Friday, December 04, 2009
N – Build a household notebook Restyle a 3-ring binder into command central. Divvy it up with tabbed categories such as Contacts, Food and Activities. Then stock it with class phone lists, school lunch schedules, blank calendars and more so everything you need is at your fingertips. Even easier, download cute printable forms, like a weekly chore sheet or a menu planner, at TheProjectGirl.com (click on “free downloads”).
O – Organize your computer
So many electronic files, so little time. Locate everything you need in seconds with software like Google Desktop. Downloadable for free at destop.google.com, the program searches your entire hard drive as quickly as you can search the web, so you can find an old e-mail or misplaced memo fast.
P – Put up a pegboard
They’re great for garages, but also work well in storage closets. You can hang up things like a stepladder, dusters & mops.
Q – Quit collecting
Whether you hoard enamel bowls or vintage toys, collections grow like weeds & get out of control just as quickly. Set some smart ground rules: Don’t have more than 2 collections going at once. Don’t keep more than you can display. Come up with a do-not-exceed number-once you hit it, give away one item for every new one you add.
R – Rethink your storage
A place for everything and everything in its place, right? That doesn’t mean you should dash out to buy a bunch of bins the second you decide to get organized. First assess the spaces that you want to declutter, identify what to keep, then figure out the best storage containers for the job. That way you can get the exact sizes & styles that work for your needs.
S – Stash it underneath
You’ve heard about stowing seasonal clothes like sweaters in slim bins under the bed. Don’t stop there. Also use plastic storage bags that you can vacuum-suction flat & slide them beneath footed sofas & bookcases.
T – Supersize your trash can
The smaller it is, the less likely you are to throw things away. Buy a behemoth of a wastebasket and you’ll purge more freely.
U – Unclutter with color
To make organizing less painful, place colorful dot stickers or shipping tags on things you’re not sure you’re ready to part with. If you wear the shirt, use the breadmake, or play the board game sometime in the next 6 months, peel off the sticker or tag. After 6 months, anything that’s still dotted or tagged goes into your giveaway box.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
G – Map your garage
Make over a garage-turned-dumping-ground by drawing a map of the space and designating a spot for everything: cars, bikes, camping gear, lawn/garden tools. After you’ve arranged your stuff, post copies of the map on the wall so everyone knows where to find things and, more important, where to return them. You can even use heavy-duty colored tape to outline storage zones on the cement.
H – Hang it up
Is your mudroom a disaster area all the time? Fill a whole wall the bathrobe hooks. They make it much easier for kids to store their coats in the winter, and their swimsuits & beach towels in the summer.
I – Institute an all-in-one rule
Bring order to a messy linen closet by putting folded sets of bed linens inside one of the pillowcases. No more searching for the flat sheet that matches the fitted sheet: Just grab a complete set & go.
J – Jettison your junk
If decluttering isn’t drop-dead easy, you’ll use that as an excuse to cling to excess stuff. So set up a recyling station in a corner of the basement & equip it with 2 bins-one for outgrown clothes & other castoffs to donate, one for old, unnecessary documents and other things you’re thinking of tossing. Add a paper shredder & some plastic bags to hold donations, and say goodbye to your unwanted junk.
K – Create a mini-kitchen
Kitchen shelf space is prime real estate. So set up a mini-kitchen someplace else where you have more room. Perhaps you have a closed in our basement that you can make into a storage space for things you only use once or twice a year, like fancy platters & giant stockpots. Once you’ve put your kitchen on a diet, staying organized won’t be such a hassle.
L – Streamline your laundry
Instead of doing marathon sessions once or twice a week-and never getting through the whole pile because, let’s face it, who wants to wash all those clothes?-designate different days for different kinds of laundry: whites, darks, towels, sheets. A massive pileup is easier to tackle when you break it down into manageable chunks, and knowing exactly how much you have to get done that day helps you stay on track.
M - Maximize your minutes
Got a few seconds to spare? Don’t just stand there-declutter. Keep a list of super-quick organizing tasks, then tackle one when you’re, say, waiting for water to boil. Use the time to chuck expired food from the refrigerator. Minutes here & there can add up to a tidier house.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Keeping your stuff and your life organized can be harder than a college physics exam. But with these savvy tips & tricks, it’s as easy as A-B-C.
