Archive for the ‘Organization’ Category

Clutter Has No Gender

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This month we celebrate International Women’s Day. The theme for this year’s event is #pressforprogress in gender parity.

I actually had to look up what gender parity meant before I wrote this.

Gender parity is not some catchy slogan. It is a statistical measure created by the United Nations International, Educational and Social Organization or UNESCO that compares a particular indicator among women, like average income, to the same indicator among men.

Specifically the GPI measures the extent to which all genders have equal access to opportunities such as education, employment and consideration for either, across the world.

So what does gender parity have to do with home organizing?

According to NAPO, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing specialists, women are three times more likely to assign themselves or be perceived as the one with primary responsibility for home organization.

Women, in general, are more likely to be stressed by the clutter in their homes and more anxious about maintaining organizing systems such as managing mail and paying bills even when the existence of those systems – or lack thereof – affects everyone in the home.

Women are more likely to take on the responsibility as well as the cost (in time and money) of disorganization even if they spend equal time earning income outside of the home.

If they have children, they are twice as likely, than their spouses, to blame themselves or worse, are blamed, for clutter and a lack of order in their homes.

The belief or misconception that women, by virtue of their gender, should automatically know how to be organized has always irked me. I don’t recall learning in my high school biology classes that women have an “organizing” gene. I know I didn’t! Everything I know as a Certified Professional Organizer I learned.

Assigning responsibility or even blame for a home’s organization to “Mom” “Wife” or “Daughter” in a home shared by multiple genders, is like saying the flood in the basement from the heavy rains that damaged the floor is Mom’s fault instead of the absence of a good drainage system.

Now that it’s the 21st century, I think it’s time for this 19th century mindset to change. In the spirit of #pressforprogress I am putting forth these 5 core gender parity statements. I hope you will consider sharing them under the hashtag, #clutterhasnogender

  • Clutter at home is gender neutral
  • Both genders can be organized or disorganized. Don’t assume women are more or less organized than men.
  • Knowing what to keep, sell, donate or toss can be learned by any gender
  • Organizing systems and habits can and should be learned, taught or adopted by multiple family members; Men, women and children!
  • The responsibility for cleaning, organizing and maintaining one’s home is NOT gender specific

For more information on ways you can support or learn more about International Women’s Day, visit: http://www.internationalwomensday.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Motivating Power of WHY

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All during January you are going to hear and see stories about getting organized. It’s the second most common resolution people make after “lose weight” and about as likely to happen. So what kills a thousand good intentions? It’s not because you are weak or lack the skills or even a plan. It’s because you haven’t come up with a truly, compelling, all-out, no holds barred, take no prisoners, terrifyingly vivid and all consuming, WHY as in, why do I want to be more organized? There are lots of really good reasons to get organized here are a few I’ve heard over the years:

  • Be free to do more with my time
  • Feel less stress and anxiety
  • Be able to entertain at home or have friends over
  • Have more room and time to do what I enjoy
  • Be a better model for my children​
  • Get more done at work and present myself more positively​
Getting clear on your WHY is the key to following through on your organizing goals or resolutions. It is the single most important motivator when you start and it’s the glue that helps you keep going when you back-track. Most importantly your WHY has to be for you! It doesn’t mean your family or coworkers or boss won’t appreciate it, but it has to mean more to you!
If your WHY is not strong enough to get you going, then pick another. When I started organizing it was right after I left my job in 2008. I was going stir-crazy because I wanted to be useful and I needed to see results. I certainly didn’t know then that I was going to become a professional organizer, let alone start my own business. My WHY was about my desperately needing to feel in control at a time in my life when things felt very chaotic.  Of course, the added bonus was that I also could also find that cute green jacket when I needed it and I stopped buying duplicates of antiperspirant. Want to know the full story of how I got started? Click here

The little red moving truck that could (and did)

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My client, Olivia, and I were standing in the family room of her mother’s home knee deep in moving boxes and overstuffed yard bags, packing items she had decided to get rid of when I came across a small plastic grocery bag.

Olivia (not her real name) and I had been working together for several sessions and by now we’d become well acquainted with one another. I have been exceedingly lucky and grateful to have worked with many wonderful people since launching LET’S MAKE ROOM,  Olivia is one of them.

She found me through a local consignment store where she had gone to sell some items belonging to her mother who had recently died after a long illness. Olivia had spent the last seven years seeing to her mother’s care at the home she shared with her with a single-minded devotion that spoke to the kind of person I was just beginning to know.

A woman of enormous grace and compassion, Olivia had given every ounce of her being to the care of her mother so that by the time she was ultimately relieved of this responsibility, she had little left, mentally or physically, to tackle the next phase she had set out to accomplish – making a home for herself in the home that had once been her mother’s.

She told the owner of the local consignment shop about her plight, about the overwhelming work ahead of her and that was how she first learned of me.

At our first meeting, Olivia stated her objectives: Empty the house of items she felt others would enjoy more than she wanted to keep them as quickly as possible to make room for the life she needed to continue on her own.

We agreed on a plan. I would work with her to help choose what items would go, pack everything up and arrange to have it all picked up by a local estate liquidation service.  The job involved the sorting, packing and organizing of well over 100 boxes and bags of items once belonging to her mother as well as other household items. I arranged for the service, a company called Remoovit, to pick up everything including furniture Olivia no longer wanted. We were just a few days away from having the estate liquidator’s 25′ truck arrive and we were nearing the end of the process when I found a small white grocery bag tucked into a box of toys in her family room closet.

I opened the bag and poured the contents on to the large folding table we were using as a workstation. We both stopped and looked at the still unrecognizable items, about a dozen brightly colored pieces of wood.  Then I realized there was something else inside the bag. I pulled it out.  “It’s a puzzle!”

Our attention immediately shifted to these colorful shapes on the table and together, just like two children, we excitedly began arranging the pieces. It took a minute or two and then there it was: An adorable red truck with big black wheels slightly overloaded with an array of items in different colors. We burst into loud shrieks of laughter as the irony hit us simultaneously.  It was the future. At least the immediate future. What had once been a child’s toy, most likely hers or her mother’s, saved and long hidden from view, had now become real. “I’m going to have it framed,” she said.

As an organizer who has seen far too many unrealized projects become clutter, I felt obligated to press her on this decision – “It it worth your time and money?”

“Absolutely,” she replied.

A few days passed. The estate liquidator’s truck came and went, filled with the boxes we had packed on their way to new and as yet unknown owners.  I moved on to other projects and other clients until one day about a week later I got a call from Olivia.

“Can you come over? I have something for you.”

I arrived at her house curious about what she had for me. Perhaps she had neglected to include an item she wanted sold or donated? I walked into her living room and she handed me a package wrapped in brown paper. I unwrapped it and there, behind glass, beautifully framed and mounted, with the words “LET’S MAKE ROOM’ engraved on a little metal plaque below, was the little red pickup truck.

“I made it for you,” Olivia said with a wide grin. I looked up at her. My eyes widened and then of course, began to tear up. “Thank you,” was all I could say. It was the best endorsement of my work I’ve ever received.

It hangs in my home office. When I look at it, I think of Olivia and the gift she gave me just by working with her: the realization of and how much I love what I do.

Protect your home from the space thief

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Is the stuff in your home stealing your space? If so, you are living with a space-thief.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the average cost per square foot of space is upwards of $250. That means if you have a clutter, your space thief is doing a thriving business!

Everyone has some degree of attachment to their possessions; An old desk belonging to your great grandmother; A collection of figurines, each one representing a different travel experience you took with with your mother, now gone; Photo albums of your childhood, your ancestors and now your own children and grandchildren.

I am not suggesting, whatsoever, that you let go of the things that give meaning to your life. But consider this: What if those meaningful items are stored in your basement, garage or attic, amidst the debris of old moldy boxes, sporting gear you haven’t used since 1987, and a shelf full of rusted, empty paint cans?

If you’ve maxed out your storage in the living areas of your home with stuff you don’t even care about, you are living with a thief, a space-thief. The space-thief is stealing your space, by replacing it with clutter, you don’t want or need. 

It’s time to take back your home from the space-thief!

I’ve come to appreciate the term “curate” instead of declutter. It implies something less negative, less demeaning about the things we keep.

The word curate, comes from the latin word cur meaning “care.” A Curate, according to it’s original meaning, was a member of the clergy who took care of the parish. Later, the term curator came to mean one who was charged with the care of something, such as an exhibit, museum or collection.

