment to inspire others!

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

Filed under: Monthly Missions,Office — Colleen at 10:23 am on Sunday, January 11, 2009

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In Part 1 of Conquering the Paper Monster, we got control of our ACTIVE files. In this section, we will find a home for our REFERENCE files.

If you already have a filing system that works for you, spend some time getting your filing up to date.

If you are not sure if your filing system is working, set a timer for 5 minutes. Now try to find the following items before your buzzer goes off.

  1. Your birth certificate
  2. A copy of your last tax return
  3. Your favorite take out menu
  4. Your auto insurance policy
  5. The instruction manual to your vacuum.

How did you do? If you could find all 5 items, you’re in good shape. However, if hunting down these papers was more like a scavenger hunt, it’s time to create a filing system.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Reassess your reference papers. If you can find the information easily on-line, you probably don’t need to keep it. And you don’t need to keep EVERYTHING for 7 years. Here’s a chart to help you decide what to keep.
2. Review Monthly Missions Week 1 Orientation, step 3 “Create a Filing System” and get to work!

3. You can make the filing process easier by purchasing the Set Me Free Filing System.

4. If you’re overwhelmed, commit to 15 minutes a day until you get control of your backlog of papers. Or hire Set Me Free! to give you the hands-on help that you need!

If you are motivated by this project or have a great organizing idea that works for you, please leave a comment to inspire others!

Office Mission #1 Conquering the Paper Monster: Part 1

Filed under: Monthly Missions,Office — Colleen at 8:11 pm on Friday, January 2, 2009

paperpile21.jpgIt starts with a single piece of paper, but before you know it, your desk and counters have been overcome by the paper monster! The paper monster can be scary to face, but with a few tips, you’ll be able to confront and conquer your paper monster.

#1 Contain your monster: Take a laundry basket and go around your home collecting all your un-filed papers, coupons, junk mail, etc. By collecting all the paper you are containing your paper monster into one (or more) manageable baskets. Your paper monster is no longer attacking your entire home!
#2 Sort: You’re probably panicking that that you’ll never find that “important” piece of paper buried in your laundry basket. Quickly go through each item in your basket using a “one-touch” rule, picking up each piece of paper and putting it into one of the following categories. (If you work from home, you may want to have 2 piles for each category, keeping your work and household papers separate.)

“ACTIVE” (papers that you need to respond to, act on, etc)
“DISCUSS” (If your household consists of more than 1 decision maker, place items that need to be discussed here. For example, estimates for home improvement projects, RSVP cards for weddings, donation requests, etc)
“BILLS TO PAY”
“TO FILE” (Information that you need to keep for long-term reference and cannot access some place else).
“TRASH”
“SHRED”

You may also want to create a separate pile for each member of your household or other appropriate categories.

#3 Create “homes”: Get rid of your trash, shred your papers, and put those “TO FILE” papers aside. (We’ll be addressing those in Part 2). You should be left with 3 categories “ACTIVE”,”DISCUSS” (if applicable), and “BILLS TO PAY”. You may also have piles for each member of your family or other categories you would like to add.

Now it’s time to create a filing or piling system that works for you. If filing doesn’t scare you, (and it does for some), consider getting a small desktop filing bin to keep these frequently used files handy. You may need to create subcategories such as “errands” “phone calls” “email”. WARNING: Be careful! Do not create a system that is so complicated that you need to be compulsive in order to maintain it. Your goal should be to create a system that allows you to find what you need when you need it AND that is easy to maintain.

Does filing scare you? Some people, (myself included), don’t do well with filing active files. Visual people need to see things in order to remember to do them–and it’s hard to see through a file folder! I have found that piling can be as organized as filing. I use clear plastic storage drawers. One drawer contains my “ACTIVE” papers, one drawer contains my “DISCUSS” category, and one contains papers “TO FILE”. I have a separate container that houses my “BILLS TO PAY”. Every day, I sort my mail into these categories. When a drawer starts to fill up, I am cued to sort through it, make my phone calls, pay my bills, etc. You can also use these drawers for each member of the household. I love this system because I can keep my “piles” organized, it’s portable (just grab the drawer you need) and it’s easy to maintain because it isn’t “over-organized”.

Here’s an example of my piling drawers:

piling drawers.jpgIris 3 drawer shallow chest. (staples.com)
#4 Now that you have homes for your files and piles, spend some time using the system. Complete your correspondence, pay your bills, and discuss necessary paperwork with your partner.

Next week, Part 2 will help you tackle your backlog of filing. Purchase a Set Me Free Filing System to make next week’s task a breeze!

Laundry & Bath Mission #4 Bathroom Basics

Filed under: Laundry & Bath,Monthly Missions — Colleen at 7:00 am on Saturday, December 27, 2008

At the end of a long day, there’s nothing like taking a good long bubble bath. But it can be hard to relax in the tub, when you’re staring at bathroom clutter. Here’s how to make the most of your bathroom, so you can enjoy your well deserved bath!

1. Do a quick purge. Go through each drawer and shelf getting rid of old, expired, damaged, out-dated, and unnecessary items.
2. Assess the need for towel racks. Make sure that every member of your household has a towel rack. If there is no room in the bathroom, install a towel rack on or behind bedroom doors. Consider assigning each family member a different towel color so towels can be reused and you’ll know who left theirs on the floor!
3. Make the most of your bathroom door. Bathroom doors can hold towel racks, robe hooks, or an over the door shoe cubby to house all your small items.
4. Organize your drawers. Using drawer organizers, put like things together. Keep items that are used regularly the most accessible.
5. Take a peek inside your shower stall. Remove any products from your shower that you do not use on a weekly basis. If you need more space in your shower, get a shower caddy.
6. Add some shelves. Consider shelves or a cabinet for above your toilet or on another available wall. Store your products in attractive baskets on shelves.
7. Finally, turn on some music, get a glass of wine, and enjoy your bath!

Not sure where to start? Set Me Free! offers hands-on help.If you are motivated by this project or have a great organizing idea that works for you, please leave a comment to inspire others!
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