weekly organizing Tips

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Category: Goal Setting

Preparing for Vacation Reentry

flip flops

We all know the feeling – you’ve just had an amazing vacation in a warm tropical locale in the dead of winter and now you are home – cold, in a messy house with no food on your first day home and depression is quickly setting in. There is noting I can do about the cold, I’m sorry. But I can help you reenter the normal non-vacation world a little easier by preparing before you leave.

I am leaving for a trip next week and this is my checklist to ensure vacation reentry is as smooth as possible:

1. Let’s be honest, coming home to anything dead is a bummer. Arrange for your pets and plants to be taken care of.

2. If someone is coming to take care of your plants or pets see if they would mind putting your mail, newspapers and any packages in the house so you don’t become a robbery magnet. Extra key required.

3. Put lights on timers. A few lights that turn on and off at different points during the day and night can also deter burglars.

4. Tidy your home before you go – or if you have a cleaning person have them come while you are gone. You are leaving a hotel where you’ve been pampered for the past week, the last thing you want is to come home to a crumpled bed with a dirty toilet. Just saying, it makes a big difference.

5. Take out all garbage and green bins. Unless maggots and really really bad smells are your thing, add this to the top of your list now.

6. On this same note clean out the fridge. Remove anything that will look like a science experiment when you come home.

7. Turn down your thermostat. Saving money on vacation – nice!

8. Unplug everything you can. This is also help save money and any weird acts out of your control like power surges. Replacing everything upon your return and dealing with insurance – not relaxing!

9. Think about dinner for the day you return. Stash a frozen pizza or something simple to make when you return. Don’t over think this, ordering in is also acceptable!

10. Do all laundry before you leave so pre-vacation laundry isn’t mingling with vacation laundry. This is just extra work for no reason.

11. Leave a copy of all travel documents with the person picking you up at the airport. This way if anything changes they can check flight status, updates etc. without having to get you involved, you’ll have enough on your plate.

Have a fabulous vacation! A little bit of planning and preparation will ensure a smooth reentry once the sunshine, sand and water have all disappeared.

Happy Organizing!

** photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Get it Done with Actionable To Do’s

To Do folder

I thought this might be an appropriate follow-up to Monday’s blog about Setting Goals for the Soul.  Goal setting is fabulous, but once that goal is set we have to break it down into actionable steps to accomplish that goal, little by little over a set amount of time.

Your first step in this is to create concrete goals. Concrete goals include milestones and measurables so you stay on track and know when the goal has been accomplished. I found that creating goals attached to emotions help me form concrete and meaningful goals. However, you might find mind mapping helpful or simply dumping ideas onto paper and creating goals from there. Whatever your method, make sure the goals are concrete with a system of measuring included.

Once the milestones are set you can write them into your calendar. Once the large milestones are set into your calendar and you’ve picked dates for their completion you can create actionable to do’s around the milestone.

Let’s discuss what constitutes an actionable to do for a moment. You want to take all thinking out of your to do list. Write it as if you were going to hand it some one else to complete. If you need to contact some one write out: “phone so and so and include their number”. Same with email, write: “email so and so and include their email address” Don’t put things on your to do list that you are not ready to complete. Only the next logical steps to any project/milestone should be included on your list. Be bold though, don’t leave things off simply for the sake of avoidance, but be careful not to put so many “hard” task on that you avoid it and feel guilty.

A quick note here. Projects are not to do’s. Projects are a collection of to do’s and should be broken down accordingly. A to do should include one item only. So for example, “clean the basement” should never be on your to do list. What does that even mean? Here is a better way to approach that project with simple tasks: 1. Go into basement 2. create three distinct piles for donation, keep, give to kid’s 3. Clear five basement storage shelves sorting items into the tree categories 4. repeat step 3 as necessary 5. Take boxes to donation 6. pack up kid’s boxes 7. deliver boxes to kid’s house… Get it? There are a lot of steps in “clean the basement” and if you don’t properly think through those steps you are setting yourself up for failure. The success is in the planning, seriously!

Another thing to consider is a concept I read about called “micro movements” these are tasks that take 5 minutes or less to complete and they create micro movement in accomplishing your goals. Think phone calls, emails, ordering a gift for your mom’s birthday, setting up your credit card on auto pay so you stop paying late fees etc. There are endless micro movements we could take advantage of in our daily life that would bring a huge sense of accomplishment – in five minutes or less. Think of three you could do today!