Approach every clutter issue as an opportunity to be a curator for your own home or office.  In organizing terms, think of your home as you might think of a museum or art gallery. The value of your home’s contents isn’t defined solely by its market value.  There is also value when you can use and enjoy what you own.

A museum or gallery has storage areas to preserve, protect or restore items, typically not open to the public, but it’s the galleries, exhibitions and public spaces that are enjoyed and worth seeing. If your home is more of a storage area than a place to enjoy, you’ve been robbed – by the space-thief.

Here are some ways you can approach your home as a curator and protect yourself from the space-thief in your home:

  1. Sort and categorize items according to type or theme and then decide which are the ones that best fit the theme, spark joy or hold meaning for you now. I once had a client who loved vintage kitchen tools. She had a great collection of vintage egg beaters. Instead of having them stored in a box, she eliminated the duplicates, let go of those not worth repairing and then kept her favorites. The result was a whimsical display that made her vintage kitchen not just functional but a fun place to cook!
  2. Consider a “bequest” of things you no longer value yourself to others you know (or don’t) for the joy of giving. Offer unwanted items to a specific individual by a specific date. Don’t just put it in a “gift” bin. If they pass or don’t meet your deadline, you can opt to donate it to someone else or to charity. Just don’t let it stay too long once you’ve decided to let it go. Doing so, is like giving it away to the clutter-thief.
  3. Choose which items you want to share with your family, friends or simply enjoy yourself and determine the best home and way to display them. If it’s worth keeping, it’s worth using, sharing or enjoying. If it’s surplus – then decide where you will store your “surplus” but know that keeping too much surplus, just in case, is also the same as giving it to a space-thief.
  4. Beware of counterfeit items you thought had value to you, because you’ve kept them, and realize they are actually just stealing space from your home (or office). An old client had kept a valuable desk belonging to her ex-husband. She never liked it and now she was forced to see it every day, which only brought up unpleasant memories. Even when something has market value, if it is stealing space and joy from you, it is not worth keeping. She sold it and used the money to buy herself a desk she could truly call her own.
  5. Take time or get help to contain, display and safeguard your contents for their safety and protection as well as for your own. If your valuables are buried in a pile of clutter on the floor, not only are they at risk of damage but one false step and you could be out of commission yourself.

 

Let’s Make Room For The Holidays Checklist

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Let's Make Room ChecklistUse this convenient checklist to create reminders for yourself or your family for the Holidays.

_ Make up your guest list

_ Create your gift list for friends, family as well as those hosting you

_ Decide on your menu

_ Schedule your food shopping and place special orders

_ Shop for food and beverages

_ Buy food items your guests can prepare themselves for breakfast

_ Create send out invitations, either electronic, email or paper

_ Put up any holiday lights

_ Shop for or decide on party clothes you’ll wear

_ Borrow or order chairs if you need extras

_ Clean your house

_ Organize and tidy up guest rooms and baths

_ Get your kitchen and pantry in order

_ Make sure you have nice, clean guest towels and linens

_ Decide on music for your holiday events

_ Decorate your home

_ Dust, polish or clean off your serve ware

_ Order flowers

_ Set aside food storage containers

_ Send out thank you cards

Clutter is not a character flaw

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Organized Garage. Photo by LET’S MAKE ROOM

What are you doing this weekend? Unless you are like my friend Jan who loves to organize her home, there are probably a lot of other things you’d rather be doing then, say, organizing your garage.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want to be organized. Being organized is wonderful! It reaps great benefits, including but not limited to:

  1. Quickly finding what you need when you need it. Something you take for granted until you can’t find it.
  2. Feeling the sense of calm that comes when everything is clear in your space.
  3. Knowing you haven’t overlooked something important like your mortgage bill or the date of your kid’s first recital.
  4. More money to spend on things you want when you’re not spending money on duplicate items you can’t find and forgot you already had.
  5. Having time to focus on what you are truly great at or on something that gives you real pleasure

The difference between being organized and getting organized is simple: One takes effort, in some cases an overwhelming amount of physical as well as mental effort. It also takes a plan and a good working system that can easily be sustained.

Being organized, takes much less effort, and as a result you have more freedom and time to spend doing what you want to do as opposed to what you should do.

