Wednesday, October 28, 2015

T'is the Season for.....Catalogs

Unwanted catalogs, credit card offers, donation requests really seem to swamp us this time a year and can really clutter up our homes and offices. Yesterday alone 7 catalogs and 2 donation requests came into my home. Some of the catalogs and donation requests came from groups that I have never used. Many companies send this mail because they have bought our information from a data broker.

More than 100 billion pieces of junk mail are mailed to U.S. households each year, including 12 billion catalogs! That's a lot of trees, people. Over 100 million trees are cut down each year to produce our junk mail and 1.72 million tons of junk mail ends up in landfills. Only about 40% of the junk mail is recycled.

So, what to do? I always recycle my junk mail but this is not enough. There are several sites to help you stop your junk mail. I have just signed up with a free one (although it asks for financial help) called Catalog Choice. I set up an account and listed the catalogs that came yesterday. It was easy to use but takes a bit of time to find your catalog in their lists.

Another option is to call up the number on the back of the catalogs and ask them to remove you from the list. By law, they must honor this. It would not take too long if you did each one when it comes through.

There are still some catalogs that I enjoy looking through even though I rarely buy form them. Those I will continue to let come to my home but will recycle them out very quickly.

The important idea is not to let catalogs become clutter in your home or end up in the landfills.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Calendar Is Your Friend

This is the time of year that things can become crazy busy. If you live with others, it is not only crazy busy but can become stressful. This is why, right now, you need to have a family meeting (and if it's only you - still call that meeting).

 Find out what everyone's obligations are for the next two months. Write them on the family calendar. If there are conflicts, negotiate now. Now add in the fun things that people want to do like go to the Botanical Gardens at night to see the lights or go to the Nutcracker or go caroling with the choir. Let everyone have their say. Get dates on the calendar and put someone in charge of getting tickets or making reservations.

Next, decide what family traditions are happening and decide who will do what when. If a party or big Thanksgiving meal is part of the plan, write on your calendar all the tasks that take extra time to make this event happen. If you are sending out cards, write in when the cards are going to be written and addressed (same thing for invites if you are giving that party). If you are doing a lot of holiday baking, schedule on your calendar when this is going to happen. Schedule the time to buy the tree and greenery or decorations. Schedule the time to decorate and un-decorate  the house and yard (which may be several dates if you are decorating for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. If gifts need mailing, put on your calendar when you plan to buy the gifts, wrap the gifts, and mail the gifts.

Now look at your calendar. Remember that regular day to day chores are probably not on this calendar. Is this what you want for your holidays? Is there anything you can give up?

Once you are satisfied with you plans, just follow the plan. There is no need to stress or worry about when things are going to get done because you have that planned. Do leave some wiggle room though because you know unexpected opportunities will crop up.

Your calendar is your friend. It will help you get through this busy time without the worry of if there is time to do everything. Don't let the calendar become a bully though. Things on the calendar can be changed if everyone involved agrees.

Enjoy your holidays!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pantry Organization

This time of year is great for organizing the pantry. It gives you a chance to organize your food items to see what is on hand for the increased amount of cooking that comes with the holidays. The purging of unneeded items as well as organizing what you are keeping will open up space for the extra items you bring in for special holiday dishes.

It doesn't matter if you have a very small pantry of only a few shelves or a large walk-in pantry, after a year things will have gotten out of order and need organization.

Organize your pantry like a grocery store. Have all pastas and grains in one area. Put all canned goods in another area, separating vegetables, fruit, soups, etc. If you have more than one can of green beans or tomato soup, put the newer cans behind the older cans so that you rotate your food and use up the older cans first. While going through the process or organizing the cans and condiments, take a look at expiration or "best used by" dates. Discard cans that are past their expiration date and donate cans of items you bought some time ago but have no plan of using soon. This will open up your shelves for holiday shopping.

Think before you stock up on large quantities on a sale. Will you really use all those cans before they expire? Do you have space to store the cans in a usable manner? Are you saving enough money or time shopping by buying in bulk to make up for the inconvenience of cramming your shelves or having to look elsewhere to store the extras? Next year will you find 10 cans of pumpkin in your basement along with the 20 rolls of paper towels?

Once organized, you will be surprised at  how much space you now have for your holiday food shopping.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Organizing Your Kitchen - The Zone Plan

I use a Zone Plan to organize my home. Each month I focus on one area. During the month of October I focus on my kitchen. The holidays are coming up fast and my kitchen will become very active. This is also the time of year that food drives kick into high gear, so it only makes sense to clear out the pantry now.

I like my kitchen to look uncluttered yet warm. I want my countertops ready for action. I want to feel that I can work on food preparation without clearing a space first. I want my stored food and spices organized so that I can easily put my hand on what I want to use. I want to feel happy working in this warm space.

I make a brainstorm list of all I need to do to make this vision come true.

Some items on the list might include:
  • Remove any items that are not daily used or that are beginning to annoy you - for me that is getting rid of a toaster that isn't working well and a second coffee maker
  • Purge the cabinets - are we really using all those pots and pans? Do all of the food storage containers have matching lids?
  • Organize for convenience - put rarely used items to the back and often used items to the front of shelves that are easy to reach
  • Set up zones within the kitchen - designate a food preparation zone, cooking zone, dish zone, storage zone, and serving zone
Now that the plan is made, it is time to work the plan. I divide the tasks into four weeks and work one set of tasks each week. I schedule a time on my calendar to achieve this.

Week 1 - Cooking Zone
Tasks might include: clean the oven, stove, and microwave and organize and purge pots, pans, cooking utensils, and bake ware. If you have special cookware that is only used for a specific holiday, store that ware with the holiday decorations.

Week 2 - Food Preparation Zone
Tasks might include: clean the refrigerator/freezer and organize and purge cutting boards, knives, mixing bowls, spices, mixers, blenders, and measuring cups and spoons. Toss spices that are beyond their expiration date.

Week 3 - Dish Zone
Tasks might include: clean your sink area and dishwasher and organize and purge your dishware, mugs, glasses, and flatware. Toss chipped, cracked, broken items as well as excess dishware.

Week 4 - Food Serving and Storage Zone
Tasks might include: organizing and purging placemats, napkins, trivets, large serving pieces, and going through your pantry and organizing and discarding food that has expired. Excess food that has not expired but that you don't expect to use soon can be donated. When you replace the food in the pantry, group the foods by type - all soups together, all pasta, fruit, etc.

By the end of the month, you will love working in your kitchen. You are ready for anything the holidays throw at you.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer