Easy Kitchen & Pantry Organization

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If you can’t find what you need easily in your pantry, it’s time to clean it out.

Do you want to get your kitchen organized quickly? Read about how you can get the busiest room in your house on the path to calm, uncluttered, and organized with these easy steps over at One Girl One House.

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True confession: my least favorite place to organize

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This may be professional suicide but I have a confession to make about my least favorite place to organize:   the unfinished basement. I don’t know if it just stems from my childhood fear that there was some sort of monster lurking in the shadows underneath the stairs or the abundance of spiderwebs but the basement is just not my favorite place to organize.

That being said and off my chest now, I can tell you that it is a place that I can organize very quickly because I know what lurks down there and I don’t want to be there very long.

This is good basement organization: ordered, off the floor, clean, & easily retrieved.

This is good basement organization: ordered, off the floor, clean, & easily retrieved.

If you have boxes that you put in the basement during your last move to “go through someday” now is the time to do that. Just do it. Before you have a flood or other water damage that seeps through the dirty cardboard and ruins your priceless photographs or other memorabilia. Chances are, if you haven’t looked at it in more than 5 years and you don’t know what’s in there off the top of your head, you don’t need it.

Cardboard is my nemesis. That and wire hangers make me crazy because of the bad things they do under the guise of being helpful. Cardboard is perfect for sending packages and helping you move but it is not for long term storage. It gathers dust, doesn’t protect from moisture, attracts vermin, you can’t see through it, and is ugly. Go through your boxes to make sure you know what is in there and if you need to keep anything, put it in a clear box with a lid and label it. Plastic is not impervious but it is a step in the right direction.

Do not let your basement be your old project dumping ground.

Do not let your basement be your old project dumping ground.

The basement is also a gathering place for project leftovers that you may or may not need to keep. I can tell you that wall putty, cement, joint compound, and 1/4 filled cans of latex paint will not last forever down there. Anything that is water based that has been opened will have a shorter lifespan than you think so buy small unless you are doing some major renovations. Also, consider storing those types of repair materials in a less humid and cleaner environment. Latex paint can be put into glass jars if you have a half gallon or less. Make sure you label the jars with the maker and color of paint as well as where it was used in your house. You could even attach the paint chip to the jar to be super organized. Seal these jars tightly as any air is going to cause them to dry out. Also, clean the cans and seal them back well if you’ve got enough to keep the paint in the original can.

While we are on the subject of paint, if you’ve repainted any rooms in your house, you don’t need to keep the old paint, do you? No sir-ee. That means you can clear that paint out and make room for the new paint. Less stuff=less clutter.

Not sure what to do with random leftover screws or nails? Use a glass jar to corral all of them (or use 2–1 for screws and 1 for nails) so that you then know where to look if you need a screw or nail. It’s all about creating a home for everything, even if it’s temporary.

While I don't love cardboard, it's perfect that it is not on the floor.

While I don’t love cardboard, it’s perfect that it is not on the floor, it’s organized, and it’s accessible.

Last but not least, don’t neglect your basement. If you never go down there then make sure whatever is down there is secure and safe. Add shelving units or pallets for what you do need to store down there so it’s not on the floor. Sweep the floor and get rid of cobwebs. Add some lighting so that the monsters have no place to hide. 🙂 Your home is a reflection of you and your basement is your foundation. Let it be a clean and ordered foundation.

Happy organizing!

What I learned from surviving a fire: sanity, paper, & your desk

The dryer that caught fire

The dryer that caught fire

What is the first instruction anyone gets when there is a crisis at hand? Stay calm. How do I stay calm when my home has been turned upside down? When I can’t find anything and everything I wear or touch is dirty with soot? Staying calm is the answer, though, because panic helps no situation. I promise.

As a reminder, this was not a completely devastating fire. I’m sure there are readers that have been through natural and unnatural disasters much worse than this and I certainly don’t want to undermine their experiences. However, I’ve learned some interesting lessons during this event and recovery that can help anyone. Today. Now. You can benefit from my experience and I hope it helps just 1 person.

