Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Using Your Calendar as a Brain Dump

I use my calendar to:
See the current date
Record scheduled events
Remember birthdays and special anniversaries
Plan projects like parties and my home zone plan
Remind myself of standing monthly meetings
Keep up with when I plan to pay annual fees or donations
Remind myself of future tasks that will need scheduling

At the end of every year I look at my calendar for the upcoming year and put all birthdays, anniversaries, and standing appointments into my calendar in red ink. I also put at the top of the page the zone of my house that I plan to work on during that month.

But there are many other ways that I use my calendar so that I don't have to worry about when tasks should be accomplished. I log in when I need to schedule all doctor appointments and procedures. Often when you have a doctor or dentist appointment they set up the next appointment, but some procedures like eye exams, mammograms, bone density tests, or a colonoscopy you may have to remember to schedule yourself. Some of these procedures are not done every year so choose the month you last had the procedure and make a note to schedule it again in whatever year it will come due.

I also use the calendar to remind myself to renew my driver's license or passport. Near my birthday I set a note to renew my license and put in the year it will expire. When I had my tankless hot water heater installed, the plumber told me I should schedule a maintenance check in 2015 - so I made a note right away on my calendar.

I use my calendar to keep up with when magazine subscriptions come due and when annual bills will come due. I keep up with when to renew my donations and memberships as well. Often organizations will start to bill months before the due date and often don't make it easy for you to figure out when your current membership really runs out.

I had a little problem with Social Security a while back. They assured me that they would look into it and call be back within 45 days. I put a reminder on my calendar to call them back after two months if I had not heard from them. (and I hadn't)

And then I also use my calendar to keep up with benchmarks on projects and my party planning timeline.

The more information that I put on my calendar, the less stress for me. One important tip is to write clearly and use different colored ink for different types of data. I use my notes section for the month or empty calendar blocks to put in considerations for the month that don't yet have an actual scheduled date. Another important tip is to took at that calendar to see what you have recorded.

Happy Calendaring!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Making an Organizational Plan for Your Vacation

School is almost over and vacation time must be coming up soon. I love to travel. Give me an airline ticket and put me on a plane for almost anywhere and I am happy.

However, when traveling with a family, a little more planning and organizing will make the vacation less stressful and a happier experience for everyone.

First the "when" needs to be addressed. Even in the summer children and adults have busy schedules and obligations. So get out the calendar and find a period of time that will work for everyone.

Now "where" should you go? Brainstorm with everyone to find out what people would love to do. Then "get real." Look at the time allotted and the money available. If everyone is on board and knows the limitations, there will be less chance for disappointment.

Once you settle on when and where, make a checklist of all that needs to be accomplished before liftoff. Make your reservations for airplane, car rental, and hotels. Notify family and friends you might want to visit along the way. Look up attractions and fun restaurants you might want to visit. Contact people to dog sit, water the lawn, mow, pick up your mail, or any other chores you would like done while you are away. Put all travel information into a brightly colored folder. Share your itinerary with someone in case of emergency, including how to contact you.

Prepare a packing list. It is helpful to have a master packing list on your computer that can be adjusted to time of year, area of travel, and type of travel (I might carry a bit more if traveling by car). Lay out outfits according to the weather. Pack clothes that can be layered. Find items that can mix and match and limit color choices. When the final decisions are made, type up the final packing list and put it in the suitcase. This keeps the charger or travel clock from being left behind in the hotel room. If traveling with children, pack some activity bags and snack bags.

Yeah! Let's go!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Organizing Recipes

I love to cook and I usually follow recipes. I must admit that at one time I had a huge collection of cookbooks but then a few years back I started my downsizing and many of the cookbooks had to go.

Some of my clients who are overwhelmed with cookbooks and recipes have asked me for advice in corralling and organizing their collections. They have shelves and shelves of cookbooks. They have recipe boxes stuffed with family favorites, pages torn out of magazines or newspapers, and computer print outs. So here are a few suggestions:

  • If you have handwritten recipes from a family member, which may become memorabilia, either laminate the reicpes or put them in a special container. I first make a copy of these recipes and actually use the copy when cooking and keep the original in a safe place.
  • Sort loose recipes by categories. My categories are soups, main dishes, vegetarian dishes, seafood, family breakfasts, low calorie, deserts, and fondue. As you sort your recipes, toss any that no longer appeal or ones that you cut out years ago but have never even tried. Conversely, copy recipes where the original has become so stained or torn that you can hardly read it. I keep my recipes in colored folders but I have seen others use notebooks effecively.
  • Take old cookbooks that have only a few favorite recipes and copy those favorites. Then give the cookbooks away. The copies now go into your folders or notebooks. Only keep the few cookbooks that are really favorites that have many recipes or have a sentimental attachment.
  • Moving forward, if you see a new recipe that you think you would like, leave it out or put it on your refrigerator. Try out the recipe in the next week or two. Then you will know if you really love that recipe and want to repeat it. If it is a "keeper" store it into the proper category
I have found that these tips keep all of my recipes manageable. They are stored on part of one shelf in my living room where I pull them out weekly to make my menus and shopping list.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gift Storage Organization

Many of us buy gifts throughout the year and hold them until the appropriate time. This can be a time and money saving tactic - or not.

If you have a designated place to stash your gifts and if you don't buy years of gifts in advance, this can save you having to run out at the last minute to buy "something" and pay full price and maybe even a shipping cost. It is an especially helpful tactic if you label the item with the name of the person you intend to receive the gift. This will keep you from buying 15 items for one person.

If you buy every time you see something "cute" and bring it home and stash it "somewhere" still in the bag with the receipt because you might want to exchange it, you can end up spending extra time and money.

I have found potential gifts under beds, in closets, in the basement or garage, in closets, and in bags near the front door - and this was just in one house. The client would buy something. Then she would bring it home and put it in a random spot. Then she would repeat the this process. She would forget where items were or even what she had bought. When asked who an item was for, she was often vague. When it was time to give a gift she was not sure what she had and would go out and buy something new. Now this situation is extreme. Most people fall somewhere between the "always put the intended gifts in one area" and the "just stick it anywhere" syndrome.

I find that many parents like to stash gifts in a closet in their bedroom. This area is supposedly off limits to their children. However, this can start to make the closet feel crowded and unorganized. If using the closet , put the items towards the back of the closet, not just inside the door. Put the items in labeled containers - maybe not clear if little eyes are around. You could also use two locations. One location might be for generic gifts like baby gifts, children's gifts for parties, or hostess gifts. Another area might be designated for those special gifts that are hidden away until the big day.

Make it a habit to always shop for gifts from you home before heading out to the store. By always looking in your cache of goodies first, you will save time and money.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Organizing the Master Bedroom - The Zone Plan

When I organize and clean my home, I use a zone plan. Every month I choose a different area to clean, declutter, and organize. In May I concentrate on my Master Bedroom.

I always start with my vision of my bedroom. I think about how I want this room to look and feel. I want this room to welcome me and have a soothing, calming look. I want this room to have a soft feel. When I am in this room I want to feel relaxed and happy. I do not want any clutter in the room and I keep it very organized so that I can maintain those feelings.

This time of year we are moving into warm weather. This is a great time to look at my clothes and decide what I still love and still looks good on me and what is either looking tired or no longer fits either my body or my spirit. I keep off season clothing in another room so this month I will make the switch from cool weather to warm weather clothing. All clothing that will remain in my bedroom will be in season, in good condition, and clothes that make me happy. The clothes I no longer love will be given away or tossed. I will work in both of my dressers and my closet.

I will also look over the reading material by my bed. I will only keep what I am currently reading and maybe one or two more books that I plan to read in this space. I only want positive reading material in this area.

As I organize this area I will give it a through cleaning from the ceiling fan to the floor. I will open the window and let some fresh air in. When I complete the process by the end of the month, I will put in fresh flowers and stand back and admire my peaceful, well-organized space.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer