I love using bookshelves for organization. For books, toys, china…you name it, I like to organize it on a bookshelf. Our very first Saturday Project was adding fabric backing to a bookshelf! Imagine my delight when I found the tutorial from Lisa at Over the Big Moon for making a pallet-backed bookshelf. I can’t wait to do this to a black bookcase in the kids playroom!
Ok, it isn’t really a new year, but back to school always feels like that chance to start over, much more so to me than January 1 actually. This year is the first year our kids are not actually starting a new grade in the fall (we “leveled up” in April, deciding to let the kids progress when they were ready and not holding them back until fall). Even with that, because my husband is a teacher, this time of year seems like a good point to hit “reset”!
Any major changes to chores or responsibilities are done at this time of year. We reevaluate kids responsibilities and privileges. We make decisions about what extra curricular, church, and social activities we will focus on this academic year. Each kid makes goals for the next 12 months.
This time of year is also a great time to do a whole home reset. If you haven’t, consider creating a family calendar. Set up you home inventory. Do a house clearing out and cleaning from top to bottom.
Happy New (school) Year!
I am always looking for ways to get more storage that isn’t built in and can be moved with us. I especially love projects that turn something cheap and junky into something cool. I was positively giddy when I came across this project on Trash to Treasure blog (tttreasure.com). Check out these great instructions for turning an old metal file cabinet into great garage storage!
We don’t eat a lot of cold cereal, but we still manage to go through 1-2 boxes a week as snacks or ingredient in other recipes. I hate to throw away all that great cardboard (even to recycling) so I began looking for ways to reuse cereal boxes. Here are thee of my favorite ideas:
Decorative Stars: I have made several of these country stars out of cereal boxes. A good coat of metallic paint, and no one knows they are cardboard.
Paper Stacker: We have a ton of decorative and school papers to organize. Glue together 3-6 cereal boxes with top flaps removed for a great paper storage tower. Cover with decorative paper or fabric to match room decor.
Folder or Magazine Storage: Cut off a cereal box at an angle (see picture in link) and use this for students to store folders, to keep magazines handy, or to keep papers together. Just cover with decorative fabric or paper if it will be left out (unless Cheerios goes with your decor!). TIP: You can also use this same shape to store packages of zipper bags or foils and wraps in a cabinet.
Most of us don’t have and will never need a home inventory. I know, that’s a great way to get you interested in doing one. But the truth is that if you do encounter a disastrous situation where you need to know what you have and how to replace it, a home inventory will prove invaluable.
There are a lot of apps and software programs that you can buy to help you with taking a home inventory, but the truth is that you can do this with your own camera, computer, and scanner.
Start by setting up a spreadsheet with tabs for each room plus one separate tab for electronics. This will help you organize everything.
Next, pick a room and start. List each item in the spreadsheet. List the item’s name, brand, model number, serial number, and purchase price.
After you have the information for an item listed, scan in any manuals, warranties, receipts, and other paperwork into your computer. Save these scans in a file labeled with the item name.
The third step is to take a photograph of the item. If possible, take one of the face of the item and another of the items tag or sticker with model and serial number. Save these photos in the same file as the scans of documents related to the file.
The last step is to back up everything! Be sure that these files are on your computer and on another storage device. Use a flash drive that is with your emergency binder or go bag so that you can grab it and go in the event of a fire or disaster. For added security, consider using an online file storage system, like Dropbox, to keep the files accessible from any location. If you don’t have a Dropbox account and would like to start one, please contact me and I will send you the information. This is a free online storage and sharing system. You can pay for additional storage if needed, but I have found that the free storage is plenty for my needs.
Filing and storing essential records is key to keeping your home organized. Filing is pretty simple – use the alphabet or if possible, scan records and save files digitally to save space. If you choose to use a digital filing system, be sure files are backed-up on an external drive.
But how long do you keep records? Here are some helpful tips:
Bills: Keep until you receive the next month’s bill showing your payment was appropriately applied. Be sure to shred all bills instead of just throwing them away because bills contain identifying information and credit card numbers. If the bill is for a large purchase (jewelry, home repairs, etc). keep the bill as long as you have the item purchased in a file relating to that item.
Bank Statements: Many of us get our bank statements online, so storage isn’t an issue, but if you get paper statements, keep the statements until your account has been balanced. Like bills, if the statement shows the purchase of a large item or anything that may relate to taxes or a business, file the statements with those categories and keep them as long as you have the item or business.
Tax Records: Tax returns should be kept for at least 3 years, but for your protection it is recommended that you keep the records for 7 -10 years.
Retirement Contributions: Keep these records indefinitely
Brokerage Statements: Keep these records until you sell the securities or close out the accounts. If there are tax implications file the records with the tax year they relate to and store for the recommended time for tax records.
Paycheck Stubs:Whether paper or electronic, save the records until you get your W-2 for that year and have verified that all the information is correct.
House Records: Keep records on the purchase, financing or refinancing, and any improvements made on a home until you sell the home. Save records relating to the sale of a home with the tax year paperwork that the sale effects.
Medical Records: See the article on organizing medical records for information about how to put these things together. Keep medical records permanently.
Receipts: If receipts have tax implications, file with the corresponding year. If the item relates to a large or warrantied purchase, file the receipt with other information about the purchase. Otherwise, once items have cleared you bank account for the correct amount, receipts can be thrown away.
We approach all organizing with the same method. We employ this method every season change, and any time the kids get a lot of new things (i.e. Christmas or birthdays). What method is this? Keep/Sell/Give/Toss.
