Life Organized: The Blog

Tips & Tricks from Barbara

Organizing Before and After Camp

· Summer Organizing

The first year I sent my children to camp, I began preparations several months in advance.  I ordered the camp logo items, purchased horseback riding boots, and soccer cleats (for a child who hates soccer and thinks horses are smelly), and had labels sewn into every last sock. Now, five years later, I pack two days before the trunks leave, and it couldn’t be easier.  Here are some of my tips for organizing for camp without the hassle.

  • Forget ironing or sewing on labels. Arm yourself with a Sharpie laundry marking pen or stickers that affix to the label of any item of clothing.
  • Go light on the toiletries.  Remember there’s a fully stocked infirmary with band aids, Neosporin, ibuprofen, or anything else your child might need.
  • Buy extra socks and underpants. When you’re purchasing the 18 pairs of socks and underpants required for camp, buy an extra dozen of each. Have these in your child’s drawer for when s/he returns from camp.  Whatever makes it home after the summer will be ripe for the trash bin.
  • Use plastic travel bags to contain clothing. Put socks in one, bathing suits in another, t-shirts in another.  When things aren’t strewn around the trunk, it will make unpacking easier for your child.
  • If it fits in the trunk, it’s not worth the fight. Your adolescent girl will want to take a hair dryer, flat iron, nail polish, and most of the clothes in her wardrobe.  Let her.
  • Keep camp specific items separate. Camp towels, linens, clothing with the camp logo, “bunk junk” (small games, flashlights, canteens) should not be integrated into the linen closet, utility area, or playroom.  When packing next year, you’ll have it all in one place.
  • Sneakers don’t come home from camp. Tell your child not to bring home any sneakers or shoes except for the ones on his/her feet.  They’ll be so vile, you’ll just be tossing them the minute they get home anyway.
  • Schedule the lice check. When your child gets off the camp bus, take him/her for a lice check before s/he enters the house.

 

 

Packing for Summer Camp

· Summer Organizing, Travel Tips

By Guest Blogger Rebecca Reich, age 12

Hi Again!

This blog is about packing for camp.  Unlike most of my friends’ moms, my mom doesn’t start a month in advance.  Instead, she does everything in two days (for me and my brother). Here’s how she does it.

  • Any clothes we want to take to camp are piled in our playroom.  I want to take most of my wardrobe, and my mother wants me to take only what the camp says I need.  I always bring more than the list says.
  • Using stick on labels from LabelDaddy.com, she sticks a label on each article of clothing.  She uses a Sharpie to write initials on socks.
  • She types a list of every single thing I bring to camp.  I’m not sure why she does this, but she does.
  • She groups t-shirts, pajamas, sweatshirts, socks, and every category of clothes and puts them in plastic zip loc bags (the giant ones) or soft plastic zippered bags. That way they won’t be scattered all over the trunk, which is enormous.  Of course, she folds everything perfectly.  This lasts for about 3 days after the clothes get to camp.
  • All non-clothing camp supplies are kept in a separate closet in our playroom.  She takes this stuff out, labels it, and puts it in a second trunk.  And that’s all it takes!

Once I get to camp, I’m not that neat.  But, here are a few of the things that I do:

  • I fold my clothes, so I can see what I have and fit more in my cubbies.
  • I pick a spot for my stationery, my flashlight, and books.  I put things back in their places, so I can find them.
  • I put my laundry away as soon as I get it.  Otherwise, it could get dirty before I wear it.
  • I keep track of the clothes my friends borrow from me. That way, I can make sure everything gets returned to me.
  • I spray stain remover on my clothes before putting them in my laundry bag.  Laundry is only done once or twice a week, so stains can become permanent if they’re not sprayed.
  • I don’t put wet clothes in my laundry bag or cubbies. Otherwise, everything will smell.

Even though I do all that, when my mom comes into my bunk on visiting day, she can’t help herself…she rearranges and refolds EVERYTHING!  And soon enough it’s time to come home and watch her UNPACK!

 

 

Hold On, I Can’t Find My…

· Lifestyle

There’s nothing worse than rummaging through your purse, looking for your cell phone, while someone watches, witness to your disorganization, as you miss a phone call. When your purse is organized, you’ll feel in control and more powerful. So, here are some tips for organizing your purse:

• Never buy a bag that doesn’t have at least two internal pockets. You need one for your cell phone, and one for keys and other items that you reach for often.

