Monday, December 15, 2014

Clear Your Clutter For The Holidays

I wanted to share a great poem written by another Professional Organizer. This should inspire all of you to clear your clutter before the Holidays!


'Twas just weeks before Christmas, when I looked 'round my house
And feelings were stirring that I couldn't douse.
The clutter was piled up in mounds all around,
And piles, dust and overwhelm all did abound.
No visions of sugarplums danced in my head,
Just feelings of angst and confusion and dread.
The papers were piled on the table so high
There's no chance of mealtime, I thought with a sigh.
I thought of the guests that would come all too soon
And started to panic and wish it was June.
Aackk! People are coming! Oh, where will they stay?
I must move this clutter. It's all in the way.
I want to have family and friends to enjoy,
To entertain, decorate, bake and…oh, boy.
"I meant to get to it", I heard myself whine,
But now it's December and I'm down to the line.
I thought I could do it myself if I tried,
But it was too much and my brain felt so fried.
I needed some help and I knew whom to call
A Professional Organizer who's on the ball.
My organizer friend was so lively and quick
Before I knew it I was ready for St. Nick!
She helped me to think in a rational way.
I still had some time; they're not coming today.

She settled me down and said, "You'll be alright.
Now take a deep breath and this clutter we'll fight.
We'll start in one room and just put things away
Stuff with no 'home' won't be able to stay."

We cleared and we sorted, we put things away
I was so glad I had not waited just one more day!
We purged and we sorted and made such a clatter
The donation bags just got fatter and fatter."
Soon tabletops showed up and floors all got cleared
There's so much more room now, it almost feels weird.
With Karen's help I got so much more done,
She's taught me the process, we even had fun.
I love it!  I said as I looked all around.
I couldn't believe all the lost stuff I'd found!
I'd managed quite well while the stuff was all lost
But realized I'd be fine if most just got tossed.
I could go on but I think I'll stop here
And wish every one of you holiday cheer.
Oh, and by the way, if your shopping's not done-
If you choose gifts that they'll want, need or use up, you've all won!

Karen here now, all done butchering this poem,
Wishing each of you joy and peace inside of your home.
And so I'll exclaim as I send my newsletter
Merry Christmas to all! Be a clutter go-getter!

© 2014 Karen Sheesley

Karen Sheesley
Straighten Up 
Organizing Services

Monday, December 1, 2014

Clear the Clutter - End of the Year Donations

It's now December and the shoppers are out in full force. Everyone is getting ready for more stuff to take over their homes.

I admit - I am not a shopper. There is only so much stuff that anyone needs (wants is a different story).

Yes - most people love to get presents.  But where are they going to put them?

No one actually thinks about that part of it. If you only have so much space - and you can't fit anything else in - something has to go!

That's not a bad thing!  People outgrow stuff (physically, emotionally or intellectually).  So let someone else have the pleasure of using the things that you don't need (or want) any longer.

There are people out there that can use the things that you don't need or want any longer.

Give back - do something worthwhile for someone else.  Help those in need when you have more than you need.

Before you go shopping - decide to clear out your closet of things that you can donate.  People change, needs changes.....  let someone else get the pleasure of things that you are ready to part with.

Get your kids to clear out toys they have outgrown. It will teach them to help others. And everyone knows they will get more toys anyway.

Before year end - take your donations to Goodwill or a shelter or a church...   Anywhere they will take donations.

Do something good for someone else - and your closet!

Clear Your Clutter and you will be surprised how freeing it really is!

Happy December!

Organizational Consulting Services

Monday, November 24, 2014

Holidays and Shopping - Should You or Shouldn't You ?

The holidays are just around the corner. The malls are busy with shoppers and even Santa has already made an appearance. Guess everyone forgot that Thanksgiving comes first!

I'll skip telling you that the holidays are about more than shopping - they are about family, friends and remembering the important things in life. The reality is - people are going to be shopping and buying and buying and buying.....  STUFF !

Everyone has good intentions. Everyone is trying to make all the people in their lives "happy" by buying them gifts.

But - is it really what they want?  Or are you buying what you want or think they will like?

People have so much stuff that they already don't know what to do with and really don't want - but they are afraid to tell you.

When buying gifts - think about the person (not yourself - not what you want - not your taste....). Will they really like it? Do they really need it? And the most important question -

                        " Do they have room for it in their home ???? "

If the person you are buying for has a small home or an apartment - they might not have room for your gift. If you have bought them things in the past - and you have never seen them wear it or display it - maybe you should re-think your selections.

