Quick Tip Thursday – Spring Decommissioning

It’s Spring! It’s Spring! IT’S REALLY SPRING!

Here in Colorado it hasn’t felt much like spring this past month. We’ve had a few major snowstorms. But finally – in May – I feel confident I can start to pack away our winter gear.

Some of the things I’m getting ready to pack away for summer are:

  • winter coats, hats, gloves
  • snow shovels
  • sleds
  • ice scrapers
  • snow boots

Watch this short video to see how I prepare our snow boots for storage.

Quick Tip Thursday: Keep It Where You Need It

Are you confusing ORGANIZING with CENTRALIZING? Centralization is putting like items together. That may be organized but it’s not always effective. And don’t we want our stuff to be more effective for us?

There are a number of things you may want to keep decentralized.

  • Toilet paper – you probably already do this. I can imagine few situations more angst inducing than needing a new roll right now and opening up the cabinet in the bathroom and finding no replacements.
  • Toothpaste – you keep a separate tube in each bathroom where people brush their teeth.
  • Tissue – you may have one on each bedroom nightstand.

But what about non-consumables? You may also want to keep multiples of:

  • Scissors – how often do you need a pair in the kitchen or laundry room but you keep them in your desk?
  • Stapler – I have one in my desk but keep another in a kitchen drawer for when I have to staple papers that are going to school (e.g. check & permission slip)
  • Thermometer – your first aid kit is in the mudroom but your kid gets sick in the middle of the night. You might want several (downstairs, your bathroom, kids bathroom)

Watch the short video below to see one more item I keep multiples of to save myself a little bit of hassle!

 

Unsubscribe For Summer

The weather is getting warmer. I’m not sure about where you are but here we had an especially warm weekend. It almost felt like summer. And what happens in summer is that we migrate outside, away from the computer and toward the pool. So when you do take a few minutes to return to your email wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to go through 30 emails that you are just going to delete?

Take some time this week to unsubscribe from a few of those emails you find yourself deleting without opening.  Maybe it’s a store that used to be your favorite. Or an organization you gave a donation to once, three years ago. Or a newsletter you aren’t sure how you got subscribed on.  Before you hit DELETE next time you open your email, go through those emails and click the unsubscribe link at the bottom.  Clear your inbox just a little bit for summer.

Remember… if an email is from an unknown source (i.e. SPAM) please DO NOT click any links on those. Simply mark as spam and delete. But if you know where it’s from the unsubscribe link should be legitimate.

Now get outside!

You Should Be Reading… about crafts!

I love organizing. And I’m good at it. I love to *think* about crafting. And I love to *think* I could be good at it. But the truth is, I’m not. My mom tried to teach me to crochet as a girl but I just couldn’t get it. I never had much interest in sewing and my machine sits gathering dust. But I am really good at recognizing other people’s great crafts! So here are 8 blog posts to check out with other folk’s awesome talents at crafting.

1. Emily @ Jones Design Company – Gathered Flower Tutorial. I actually might be able to do this.  A simple running stitch… not too bad. And so many cute uses!

2. Melissa @ 320 Sycamore – Thrifty Handles For Furniture. Tying a knot? I can do that!

3. Amy @ Wanna Make Something Of It? – DIY Muffin Tin Marbled Crayons. Reuse of something broken… hooray!

4. Michelle @ three men and a lady – “Wash You Hands”. A great reminder for little ones and much cuter than what they have in the public restrooms!

5. Jen @ Simply Living – Painted Teapot. I have no use for a tea pot. But if I did you bet your bottom dollar I’d want it to be cute like this.

6. Kim @ It’s a Crafty Life – Picture Frame Key Holder. Cute + Functional = Love.

7. Tiffany @ The DIY Club – Spring Kahuna’s. Just for fun.

8. Beth @ Unskinny Boppy – Pottery Barn Inspired Ladder Lantern Hanger. Simply gorgeous. Beth is an awesome Alabama blogger who was fortunately spared any major home or personal damage in last week’s horrific tornadoes.

Summer In The Park!

The weather is finally starting to warm and give hints of summer (although the snow on the rooftops this morning in my neighborhood wouldn’t make you think that) and it’s time to start thinking picnics!

There are so many options for picnics…
* Dining on your own patio/deck/backyard
* Daytime lunch picnics at the park
* Evening concerts in the park
* Lazy afternoons at the beach or the lake

In my younger days living in Chicago I loved the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park. My friends and I would pack up bottles of wine, fruit, and sandwiches with our blankets and bug spray and enjoy awesome concerts under the stars. Girls’ Night Out at Ravinia have been replaced by family friendly movies and concerts in our local park but the enjoyment of being outside has not changed.