Ok, so now it’s time to put your list together. Gather your goals with clear milestones and lay out your next week of to do’s. Try to keep your list under 20 items with a goal of 3-5 to do’s a day. When you scratch off those 3-5 add another 3-5 and now you have a running to do list with current and meaningful actionable items to complete to help you accomplish your goals.

Remember this is a living, ever changing list, you can’t just write it and forget it. Set aside 20 minutes every Friday or Monday to review your to do’s. Further break down any items or take some time to purge items no longer relevant or maybe put onto the list too early and have been hanging out for a long time.

This is a process and it might take time to adapt. Be kind to yourself as you begin to see your to do list in a new more effective way.

Happy Organizing!


**photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Setting Goals for the Soul

puzzle pieces

With January comes a new year. With a new year comes a slew of new goals for me. Every year I will sit down and write things like: grow my business by 20%, pay off my student loan, Visit one new place this year. These are good, but they don’t get me very excited. They become these words that hang over my head for the next 6 – 12 months and then I usually feel like I didn’t shoot high enough or I disappointed myself by not fully achieving this goal I wrote on paper months earlier.

I searched out a new method this year. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but when I found it I knew. I found a video on Lifehacker.com that talked about creating goals around the way I want to feel. I watched the video and thought about this concept for a few weeks. I couldn’t stop thinking this video. Creating goals around the way I want to feel, brilliant!

So how does this work? Well, the idea comes from Danielle Laporte. You can find more info about her and her book, The Desire Map, at daniellelaporte.com She started it all by writing an emotion on a post it note, sticking it in her day timer and keeping it there for years to remind her as she moved through her day, week and year… years… how she wanted to feel. She would arrange her goals and to do’s around that feeling.

When she started to arrange her day around the way she wanted to feel she discovered she was happier, calmer, more successful and fulfilled. She calls these emotions: Core Desired Feelings.

There were three areas she suggested you focus on your core desired feelings:

1. Lifestyle/Livelihood

2. Body/Wellness

3. Relationship & Society

To get started write down every feeling word you associate with these three areas. Danielle suggests staying away from BIG words with stigmas around them like, success or confidence. Narrow those words down, look up their meanings in the dictionary and find words that give you a little buzz when you look at them. Don’t allow outside influences to form your reality – meaning, don’t let the Jones’ determine your goals, set your goals based on what sets your fire.

Now narrow that list down to 3-7 feelings – these are your Core Desired Feelings. Once you have those feelings written down and you are buzzing from the excitement of making those feelings a reality or strengthening their presence in your life, ask yourself, “What can I do to make sure I feel those core desired feelings every day?” and “What do I need to do, have or experience to create my core desired feelings?” From those questions, with a focus on your core desired feelings, you will create goals that are meaningful with emotion associated with them.

Don’t clutter your goals, give them room to breath and grown. Set 1 – 3 goals for the year. Set big goals that get you excited. Don’t be afraid of failure, Danielle reminds us, we learn through contrast and some of our greatest accomplishments rise from the ashes of failure.

I went through this exercise and my four Core Desired Feelings are: Sturdy (powerful), Love, Grace (balance), Resilience. With those Core Desired Feelings I have created meaningful goals for 2014 and I know this will be my best year yet.

I encourage you to think about goal setting in a new way. Remove the mental clutter that blocks you from creating meaningful change in your life and go do big things!

Happy 2014 and Happy Organizing!

Out Smart Procrastination

9-03 Procrastination

Ok, here’s a dirty secret – I was a HUGE procrastinator. I waited until the last minute to do things, leave the house, finish a project. I used to think of it as a challenge, a fun little personal task. When asked the dreaded, “What would you say is your weakest quality?” question in an interview, I would answer, “Procrastination.” but I would follow it up with, “I work great under pressure.” And I do. However, I have discovered that when you give yourself enough time – meaning more time than you think you need, it actually makes everything more relaxing and enjoyable.

As a human you are programmed to procrastinate. It’s our nature, we all do it. So, now that we no longer have to feel guilty about it what can you do about it?

I’ve tried a lot of things, including, blocking off my calendar so it looks like a rainbow fun pop of to do’s and obligations during the day. Here’s the thing, best intentions don’t always lead to improved actions so I am going to share a few tips that I used to outsmart procrastination.