A – Assign a color scheme
Banish cries of “It’s not mine!” by color-coding your kids gear all through the house. Stick to a signature shade for each child’s toothbrush, bath towel & backpack, so you can tell at a glance which stuff belongs to which kid. Buy a colored bin for each child, too, to use as a handy drop spot for stray toys & clothes. Each night before bed, have your kids empty their own bin, returning items to their rightful places.
B – For a bucket brigade
For an easy way to stash office supplies, stock small unused paint buckets (available at home improvement stores) with tape, scissors, pens, envelopes, stamps, a calculator, etc., then hang them from over-the-door hooks tucked inside a closet. When it’s time to pay bills or write a note, bring just the buckets you need to the table.
C – Call for help
Download reQall, a free voice recognition tool (reqall.com) then call the toll-free number from your cell phone to leave yourself reminders, like “E-mail Jen tonight.” ReQall organizes the recordings & plays them back to you as lists of to-dos, notes & shopping items. If you have an iPhone or BlackBerry, the program transcribes your messages & automatically sends you reminders via e-mail or IM. You can even program in locations or places you usually go (store, dry cleaner, etc.) and reQall will use your phone’s GPS to figure out where you are, display to-dos in that area (“Buy milk”) & send you an alert.
D – Designate a dropoff drawer
Keep countertops clear by emptying a kitchen drawer & converting it to a grab-and-go spot. Now your family has a place to drop cell phones & keys, the kitchen can still function, and you won’t get irritated by the mess.
E – Evaluate your system
Live in your digs long enough and you won’t even notice what’s making your life chaotic. So take a second to think about won’t causing your biggest messes, then brainstorm solutions-like creating a cell phone recharging station on your dresser, or repurposing a stranded side table into a backpack landing pad. Can’t figure out your clutter culprits? Ask a friend for fresh-eyed help.
F – File faster
Four folders are all you need to rein in out-of-control paperwork. Within a day of bringing it into the house, slot incoming mail & various papers into folders labeled To Do, To Pay, To File, and Pending (a halfway house for things you’re waiting to take action on, like a rebate form). Keep it up and you’ll prevent a Himalaya-like pileup on your desk.
Monday, November 30, 2009
We’ve all made live-healthier declarations at the start of a new year (Exercise every day! No dessert!). Problem is, most of the time, they’re just too grand. The key to making resolutions stick is to take little steps toward your main goal. Here’s how to boil down those ambitions into action-size bites so that by year’s end, you’ll count yourself among the resolution keepers.
Your goal – Lose Weight
Resolve to---sit down whenever you eat. This simple behavioral change can help you lose several pounds without even trying. In fact, one study found that people ate 30% more when standing up. That’s partially because we tend to eat more quickly when we’re standing up and miss our body’s “fullness” signals that tell us when we’ve had enough.When you sit, you’ll eat more slowly and savor each bite, which will help you feel more satisfied.
Your goal – Eat Healthier
Resolve to---snack on one-ingredient foods. Many of us get a ¼ of our day’s calories from snacks, most of which aren’t healthy. Switch to one-ingredient snacks (think fruits, yogurt and nuts) or combos of one-ingredient foods (like trail mix) & you’ll eat fewer packaged & processed foods, which will help boost nutrition while decreasing calories. The more ingredients, the more processed it is. And processed foods tend to be higher in fat, salt, sugar & additives that we don’t need.
Your goal – Exercise Regularly
Resolve to---walk at least 5 minutes daily. It may not sound like very much, especially when you’ve heard you need to do at least 30 minutes daily. But at this point, it’s all about setting the groundwork to make exercise a habit. Building a habit gradually & consistently makes it more likely that you’ll stick with it long-term. After the first week or two, bump those walks up to 10 minutes; keep adding 5 minutes every week until you’re walking 30 minutes or more every day.
Your goal – Have More Energy
Resolve to---list 3 things you’re grateful for every day. It might sound silly, but it works. Negative thoughts are a big energy zapper, and this can help even the grumpiest of people feel just a little more positive. When researchers asked people to do one of 3 things-keep a diary of what happened to them that day, record unpleasant experiences or list the things for which they’re grateful-the gratitude group has 25% more energy. They also slept better & felt more alert & enthusiastic.
Your goal – Stress Less
Resolve to---hug someone every day. Studies show that hugging decreases levels of stress hormones & lowers blood pressure. In fact, one study found that people who have loving contact (like hugging) in the morning are protected against stress throughout the day. Cuddling with a pet counts, too, as a growing body of research shows that the mere presence of pets can help alleviate stress and lower blood pressure.
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