The only thing that brings down the otherwise festive atmosphere is the hectic hour before we leave gathering all the necessary gear and food while corralling children into the car or wagons.

If you like to picnic and plan to do so this summer, take time this month to prepare for all those festivals and outings (like Independence Day Fireworks) coming soon.

First, pick your favorite container… maybe it’s a organizational tote from Thirty-One or one of the classic Land’s End totes.

{image source: Land’s End}

Next, gather all that you need to have a great picnic.  Here are my suggestions for staples:

    1. Blanket(s).  Some places my have picnic tables but even so, a blanket can come in handy when it gets a bit chilly. My favorite blankets are washable and thick (to keep out the moisture from damp grass).
    2. Plastic Sheet or Tarp.  If you live in an area known for lots of summer rain (not you, Coloradoans!) you’ll probably want something to go under your blankets.CrateandBarrelCandleInCanSm
{image source: Crate & Barrel}
  1. Citronella Candle. Bugs can ruin an outing quickly. Keep them at bay. This adorable candle-in-can from Crate & Barrel is a great way to go. They are inexpensive enough you can buy a few and keep them on hand. Don’t forget the matches!
  2. Bug Spray. An extra layer of protection.
  3. Sun Screen.
  4. Umbrella. You may just need to make a mad dash to the car in the rain. Make it a little less crazy with an umbrella.
  5. Trash Bags. All those food wrappers need to go somewhere!  Instead of making 10 trips to the trash can, fill your bag and then dump it all at once.
  6. Sweater or Sweatshirt. Even in summer, it can get quite cool once the sun goes down. If you came in shorts and a tank top you might need a little something to help you make it through to the end of the show.
  7. Collapsible Chairs. Some type of camping chair works great. I’ve found the older I get, the less I like sitting on hard ground for several hours.
  8. Flashlight. If you do evening picnics (like for concerts) this can help as you pick up all your gear at the end of the night and make your way back to the car.
  9. Cork Screw. If you are a wine drinker, this essential will be sorely missed.
  10. Paper/Plastic Goods.  Be extra prepared by having the napkins, forks, knifes, spoons, and plates already packed in your bag. Don’t forget a few cups or glasses for wine or other drinks.
  11. Sharp Knife. The plastic knives will work fine for eating but you may want to share your apple or cut open a package of treats. Don’t bring your $200 Wusthof knife. Grab an inexpensive one at the store just for keeping in your picnic kit. Bonus points if you put it in a little plastic box to keep little hands from getting cut while reaching into your tote.
  12. Wet Wipes. Baby wipes are great for this. Kids tend to find the messiest item in any picnic area (and adults could probably use a wipe too.)
  13. Hand Sanitizer. Your kid just gave a big hug to the Border Collie the next picnic blanket over and they are about to eat their sandwich…
  14. Ziploc Bags. I always find empty bags to come in handy. They are great for holding left over food and the miscellaneous “treasures” that kids seem to acquire.
  15. Something Fun. A frisbee, deck of cards or other small item can help pass the time as you wait during intermissions.
  16. Kids Essentials. If you have kids, especially babies or toddlers, you’ll probably need a few spare diapers and a change of pants & underpants.  You probably don’t need a complete diaper bag but the essentials are good for your picnic bag.

Having your gear bag packed, all you’ll need to get ready for a picnic is the food and the friends and family.

And remember… when you get home you need to restock the bag with anything you used up.

Work You’re Proud To Share

Across the nation, today is Take Your Child To Work Day. What a great opportunity for children to see where mom or dad spend the better portion of their waking hours! Whether you work at an office (or other place of business) or work at home, I think parents and children should participate. My children are still too young but I am looking forward to when they get a bit older and can attend.

But when your little one shows up at your desk, what are they going to find? Will they see how routines and organization help mom or dad be an effective and highly contributing employee or will they see a mess that could rival the pile under their own bed?

As parents we give our children a lot of instruction. And we want them to learn the skills that are going to help them succeed in life. But as many times as we tell them what to do, showing them is going to be “heard” a thousand times louder. When watching you, is your child learning the skills of routine and consistency?

If you are blushing, don’t panic. There’s plenty of time to turn things around before he or she comes back next year. My favorite tool for staying organized at work is the 3-ring binder.

What does mine look like:

* Weekly Calendar – my binder has a clear cover pocket. Each week I print my Outlook calendar and put a copy there on the cover.  This is helpful when I’m in a meeting and want to see if we can extend the time 30 minutes or if I need to head off to something else.