A few ideas that take up little or no room:

*    Fruit baskets (healthy and something that people don't usually buy for themselves)
*    Any gourmet food that people would love to try and think it's too decadent to splurge on
*    Gift card for a service - massage, car wash coupons, movie tickets....
*    Coupon for babysitting, snow shoveling, grass mowing...
*    CD's or movies (add popcorn for a great evening)

There are a lot of options that take up little room and get used up quickly and don't leave a mess.....

Don't add clutter to someone's home.... just because you feel that you need to give them a gift. Think about what they really need - in the most simplest of terms - and you will be amazed at how much happier they will be when they don't have to pretend that they like the sweater that you bought them.

Happy Holidays! 

Organizational Consulting Services

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Holidays Are Almost Upon Us - Get Ready For Thanksgiving

It's that time of year again!  The holidays are fast approaching. Everyone is already in a frenzy.  The stores are bombarding us with advertisements and sales. People have Christmas lights up already and it's not even Thanksgiving!

Take a deep breath. And let's get through one holiday at a time.

Re-read this Thanksgiving article:

Thanksgiving  -  Organized and Stress Free  - Yes, It is Possible

Yes, “Organized“, “Stress Free” and “Thanksgiving” can be used in the same sentence.

It all starts with the word “organized”. Don’t let it scare you. Embrace it. By being organized and planning ahead you can actually enjoy a holiday.

Start by deciding on what you want your holiday to be like. Do you really want to serve a sit down dinner for twenty (20) people? Or would a buffet be acceptable for you? Would it be acceptable for your “family”?
The pressure of trying to please everyone, especially parents and doing things “exactly” like when you were little and everything was perfect is how the “stress” starts.

It’s your house and your dinner party. You can start new traditions. I didn’t say that it would be easy or that you wouldn’t get some flack, but all “traditions” started somewhere. Make your own. You deserve some happiness.

If you really want a fancy sit down dinner party but twenty (20) people is too much for you to handle then cut the guest list down.

If you really want all twenty (20) people there then maybe you should consider a buffet. It’s much easier and your family will eventually come to terms with the fact that maybe you aren’t serving a formal sit down dinner, but the food is just as good.

You can make Thanksgiving as simple or as complicated as you want….it all depends on how organized you are willing to be.

A good way to keep the stress levels down is to divide and conquer.  Enlist your family for help. Don’t take “no” for an answer. This is your holiday too and you have a right to enjoy it. And we all know that old saying  “if Mom isn’t happy, no one is happy”.

Start at least two (2) or three (3) weeks before Thanksgiving.

Decide on the type of gathering (formal or informal), the size of the guest list and the menu.

Don’t attempt to make something new for dinner or try out a new dessert that day. It could turn out to be a disaster and that would cause you more stress. If you really want to try a new dish….test it out prior to Thanksgiving.

Menu: Do you really want to serve cranberry relish and sweet potato’s even if you don’t like them and only serve them because “they are always served at Thanksgiving”?

Make up your own menu (yes, it is radical). Serve something different. Serve something you like!
If you are having a small Thanksgiving dinner don’t feel obligated to serve Turkey. I know, blasphemy! I once made stuffed Cornish Hen. It was wonderful and just as delicious as turkey. You can also stuff a small chicken or even a duck! Or be really different and have Ham! The possibilities are endless.

Start new traditions! It’s not easy to buck the system but once you make up your mind that you deserve to be happy and stress free on a Holiday you will wonder why you waited so long.

Remember, the whole point of a Holiday is family and friends and spending “quality” time together.

Everything does not have to be perfect. Be thankful for what you have and not for what you don’t.

A great piece of advice: don’t attempt to clean your oven Thanksgiving morning before you put in the turkey. I did that once, years ago in my new house, when I was young and anxious to please. I then found out that after the oven is cleaned it needs to cool down and the oven will stay locked for another hour or so after it’s done. And you can’t open it! It certainly put a dent into my dinner timetable!

By starting early and making lists and getting as much done ahead of time you will avoid a lot of stress.

Once you have your menu planned work backwards and make up a timetable to what needs to be done.
For example: if you want your dinner to be served at 6 p.m., what time do you have to put the turkey into the oven? What time do the potato’s and vegetables need to be started?  Just make a list and put it on your refrigerator door so that you don’t have to second guess yourself and aren’t panicking at the last minute.

When your family or guests start to arrive your mind and attention will be elsewhere….so a list can help you stay on track. Don’t leave anything to chance.