Things are just things and really don’t matter. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Nobody was hurt. People are irreplaceable; things are not. Case closed. We were extremely fortunate and didn’t lose anything super important or sentimental like wedding pictures or family heirlooms. On that note, your things take on a totally different meaning when they are covered in soot. I’ll admit that my desk was not the picture of perfect order and organization. I had stacks of business cards, receipts, notebooks, magazines, and other papers stacked on it just like a lot of you do. It was all super important to me which is why it was out in the first place. (Any of this sounding familiar?) I was going to work on them/ file/ read/ etc. them but there they were stacked up and messy. Now they were covered in soot. I don’t know if you’ve ever had experience with soot but it is not easy to clean. It’s not a dry dust you can just wipe away. It is oily and dirty so that when you wipe it, it leaves streaks. Not fun but dealing with that was a good thing. If it weren’t the case, I’d be writing about replacing papers because they would have all been burned up. It’s all about your perspective…

Those super important papers don’t seem so important anymore when you have to wear gloves to read them. Soot is a great equalizer. Magazines and notebooks can be replaced and receipts can be duplicated. If they had been soooo important I would have already read or processed them.  I am guilty of time management issues just like you. I, too, get distracted doing “research” on Pinterest instead of recording business receipts. I get it. But time is fleeting and if you don’t take care of something in a timely manner, it will be much harder the longer you wait.

  • Set up a time each week to go through papers like mail, receipts, and bills and stick to it. If you stay consistent the pile doesn’t get larger and it takes less time to process.
  • Adopt a clear desk policy where you don’t leave papers strewn across your desk when you are finished for the day. This is a for-real compliance policy  (it’s ISO 17799/27001 compliant for you compliance nerds like I used to be) that many heavily regulated corporations adopt and enforce to ensure that employees are not leaving private information out for others’ perusing. It’s good for civilians as well to make sure you are actually completing tasks and putting things away in a timely manner. When you are done for the day, clear the papers off your desk. It makes starting the next day there so much more pleasant, too.
  • Apply the same policy to your computer so that you are saving files and sites in a timely manner. Leaving excessive windows open is akin to leaving open magazines or newspapers on your desk. Either bookmark the site or save the file so you can find it later.
  • Get rid of the layers of papers. If they’re on the bottom layer, you probably haven’t missed them and could probably be tossed. If they are important, they need to go into a To Be Filed or To Be Paid or to be tossed pile.
  • Set up a filing system and use it. Make it your own so it makes sense to you. Adopting someone else’s won’t do any good if you can’t follow it.

Set up a home filing system. While we are talking about papers and filing them in a timely fashion, I can no reiterate how important home filing systems are. Do you know where your birth certificate, passport, children’s birth certificates, adoption papers, wills, marriage certificate, etc are? If so, good for you and pat yourself on the back. A lot people have an idea of where these papers are but aren’t 100%. These are the types of papers that are a massive pain to replace. It can be done but with discomfort. These are the types of files to put in a Fire Box. We were fortunate and these documents were no where near the fire but I’m going to get one just for these documents. I’ve also heard from other organizers to store electronic copies of these in the cloud somewhere.

A filing system is essential for tracking all kinds of important family paperwork: medical records, paid bills, important letters, contracts, receipts, manuals, user guides, employment documents, bank notices, in addition to the documents I mentioned above. You need a system to file these things that makes sense to you so that it’s easy to manage.

This situation reminded me that your home filing system should also include a section for large home purchases like computers, TVs and other expensive electronics, washer and dryer, rugs, furniture, artwork, and for pretty much anything you paid a lot of money. You want to be able to find documentation on what you had, how much you paid for it, and where and when you bought it.  Our washer and dryer came with our house and we had to do some research to find out how old they were. Write down on your appliance manuals what the price was, where you purchased, and when. This will help immensely with insurance if this ever happens to you or if you sell your home.  It’s also a good idea to have a file where you keep all of your manuals and user guides.  If you need further assistance or have questions about what should be in your home filing system, send me a message carrie@neatsmart.com.