Figure out your natural schedule. Decide when you like to do certain things and when you are most productive. For example. I have discovered that if I work out in the morning, check email and get ready, then start working I am a much happier and more productive person. I then find that if I do something active in the afternoon: a walk with my dog, yoga, working in the yard etc. then work after that I am also a happier, more productive person. So, I have scheduled my day and the priorities I have to finish around that schedule. If you are in an office decide the times you are most productive and take advantage of that time. Then allow yourself some slack time or time to do less taxing priorities in the areas around those natural energy bursts.

Next, block those websites that pull you into a black vortex where time stands still and you come out knowing a bit about your friend’s weekend, the latest youtube sensation or checking in on the latest news story… Set a temporary website block with programs like Temporary on Google Crome. It’s a free app for your computer that allows you to temporarily block websites so you can’t view them in the specified amount of time that you set. If you can’t see it you can’t view it so you have no choice but to work.

Also, turn off your email and anything that beeps, dings or chimes on your phone. We are like Pavlov’s Dog. We respond to those noises very well and we go searching for our treat. Cut it off and silence it.

This next option is a little less strict than Temporary. Time Warp, another Google Chrome app for your computer that will allow you to set three different “wormholes”

Option 1: Redirect: Takes you to the most productive site you specify

Option 2:  Quote: Shows your most motivative quote

Option 3: Timer: Displays the amount of time you spent on the site today

It’s an interesting options that I have just installed on my computer and plan to use soon. So clever over there at Google.

Last, is sheer will power. You have to focus on something larger and more important than the present moment to push you through whatever it is you have to get done.  Here are a few Time Saving ideas to get you started. Also, I always tell myself that whatever I’m dreading will not be as hard as I anticipant and the truth is it usually isn’t. And it feels so good to have it done!

Happy Organizing!

** photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Organize your Time to Increase your Happiness


I would argue that time is the ultimate gauge of organization. It can make us feel like everything is in order or it can make everything feel like complete chaos. As part of my ongoing happiness project I have focused on time. Focusing mostly on my time and how I spend it. Being on time. And making sure I’m sharing my time with the people I love the most. It’s about controlling my time and to stop making excuses about how I don’t have time for this or that.

In Gretchen Rubin’s book “Happiness at Home” she points out that, “a feeling of control is a very important aspect of happiness…” When we have our world in order and the things we can control, seemingly under control everything seems to run smoother and we feel as though we have more time.

How can you feel in control when you are always 15 minutes late to meetings, events or dinner dates? How powerful does it feel when you forget an appointment and you have to call and apologize or even worse they call you to see what happened. How much money do you spend on extra fees paying bills late?

Being more conscious of your time and where it’s being spent will give you a jumping off point. Spend one week writing down everything you do and how long it takes. Seriously. Be diligent for one week.

After that one week sit down and take a look. How long did it really take to get ready in the morning? How long is the commute to work, with traffic? Did you get in your workouts? How much time are you spending with your family?

Now put together a more realistic calendar for yourself. Give yourself the proper amount of time in the morning so you don’t have to rush, forcing yourself to do your makeup in the car while weaving in and out of traffic. Figure out where you can spare 30 minutes a day for exercise. Plan time to spend with your family. Fill your time with the things that make you happy and you will find, you have more time.

One thing we all do that Rubin calls out in her book is, “…live in the naive notion that later there will be more room than in the entire past…”

Don’t put off the things you love for menial busy work or obligations and activities that aren’t fulfilling. Take control of your time, live in the stop and stop putting it off for tomorrow.

Take control of your time and the rest will fall into place.

Happy organizing!

Make Room for Relationships

“The best things in life… aren’t things” Art Buchwald


Keeping with the theme of my happiness project, I am focusing on relationships this week. One of the biggest motivators for a declutter sessions is the people in our lives. Our spouse is upset about the mess we create, your kids don’t have a place to do their homework, your in-laws are coming to visit and you can’t imagine them stepping foot in your home. It might not be a specific event, but rather a general frazzled feeling that keeps you from spending time with loved ones.

When the physical spaces in our home are full there is no chance, but to have a full mental life as well. It’s time to step back and take the time to make room for your relationships. It is proven that the people in our lives make us happier than any amount of stuff ever will.

Find ways to honor the your relationships in your spaces. I love the idea from Gretchen Rubin in Happiness at Home about rotating family pictures based on the season or holiday. Why not put out pictures of your kids in their different Halloween costumes over the year to help celebrate the season and cherish the memories in the mean time.


