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 “Books I frequently read or refer to” , “Books I plan to read” and “Books I don’t plan to read again or ever and outdated text books”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 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!

Weekly Weigh In: Toys!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 10:13 am on Monday, February 23, 2009

I always say that if my house looks messy, it’s not because it isn’t organized.  It just because things haven’t been put back in their “home”.  And the toys usually are the culprit.  However, this week, the toys went through a quick sorting and a few toys were rediscovered in the process.  And since rediscovered toys = entertained children, we were all happy.
My secret to organizing toys is to keep small parts in ziplock bags.  My daughter can play with her barbies that are kept accessible to her, but the clothing and accessories are in a bag that I have to hand her if she wants to change their clothes.  This method has saved tons of time cleaning up because I can monitor what toys are out.  Also, all those items that previously were simply dumped to get to the dolls she wanted are now corralled in a baggie.

I also purge toys before Christmas and birthdays.  I will take their forgotten or outgrown toys and put them in a donation box stored in my basement.  If the kids don’t ask for them in a month or 2, it’s off to Salvation Army they go!

How did you do this week?

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)

toys-3.jpg toys-1.jpgtoys-2.jpg

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!

Weekly Weigh In: Organize your media!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 8:28 am on Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Okay, this week was by far the easiest challenge of the year.   My husband is the movie guru of the house.  You name the move and he’s either owns it, has seen it, or has it on his Netflix queue.   Since last week’s task was to organize the media, I knew what I needed to do… DELEGATE.

In fairness to my husband, he’s done a fantastic job of managing his collection.  A year or two ago, he came home with the small dvd filing box (that holds 200 caseless DVDs).  He organized his movies alphabetically and found that he actually was able to enjoy his collection more because it was so accessible.  And since the DVDs sleeves are also numbered, I can even put them away for him (if I so desire).   While his main collection is well organized there was a little DVD pile accrueing.   Some new movies entered the house over the holidays and they  started mixing in with the home movies he had burned.  With a simple “Can you deal with this today?”, my mission this week was done!

I should delegate more :)

How did you do this week?

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!

Weekly Weigh In: Straighten up the living areas!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 12:55 pm on Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Being a professional organizer, most people I meet assume that I have a meticulous home and many will ask if my house is in perfect order.  My usual response is this:  “Everything in my house has a home…it just doesn’t always get there!”  So no, if you happen to knock on my door unannounced you might not be impressed with what you will find, but give me 20 minutes to tidy up and you’ll see a different house.
Once your belongings have “homes”, straightening up is pretty simple because there are no agonizing questions like “Where should I put this?”.   Because of my love of organizing, clutter doesn’t last long in my house.  I rearrange items and purge frequently to create new space.  However, keeping my house straightened up is a constant chore, especially with 3 kids, ages 6 and under, who seem to enjoy undoing my efforts!

I spent this week focusing on the assigned living areas.  I made an effort to keep my living areas liveable, putting away items each day (or on days spent at home, a few times a day).  What I was amazed by was how little time it took to clean my living areas this week.  Usually I straighten up and clean and the same time.  But since my rooms were already straightened, I dusted, vacuumed, and mopped in a fraction of the time that I thought the task would take!    I had read before that getting rid of clutter eliminates 40% of housework in an average home.  This week’s mission made that apparent for me!

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

living room.jpg

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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!

Weekly Weigh In: Office Wild Card

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 10:51 am on Monday, February 2, 2009

I was out of town for the weekend, so I didn’t get to finish my the project I chose for the week:  clearing out my email.

Since my husband and I share our home email account, we tend to leave emails in the inbox so we each can view them. I had hoped to clear out a backlog of emails and then try to routinely clear out the email each week.  I purged some emails and unsubscribed to some newletters and virtual advertising.  It all helps, but they sure to pile up pretty fast.

I’m wondering if anyone out there has mastered the art of sharing an email inbox?