• Avoid bags with dark linings. It’s very difficult to find things when they’re inside a dark bag.

• Use brightly colored cosmetic bags for smaller items such as lip gloss, band aids, and ibuprofen.

• Carry only what you truly need. Bags get heavy, so eliminate what’s unnecessary. You don’t need 5 pens, 2 phone chargers, or 6 packs of gum.

• Don’t save unimportant receipts. Don’t clutter your bag with Starbucks receipts and the receipts from the dry cleaner.

• Carry store credits in your bag. You can’t use them if they’re home in your night table drawer.

• Make a photocopy of everything in your wallet (front and back). In the unfortunate event that your wallet is stolen, you’ll have a record of what you’re missing and which credit card companies you need to call.

Party Favors No More

· Entertaining

At least twice a week, I’ll find myself on a ladder in the uppermost recesses of someone’s coat closet pulling out a crushed shopping bag filled with the extra party favors from a party hosted five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years before. Now, it’s clearly garbage, but the interesting thing is that it was even garbage at the time the party was hosted. People are just too caught up in the moment to realize it.

Today, party favors have morphed into elaborate giveaways that cost way too much money and, in my opinion, are wasteful, not useful, and not necessary. Let’s take the trophy party favor as an example. It’s bad enough that children get a trophy for playing on a team or getting a haircut, but do we have to give them trophies for attending birthday parties? The trophy saying “I Had Fun at Ethan’s 6th Birthday Party” is definitely on my list of all time worst party favors. And it’s not just young children getting party favors. Bar mitzvahs and Sweet Sixteen parties now end with giveaways ranging from sweatshirts to pajamas to MP3 players. And, even adults attending benefits and bridal/baby showers receive party favors. Clearly, this trend has gotten way out of control.

Let’s end the trend of giving party favors. You can start by eliminating party favors when you’re the hostess. Or, at least think edible and/or easily disposable. A bag of candy or an iTunes or Starbucks gift card work for everyone. Then, when on the receiving end, leave the party favor behind. Only take the favor if it’s given to you directly by the hostess. Then, follow the 24-hour rule: the party favor leaves your house within 24 hours. In the case of children’s party favors, this is plenty of time for your child to have fun with it, but not long enough to become attached to it. And for you, it’s just enough time to realize that you don’t need a chocolate lollipop shaped like a pacifier, a cheap picture frame, or yet another tote bag monogrammed with the name of a corporation or club. So, you get the message. Don’t give or accept party favors. Just say NO to the unnecessary expense, unnecessary clutter, and unnecessary effort!

Organizing for Tweens and Teens

· Children / Teens

By Guest Blogger Rebecca Reich, Age 12

Growing up as the daughter of a professional organizer has its pros and cons. Since I’m extremely messy, my mom constantly nags me to put my stuff in the right place. Is it easy? No! But, there are definitely advantages to keeping things in order. Here are the tips I learned from the pro (my mom):

1. Put things away. If you leave your new necklace on your night table, you may not be able to find it when you want to wear it. When things aren’t put away, they get lost.

2. Keep similar items together. If you have headphones scattered about your room or the house, you’ll never be able to find them when you need them. You also might keep buying more because you think you don’t have any. Instead, have one place for them.

3. Label everything. That way, there’s never a question about where the tennis outfits belong and whose charger it is.

4. File loose papers. You’ll always know where your homework is and where to find the notes for the test that may be tomorrow.

5. Keep your room clean. When you have stuff all over the counters and the floor, your room can’t be cleaned properly. And living in a pigsty is just gross!

Bon Voyage! Tips for the Saavy Traveller

· Travel Tips

There are many things I love about springtime: the warmer weather, the blooms and buds on the trees, celebrating my birthday, and spring break!  After the cold, dreary winter, I always look forward to travelling somewhere fun with my family.  And while I used to dread the packing and unpacking, the planning and coordinating, I now have it down to a science.  Here are some of my best travel tips that can help you travel smart and travel well!  Bon Voyage!