A few days before Thanksgiving:
* Shop for all of the essentials, including as much of the food as can be purchased ahead of time
* Make sure that you have enough spices and things that you will need for the food (and rarely buy)
* Do any of the baking or make any desserts that can be made ahead of time
* Thaw the turkey (the size will determine how many days it takes to thaw in the refrigerator)
* Buy the wine or any beverages

The day before Thanksgiving:
* Buy any last minute items at the grocery store
* Chop anything that can be chopped ahead of time (vegetables, bread for stuff…but do not stuff the turkey ahead of time) and put them in plastic bags so that you will be all ready to go the next day
* Make sure you have enough ice
* Prepare any of the food items that can be made ahead of time
* Make your family aware of exactly what you need them to help you with on Thanksgiving.
* Having assigned tasks for your kids and spouse ahead of time takes away some of the stress of what’s expected of them the next day.

The night before Thanksgiving:
* Set the table and get out all of your platters and serving dishes.
* Make sure that you have enough dishes and silverware. If you don’t, now is the time to call one of your guests and ask to borrow something. Don’t wait until the last minute to find out that you broke the gravy boat last Thanksgiving and never replaced it.

When I entertain I love to use all of my special platters and dishes. I love to fuss over my family and I love to set a very special table. I don’t consider it extra work or a hardship or stressful. It’s my way of telling my family and friends just how special they are.

But again…..the Holiday and family and friends are what’s important….not the china or the food. So if you aren’t the type of person to pull off a sit down dinner with all the decorations don’t beat yourself up. There are only so many Martha Stewart's around. And she has a staff to help her!

Thanksgiving Day:
* Wake up early so that you can have some “you” time to have coffee and relax before
the day starts (it will get stressful enough later, so the morning might be the only time you have)
* Read over your lists and timetable
* Gather all of your food and cooking utensils, pots and pans ....
* Measure out everything that you can ahead of time and set it aside
* Follow your time table and start making the food according to the schedule
* Once the food comes out of the oven let it rest a while (you can cover it with foil)
* Start cutting the meat and plating the food
* Have family members start their assigned tasks (setting out and serving food, pouring the drinks…)

ENJOY your meal…… sit and talk…..

After the meal:
Have a plan in place to clear the table. Since I always make a ton of extra food so that my guests can take home leftovers I start with portioning the leftovers into plastic containers and putting each family’s containers into a plastic bag and setting it near the door so that they don’t forget them.

Once I have the leftovers divided up and mine put away in the refrigerator and freezer I then start to collect the rest of the dishes and put them into the dishwasher. I don’t start the dishwasher until after they leave so that we won’t be bothered with the noise.

Again, this is where your family members can jump in and help clear and stack dishes. It makes quick work of things when you have other people help.

I need to have as many things cleared up and put away as possible before I start serving dessert. This also gives everyone time to rest and relax before they start eating again.

Some people like to leave the dishes and the mess until the next day. And sometimes I wish I could too, but it’s worse the next day when you get up and walk into a mess. I’d rather get it done and over with.

Make quick work of it (or as much as will fit into the dishwasher) and then sit and relax and spend time with your family.

Remember, a Holiday is supposed to be enjoyable. If it’s not, figure out why it isn’t and change it. Skip the big complicated meal, the fancy desserts and the good china and make it as simple as you are able to handle.

Start your own tradition….and make it about family!

Happy Holiday !

Organizational Consulting Services

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cold Weather - Is Your Closet Ready ?

In some parts of the country it's starting to get cold and a lot of people pull out their "winter clothes" and put their "summer clothes" into storage.

If your lack of closet space makes this a necessity then there are a few important things that you should do before you just start randomly changing out your closet.

First - be realistic. I know that it's hard - but it you haven't worn something in a few years - why put it back into your closet???  Because you "might" wear it?  Someday?

It is taking up space. And if space is at a premium - let it go. Donate it. Give it to someone that will actually wear it - more than once every five years!

Second, does it fit? Correctly? Be honest with yourself. Wearing ill fitting clothes does nothing for your figure or your self esteem. If it doesn't fit - off to the donate pile it goes.

Third, is it in good shape? No loose buttons, holes, rips....???  If not - fix it before you put it back into your closet.

Fourth, please, please put things in some type of logical order. Again - logical is all relative. It means in an order that you can find it easily and that makes sense. Everyone organizes differently. That's important to remember. But you have to have some type of plan that will allow you to put together outfits in a relatively short amount of time and you have to be able to find the clothes that you are looking for.

For example - sort by color, by type (long sleeve, short sleeve), by style.... any way that makes sense to you. But it should make sense.