* Weekly Routine Checklist – simple lists of things to be done at the start and end of each day and week to keep things running smoothly. This includes reminders like, updating time card, checking voicemail, preparing weekly activity reports, emptying recycle bins. Just like you have routines at home (like taking out the trash each Tuesday and emptying the dishwasher every night before bed) having routines at work gives you structure to build an productive day upon.

* To-Do List – first page inside of the binder. I can update as things come up. This only works when work is separate from home. My binder stays at work and the tasks on this list are exclusive to things to be done at my workplace during the work day. If you have a more integrated work-life to-do list you will probably like a more mobile option.

* Contacts – phone numbers of the top 5-10 contacts in my binder. I don’t use a mobile phone for work. And while I can easily look them up when sitting at my desk, I occasionally need a number to call someone for consultation while in the middle of a meeting. This saves the trouble of going out of the meeting to look up the number.

* Planning Calendars – a tabbed section with printed copies of blank calendars for the next 6 months. This is helpful in meetings when planning projects out into the future.

* Tabbed Sections – each current project gets its own tab. While we try to be as paperless as possible, there are some things that do come as print outs. It’s also where I take notes specific to a project while in meetings and during phone conversations.

* Blank Paper – keep a small section of blank pages at the back to be moved to the specific section as needed for notes.

I was a Franklin-Covey planner type of worker a decade ago. But I found that format didn’t work as well for me as a simple binder. I can add and remove all kinds of notes and correspondence. And I don’t have to rewrite the to-do list each day, it just rolls along with me.

I know that most of us work “paperless” in our emails and through shared databases with our colleagues. But tell me, if you are paperless at work, then why is there a huge stack of papers on the corner of your desk? The reality is that paper is part of our work day. The key is finding a way to manage the paper so that it helps you accomplish your work rather than detracting from your productivity.

The Most Important Moving Box

Spring is here and For Sale signs are popping up as frequently as tulips. A quick search of local MLS listings reveals 10 homes for sale just in my little neighborhood. Many people look to make a move before the end of summer and start of the school year. If you are among them, you may be feeling some concern over the process of moving. There is so much to do, and I’m not going to tackle all of those topics today. But I am going to cover just one… the most important box you’ll move.

Whether moving across the street, across town or across the country, there is one box that everyone needs to pack. This is what I like to call the OPEN ME FIRST box. I’ve had one with every move I’ve made, from apartments in the city to grad school housing to cross-country relocations and home purchases.

This box should be carried with you in your vehicle – not travel with the movers. Here’s my list for the OPEN ME FIRST box:

Food & Kitchen Essentials
When the movers leave the last of the boxes you’re going to be hungry. You’ll probably also be feeling too grungy to go out to eat so bring something with you.
* Paper Plates
* Plastic Silverware
* Water Bottles
* Non-perishable snacks
* Phone number to a local pizza/chinese/sandwich delivery place – look it up in advance and program into your phone!
* Roll of paper towels – these will be multi-purpose, you might want two!
* Dish soap – a small bottle will do
* Kitchen towel
* Bottle of bubbly & some plastic cups – everyone needs to celebrate! (champagne has the advantage over wine here as it doesn’t require a corkscrew to open… one less thing to bring with you)

Bathroom Essentials
* Hand soap
* Toilet paper – at least one roll for each bathroom
* Hand towel (optional, paper towels could substitute)

Cleaning Basics
Yes, your new digs should be clean but chances are you’re going to want to wipe down one or two things before you use them the first time.
* Paper Towels (the 2nd roll mentioned above!)
* Glass & surface cleaner (an all-in-one works well)

Shower Essentials
At the end of that grubby day, a nice hot shower will feel great. Be prepared!
* Shower curtain liner – you don’t need to hang all your lovely decorative shower curtains, but a $3 plastic liner will serve you well those first few days.
* Shampoo, conditioner, soap
* Bath towels (probably one for every family member)
* Toothpaste & toothbrush (floss is optional. Always recommended but if you get a pass on flossing any day in your life, I firmly believe it should be moving day)
* Blow dryer
* Hair brush

Bedtime Essentials
* Sheets for each bed you’ll use
* Pillows for each family member
* Blanket for bed
* Alarm Clock (or mobile phone with an alarm feature)
* Kleenex (optional – moving makes me sneeze, but you could use TP instead)

Rise & Shine Essentials
That first morning will be exciting and daunting as you look at the boxes.
* Light breakfast – a bag of bagels & jar of peanut butter work well for us.
* Overnight bag for each family member (change of clothes and any necessary toiletries, makeup, medications, eye glasses, etc.)

Miscellaneous Essentials
* Cell phone chargers
* Cash for tipping the movers
* Scissors! – Seriously so many uses.