  1. For airline travel, employ “the rule of fractions”. If there are four people in your family, pack a fourth of each person’s clothing in each piece of luggage.  If luggage is lost or stolen, everyone will have enough to wear until it’s found.
  2. Plan your wardrobe around three pairs of shoes (think metallic).  If you can pack one pair of shoes for all of your night time outfits, one pair of shoes for your day time wear, and one pair of sneakers, you have simplified and lightened your load.
  3. If you have clothes that are specific to a type of vacation (e.g., ski clothes), don’t integrate them into general clothing drawers.  By keeping this type of clothing separate, you free up room in your drawers, and you save time packing by only having to gather clothing for that vacation in one area.
  4. Beware of bedbugs!  Check the Bedbug Registry before you make any hotel reservations.  The Bedbug Registry is a free, public database of user-submitted bed bug reports from across the U.S. and Canada.
  5. Consider traveling with pop-up laundry hampers for your whites and colors.  Your hotel room will look much neater, and at the end of the vacation, pack the dirty laundry and fold up the hampers.
  6. Don’t be the only one not taking advantage of the “2 for 1 special”.  Do your research ahead of time.  Often there are coupons and discounts available for popular attractions and venues that can be found through a simple online search.
  7. Don’t get sold out:  make dinner, spa, and other reservations before you arrive.
  8. Carry prescription medicines, cameras, laptops, and any expensive jewelry onboard with you.
  9. Charge cameras before you leave home, make sure you know how to operate them, and that they are working properly. Bring extra batteries and memory cards if needed.
  10. Remember that all family members, even babies, need passports for travel outside the US.  Make copies of your passports and important documents, and keep them separate from the originals.
  11. Put a piece of hotel stationery in your children’s pockets.  Even older children and older travellers may forget where they’re staying if they get lost, particularly in a foreign country.
  12. When packing for a holiday vacation, think light.  Many airlines levy a charge for suitcases that weigh more than 50 pounds and most charge extra for more than one piece of luggage per person. If you’ve been accustomed to traveling with large, heavy pieces, invest in some lighter weight canvas/nylon carryalls.
  13. Delete unflattering, unfocused, and frivolous pictures on your camera as you take them.  You’ll save time when you return home and are downloading and editing your pictures.
  14. For longer trips, ship toiletries to your destination one week in advance through an online drugstore such as drugstore.com.  If you order enough, you may even qualify for free shipping.  You’d be surprised how much sunblock, diapers, and shampoo can weigh.
  15. Bring a jump rope.  You can always find a corner of the airport to let your child get rid of excess energy before boarding the plane.  And, you can use it to exercise if you can’t get to a gym.
  16. Bring balloons.  They’re light and can provide hours of entertainment when your children get tired of that jump rope!
  17. Strike a balance between packing too far in advance and not waiting until the night before the trip. I always recommend that the packing take place the weekend before the trip.  Generally, you’re calmer then, and if there are things you need, you’ll have time to purchase them.
  18. It’s always helpful to pack small items in individual Ziploc bags.  For example, undergarments and bathing suits can be stored in Ziploc bags, and then placed in the suitcase.
  19. Pack the suitcase in layers, and place heavier items on the bottom.  For example, shoes go on the bottom of the suitcase along with jeans and sweatshirts, which are heavier than a silk blouse you may want to lay on the very top.
  20. To prevent wrinkling, put layers of tissue paper between items of clothing.

Favorite Valentine’s Day Products

· Shopping / Products, Valentine's Day

While it’s always nice to receive flowers and chocolate, here are some Valentine’s gifts you can buy yourself that will look great while helping you organize!

I love the red square lacquer tray from West Elm. Not only can it be used to serve cocktails and appetizers, but it can be used to corral remote controls, organize beauty products, or even hold a stack of reading material. http://www.westelm.com/products/square-lacquer-trays-c346/?pkey=chome-office-organization

The red Bisley® 5-Drawer Cabinet is ideal for organizing small items like pens, pencils, paper clips or small craft supplies. Each drawer has a label holder handle for marking the contents. Place it on a desktop or work surface for organization that’s chic and functional.
http://www.containerstore.com/shop/storage/drawers?productId=10000332

