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Tips to Getting Organized

Tips to Getting Organized

Parent Tips > Home, Garden & Auto > Tips to Getting Organized

The Reasons We Clutter

Submitted By: Juli Shulem
Home-Based Business Mom, a Guide to Time Management and Organization for the Working Woman    --submitted by Juli Shulem


For many, hording clutter is a way of life. While this is not typically the initial desire, things just end up becoming this way. As a Professional Organizer of twenty-one years, I get to see more than my share of clutter in this world and have the opportunity to assist others to get rid of theirs.

I have outlined four main reasons people generally have cluttered environments. You may identify with one or several of these areas so I have included some ways to help combat the issue.

Why we Clutter:
1. Fear of never being able to get something again: Most people who have this fear have had it since childhood and are afraid that their things? will be taken away. Sometimes they didn't have much as a child and are afraid that they will not get these things again. This is also referred to as the Depression Era Mentality? where people who grew us during that time may have had very little and their material goods were indeed valuable to them in a way unlike today. When an item is useless and the decision to throw it away is made, it is important to understand that almost everything can be found again. Since our world is filled with so many items and such efficient ways of getting almost anything it is unlikely that we would be truly unable to get something again should the need arise.

2. Inability to make a decision of whether it is still needed: Many times the inability to make a decision about keeping or discarding an item can be overwhelming to some. It can be learned though. It is like a muscle and with regular exercise, the decision-making “muscle� can become stronger and easier to use. I have some questions from my book “Home-Based Business Mom� which help guide one through that decision making process to determine if something can be discarded:

  • a. Do you like it? While this may seem obvious, many times we need to literally ask ourselves if we even LIKE the item in question.
  • b. Will you realistically use it again?
  • c. Have you ever used it? (If not, you can probably safely get rid of it)
  • d. Have you forgotten what it does or that you even still had it?
  • e. Do you own another better one?
  • f. Is it old, ugly, not working, out of style, out of date, or inefficient?
  • g. If you throw it out and need another, can you get it again? (If yes, you don't need to hold onto it)
  • h. Has it been over a year since you have used it? (For most items, if you have made it through all four seasons and have not needed it, chances are you just do not need it.)
  • i. Does it make you feel bad, ugly, stupid, or guilty? (Now that's a great thing to hold onto really builds self-esteem!) Often we realize that something we have is no longer useful, but we either spent a lot of money on it, it was given as a gift, or it once served a purpose, and we feel guilty getting rid of it. Actually, holding onto it just keeps bringing back the negative feelings associated with it and thus prolongs the agony, just get rid of it.

3. Not asking, What will I actually DO with this at the time you are considering making a purchase. Stop the cluttering? before it even gets started! Don't buy things without some real purpose in mind. Getting something because it is on sale, or you were out shopping? is not a good enough reason to buy it. Ask yourself what you need it for and if you can't come up with a good enough reason don't bother getting it in the first place. Your home will thank you.

4. Not having enough space for everything to have a home? and keeping it anyway. One general rule of thumb to apply is that everything needs to have a home. If something doesn't have a place to be put away,? then either create a place, or don't keep the object. It's really that simple. If you don't do this, it is a guarantee that it will be tucked under something, lost behind something and otherwise rendered useless and it will become lost among items it has nothing in common with (therefore you won't logically think to look there to find it again) or forgotten. Then you will waste time looking for it in places it shouldn't be, and if you don't find it, you will most likely end up buying another one! Apply the rule, it's so much easier to live with.

Clutter can take control with even the best intentions, so spend time regularly to purge through areas of your home/work so it doesn't get out of hand. It also takes far less time to do this periodically versus waiting until the issue turns into a major problem. Take little bits at a time, do small time increments versus tacking an entire room  you will have much more success and be inclined to go back to it at a later date.

Goal Setting for the New Year

Submitted By: A Hat Tip to Blair Singer

I love the time between Christmas and New Year’s because it's a few days of down time to prepare for the next year. It is the perfect time to set goals, family and personal.


Some people roll their eyes when the idea of setting goals comes up because last year’s goals kind of petered out after a month or a few months and we think we’ll blow it again. Lots of us set goals -- goals for income, health, life-style, investment, relationships, families, weight-loss, sales -- with varying degrees of success or failure.