Another great idea from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love is happiness jars. They can be anything from a small jar of sand to remind you about a family beach vacation or slips of paper that you write memories and happy moments on, put in the jar and pull out to read from time to time. My happiness jar is a glass vase full of smooth white rocks I’ve collected from bodies of water around the world. It reminds me of fabulous vacations, quiet walks with my dog, adventures with my husband or exotic places.

Of course any of the two suggestions above only work if you take the time to sort, edit and reorganize the spaces you work and live in to create space for the relationships in your life.

Happy Organizing!

* photo courtsey: freedigitalphotos.net

The Happiness Project Begins


I read a book recently called, Happiness at Home, by Gretchen Rubin. She also wrote a book before this one called, The Happiness Project. The basic ideas of the two books are finding small everyday ways to make life a little happier. Over a set amount of time, 12 months in her first book and a school year, nine months, in her second she picked a specific topic each month, marriage, parenthood, work, body, family… you get the point. The book I read focused specifically on the house and taking action to make it a happier place. I will use this book all month for my blog posts because there is so many amazing tidbits in these books! On a side note, I would highly recommend either one.

As you can imagine I found a lot of joy in reading her section on possessions… Things! Possessions can be a tricky thing. They can bring us great joy or great guilt. Gretchen felt what all of us feel, we want to love our possessions, we don’t want to feel mastered by them.

This is why I do what I do. I work hard everyday to help people break free of their stuff. This doesn’t mean throwing everything away it means honoring what you have and finding meaningful ways to use it, display it or store it. Gretchen nailed by saying, “When I felt engaged with my possessions, I felt enlivened by them, and when I felt disengaged from them, I felt burdened.” Yes, yes and yes. Don’t strive to throw everything away, in turn creating a stale lifeless home. Enjoy your things and feel enlivened by them. However, when there is so much you don’t know what you have there is no other option than to feel heavy and burdened.

When you embark on an organizing project it’s always good to remind yourself what clutter is and use it as the basis of your decision making process. I love William Morris’s simple explanation, “Have nothing in your house[s] that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful…”

Be ruthless, be honest and start cultivating a space that makes you feel enlivened and happy, powerful and proud. You deserve it!

Happy Organizing!

Eliminate Clutter for a Good Cause with Monthly Donations

One of the biggest challenges about organizing is what to do with the stuff you want to donate. I have a simple solution you can use to motivate monthly decluttering. Set-up a monthly pickup with one of the charities below. Or see if your favorite charity offers free donation pickup.

If you know you have a truck coming to pick-up donations then you are more likely to go through your clothing at the start of a season, your children’s toys, the books that are filling the shelves or the tools in the garage that your replaced for your husband this father’s day.

Donate Image

Here are a few options for donation pick-up:

Canadian Diabetes Association – 1-800-505-5525

Click Here for More Information

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy – 1-888-238-6327

Click Here for More Information

Oasis Clothing Bank – 416-751-0553

Click Here for More Information

For Furniture:

Furniture Bank – 416-934-1229 **they charge a small fee, but provide a tax receipt

Click Here for More Information

For Tools & Building Supplies

Habitat for Humanity ReStore – 416-755-8023

Click Here for More Information

Get your pick-ups set for the rest of the year. You will notice a decline in the amount of stuff hanging around and the clutter that comes with it.

Happy Organizing!

**Image provided by freedigitalphotos.net

Organizing the Pantry

Organized-pantry216As the last post in a series of the kitchen, cooking and food we are going to examine the pantry.

This blog happens to be going on in conjunction with a pantry reorganization I am working on, so I can give you very real experiences in a kitchen that did not have a designated pantry area and how we were able to create one.

First, designate a pantry area. If you do not have a pantry in your kitchen create one. In the kitchen I am currently working on there are two cabinets that have been designated for food, therefore the pantry. If you do not have space to spare in your kitchen cabinets think outside o the box. Does your kitchen have room for a freestanding cabinet? What about a cart with a shelf or two? Is there a closet close to the kitchen that could serve as a pantry? Be creative!

Dried foods often come in two forms boxes and bags. There are also canned goods, but we will get there.

Bags are the worst so we’ll start with them. A large number of our baking goods come in bags: flour, sugar, brown sugar, corn meal, oats etc. etc. No matter how hard we try, bags will not stack. So putting the contents of the bags in containers will allow you to stack them taking advantage of vertical space.