This method is simple. When sorting through anything - a room or a drawer – set up three separate piles. Keep is for everything you want to keep. You will sort through placement for those items later. Sell is for items that have value that you no longer need. These are items you will list on eBay, CraigsList, or sell in other ways. Give is for items you aren’t selling but still have useful life. These items will be given to a friend or charity who can benefit from having them. Toss is for the items that are out of useful life. These are broken or ripped or in some other way damaged or are just things that cannot be sold or passed on to others.
Set up space for each category. If you are organizing a room or a whole house, be sure the space is separate and labeled so that things don’t get in the wrong category. Go through everything in the space you are organizing and place it in one of the 4 categories.
Once everything is in a category, start by throwing away the toss pile. Next, bag up the give pile, labeling the bags based on to whom or where the items will be given, and put the bags in your car. Thirdly, photograph everything in the sell pile and get the items listed for sale. Then box those items up for shipping or delivery. Don’t seal the boxes until you have a shipping label for them. You don’t want to forget what is in them.
At this point you should only have your keep items left. This pile will get sorted a second time. Go through it and take anything that does not belong in the space you are organizing to the correct room or area. For example, we found a cup in our child’s room when we got a new bed and organized it for her. That was to be kept, but clearly not in her room. It was taken to the dishwasher.
Now you should only have items that belong in the space left. Clean your space and put your keep items away. Now you have an organized space with less stuff, and hopefully a little extra money in your pocket too.
Having a well-stocked medicine cabinet is a lot like having a well-stocked pantry – it is essential for you house to run efficiently. If you must leave the house to pick up medicine or first aid items when someone is sick or hurt your home will not run effectively. Here is a list of items to keep stocked in your medicine cabinet at all times:
- Bandages (Band-Aids®) in a variety of sized from small circles to large one for scraped knees.
- Triple Antibiotic cream (Neosporin®)
- Pain-Relieving Cleansing Spray (Bactine®)
- Burn Cream
- Hydrocortisone Cream (anti-itch)
- Medical tape
- Alcohol (wipes or in bottle)
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Cotton balls
- Cotton swabs
- Disposable gloves (these protect you from bodily fluids)
Other Medicines & Supplies:
- Accurate Thermometer
- Aspirin (DO NOT give this to children)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) for adults and appropriate product for children in your house (infant, junior etc)
- Ibuprofen (Advil® ) for adults and appropriate product for children in your house (infant, junior etc)
- Antihistamine (Benadryl®) for allergic reactions
- Cough Medicine (Delsym®) for only coughs for adults and appropriate product for children in your house
- Cold/Flu medicine for adults and appropriate product for children in your house
- Cough drops
- Calming throat spray (Chloraseptic®)
- Decongestants for adults and appropriate product for children in your house
- Saline drops (for noses)
- Antacid (Tums®)
- Anti-diarreal (Imodium®) for adults and appropriate product for children in your house
- Simethicone drops (for gas relief)
- Anti-fungal cream (life for athlete’s foot)
- Yeast infection cream
- Zinc Oxide (Desitin®) for rash relief
Alas, we are to organizing the laundry room. A room where you likely spend more time that you wish. But having an organized laundry room (or space) and an organized process for doing laundry can greatly reduce your time investment in the process.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to get the kids involved. By age 9 all my kids can do all the laundry!
When you have the room organized and the schedule established it is time to take on some other organization and money-saving laundry room projects. Consider line drying all your clothes. It will cost you a little time, but save you a lot of money. To make up for the time spent line drying clothes, check out the 7 Time-Saving Tips for Doing Laundry. For fun and whimsy (because every room needs a bit of whimsy) consider adding a ladder on which to hang clothes to dry.
Once you have the room looking and running the way you want, jump into the money-saving ideas of making your own laundry soap and fabric softener. And check out these tips for getting stains out and making your own stain remover.
The office can be one of the hardest rooms to organize. That is because it is often not really a room! We make an office out of a desk in our bedroom, a trunk in our
family room, a desk in our kitchen, a laptop on our bed…and it can go on forever! This is the space where you pay your bills, where kids do homework, where you finish projects you had to bring home with you, make home school lesson plans, and deal with all the other family business.
So how do you organize a space that may not even be a room? And what about all the “stuff” that gets done in the office? Here are some tips:
Start by Organizing Your Bills. Once you get your bills in order a lot of the rest of the office (and life in general) will flow better. This includes balancing your checkbook, getting out of debt, and saving money. Check out 5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Financial Outlook for more help.
Once you bills and finances are in order, move on to organizing the “stuff” of the office. Consider re-using things like cans, ice cube trays, or even baby food jars to keep staples, binder clips, tacks, etc. organized. Add silverware trays to desk or cabinet drawers for storage of pens, pencils, scissors, etc. If your office has a door or closet use and over-the-door shoe organizer for supplies.
Remember the Habits of Highly Organized People! Don’t let your office desk or space become a collection area for papers. Sort the mail daily and put everything away where it belongs. Consider using the rule of threes to separate and organized paper into folders or drawers for financial (receipts, bills, etc.), file (anything that needs to be filed), and frugal (coupons and other money-saving offers).
Once your desk and office stuff are organized, move on to the rest of your family papers. Organize your medical records and file them appropriately in your office space. Be prepared for emergencies with a Family Emergency Binder and Plan.
The project of organizing your office space can take an investment of time but it is well worth it! If you spend 15 minutes a day plus 3 hours on the weekends you will have put 20 hours into this project in one month! With 20 hours you can definitely get your office space and papers well-organized.