What is the difference between someone who has setbacks yet over the long term achieves a goal and someone who gets more and more cynical and never achieves the goal they had hoped for?


First, perhaps there was no PLAN for how to achieve it. Second, there was no TEAM to support you in it. Third, perhaps you had low CONFIDENCE in your ability to achieve it because maybe it was too unrealistic for you at the time.  Yet the fourth and biggest reason that you may not get some of the things that you set out for is because it was the WRONG GOAL!


You're thinking, 'How could it be the wrong goal?' Simple.


Deep inside is your 'spirit,' that part of you that drives your energy, your passion and your life force, that part of you that picks you up after you have been knocked down, the part that lights up when your 2-year old smiles at you and gives you a hug. That spirit knows what it wants. It may not be the same thing that your 'head' wants. And if the goal is big and bold and your spirit is not engaged....guess what....ain't gonna happen! Ask yourself what you have actually achieved on the way to this goal. Focus on what lights you up more than others. What brings a smile?  What is the real win for you?  Find your determination and passion.  Start by acknowledging to yourself what you have achieved. You always are achieving something!


If you do not acknowledge what you are really trying to achieve and keep beating yourself up for the goals that you have not gotten yet, your energy and power will drop big time. You have to have ALL OF YOU engaged if you are going for big goals. If part of your life force is not in agreement, you haven't a prayer.


The reason that you aren't getting some of the things that you want is because it’s not what you REALLY want! If you follow the process described here, you will achieve goals! The most successful people around may not be the smartest, but they are crystal clear on what drives them and that is where they focus.


1. Assess your stats. Look at all your achievements, finances and activities. Look for patterns of success. That is your spirit giving you powerful road signs as to where you should be going. Look for the things that work really well. Focus on those things as you set your new goals.


2. Set goals that will leverage existing success patterns. If you are generating success when you plan ahead, do more. If you are generating income through referrals, do more. If you are generating business or pleasure through serving others, do more.  If you function better when the clutter is gone, plan short 10 minute de-cluttering times.  If the family is happier when dinners together are frequent, add a family game night.


3. Choose your own goals. Don't set goals for what other people think you should achieve... not what your parents, friends, colleagues or family think. That's a set up for frustration. This is only between you and your spirit!


4. Create a plan for each of the goals. Write down key milestone events on paper that will help you measure your progress along the way.


5. Assemble a team that will support you, push you and be a resource for you. Nothing great was ever achieved alone.


6. Create a Code of Honor for yourself that holds you accountable and committed to the mission.


7. Celebrate and acknowledge all wins along the way and follow the process for assessing successes along the way when you do NOT achieve a goal. It will help re-direct you onto the path of what you really want deep inside.


Get started. Sit down in a quiet place with a big blank piece of paper, about 2x3 feet. Choose “big” categories such as Health/Weight, Money/Work, Housing, Relationship, Children, Family Happiness, Career, Education, etc. Then write successes and desires in the categories. Keep at this for a few days. Next circle the top 10 or so areas of greatest importance to you.  List them.  Take any two and ask which is more important to me: getting rid of credit card debt or losing 20 pounds? Having a clean house or more family dinners? Going back to work part time or starting my own business? Driving over the hill for bigger bucks or more time with family? Any order will work. When you’ve narrowed the results to two goals, choose one, develop the plan, milestones and dates. You may be pleasantly surprised that by choosing to work on one goal, some of your other goals may begin to come along. You can do it!     


This is a paraphrase of an article by Blair Singer, adapted for families.

10 Tips for Holiday Organization

Submitted By: Shannon McGinnis

10 Tips for Holiday Organization

How to simplify, pare down and focus on the joy of the holidays!
The holidays are here and they can be a very busy and hectic time of year. With a bit of planning, you can stay organized throughout the holidays!


1. List: Create a Holiday Gift List that itemizes all the people you would like to buy a gift for and list your gift ideas. Create a column to check off once the item is purchased. This list can also be used to set up a holiday budget. Store your holiday gift list in a "Holiday" file folder to be used year after year.