This red lacquered box is multi-purpose and super cute. It also comes in larger and smaller sizes, and even round boxes. Use this as a desk accessory, in a bedroom, living room or den to add storage that’s sleek and shiny.
http://www.containerstore.com/shop?productId=10031035&N=&Ntt=red+lacquer+boxes

Prop this red enamel bracket frame from Jonathan Adler in a spot where clutter typically gathers. This fun frame will prevent you from putting your piles where they don’t belong!
http://www.jonathanadler.com/Enamel-Brackets-Frames/?cat=773&initial=8131

This red magnetic magazine pocket can be mounted on the wall or propped on a desk. And, because it’s magnetic, it’s a great bulletin board too!
http://www.landofnod.com/kids-storage-$10-$25/kids-storage-and-shelving/magnificent-magnetic-magazine-pocket/f8307

Moving In Together

· Moving

As Valentines Day approaches, couples everywhere contemplate taking their relationship to the next level. In some cases, this means moving in together, a big step worthy of celebration…and logistical concerns. Whether you’re moving into a new place together, or, moving in with your partner, follow these guidelines, and cohabitation will be smooth as can be.

1. Adhere to the 60/40 rule. If there’s a male and female involved, the woman automatically gets at least 60% of the closet AND drawer space. I hate to be sexist, but if you want this move to go smoothly, do as I say.

2. Divvy up the drawers. Each adult needs at least three to four drawers in the bedroom. One for undergarments, one for socks, one for sleepwear, and possibly one for gym clothes/shorts/swimwear. Anything else can be folded on shelves.

3. Dump the duplicates. You don’t need two sets of dishes, two cheese graters, two sets of steak knives…You get the picture. Pick the best, give away the rest!

4. Expel what’s expired. Prior to the move, you both need to discard any medications, sun block, and prescriptions that have loitered past their expiration dates. This will free up space in the soon to be shared medicine cabinet.

5. Banish the books. Books are heavy to move; don’t move a book unless: it’s a favorite, it’s a good reference book, or it will look nice on a shelf or coffee table.

6. Limit the linens. You only need two sets of sheets per bed, and 4-5 towels per person. Discard any extra sheets that don’t fit a bed you’ll currently be using. This may be a good time to give away the sheets you used on your dorm bed in college.

7. Set the table for two, and enjoy a romantic dinner!

There’s an App for That

· Digital Decluttering / Technology

My relationship with technology is like my relationship with my car.  I know how to drive it, but I have no interest in learning how to change the oil.  In other words, as long as I have the basic functions on my computer and phone, I don’t want to know how anything else works.  Yet, as a recent iPhone convert, I learn something new that can be done with the iPhone every day.  Stream movies? Check. Listen to music? Check. Take pictures, surf the web, check email? Check, check and of course, check.  But, did you your phone can be used to clear your clutter and get more organized?  Here are some of my top iPhone app suggestions that can help with your time management skills and efficiency:

  • Organizer – For all you multi-taskers out there, this is a three-in-one wonder app that includes To Do’s, Calendars, and Lists, so all your organizational tools are located in one convenient place. Cost: $1.99
  • Grocery IQ – Forget jotting down milk, eggs, bread and your other grocery items on just any old scrap of paper lying around. With this app, you can keep your list in one place, and even sync it with your family members’ phones to coordinate grocery shopping for the ultimate efficient supermarket trip. Cost: FREE
  • Bill Minder – Keeping track of which bills are due when won’t be such a headache anymore with this app. You can organize bills by amount, due date or by recording your payment submission. This app features both a calendar and list view so you can clearly see what’s past due. You can even set up a reminder to be sure you don’t miss a payment. Cost: $1.99
  • Things – Keep track of literally everything you have to do today, tomorrow and in the future so you can efficiently prioritize. Set due dates and create tags to filter to-do’s by “home,” “errands,” or “work” with this incredibly useful organizational app. The Things app also lets you create long-term projects, broken down into easy-to-manage tasks. A handy logbook keeps you posted on all the tasks you’ve already accomplished. Cost: $9.99
  • White Pages – Need to find a restaurant, store, or even your friend’s new address?  Simply type in the name of the person or place of business, search, and voila!  The listing appears along with the distance from where you currently are.  But, that’s not all.  With a tap of another button, you can get a map and directions, add the business to contacts, or share the listing.  Pretty amazing and FREE!

