Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Organization is crucial.

So over the past couple years that we've lived here, I've really developed a hatred for some areas of our house. Unfortunately I have only just realised that it is because they're constantly cluttered, messy and unorganized. The solution: research, shopping, cleaning and labeling... YAY!

Organization IS crucial, especially if you live in a small house or with numerous people or have lots of stuff. So pretty much no matter who you are or where you live! It can get your daily mood down, cause arguments or accidents, make it difficult to find important things or risk destroying items or documents.

There are some obvious quick fixes to clutter and organizing, like designating rooms to certain tasks or sorting through things you hardly ever use. Then there are the solutions that some consider you crazy if you find joy in them, like a million plastic containers with labels, stacked up in categories alphabetically. But there's a blissful middle, something everyone can enjoy and appreciate...

Rooms are most commonly unorganized because they're "drop zones", rarely visited rooms, the hub where your family spends most it's time, or unappealing in the first place.

The 5 Most Commonly Unorganized Rooms:
- Garage
- Laundry/Mud Room
- Spare Bedroom
- Office
- Kitchen

Start by deciding which areas are cluttered, misused, or a nuisance. List them in the order in which you'd like to achieve them in, taking into perspective of most important and frequently used places, what you can afford to tackle (time & money wise) or the originating spot where the overspilled clutter came from (like if most of the things in your laundry room should be in your garage, do the garage first).

Figure out why the room needs help, and how you want them to be in the end. Does it need an intense categorized library, or maybe just some extra storage? If it's an unappealing room - say there is terrible 80's wallpaper, it's dark and dingy or maybe there was 500 yards of shelving when you moved in so you just had to fill them with something; consider redecorating to make it more inviting and suit your needs.

The 5 Most Important Items to Start Organizing:
- Motivation & Lists, Spreadsheets (or at least an idea of what you want to accomplish)
- Containers of all shapes, sizes & materials
- Grouping Supplies(Ziploc bags, rubber bands, twist/zip ties)
- Labels &/or Tape, Markers
- Cleaning Supplies

The 5 Basic Steps to Organizing:
- Sort & Purge
- Designate Areas
- Deliver or Discard
- Purchase or Recycle Storage Solutions
- Divide, Label & Store

Sorting and purging it probably going to be the hardest, yet most important step of your project. In most cases you can start by sorting into "Keep", "Donate/Sell" and "Garbage" piles, using giant black garbage bags for the "Garbage" pile to make it easiest to just take them to the curb and forget about it. When distinguishing between "Keep" and "Donate/Sell" consider the last time that item was used, what it represents to you, and the condition it's in. Are you really ever going to fit into those 'when I was skinny' clothes? Will you ever actually take an interest in that bathtub full of yarn you were given to start a hobby with? And how many coffee-makers-minus-the-broken-glass-pot(s) do you need? Be determined and assertive, but take emotional consideration with heirlooms and other family member's items.

Designating areas can be obvious: the laundry room for cleaning supplies; the office for craft materials; the garage for outdoor equipment. But many rooms can serve uncommon or multiple purposes: a bedroom for clothing, make up and getting ready; the laundry room for gardening or crafts; the hall closet for an office or nursery. Choose a function that suits your needs the best, and remember that once you organize the room it will be more spacious allowing for multiple areas for different tasks. Think about where you use certain items, and keep them as close as possible to that spot. Store like items together, with everything you will need to complete a task in one box, bag or shelf. Also consider having multiples of items you use in numerous places, if you use a hammer commonly in your house - keep one in the garage, and one in your mud room.

Getting rid of unwanted items as soon as possible is key. Deliver donation items to your local Goodwill, drop off box, or ask friends if they'd be interested in them. If you bagged up a bunch of clothes you no longer want, moving them from your bedroom to the spare room doesn't accomplish anything aside from cluttering up another room. If you were really amazing and ended up with a lot of trash bags, you may have to set them out to get collected by the garbage men a few at a time, as most neighbourhoods have limits.

Once you have a clear keep pile, you may need to sort it once again to divide it into "Other Rooms", "File", "Repair", "Return" and categories depending on the room. Seeing each pile will help you understand the type and size of container you'll need to store it, considering if the amount will grow or be used. Copious amounts of large items might need shelving, small items probably need lids and dividers, breakable items either need padding or an out-of-reach home. Purchasing a set or 'line' of storage containers can be best if you need a lot of similar sizes, or if they will end up in a grid-like stack. Recycling is always a cheaper and 'greener' way to go, but can have an irregular or mashed up appearance - this choice is based on your personal taste, budget, and if the containers will be seen by guests.

The 5 best Recycled Items for Storage:
- Glass/Plastic Food Jars (spreads & sauces, pickles etc.)
- Cardboard Boxes (sandwich bag boxes, shoe boxes, diaper boxes etc.)
- Rubber Bands, Twist Ties, Ribbons etc.
- Bowls & Cups
- Toilet Paper/Paper Towel Tubes
See this link for more possibilities: New Uses for Old Things

Once you've got containers you can start to fill them! Sort screws, nails and other hardware by purpose and size. Sort clothing by size, season and occasion. Sort craft supplies by colour and/or material. Sort seasonal decorations by individual holidays.
Label containers with what is in them - include details like clothing size or season, screw bit shape, year they originated and purpose. Choose labels appropriate for the item - some are can be permanent, may need clear tape to protect from the weather, or maybe they'll need to be relabeled often in which you can find erasable or less-sticky labels. You could even use pretty paper, ribbons, and other embellishments to make them more decorative and become part or your decorating scheme.
Group similar items together - separate the garage/storage room into task areas like gardening; hammers, drills and other tools; painting; leftover/replacement supplies. Store 'boy clothes' in a separate stack from 'girl clothes'. Divide your scrapbooking materials from your knitting yarn. Assign one side of the medicine cabinet to you, and the other half to your partner.