So this is the first lesson that I learned from surviving a fire:  if your papers are really important, deal with them promptly. The less you touch them, the less you are building an emotional attachment to them. If they are important, you’ll handle them quickly. Develop, or have someone help you develop,  a good management system that’s easy and sensible for you. Stay tuned for more …

To make sure you don’t miss out on any of these valuable lessons or other Neatsmart updates, like us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Or sign up to follow the Neatsmart blog.

Happy organizing!

Trial by fire or how to remain organized under pressure

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Soot covered ceiling

Some of you may be wondering what has happened to Neatsmart in the past few weeks since there have no posts or updates. Well, sit down, friends, and let me tell you a story that will benefit you all. Neatsmart World Headquarters, a.k.a. my home office, had a fire on September 15th. Don’t panic; nothing serious was damaged and nobody was hurt. This was not one of those devastating fires you may have read about here and here. This was a simple dryer fire that started on its own but did require the fire department to put it out and make sure everything was safe. I was at home at the time so that certainly minimized further damage or greater loss but what has been amazing is how much smoke damage we sustained.

Smoke covered ceiling

Another view of the soot covered ceiling

Our dryer was located on our second floor in a hallway off the master bedroom. I had been doing laundry that afternoon and noticed that the dryer suddenly wasn’t working. It would not turn on. I didn’t think too much about it so I went downstairs to do something else. About an hour or 2 later I smelled smoke and went upstairs to check what it was. The inside of the dryer was in flames; not the drum, but the actual inside of the dryer. Ultimately, I had to call the fire department and they successful put it out without having to use the huge water hoses. In all, it was less than 3 hours of activity but the amount of work required to clean up and put back in order would end up totaling more than 4 weeks.

The dryer that caught fire

The dryer that caught fire

We were able to stay in the house a few more days but the smoke smell and damage was horrendous. All of our clothes, which were located in closets right next to the laundry room, had a layer of soot on them. The ceilings and walls were covered in smoke. The a/c intake vent was right next to the fire so all of that air had been dispersed throughout the house and attic. There was soot all over our shower, sink, floor, ceiling, walls, light fixtures, rugs, bed, Neatsmart HQ, etc. A huge demolition and reconstruction was going to be required which meant we were to be moving out of our house post haste. That means quickly and with little time to plan. Think about the last time you moved; my guess is you had some time to strategize, organize, and create a plan to have everything you needed throughout the process. I know I did. This was going to be a challenge because it would have to be quick and I’d need to be able to access files and work from various locations. We were extremely fortunate that we had lovely neighbors traveling for a couple of weeks so we were able to stay close by to keep an eye on things and still be in our neighborhood. We did have to stay in hotels a few times but were able to find ones that were fairly close and pet friendly which is not always an easy task.

All of the drywall had to be replaced in our bedroom, hallway, and bathroom. This is a great crew!

All of the drywall had to be replaced in our bedroom, hallway, and bathroom. This is a great crew!

Our entire construction process took about 4 weeks and we were able to move back in before the end of the 4th week. It really was a remarkably fast construction project and our crew was so wonderful. There were no less than a dozen people here on any given day and they worked 8-12 hours plus.

So how do you remain organized under pressure? How do you not go crazy living out of plastic grocery bags? Why grocery bags? Because our luggage had smoke damage and was removed for cleaning. You forget how important a little thing like a tote bag is until you don’t have one. Actually, all of our clothes had smoke damage and had to be cleaned which took about 3 weeks.  Well, I’m here to tell you it is possible to not just survive a crisis but to survive with ease, low stress, and clarity. You are a lot stronger than you realize and I’m here to help you plan a little so that you are ready when the next challenge gets thrown in your path.  Follow the Neatsmart blog on the right hand side of the screen or like us on Facebook so you don’t miss an update.

More to come soon…

Happy organizing!

Summer To Do List

Can you believe summer is officially here as of Friday and that half of the year is over? Me neither. So how is your New Year’s resolution to “get organized” panning out? Do you feel like you’ll never get there? Do you start an organization project just to abandon it after a few frustrating hours or minutes? Even if ‘getting organized’ was not on your resolution list, I would be willing to bet that you’d like parts of your home or office to have fewer stacks and piles, to be more clean and ordered so that you’re not wasting time looking for things and wasting money buying what you already have. Fear not, it is never too late to get started. Here is a list of suggestions for quick, mini- organization tasks you can do right now to get closer to your goals of calm, reduced stress, and more time to do the things that you want to do:

Keeping a refrigerator in order means you don't waste energy poking around looking for food.