Okay, so that might be two boxes. Or a box and an overnight bag for each family member. But you get the idea. Pack some things you’ll really need that first night so you don’t have to rummage through all your boxes.

The key is that if you finish up the move late in the evening, you’ll be able to grab a bite to eat, wash of the dust, fall into bed and hit the ground running the next morning.

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If you are local to Colorado and looking for a great real estate agent to help you make your next big move, check out one of these fantastic realtors:

Changes Are Coming!

This blog home has been very good to me for the last 2 years but the time has come to move on.  Very soon I’ll be relocating this blog to my brand new website! I am so so excited to share it with all of you.  Keep checking back for details on the big move!  The new site has a new look and feel and I think you’ll find it very easy to navigate and find what you need.

As part of the move, I’ll be kicking things off with a week of giveaways for my loyal readers!  I’m keeping it quiet on what the items will be but I think you’ll like them!

Finally, if you have a product or service you think could help my readers in their quest to get organized and would like to be a giveaway sponsor, let me know! I’d love to extend the week and offer some visibility to your business. Contact me to participate!!

Easter Follow-Up

Hallelujah! He is risen! I hope each of you had a blessed Easter and had time to celebrate the amazing joy of the resurrection of our savior among all the candy and feasting.

I wanted to take a quick moment to write a follow-up to my Clutter-Free Easter post. I’m sure you all were wondering how the Easter baskets turned out in the Brown household.  I didn’t get any good pictures as I was rushing to get them filled as we headed out the door for church and the kids were so excited when we got home and found them that they were strewn about before I could grab a photo.

But the baskets looked like this:

3 year old girl
book (Alice in Wonderland)
bottle of bubbles
pack of fun hair bands for ponytails
brightly colored tank top
chocolate bunny
handful of chocolate eggs (the Nestle Crunch kind)
bubble bath

2 year old boy
book (Peter Rabbit)
bottle of bubbles
pack of Silly Bandz
chocolate bunny
handful of chocolate eggs (the Nestle Crunch kind)
bubble bath

8 month old boy
2 packages of baby food
jar of Puffs

In addition to what I got them (which is on the sparse side compared to some people) the Easter Bunny brought gifts sent by the 2 sets of Grandparents – PJs, books, dress-up masks, candy, bibs (for the baby) and some other things I’m sure I’m forgetting.

I am happy to report that aside from some candy wrappers on the floor there was very little mess. The kids loved the baskets and the other gifts and I felt good about keeping things minimal.

One of the few pictures I managed to snap – on my phone, sorry for the blur. Showing off his new PJs and silly bandz.

Spice It Up!

While thinking about the topic of spice storage it seemed a fine time to discuss how long to keep those little jars in your cupboards!

I don’t post much about cooking here on the blog but I do quite a lot of it. We are a family that eats together at home each night and that means a meal to please a family. And while Mr. Brown is actually quite a good cook, the kitchen is most often my domain. For me, it’s important to have a variety of herbs and spices available. Many times I use a recipe but often I wing it. Just as important, is having spices that taste good! I’ve never had a spice go “bad” on me, but I have kept some well-past when they actually added any flavor to the food.

The key when checking your spices for quality is to actually LOOK at them and TASTE them. I have been known to sprinkle a bit of something on a spoon and taste it directly.

McCormick has a simple chart that breaks it down.  In addition to giving the basic breakdown on how long spices will last they also provide tips on checking color and aroma and how best to store and handle them to retain their freshness.

If you don’t like keeping ground spices around the house in full jars because you don’t use them often enough, there are a few things you can do.
1. Buy whole spices and grind them yourself. A coffee grinder works well for this.
2. Try the new McCormick Recipe Inspirations packages of pre-measured spices. I have not tried these yet (I tend to cook enough to buy full bottles!) but it’s a great idea. I think I’d like to try the Asian Sesame Salmon. (Thanks to reader Valerie for this great tip!)
If you love spices and want some fabulous high-quality additions to your cupboard, check out the great selection from Penzeys. We are fortunate enough to have one of their actual store-fronts just a few miles away and going in there is heavenly. There are so many wonderful aromas to take in and you can really see and smell the difference in the different varieties.

Personally, I have a set of their glass jars on my wish list along with the Pasta & Salad Seasonings Gift Crate! (*hints for anyone who’d like to buy me gifts!*)

Finally, I know you just read this and you’re thinking “Hmmm…. just how old IS that jar of oregano in my pantry?”  I can’t answer that. But I can tell you that when you buy a NEW jar put the date on the bottom with a permanent marker (or a little sticky label if you have reusable glass jars). Then when you check your cabinets the next time you’ll know if that jar is 6 months or 6 years old.