To put it simply, being organized is a whole lot more fun than getting organized. I’m a professional and I’ve been doing this for years but even I don’t live to get organized. I get organized to live.

When you decide to get organized, with or without help, the first thing you should do is stop making your clutter a character flaw. Instead consider the clutter you’ve created as a reflection of the busy, productive (and hopefully) better life you’ve created for yourself.

If it’s paper clutter that’s driving you crazy, stop blaming yourself for all the paper you have.  Despite all the efforts at going “paperless,” paper is still a fact of life. Today, for example, the contents of my in-box grew by 2 documents, 5 receipts and 7 pieces of mail I personally did not generate.

So instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself, “What would I rather be doing this weekend?” If your answer is something fun, fulfilling or relaxing, go ahead and do it, without guilt. If, however, the clutter around you is causing an unacceptable level of stress or you finally want to tackle your garage, go ahead. The investment in your home and yourself will be worth it.

 

10 Hidden Costs of Moving

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Benjamin Franklin hiding in grassDo you know what it will cost you to move your home? If you call a mover for a quote, don’t be surprised when the final cost far exceeds what you were quoted over the phone.

The cost of moving, especially if you are moving out-of-state and even just across town, can easily add up. Moving is stressful enough. Don’t be sticker-shocked.  Here’s what you need to know when hiring a professional mover:

  1. Get an onsite estimate – not just a quote over the phone.  Most established movers will provide a one-hour window of time during which you can expect to meet with their estimator.  Even if you are just moving across town it is worth your time to schedule an onsite estimate.  Quotes over the phone are typically under-estimated because they don’t include other hidden costs such as “long carries” – an extra charge for when a mover has to walk a long way between their truck and your front door. They also don’t include extra charges for stairs or fuel surcharges.
  2. Review and compare the estimates carefully. Long Distance moves are estimated based on weight. Local moves are estimated based on time.  Tariff’s for long distance moves are set by law but estimates can still vary if a company over-estimates the weight of your items. Get at least two estimates but three are ideal. I recently had a client who received two estimates that were roughly the same but a third was significantly higher. Compare extra fees such as the cost of boxes, labor time, fuel surcharges and even sales tax. Other fees for disconnection of appliances and crating are generally extra.   Since some of these extra fees are often based as a percentage of the weight – having an accurate weight is important.StarStickyNote
  3. Decide what you are moving ahead of time. Take the time before you meet with movers to decide  what furniture you are moving.  Don’t schedule the estimate until you’ve done this because the estimate will depend on either the quantity of items you are moving (for local moves) or the weight (for long distance moves).  Go through your house room-by-room and don’t forget your storage areas – garage, basement, attic, shed – as well as your patio or terrace. Place a bright colored label or sticky-note on every piece of furniture and large item you are moving. Don’t worry about deciding what you want to do with the things you are not taking. Just focus on the things you want. Don’t forget large lamps, speakers, artwork, fixtures, shelving units or exercise equipment.  Here’s another reason to do an onsite estimate:  A couple I know relied on a phone estimate but because they had so much stuff, as a result the movers had to return for another run since they estimated the move (by phone) for a smaller truck size. It ended up costing them almost double what they were quoted.
  4. Opt for added insurance. This is the most frequently overlooked cost of moving and yet for a relatively small amount it can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars, particularly if you are moving a long distance.  By law all professional movers must offer “Basic Coverage” which currently only insures your possessions at a rate of .60 per pound. This means that from an insurance standpoint, your valuable crystal china bowl will be valued at the same rate as your frying pan if they weigh roughly the same amount.  Insurance is especially important if you are moving high value items such as original artwork, expensive electronics, fragile fixtures, antiques or valuable china.  Make sure your movers provide “actual value” or “full replacement value” insurance options to you before hiring them. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars extra for insurance and compare quotes across movers. Even if your furniture is not high value, consider the cost of replacing it. You’ll still need furniture in your new home even if it’s furniture you’ve owned for years.  Moving trucks have been known to break down. If your household goods need to be moved from one truck to another, mid-stream, during a rain storm, you’ll want to know your possessions are insured. (This is what happened to me on one of my three, cross country moves. Fortunately I had full replacement value insurance that covered my losses completely).
  5. Decide whether you will pack or whether you want the movers to pack for you. The cost of having professional movers pack is roughly the same as what they charge for labor time which can add to the cost but it may make sense if you are pressed for time, need to work or be at your new home or are physically unable (or unwilling) to pack your whole house.  It also makes sense from a liability standpoint. If you pack a box and one of the movers accidentally drops it, they are not liable for the damage to the contents if it’s determined by the insurance adjustor that it was packed inadequately.  If you can afford it, take advantage of your mover’s professional packing services , especially for your high value or fragile items.  You can always save money on labor time if you pack your non-fragile items such as books, office supplies, kitchen items, linens, nicknacks yourself.
  6. Don’t pack your clothes. Most professional movers will move your dresser or wardrobes, clothes and all, if you just leave them there. Be sure to remove any fragile items however as these could be damaged during transport. Also, you don’t need to pack your hanging clothing as most professional movers will pack these for you, typically at no extra charge.
  7. Ask for discounts. Several professional movers will offer a variety of discounts. One company I worked with recently offered a senior discount which covered the cost of the “fuel surcharge.”  Others have discount arrangements with real estate companies or other businesses.  Ask your employer or real estate agent for a recommendation.
  8. Be ready to move! In general, local movers charge by the hour. Don’t wait till moving day to finish your packing or to defrost your refrigerator if you were planning on taking it with you. This will cost you!  If you are moving long distance,  this will add to the stress of your move day if you are not ready when the movers arrive or if you schedule something else to occur on moving day.  Don’t water your plants on move day or pack wet laundry – movers wont take them.
  9. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you get two estimates and one is higher from your preferred mover, let them know you want to work with them. If they want your business, they will try to work with you. Know who the local agent/represen
    Moving Crew from Shamrock Movers