 

 

What are your favorite apps for organizing?  I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

You Are What You Eat

· Kitchen / Nutrition

Losing weight and getting organized are two of the most common New Year’s Resolutions. Yet, until recently, I didn’t extend my organizational tendencies to the food I ate. Because I had been naturally thin for most of my life, this wasn’t an issue until I turned 41. Then, it seemed to me, I gained weight overnight. My immediate reaction was that I had developed a thyroid problem, one that could be easily fixed with medication. Who doesn’t fantasize about taking a pill and losing weight? Unfortunately (or fortunately), a visit to my doctor confirmed both the weight gain, and the absence of a thyroid condition. So, I turned to plan B.

Plan B consisted of doing nothing. Instead, I spent the next two years complaining about my weight. And, because I had given up to some extent, I also started eating more and exercising less. In denial, I told myself that recent photos were just taken at an unflattering angle, and my clothes were tight because they were supposed to be. It wasn’t until my annual check up, when I stepped on a scale and saw a number I never thought I’d see post pregnancy, that I faced the facts and moved on to plan C.

Plan C consisted of four appointments with nutritionist extraordinaire, Lara Metz (www.nutritiouslife.com). After keeping a food log for a week, Lara summed up my problem in one sentence. For someone so organized, I was completely disorganized about food. I ate whatever was in front of me. I rarely sat down to eat. Instead, I ate breakfast while taking my children to school, lunch on my lap in a taxi between appointments, and dinner standing at the island in my kitchen while checking email…not exactly a recipe for healthy living. In fact, I needed a complete reorganization of my kitchen, the food I ate, and when I ate. Now, thanks to Lara, I feel more energetic, have lost those stubborn pounds, and have gained control of how I eat. I call it “organized eating”.

Here are five of Lara’s basic tips that may help make your New Year’s diet resolution become a reality:

1. Plan (and prepare) meals in advance. You only need to conceptualize six or seven meals that you can rotate for your family. If you really want to simplify things, have the same chicken every Monday, the same meat every Tuesday, and the same pasta every Wednesday.
2. Plan (and prepare) snacks in advance. Make sure healthy snacks are available both at home and when you’re on the go. Like meals, snacks should be planned and prepared in advance.
3. Eat Frequently. Not only do you need to three meals a day, but don’t go more than two to three hours without eating. Have a snack between breakfast and lunch and again between lunch and dinner.
4. Drink lots of water. Carry a water bottle with you at all times, and drink as much as you can. If you get bored, spruce up your water with lemon or cucumber.
5. Have balanced meals that are satisfying. Not only do you need to have lean proteins and healthy fats, but meals need to taste good. Instead of an omelet with vegetables, add a piece of cheese. Instead of plain cottage cheese, add cinnamon and almonds. When food tastes better, you’ll enjoy it more and eat less.

In addition to following these tips from Lara, I also re-organized my kitchen to reflect my healthier lifestyle. Here are my five tips for organizing your kitchen to support organized eating:

1. Prominently display healthy snacks.If the first thing you see is delicious and healthy food, that’s what you’ll be likely to eat.
2. Hide temptations. Bread and bagels can be stored in a stainless steel bread box on the counter. It looks sleek, and corrals those unsightly plastic bags. http://www.containerstore.com/shop?productId=10000733&N=&Ntt=chrome+bread+box
3. Use uniform plastic containers in your refrigerator. Cut vegetables and fruit into bite size pieces and store the snacks in matching containers. Having all the same container makes your refrigerator look neat and visually appealing. Try the Modular Mates set from Tupperware: http://order.tupperware.com/coe/app/tup_show_item.show_item_detail?fv_item_category_code=20000&fv_item_number=P10058361000
4. Store like foods together. You need to know what you have in your refrigerator and pantry. For example, by lining up yogurts front to back in the refrigerator, I can see when I’m running low. You don’t want to eat something unhealthy because you didn’t realize you had run out of a diet staple.
5. Store dry goods in see through canisters. Cereal, nuts, and fiber bars look positively inviting when displayed this way. I like the Oxo POP canisters: http://www.oxo.com/p-436-pop-container-big-square-55-quart.aspx

What have you done to organize the food you eat? Let me know; I’d love to hear from you!