January: Conquer your paper monster!

Filed under: Office — Colleen at 8:33 am on Sunday, January 1, 2017

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!


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. :)

Confessions of a Professional Organizer: Part 1

Filed under: Articles,Office,Uncategorized — Colleen at 9:25 am on Thursday, January 10, 2013

I’ve got a secret.  And it’s hiding in this LARGE bin.

As a professional organizer, I’m an advocate of minimizing clutter, of going through your papers, of making everything you own orderly so that you can put your hands on it right when you need it.

But this bin demonstrates that I, too, avoid certain projects.

Housed inside this huge tub is all the memorabilia I have saved from my kids.   Artwork from school.  Performance booklets.  Drawings.  Their first attempts at writing.  Certificates. Etc, etc, etc.   I think I keep telling myself, “One bin for 4 kids, that’s not too bad!”.  However, what really bugs me about the bin is that it houses all the things that I (at one point or another) thought was priceless.  Is this the way to store it?  All thrown in one bin?  Not even organized by child? (gasp)  Or by year? (double gasp)

I’ve been avoiding the task for a couple reasons.  The primary reason is that I’m a perfectionist.  You know, that “all or none” mentality.  “If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right!”.  And so it sits.  The emotional element also makes it challenging.   My babies (10, 8, 5, and 3) are growing up.  Yes, they are still young, but I know that looking at what my 10 year old made at age 3, will be a reminder at how fast my 3 year old will be 10!

So today is the day.  I’m embracing the attitude “Good and done is better than none! ” Today, I will confront this bin.  And I’ll post my progress as I go!

To aide in making this project successful, I’ve started by doing my normal morning routine, straightening the first floor.  I know that I will need a calm space to take breaks so I have a nice area to escape to that won’t distract me when I take breaks.   I’ve also set up a work space in my basement so I can have a flat surface to work on and so that I can be near my kids as they play.   I’ve set up oldest child who is home sick today, with TV, snacks, and drinks.

Oh, and I’ve got the coffee going!

Here goes nothing!

Conquering the paper monster…my progress

Filed under: Articles,Office,Uncategorized — Colleen at 5:05 pm on Monday, January 7, 2013

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it hard to get started on this month’s mission. I’ve been on a different mission, “putting away Christmas”, purging some of my decorations, packing them up, and using the found space to rearrange my home.

As I rearrange things, I’ve been sorting and purging. I’ve really caught the organizing bug! (Yes, I know I’m a professional organizer, but I don’t always have the same excitement or energy to organize MY home as I do with a fresh space such as YOURS!)

Putting away the holiday decor and rearranging and getting my 4 kiddos back to the normal routine has occupied my time. However, today I did it. I started to slay the paper monster.

Papers took the back burner while Santa was burning the midnight oil, so today I pulled out my “active” papers and purged. There’s more I want to do, but my workspace is again clear. And that in itself is energizing me to get started on the next project!

I ended up digitalizing a lot of my important papers. I’ve been using Genius Scan on my IPhone for about a year now. With the snap of a button, it scans your papers. It really is a fantastic app. I use in a lot for my business. But now I’m starting to use it more to manage my household.

With 4 young kids, important papers tend to walk off. So today I quickly scanned those important documents. I saved each document by category or by child (whichever made the most sense). Now in each of my kid virtual files I have their class phone lists and activity schedules. Now as long as I have my phone (or access to a computer as the paid version allows you to save the information on cloud services such as Dropbox), I have access to all the key details of our crazy schedule as as family of 6.

I’ll be keeping the paper versions in the house for the kids to reference, but now if they walk off it will not inconvenience me.

I think that makes me the victor in Round 1 of Colleen vs. the Paper Monster.

Get organized for back to school with an on-line calendar!

Filed under: Kids,Office — Colleen at 2:21 pm on Friday, September 4, 2009

If you’re like me and your kids have just headed back to school, you’re probably drowning in the back to school paperwork.  I’ve been inundated with important dates, activity schedules, hot lunch schedules, and contact information.  What works for me is using an on-line calendar.  I prefer Airset.com because it allows me to merge multiple calendars and can be viewed from any computer.  My husband can also access the information and I pay a small fee to access the information from my cell phone. I can also print the calendar so that I can have a hard copy.  Each morning the calendar emails me reminders of what I have scheduled for the day.  I think I would be lost without it.
There are other online calendars available that I haven’t personally tried,  such as Cozi.com, and Famundo.com. Check them out!
I encourage you to leave a comment as to what type of calendar system works for you!

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

messy desk.jpg

(If you’re new to the Monthly missions, click here. Want to receive my weekly projects by email? Sign up for my free newsletter.)

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


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)
“TO FILE” (Information that you need to keep for long-term reference and cannot access some place else).

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!

E-cyling made easy… and FREE!

Filed under: Office,Uncategorized — Colleen at 11:47 am on Saturday, September 6, 2008

For anyone who knows me I’m a big fan of Costco.  You can’t beat their 1/2 sheet of birthday cake for $16, chocolate moose filling with butter cream icing- yum!  And where else can I grab a soda and large hot dog for $1.50, and have enough to share with my daughter?    And I haven’t even mentioned their free samples…

But this week, after testing out their electronic trade-in and recycling program, I’m a even bigger fan.

To test out their program, I packaged up my old computer monitor that recently died and has taken up residency in my storage area.  It’s been gathering dust for a couple months as I waited for the e-cyling fairy (AKA my husband) to deal with it.  I think I was intimidated by it.  It’s a beast, a big and bulky old CRT monitor.  Fearful that my basement would start to become the electronic graveyard, I logged onto Costco.com.

With a few clicks, Costco emailed me a pre-paid UPS shipping label.  I packaged up my monitor (decluttering my shredder bin by using shredded paper to help cushion the package) and headed to the UPS kiosk at my local Staples to drop it off.

But it was slightly more complicated than that.  In addition to my 42 pound box – (I told you it was a beast), I had my 6 year old, my 4 year old, and my 8 month old with me.  Before unleashing the children, I grabbed a shopping cart from the shopping center parking lot and got the box situated.  With the baby strapped in the cart with the huge box jutting out, we headed into Staples  and within 5 minutes, I was feeling set free from my electronic clutter and empowered.  “If I can take out 3 children and a 42 pound box, I can do anything!”  It was remarkably easy.

Try it for yourself and free  yourself from your electronic graveyard.  Costco will even tell you if your item is of value and give you trade-in $ for the item.  Check it out!

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