Put all of your pants in one spot. Your dresses/skirts in another spot. Your shirts in another spot.

Divide your closet by casual clothes & work clothes.

There are many different ways to go about this. The only "must" is that it "must" work for you.

But just randomly throwing your clothes in your closet does not work for anyone - sorry. It wastes time when you are trying to find things and that turns into frustration.

In the spring/summer - when your closets are reversed - do the same thing. Clean, fit, no holes....and only the clothes that you will actually wear.

Enjoy your clothes and your organized closet!

Organizational Consulting Services

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Emergency Preparedness - Your Paper Trail

 If you only had a few minutes to get out of your house for a disaster (such as a hurricane) would you be prepared for an emergency? Would you be able to grab your important papers and things you must have and be out of your house in minutes?

Do you know where all of your important papers are? Are they all in one central spot for quick and easy access in case of emergency?

Things such as:

* Drivers License (or other identification)
* Passport
* Birth Certificate
* Social Security Card
* House Insurance papers (or contact info)
* Life Insurance papers (or contact info)
* Marriage License
* Financial Info
* Money / Credit Card info
* Phone numbers for family and friends
* Medical / Health Care information

What about some of your favorite possessions? Things that you can’t replace, such as photo albums?

Since most people keep a lot of information on their computer or laptop, do you have backups and are they up to date and in a spot that you can easily access?  Do you have backups that are near all of your important papers that you can grab quickly?

Do you know what you would take in an emergency? Have you ever thought about it?

I’ve never been in situation where my home had to be evacuated, though I have been in a hurricane with no place to go (a very frightening experience).

If you are evacuated from your home and your home is destroyed you will have to deal with a variety of issues, including insurance issues, where you will have to prove your identity. Can you?

In an emergency people tend to grab the strangest things. Not always the most practical things.

So think about what you would do in an emergency situation where you had to evacuate (especially if you live in high hurricane areas).

Start by thinking "what if...." and come up with a game plan. Locate all of your important papers and pick a spot where everything can be in one place and in an easy to grab container.

Prioritize your possessions and what you really need to get back on your feet.

Get yourself organized before disaster strikes. And then hope that you never have to put your plan into place.

It’s better to be prepared for a disaster than to have to go through the trauma of dealing with things that you are unprepared to handle.

Organizational Consulting Services

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Getting Ready for an Emergency - September is National Preparedness Month

It's almost the anniversary of  9/11. We should all be aware of the fact that disaster can strike anywhere. The question is "are you ready"?

Everyone should be prepared for an emergency. Whether it’s the loss of power and electricity (which could last for days) or a hurricane, earthquake or other natural disaster…. Or a terrorist attack…

Being prepared is not an “option” anymore. Even if just the electricity went out…and you happen to have an “all electric” home….would you be able to survive? Do you have enough food to last you for a few days? What happens if all the stores are closed?

These are just some things to think about….. especially if you live in a remote area and don't have quick access to a store.

There are numerous websites and articles that tell you to be prepared to survive for at least three (3) days if an emergency occurs. The “72 Hour Kit” as some people call it.

Besides the basic kit, you also need to have an emergency plan in place. Below is a basic list that will give you some ideas to get you started (there are numerous variations of this kit).

Basic Kit:

Water – one (1) gallon per person , per day for at least three (3) days
Food – 3 days supply of non-perishable food. Some ideas are: soup mix, granola bars, trail mix, crackers,
peanut butter, beef jerky, fruit cups….
Plastic / paper – plates, cups, napkins…
Radio – battery powered
Flashlight – with extra batteries
First aid kit – basic kit
Can opener
Garbage bags & plastic bags (various sizes)
Sleeping Bag
Clothes – for three (3) days
Coats & hats; rain gear; cold weather gear
Personal hygiene products such as: shampoo, lotion, razors, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, feminine
products, sunscreen…..
Wet wipes
Toilet Paper
Sewing Kit
Paper & pencils
Matches / lighter (in water proof container)
Basic tools (wrench, pliers, scissors….)
Water purification tablets (or Chlorine Bleach)
Hand Sanitizer
String / rope / cord
Cooking appliances (portable stove with fuel….)

Some things (like medications…) cannot pack ahead of time…so have a checklist prepared for those items.

Checklist for supplies that need to be packed last minute:

Prescription medication
Infant formula
Pet food
Family documents (passport, birth certificates, identification cards, bank info, insurance info….)
Games for kids

Start thinking about how you and your family would handle an emergency….and start planning for it today…before that emergency strikes.

Organizational Consulting Services