Airline Travel Tips

I have spent the past 15 years traveling for both work and pleasure. My lifetime flight miles on my preferred airline is currently around 130,000. That doesn’t count flights I’ve taken using mileage redemption and on any number of other airlines. I’d estimate my total flight miles somewhere around 250,000. In all that time, I’ve picked up a few habits that have served me well. Here are my tips for you…

* Traveling alone with lots of luggage. It might seem like a good idea to park close to the airport. But when you park in the closest airport lot you have to manage to get all that luggage to the check-in counter on your own. If you choose a farther parking lot – either the airport provided “economy” parking or an off-site parking place, you will have a shuttle bus available to pick you up right at or very near your car. This bus will drop you right off at the sky-cap and check-in counter. A much easier way to arrive when you have more bags than hands.

* Roller-boards in the restroom. Ever tried to fit one of those carry-on bags into a tiny bathroom stall in the airport? It involves a precise navigation of bag, door and toilet. My advice – choose a more out of the way restroom and use the handicap stall. By choosing a slower traffic area you’ll be less likely to run into someone with an disability or a mother with a child waiting for the stall.

* Traveling in pairs on a 3 and 3 across plane. You and your spouse are having a nice getaway. You, of course, want to sit together. Even more ideal would be if you could have one of those rows of 3 all to yourselves. I guarantee you that if you select your seats as the window & middle or aisle & middle someone will snatch up the remaining aisle/window. Those seats are coveted. Leave one open and it’s sure to be taken. But if you select your seats as the window & aisle and leave the middle open it’s less likely to be taken by a fellow passenger. People will take all the other window/aisle seats first. If by chance the flight is full and someone does come along to sit in that middle seat, they will be thrilled when you tell them you are traveling together and would they rather have the window/aisle instead of that dreaded middle. It’s a win-win.

* Need extra legroom? Exit rows have lots of extra legroom. But if you want one, it helps to get to the airport early. Airlines only assign these seats at the airport. I believe the reason is that they want to see for themselves that you are physically of age and capable to manning the door if necessary. As soon as you arrive at the airport check-in, ask to be reassigned to an exit row. You may not get it, but you just might.

* Like to recline? Never choose the last row of the plane or the row directly in front of an exit row. Usually, these seats do not recline. That’s not universally true but better safe than sorry.

* Check-in online. You can check in online 24 hours in advance of your flight on almost every US airline. By checking in early, you can review your seat selection and perhaps snag something slightly better than you were able to get originally. Trust me, savvy business travelers are checking in as soon as possible and taking all the good seats.

* Saved money by connecting but wish you could fly direct? I try to fly direct whenever possible. But sometimes the price differential is just too great to justify. If your departure and final destination cities have a direct flight between them, you may be able to get on that plane. This works best when the departure time for the direct flight is around the same time as your ticketed flight. When you arrive, go to the ticket counter and ask if the direct flight has remaining seats available. If it does, and you ask VERY nicely, the ticket agent can move you to the direct flight. If there is a stand-by list, you can be placed on that as well. Of course, if your ticketed flight leaves before the stand-by list is called you won’t want to wait around for it.

  • You can also see if there are empty seats when you are doing your online check-in by searching for that flight as though you were going to purchase a ticket.

* Add the reservations number for the airline to your cell phone contact list. If your flight gets canceled, everyone will have to go stand in line at the counter at the gate to be re-ticketed. Get in line but as soon as you get in line, call the reservations number. There is a phone bank full of people available to help whereas at the counter there are only 1-3 gate agents helping perhaps hundreds of people. The reservations agents on the phone are able to rebook you just as easily as the gate agents. If you get to the gate agent before you reach someone on the phone, then you didn’t lose anything by sitting on hold for that time (except a few minutes of your cell phone time). But it is likely you’ll get someone on the phone first.

And the most important thing to remember when traveling…..

* Niceness goes a long way with airline and airport personnel. I know it’s easy to lose your cool when you’ve been bumped, delayed or otherwise maligned. But remember that these people have a job to do, just like you do. They are trying their best to get you where you need to be. And if they have a choice between helping a shouting, cursing, red-in-the-face bully or a mild-mannered person who asks with a smile and a please…. well, you guess who they are going to feel more inclined to assist.

Quick Tip Thursday

Cleaning your toilets. Not fun, I know. But necessary.
Like most people, I use a toilet bowl cleaner to give the toilets a good cleaning once a week (usually). But I also like to keep the bowl fresh between cleanings. Most any store with a housewares department sells very pretty toilet brush sets for $19.99 and up.
A cheaper solution, and one that works better in my opinion, is to use a simple container ($10) that matches your decor and an inexpensive toilet brush ($3). Fill the container with water and a small amount of liquid soap – like a hand-wash dishwashing liquid. This mixture will keep your brush a bit cleaner and gets off the gunk on the toilet. Wipe the toilet daily for best results.
Here are my toilet brush containers.
This is a vase that I no longer had a use for.