2. Sort: As you get out the holiday decorations, sort them into categories of what you will and will not use this year.


3. Purge: Anything you do not want or that is old, chipped, faded or no longer working should be given away or thrown away.


4. Un-decorate: Remove some of your everyday decorations to make room for the holiday décor. Evaluate the quality of your year-round decorations before you store them. Do you really want this to go back on the mantle after the holidays? Don't store anything you no longer want. Give it away.


5. Decorate: Start with the room that you will be entertaining in most frequently and then continue, room by room until your entire home is decorated for the holidays. Save the original packaging of fragile items for future storage.

6. Remove: It's time to take down the holiday decorations. Live wreaths and trees should be discarded properly; often they can be recycled into mulch. Any ornaments made of food (popcorn, dried fruit, dough, etc) should be discarded as mice and rats will chew through even the thickest plastic bins to get to the food inside. If it is a very special memento, consider storing it in an airtight metal container. Carefully inspect items for chips, stains and tears before storing decorations and serving ware.


7. Containerize: Get the right containers for each type of decoration you have. Strands of lights and glass beads individually sealed in plastic bags avoid tangles next year. Fragile ornaments stored in their original packaging will best protect each item. Wreaths attached to a flat piece of cardboard and wrapped in a large plastic trash bag will be protected from dust. By containers now, even Big Lots has great choices from Sterilite!


8. Separate most important items: Create a holiday container that stores the holiday items you use first, such as holiday cards and mailing labels. This is the container you open first, either the day after Thanksgiving or on December 1st. In this tub, store ribbon and wire for wreaths and grave blankets. Money cards and $20 bills on hand also make it easier to tip the service people in your life: news carrier, hair stylist, etc.


9. Store properly: When your decorations are stored in sturdy plastic tubs, rather than cardboard boxes, the items will be protected from rodents, insects, and moisture. Holiday decorations that are only used for a few weeks a year can be stored furthest away: think attics, rafters, basements and storage sheds. Store wreaths at the very top so that they don't get crushed and look just as full and vibrant next year.


10. Re-decorate: Consider the placement of your furniture and the use of space on your horizontal surfaces before putting the same year-round decorations back in their previous locations. Is there somewhere with more light that the beautiful ceramic piece could be displayed? Should the candles stay out so that they are used more frequently throughout the rest of the winter?
Enjoy your holiday organizational success and Happy New Year!


If you are overwhelmed by the holidays, consider asking for help. Hire a Professional Organizer to help you stay organized during the holidays and throughout the year. Any expenditure that increases your peace of mind usually is worth the money. Give yourself the gift of sanity! Start the New Year out with more time to enjoy life!


Shannon McGinnis, Santa Cruz's only Certified Professional Organizer, is the founder of Organized 4 Success! Shannon publishes the monthly "Strategies for Success Ezine" which offers free tips, articles, and advice on how to be more organized. If you are ready to be organized, get your FREE Success Strategies from Shannon now at:

50 Minute Hour: Sort and Organize

Submitted By: Shannon McGinnis, Organized4Success


50 Minute Hour: Sort and Organize


Trash:  Remove anything broken, not working or damaged.


Donate:  Give away all unwanted items that are in good condition and consider having your donations itemized for an accurate tax deduction.


Recycle or Shred: Prevent Identity Theft!  Recycle all that you can and Shred anything that has your name, address, phone number, social security number or signature on it that you no longer need.  This is especially important for credit card and mortgage offers.


To reduce junk mail:

1. Online:


2. Call: National Opt-Out Center toll-free at 1-888-567-8688


3. Write: Direct Marketing Association Mail Preference Service

PO Box 643 Carmel, NY 10512


Advo Systems PO Box 249 Windsor, CT 06095


Your sample letter should state: "I want to reduce the amount of unsolicited mail I receive. Please remove my name and address from your mailing list."  Include all variations of your name: Bob Smith, Robert Smith, B. Smith etc. with your Name, Address, City, State, Zip, and Signature.


Keep:  Give everything that’s left a home. 