I always suggest square containers. They fit into the square cabinets better and leave less wasted space. However, round will still work better than the bag, whatever you have available. Once you have filled the containers and stacked them. Label them for easy identification.

Organized Pantry1

Next up, the boxes. Boxes are often easier to store. You can store them in their original packaging, if you have the space. If you find the box is a bit bulky and the contents could be stored better in a container do that. There are so many different size and shape options, there  will definitely be one that fits your needs perfectly. I recommend, Solutions, Your Organizing Living Store.

You can also corral boxes in a larger basket or crate sorted with like items. This allows you to store them on the floor or higher shelves. You can also stack the baskets or crates easily.

A note on loose produce like potatoes and onions. These like cool dark places best, so consider a basket for them as well. Store them open and loose and keep the basket in a place away from direct sunlight and as cool as possible.

Cans are very versatile. They make stacking easy, but if you have a deeper cabinet and you’re not sure how to remember the cans way in the back, try one of these methods. Try using a lazy susan. We have about six in our kitchen. They are fabulous for displaying all items in a cabinet and they’re fun to use. You can also try a stacked shelf that will put the items in the back slightly higher than those in the front OR try this handy little method with a soda box, genius!

Canned Goods Dispenser

A quick note on spices. There are a number of ways they can be stored, but I will share two of my favorite ways. First, the way I store my spices. I tend to buy them in bulk bags from the store. They are much less expensive than purchasing in the bottle, but a lot less convenient to store. I bought a number of the small round spice holders, dumped the bags in, labeled them and put them on a lazy susan. Easy to use, put away and identify when I need to restock.

Organized Spices1

My second favorite way, is to do a similar method to my method above, but storing them on the fridge, as the bottom of the containers are a magnet. I would definitely store my spices this way, but my fridge is stainless steels and magnets don’t stick to it, bummer!

fridge spice-rack

An organized pantry is the first step to organized cooking and organized cooking will make meal time much much more enjoyable, I promise!

I hope with the meal planning ideas, the fridge clean out suggestions and the pantry organizing tips that you find a renewed sense of order and beauty to your meal times!

Happy Organizing!

Meal Planning Made Simple


One of the simplest, most effective things you can do to run a smooth and organized home is to take a few minutes each week to meal plan. There is nothing worse than working a full day and then coming home to, “What’s for dinner?” and have no idea.

There are a lot of suggestions and tactics that I have found on meal planning, but I am going to take a very simple approach, because let’s face it, if it’s not easy we won’t do it.

Let’s go step by step through the meal planning process and by the end you’ll be set with a week’s worth of meals, a shopping list to stock it and a happy family!

Start by creating a long list of the meals you and your family enjoy. Put as many ideas on paper as possible. Save this on the computer if possible. This will be the list you go to weekly when planning.

Once you have a long list of choices, pick out 5 – 7 meals for the week. Think of variety and any additional factors for each evening. Do you have company for dinner? Do the kid’s have activities that need to be planned around? Busy day? Have a variety of meals on your list for this reason – quick one pan meals, crock-pot meals, gourmet spreads, kid’s favorites etc. a little bit for every situation.

Once you have a list of 5 – 7 meals, depending on the number of nights you cook, you need to create a shopping list. Again, if this is something you can create on the computer it will be easy for you to modify it week to week, while keeping the staples on it so you don’t have to rewrite them every time. Click Here for a shopping list template.

Set a time each week for shopping. Every Sunday is ideal. It sets you up for the week and given it’s usually a day off, you’re not pressured by time or the dreaded “what’s for dinner”.

Last, but not least post the weekly meal plan somewhere everyone can see it. On the fridge, somewhere in the kitchen, on the cork board. Anywhere that will prevent your family from asking, “what’s for dinner?”

Here are a few tips to make this process even smoother:

Get the family involved – get their suggestions, help with shopping and even cooking.

Rotate from week to week. In my house we have 7 – 8 dishes that we really love. I rotate those through a two-week cycle. I have even created two shopping lists for each week so I don’t have to rewrite them.

Use simple recipes for most of the week. Feel free to go gourmet once or twice, but don’t burn yourself out too early in the week.

Take one day off a week. This gives you some breathing room from the kitchen. Taking a night off can mean having your spouse or kids cook. Or treat yourself to a fun night out!

Meal planning is important and once you have a system in place it becomes so simple and intuitive that you won’t believe the difference it will make.

Happy Organizing!