My Favourite 5 Websites for Inspiration, Ideas and Tips:
- Real Simple
- Style At Home - Organizing
- Simplify 101
- Life Organizers
- Ikea

Containing Your Clutter, Literally.

10 Tips On Using and Choosing Containers For Storage:

- Clear containers are best so you can see the contents. Label all containers with whatever they contain.
- Don't forget those monsters under the bed, I mean that storage space... You can buy containers that have wheels for extra sweater storage. There are also clear containers for rolls of wrapping paper and bows that can go under a guest room bed. Most beds have at least a foot high of unused space under them, just make sure you protect your items from dust bunnies and pet hair with a plastic lidded container or cotton sheet attached over top.
- Stacking containers often save space and are more stable. Wire shelves let you put one size container underneath and another size above. Stacking pullout drawers under the bathroom sink are great space savers too.
- Use tool boxes or fishing tackle boxes to help store those small items. Tackle boxes with all their little compartments are great for crafting supplies, jewelry, and fix-it kits with tacks and safety pins. Tool boxes are a great place to keep simple tools all in one place like tape, scissors, and flashlights.
- Choose the size and shape of your container specifically for what will go inside it. Don't buy a container that 'looks like it will fit' only to get it home and it not fit into your spot, or the items wont fit inside. Measure your space that you will be putting the containers in, and measure the item itself if necessary.
- When stacking, buy containers all in the same style and brand so they'll create a stable vertical structure. In some situations, it helps to buy the kind of bin with side access, so you don't have to unstack your containers every time you want to grab something.
- Choose containers based on where they will be stored. For high shelves, get small containers that you can lift easily. On low shelves, you can use bigger, heavier containers.
- Remember Colour. The colour of your storage bins may be important in a couple of scenarios. If the bins are highly visible in the home, you may want the containers to blend well with your decor. If you are organizing by colour - say, each family member has a different storage bin on a particular shelf - you may want to buy the same-size bin in different colours or at least use coloured labels. Using different coloured bins in a children's room is extremely beneficial when learning to clean up - say, all the animals go in the green bin, all the trucks go in the blue bin etc.
- Consider labelling containers twice, on a long side and short side. This way if your system changes and the rectangular bin has to be turned sideways to fit, there's still a label on the side that is now considered the front.
- Envision the future. Kids grow up, you move, your interests change -- all of these inevitable things mean that your storage needs will shift as the months and years pass. When you buy a storage container, ask yourself whether it can be put to other uses once your current need has passed. Your children's toy storage may fit in other rooms, but do you really want rainbow coloured drawers in your living room?

Source: Style At Home - Organizing

"Honey, What's this for?!"

An On-going List of Organizing Tips You Didn't Think of Until It's Too Late:

- Label each cord near the plug end on the power bar. Trying to unplug the Christmas lights while not unplugging your husband's video game = Game Over.
- Separate the new batteries from the dead batteries in a hard & sealed container until you're able to properly dispose of them. Not even labeling a Ziploc bag "Dead" in the junk drawer will withstand the back and forth slamming of frequent use and battery search.
- Based on your children's age(s) store fun and harmless plastic containers in a low cupboard or drawer, dangerous knives in a secure spot 4 feet off the ground, and help-themselves snacks in easy to open sealed containers in a not-too-low-for-crawling/not-to-high-for-school-aged children.
- Designate separate sides for his & hers toiletries, before you run out of mousse. Take the side of the cabinet that's easiest to reach and closest to the sink and mirror to line up all your hair and skin products, shove all his deodorants and shaving creams to the far side, and save the center section for common multi-use things like Band-aids & pain relievers.
- Wrap extension cords and wires around your arm, hand or stiff sheet of cardboard/plastic to avoid tangles and keep them kink free. Extension cords longer then 25 feet need a bigger loop then your forearm can provide. Secure in one or two spots with twist ties, zip ties, Velcro loops, ribbon, elastic bands or human hair (just kidding!). Yell at your husband when he tightly winds the free end around instead of using a tie, these tight coils often stay in the wires and can be frustrating when trying to run the cord discretely along a wall later on. However, do not do this with cables used for television cable or satellite (called coaxial cables) because the wires inside can break and kink - let these cables make their own rounds (usually makes coils 2 feet in diameter) but still secure them with a tie.
- Colour Code your cleaning rags. No body wants to wipe the kitchen counter with the same rag you clean your bathroom or dust your tv with. Coordinate the colour of cloth with the colour of the room.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

So delicious, crunchy outside, chewy inside, hard to resist!

1 cup of flour
1 cup of quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of butter
1/2 cup of granulated (white) sugar
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
1/2 cup of peanut butter (I use all-natural-no-oil-added-just-plain-crushed-peanuts crunchy peanut butter, but smooth would work fine too)
1 egg
1 1/2 teasppons of vanilla
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (other flavoured chips, nuts, or dried fruit)

- Preheat oven to 375F.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat butter, sugars and peanut butter with an electic mixer (you'll have to dig out your beaters a few times). Add in egg and vanilla.
- Gradually add flour mixture, mixing well after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips.
- Drop by teaspoon onto an ungreased baking sheet, bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned (center will still be soft)
- Cool for 1 minute on sheet, the transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.