    My favorite moving crew

    tative is for your moving company and keep their number handy in case of any problems.  The estimator is the sales person but it’s the local agent/owner that has the authority to correct any problems.

  10. Tips are permitted. While it’s not expected, the move experience you have often comes down to the driver and the moving crew.  Generally these people operate on a thin margin. They are not getting the money you pay the moving company but they work the hardest. Set aside some extra cash to tip your movers and drivers for good service. I recommend tipping movers $3-$4 for each hour they worked and tip the driver/lead a little bit more.

If you would like other tips on how to have a stress-free move, call us! We’re not movers but we can manage every step of your move, including unpacking and home-setup,  so you can step back into your new home like you’ve been there forever.

 

 

 

 

 

30 Dos and Don’ts for a Do-It-Yourself Move

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Moving BlanketsMaking plans to move doesn’t start the day you start packing.

Whether you are moving, across the street, across the country, or just temporarily while your house is being remodeled, the secret to a stress-free move is all in the preparation.

Here are 15 “Dos” and 15 “Don’ts” to help you, or those you know, plan and prepare to move without breaking the bank or your back.

Do’s

  1. Do get at least two written, onsite estimates and read them carefully. Fees for supplies, materials, 2nd stops or even labor can vary widely from mover to mover.
  2. Do label and if possible, separate items you are Moving (by destination), Selling, Donating or Hauling.
  3. Do consider getting your high value items insured against loss or damage, especially if you are moving more than 50 miles.
  4. Do give yourself plenty of time to purge if you have clutter or are downsizing your home.
  5. Do hire a licensed mover with a long list of references and check their references.
  6. Do plan on being there on move day to direct movers at your old home or new home if you can’t be there.
  7. Do pack heavy items such as books in small boxes, light items such as pillows and lamp shades in large boxes, bulky or odd-sized items such as lamp shades, toys or tools in medium boxes. Fragile items such as crystal and china should go  in extra strong dish-packs.
  8. Do have a plan for unpacking and getting organized at your new home. The average home will take 1-4 weeks to unpack depending upon the amount of items you move. Consider hiring professional organizers if you need it done more quickly.
  9. Do arrange with your movers to disconnect large appliances such as washes and dryers.
  10. Do make a plan for your school aged children on move day  and secure your pets in a safe place.
  11. Do inspect the moving truck after your items are unloaded to be sure it’s fully emptied before movers depart.
  12. Do leave folded clothes in dressers. Most movers will provide wardrobe boxes, free of charge, for your hanging clothes.
  13. Do book your move first thing in the morning.
  14. Do label boxes clearly so movers can get them to the right room in your new home.
  15. Do consider donating or giving away your gently used boxes or see if your movers will take them back.