Keeping a refrigerator in order means you don’t waste energy poking around looking for food.

When was the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator? Can you identify what’s really in that old takeout container? Take less than an hour and toss out the bad stuff, clean out the shelves and drawers, and put the good stuff back where it belongs. Here is a link for detailed instructions on how to store food in the smartest spots.

One example of a kitchen-based command center.

One example of a kitchen-based command center.

What is the state of your command center? Do you know what a command center is? Learn more about why it’s essential to your sanity to have this part of your home in order.

Get some type of box for storing tax documents

Do you have a place for gathering tax documents for 2013? Designate a folder or box now for storing receipts, car tag statements, donation receipts, medical statements or whatever it is that you’ll need to locate next year to file your 2013 taxes. Also, don’t completely file away 2012. You’ll need to refer back to it if you do your own taxes or your accountant may need to review it as well. (no IRS jokes, please 🙂 )

Don’t store clothes without cleaning them first.

Did you put away your winter sweaters without getting them cleaned or washing them? Food and sweat is what attracts moths and other bugs so make sure they are clean and not stored in plastic. Wool and cashmere need to breathe. On that note, take your winter coat(s) to get cleaned. Don’t forget scarves, hats, and gloves if they are not leather. Just take them out of the plastic bags when you get them home.

Get your OWN filing system.

Get your OWN filing system.

How is your personal filing system? Do you know where your mortgage statements, bank statements, EOBs, and appliance warranties are? Set up a personal business filing system in a desk drawer or file box with labeled hanging files and folders. If you have kids, how are you storing their school papers? Put together a file box for saving report cards, certificates, school pictures, programs, etc. Or ask Neatsmart about creating a “Box of a Lifetime.”

Another example of a car filing system

Have you ever cleaned out your glove box in your car? Are you the kind of person that just shoves your insurance card in there with your repair receipts and takeout napkins? In less than 30 minutes, you can separate and file your car’s paperwork into a document wallet so you can find all the necessary documents when necessary. Hopefully you don’t have to show that proof of insurance frequently.

 

All of these tasks are a good jump start to propel you towards more order less clutter. When you’re ready to go all the way in getting your life organized or you want to continue with the momentum you’ve started with this list, give Neatsmart a call. We’ll be there to take your home to the next level of organization so you can live more efficiently, have less stress, and more time to spend doing what matters most to you.

Happy organizing!

More $1 Dollar Organization!

Inexpensive organization tools are high on everyone’s list of essential items for their home and I love finding treasures that help people save money. Here is a post I wrote about items found at the Dollar Store. This time, I found some great items at Wal-Mart. I know that is not everyone’s favorite place to shop but I love it for specific food staples and organization tools like bins, laundry bags, storage crates, and cleaning supplies. A lot of their bins are made in the USA which is a huge bonus in my book although I didn’t verify where these were made. One of my organization rules is to not buy things, even if they are inexpensive or on sale, unless I have a specific use for them. You should never go buy containers until you’ve decluttered and figured out exactly what you need and, most importantly, measured your space.

So here is what I found that I would recommend for anyone who wants to get organized and not spend a lot of money.

Small lidded container

Small lidded container

I love these small lidded containers for several reasons:

  1. They come in a variety of colors which means you can color code (love!) or just pick out your favorite.
  2. Lids are always good if you are storing leftover food or juice.
  3. They can be stacked if not in use and won’t take up a lot of room.
  4. These can be used for traveling, in your desk, bathroom, craft room, kids’ rooms, garage, or basement.I could go on and on….
  5. You get 4 for $1. Great price!
Similar and cute!

Similar and cute!

These containers have a similar function but thought they were just cute! These would be great for kids or adults that act like children. 😉

Notepad with pen and magnet!

Notepad with pen and magnet!