Shannon McGinnis, Professional Organizer


Brown Bag Success

Submitted By: Leah Diamond

Leah Diamond,


Ideas for nutritious lunches your child will eat


Perhaps one of the most challenging tasks for today's parents is the simple act of preparing and packing your child's school lunch. As parents, we want to prepare a lunch that is tasty, nutritious, and filling. A child's diet can have an incredible impact on their ability to focus and perform well in school. Yet as parents we are faced with the pressures of today's fast paced lifestyle. Face it-most parents are extremely busy, and despite our best intentions, we cannot escape the prepackaged chips, cookies, and other refined and processed foods that are on grocery shelves everywhere. Add to this mix the outside influences of peer pressure and junk food marketing, and it becomes clear why parents everywhere have thrown up their hands in frustration. The battle is far from over however, and the small steps and tips that follow in this article are excellent stepping stones to help you, your family, and your children make a transition towards a healthier "brown bagged" tomorrow.


Based on my experiences as a mom and as a teacher of kids cooking classes for the past 15 years, I have learned that it is very important to include your child in both the lunch-planning and lunch-making processes. Once a child is in the third or fourth grade, they can help to make at least part of their lunch. For instance, the night before they can help measure the ingredients for a recipe, mix something together, or even simply place their snacks into Ziploc bags or tupperware containers. I have seen many "picky eaters" eat more of their lunches when they were involved in the planning and the making of the meal. Including your child will allow them to feel important and valued, which can improve their self-esteem and confidence. Additionally, school lunch planning and making doubles as a fun bonding time for the whole family.


Organization and planning are crucial to making "brown bagging" a success for you and your family. Set aside a weekly time (Sundays work well) to sit down with your child before you do the week's grocery shopping. Together you can plan the upcoming week's lunch menus. As a parent, you can offer guidance about your child's suggestions, ensuring that the result is agreed-upon, nutritious menu options. If your child is younger and does not have concrete menu ideas, you can offer them three (or so) options and ask them what they would prefer.


Good communication is also essential to making "brown bagging" as success. How often have you opened your child's lunch box after school to find that they did not eat most of what you had packed? It is important to clarify what your child likes to eat, but also when they like to eat, and what portion sizes they prefer. For example, some children (especially five and six year olds) prefer to eat several snacks at school and have their lunch when they get home. In a case like this, leftovers from the previous night's dinner could be the next day's lunch. If your child does prefer multiple snacks instead of a full meal, just be sure that the snacks are nutritious (i.e. cut vegetables, nuts, dried fruit, tortilla chips, etc) and that they do not fall into the "junk food" category (i.e. greasy chips, sugary cookies, etc).


The loving effort you put into preparing your child's lunch today will continue to reap benefits far into the future. The tastes we develop for certain foods as a child stay with us into adulthood and influence our dietary choices. That is why it makes sense to prepare tasty and healthful foods and let your child help in the planning and preparation as much as possible.


Here are a few creative, fun, and new lunch ideas to help make "brown bagging" a reality:


1. Younger kids love fun and creative things, such as food in unusual shapes. Use cookie cutters to cut their sandwiches in different shapes. There are tools to cut fruit and vegetables in unusual shapes, too.

2. Include a love note in your child's lunch to remind him or her that you are thinking of them.

3. If your child will only eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, try using a spread of equal parts peanut butter and almond butter (or another nut butter) to create variety. Try using new jams or add banana to the sandwich. Or top the nut butter with grated carrots and raisins.

4. Sandwich fillings can include: Almond butter with honey and banana, egg salad, cream cheese with strawberry jam (low in sugar), meatloaf, sliced turkey, cheese, etc.

5. Non-sandwich items can include: Quesadillas, burritos, potato salad, spaghetti with red/white sauce, pasta salad, rice salad, chili, baked chicken, egg rolls, last night's casserole, etc.

6. Snack ideas include: Trail mix (mixed nuts and raisins), granola with yogurt, raw vegetable slices with humus or dip, pancakes or waffles with nut butter, string cheese, fresh fruit cut up in interesting shapes, healthy pudding, homemade dessert, etc.


I wish you the best in creating healthy lunches with your children. Enjoy!


For more information, call Leah @ 805-683-2525 or email her at

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