Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Organizing Tips

Tomorrow morning I am talking about organization to our homeschool support group. My mind has been swirling with tips and ideas so I've decided to share some of my "finds" with you, dear readers.

Tip # 1 – Organize where you drop things. This is how you live! So, if shoes are left just inside the door instead of making it to the cubbies in the hall closet (and you can live with that), then put a decorative rug or basket by the door to contain the shoes. Analyze how you live and organize around it.

For example, I used to keep all my towels in the linen closet on the third floor of our townhouse. So everyday when it would be time to change the hand towel in the 2nd floor powder room, I would have to go upstairs to get a towel. I would often think about getting it later when I was upstairs, but so often I would completely forget and the towel would not get changed for days. I finally decided to bring the hand towels for that bathroom down to the 2nd floor. I roll them up and put them in a decorative basket on the floor next to the sink. It works and now we get a fresh towel almost every day.

Tip # 2 – Expect change. Organization is not a fixed destination. Your family is always changing – your interests, your ages, your bodies, and your schedules/activities. If we live in a flow of change, why are we stubbornly hanging on to an old organizational solution that worked before, but doesn’t work now.

This tip presents itself the most in my 3-ring binder I use to organize our homeschool year. Each year, each child will be learning something different. My weekly assignment sheets may change form or the records I keep for a 1st grader will look vastly different than the ones I keep for my sophomore. I come to my homeschool binder each summer with an open mind about how to organize the best way for the coming year. I let go of anything I’ve used before if it doesn’t seem to fit what is to come.

Tip # 3 – How I organize my week. For uber list-makers like me, I keep a running to do list in Excel and I’ve titled it, “Brain Dump” for fun. I prioritize by ABC, A=what to accomplish within the week, B=what to accomplish within the next 30 days, C=what to accomplish whenever (just great ideas to try.)You don’t need to keep a running to do list, so if this just sounds overwhelming, stay with me.

On Sunday night I sit with a Steno Pad and write down the categories of my life: Home, Work, AHG, Co-Op, Projects, Family/Friends.

Then under each category I write what needs done that week.

I, then, take a weekly planner (show example) and in pencil put the tasks on different days. I do this step so that if I see I have too much going on, I need to put some tasks off until the following week. I load heavily toward the first part of the week and then try to catch up on Friday/Saturday. I write it in pencil so that I can move things around and erase the tasks as I’m assigning them. As I work through the planner during the week, I mark the tasks off in pen!

I already have some daily routines so what I’m planning for the week are additional to-do’s. However, if you don’t have routines, then just start with putting down some things you’d like to accomplish each day. At least you’ll have a semblance of a plan, but remember to give grace to yourself when you don’t get it all done.

Tip # 4 – Conquer the backlog of paper. Whether in a large chunk of time or in small increments (15 min a day), take each paper in hand and ask, “If this piece of paper had a folder, what would it be called?” Write it on a post-it note, attach it to the front of a manila folder and put it in a temporary place. Keep doing this until all papers are categorized.

You’ll find that most of your papers will reside in just a few folders, depending on how varied your interests and activities are. You will find some folders can be combined or some will need to be separated further to be able to get your hands on the contents quickly.

If this sounds like torture to you, but you have a child at home that might enjoy the process. Let them at it. By categorizing everything, instead of deciding what’s important to keep and discard, it will make it easier for you to pick up one folder at a time with all related items and make those decisions yourself.

Remember, files should be simple, easy to get to quickly and make sense to the primary user. You can make the files more permanent by labeling them, once you know they’ll work for you.

Tip # 5 – We all face frustration with the volume of Kid’s artwork or it’s unusual size/shape. One solution is to snap pictures of the artwork and make a photobook at Blurb, Shutterfly, or even Costco. Hang on to the artwork until the book arrives (just in case). When it arrives, your child will be elated to have their artwork featured in their own book and may be willing to part with the actual pieces.

Tip # 6 – Isn’t it frustrating when you put small items in the dishwasher (like medicine cups, baby spoons, and bottle tops) and they end up in the bottom of the machine at the end of the cycle. You could put them into a mesh laundry bag, zip them up and lay the bag on the top shelf of the dishwasher and you won’t have that problem again.

Tip # 7 – Buy greeting cards only a few times a year, based upon your budget. You could purchase them 1 x a year, 2 x’s a year, or every quarter. When you get them home (or I have been known to take a pencil to Hallmark) write the name of the person on the envelope in the corner where the stamp will go. You can file them by month, putting the specifically chosen ones in front of the ones you have for use at anytime. I use a pencil lightly so it can be erased, in case I give the card by hand. This has saved me from getting into my cards and finding a 2-year-old card for a girl and wondering whose birthday I missed and what I will ever do with that card in the future.

Tip # 8 – A fun idea I found at under organization tips for winter closets is this:

On the inside of the closet door, attach one adhesive hook towards the top and another near the bottom. Tie a piece of clothesline between them and attach your gear—or gloves that need to dry—with large kitchen clips. (or clothes pins) For a special touch, decorate the clothesline with ribbons and buttons.

Tip # 9 – I don’t know if this will benefit someone here, but I thought the idea was novel. If you like to have a certain sweetener in your drinks, but find yourself at places without a selection of sweeteners(like Bible study), tuck a few packets into a business card holder and slip it into your purse to have at the ready.

Tip # 10 – You may enjoy having a clip magnet attached to your stove hood to hold the recipe you are making, to keep it handy and clean.

Tip # 11 – For some, using a hierarchy system with your email folders would be helpful. Put an “A” before the most used folders through “Z” to the least used. This may be more beneficial to you than an alphabetized list.

Tips # 12 - 14

3 free programs to try:

This site allows you to create a virtual recipe box with your own recipes, plus 170,000 others contributed by other members. There is a free membership, that allows you to create a public (recipes shared) box, but you can pay a low yearly fee to have the pro membership that will allow you to keep your recipes confidential and allow you to generate grocery lists. There is also a free IPhone app. Other recipes sites to check out: eChef and

Do you enjoy mind-mapping? It’s great for brainstorming, keeping track of projects, writing essays, managing goals taking notes, etc. Freemind is a free software download that can get you started. It appeals to the visual learner, aides people with dyslexia and because Freemind is tidy and has collapsible nodes, it’s not overwhelming for those who are usually not big fans of this way of thinking.

And my favorite:

"If you can see it or think it, evernote can help you remember it." Whether it be a text note, screen shot, web page or photo, Evernote will save it, organize it and allow you to retrieve it from almost any computer, phone or mobile device. You can use the free monthly service or pay $5 a month for a premium account. Most users are free. Trust me, check this one out! You'll be glad you did!

Got any tips to share??


Mary said...

Wow. And I thought I was organized!

Joyce said...

Great tips! My hubs is traveling this week and I am planning to do a little organizing of drawers and closets while he's away.

Have a great weekend!