You know I love making lists and it’s great to have paper around to do just that. These notepads have a magnet so could be put on the refrigerator for grocery lists or other notes. Again, a dollar!

Notepad for capturing brilliant your brilliance

Journal for capturing your brilliance

Here is a journal with a pen for a dollar that would be great in your purse, briefcase, by your bed, in your car or wherever you may be struck with an epiphany that saves the world so you don’t want to forget it. I know there are a lot prettier ones out there on the market but these are small with only 60 pages so you can have them in a variety of locations. You can see how much of a luddite I am because I’m suggesting you use paper and pen and not telling you about an app to capture ideas or grocery lists. No, I’m not preparing for a zombie apocalypse; I just like what is easy and reliable. I’m also one who likes to sketch and doodle and there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to do that when I’ve got idle time.

Office supplies

Office supplies

Office supplies for a dollar? Yes, Virginia, it is possible. These cups for pens could also be used for holding craft supplies, makeup brushes, paperclips, scissors, and other desk necessities. The file folders in the background are a steal as well. It’s not a very masculine way of organizing paperwork but I think the bright colors are a nice break from vanilla manila.

So there are some more suggestions for inexpensive organization containers. Don’t forget to look around your own home before you go out and buy something. You may already have the perfect jar, shoe box, or mug that you can use right now. What is your favorite inexpensive home organization tool?

Happy organizing!

The Most Important Space to Organize

One example of a kitchen-based command center.

One example of a kitchen-based command center.

What is the most important space to organize in a home? Some might say the bedroom because that is where you spend (hopefully) at least 8 hours of your day. Some might say the kitchen because if if you’re constantly looking for something to eat or tools to make something to eat and can’t find what you need during the 3x a day you’re in there, you’re having a lot of bad days. However, I’m going to argue that the Command Center, frequently housed in the kitchen, is the most important place in American’s homes to have organized.

Why is that, you ask? Because this is where all activities are managed, bills are paid, supplies are stored, and paperwork is filed. This is not to say that all homes are like this but the majority of American homes built since the 1960’s have incorporated a work area with a desk, drawers, and a couple of cabinets for managing exactly these types of activities. Interestingly enough, as homes are now evolving to have a full time office space, there is still a need to have at least a corner of the kitchen carved out to be a Command Center. Some trends today are to use chalkboard paint to indicate this area and provide a place for notes and lists, using modular pieces like hanging calendars, magnetic boards, or hanging in and out boxes. Since the kitchen has evolved to be the center of activity in a home, it makes sense to have this go-to area located there, especially if you live in a house with children. More people to manage = more stuff to keep track of!

 

So what happens in a Command Center? It will be different for everyone because we all function a little differently but this is a great place to house the following:

  1. Car keys: Get a bowl or hook to put them so you’re not looking for them later.
  2. Cell phone: Put a charger here and plug it in when you walk in the door.
  3. Calendar: A visual representation of all important activities for everyone in the house. Little ones start to learn time management early by seeing their activities on a calendar.
  4. Computer: Especially if you have kids, a publicly located computer is great for homework, looking up recipes, listening to music, and so forth.
  5. Clock: You need to know what time it is and it’s important for that morning or afternoon rush to get out of the house.
  6. Mail: What doesn’t get tossed immediately can be kept here for reading later.
  7. Bills to be paid: It’s nice to have that visual cue that you need to take action. You could even clip them to your calendar until they are paid.
  8. Purse or wallet: Save yourself time and pain by knowing where it is at all times.
  9. Glasses and/or Sunglasses: If you need readers, this is a perfect place to have an extra pair. Sunglasses are essential for driving so I keep mine here.
  10. Stamps, pens, scissors, paperclips, scrap paper, tape, batteries, envelopes, coupons,

The most important part of organizing any area is assigning a home to everything in your home. The Command Center is a great place to house a lot of the supplies necessary to conduct your life stress- and drama-free, able to find what you need, when you need it so you can lead a happy life!

Any other ideas for how to best use your Command Center? Need help putting yours together? Contact Neatsmart to get started on creating the most efficient, functional, and stylish Command Center you’ve ever had!