Don’ts

  1. Don’t assume movers will be available on the day you need to move. Book 4-6 weeks ahead if possible.
  2. Don’t hire movers you haven’t met with or have not been recommended by people you trust.
  3. Don’t forget to pack/purge contents from storage areas, attics, sheds and offsite storage.
  4. Don’t waste time scrounging for boxes and packing supplies. Gently used ones can be found online and less expensive ones at stores like Home Depot. Professional Movers can also deliver boxes/supplies
  5. Don’t leave packing to the last minute. It will add to the cost of your move if your movers were not hired to pack.
  6. Don’t hire a mover solely on price. Experience, knowledge of your community and skill (like moving a grand piano) counts for much more.20150214_101556
  7. Don’t move boxes you haven’t opened since your last move.
  8. Don’t call movers at the last minute with significant changes to your move. It will cost you.
  9. Don’t book a move at the end of a month or in the summer, if possible. These are their busiest times.
  10. Don’t water your plants for two days before you move.
  11. Don’t forget to go back and check all areas of your home before your moving truck leaves.
  12. Don’t forget to complete a change of address form for all your service providers and the US Mail.
  13. Don’t talk to movers when they are moving heavy objects
  14. Don’t forget to tip your movers if they did a good job.
  15. Don’t forget to notify friends, relatives and the post office about your new address.

Confronting our monsters

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At 8:00 this morning, I had my own private celebration. It took place in my head.

An hour earlier I was driving and thinking about how terrifying it must be for some of my clients to do the one thing that scares them the most; To finally confront what’s kept them from moving forward in their lives because they feel overwhelmed and stuck and it’s showing up as piles of papers, boxes and who knows what else, on their desks, on the floor, in their drawers, everywhere.

I was thinking about what it means to do the one thing that scares you the most and to have the courage to do it anyway because you know you have to. Because you know not doing so will have far greater consequences.

For people who are chronically disorganized, the consequence of not facing their fears can be enormous.  For some it’s a loss of control over their lives. For others, it’s isolation. I know people who have lost their children, their spouses and their very security because of their inability to face their fears head on.  I also know people who have shown great courage and have discovered the meaning of making room in their lives.

My fears are about public speaking. And yet, as a small business person I know the value it brings to others in the form of information and sometimes even inspiration. But I do it quite frankly because I have to. Working with people in their homes and in their offices or helping them move is tactical but it’s also very personal. I know that if people see me and feel I am someone they can trust, and recognize I  have the expertise to help them, then they often will remember me when it comes time to organize their offices, or their bedrooms or help them plan and oversee their move to a new home.

The Paper MonsterThis is what I was thinking at seven o’clock this morning, on my way to speak to a group of fifty small business owners and entrepreneurs about how to face their fears, specifically about how to confront their own Paper Monsters.  I did this presentation a few weeks earlier and it had not lived up to my expectations  – perfectionism, my monster, rearing it’s ugly head, yet again –  and now I was getting ready to face him again.  Was I scared? Petrified, which is why at that moment I started thinking about my clients.

“If  they can have the courage to hire me, then I can damn well find the courage to face my fears as well, ” I thought.  And so I did. And it went fine. It wasn’t perfect but it was good enough. And that’s good enough. But to be honest, I’m glad it’s over. At least for today I can celebrate.

Tomorrow, I do it again.

Organizing Habits You’ll Want To Practice

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I came across these 10 Simple Steps to Staying Organized in Getting Organized Magazine.

Try to commit one or two to memory and start implementing them in your own life.

You can receive a digital version of Getting Organized Magazine, including these great tips by going to this link or copy and paste this URL into your browser:

2012 Summer

1. If you get it out, put it back.

2.  If you open it, shut it.  

3.  If you try it on, hang it up.

4.  If you get it dirty, wash it. 

5.  If you don’t use it, get rid of it.

6.  If it doesn’t fit, donate it.  (my add in….or consign it or sell on ebay if it is a great piece)

7.  If it’s expired, dump it. 

8.  If it’s junk, throw it out.

9.  If it’s a bill, pay it.

10.  If you schedule it, write it down.