A crock designed to hold kitchen utensils.

Don’t feel bound by those flimsy and expensive brush options at the local home-goods store. Find something unique that fits your home and make it work for you.

Simple Solution – Bathrooms

I recently found this idea from Better Homes and Gardens.

It’s a bit hard to tell what is going on in this picture. But the idea is to use a lazy susan to store your essential bathroom cleaning supplies. This way you can easily access those items that end up at the back of your cabinet without having to pull everything out. Simple, inexpensive and effective. I love it.

Delightfully ….. in pain

Your delighted organizer has spent the past week undergoing the not as delightful task of several trips to multiple dentists ending in not one, but two root canals. And I am heading off tomorrow for a trip combining the wedding of a very dear friend and an organizational project near and dear to my own heart. I look forward to sharing details with you all upon my return.

Have a delightful weekend!

Reader Tuesday – Office Closet

For my inaugural Reader Tuesday we are going to dive into the world of Heather’s office closet.

First, I want to say what a true pleasure it was for me to work on this. I feel so honored that Heather and others have allowed me to peek into the inner workings of their homes. I truly hope that my evaluation and suggestions can provide some level of order for your to put together your own thoughts on making your home work for you.

Now, on to the good stuff:

The “before”

First Impressions:
– There are lots of unlabeled boxes
– There are two totally empty available walls just waiting to be put to use
– What is that rod for?
– The closet isn’t actually overwhelmed with stuff, just disorderly
– This space serves several purposes

My first thought here was that this space is actually large enough to serve as a small office or crafting space if necessary. But given that this is the closet that is already IN THE OFFICE I’m making the assumption that is not necessary.

The Basics

– Purge, purge, purge. There are probably quite a few things in here that you may no longer need or want. Don’t waste valuable real estate on things that no longer serve a purpose in your life.
– The carpet remnant – If you have a foreseeable use for it in your home roll it up tight and bind it with some strong packing tape and move it to a less desirable storage space in your home like the attic or basement. If not, find else someone who might need it.
– Remove the hanging rod. It makes the space seem smaller

The Zones
You seem to have 5 distinct types of storage needs in this closet.

  • Ironing
  • Gift Wrapping
  • Photo Storage
  • File Storage
  • Miscellaneous Storage

How often do you iron? If it’s not that often it’s probably fine to keep the ironing supplies in here. If you iron more regularly, you might want to move the board and iron where most of your clothes are. This suggestion will work just as easily on your bedroom closet door as it will here.
Over-The-Door Board & Iron Holder ($11.99)

Gift Wrapping

If you want to use this space to actually wrap gifts then this might not be the best solution for you. But to use it as a storage area for wrapping supplies, I think you’ll find it quite suitable.

I am quite familiar with that wrapping paper holder. I actually have it in my own basement. And you know what, in my opinion, unless it’s used only to store holiday season paper, it stinks. It’s not portable enough to move around the house to the places you actually want to wrap. And the upper compartment for tape & scissors is much to small. And there is no room for ribbon and bows.

Here’s a nice, and inexpensive alternative I loved (and adapted) from the latest issue of Better Homes & Gardens special storage magazine.

Tie a sturdy tool apron around a 5-gallon bucket. Use a drill to make a hole big enough for a small dowel rod through each side of the bucket. Insert the dowel rod through one side of the bucket, put your ribbon rolls on the dowel rod (inside the bucket) and finish putting the dowel through the other hole. Use small rubber gaskets to keep the dowel rod in place.

Use the bucket to hold your wrapping paper and the tool apron to hold your scissors, tape, gift tags, etc.

Bucket ($2.97)
Tool Apron (1.29)
Dowel ($3.98)
Rubber O-rings ($4.96)
That still leaves bows, gift bags and empty boxes
For gift bags, a wall mounted magazine holder might work well. Like this ($12.77):

For bows, another wall mount unit:

And finally for all those empty boxes to wrap gifts in – a plastic tub ($29.99 for four) or stylish tote ($27.99) (that can only hold so much. When the tub is full, it’s time to stop saving boxes.

Photo Storage
Yes, we all have plans to get those photos hung or in albums right away. But with a family, sometimes “right away” might be 10 years from now. In the meantime, keep your photos safe with archival boxes. Shoebox style ($46.75 for 2400 photos) for the small prints and flat ($18.80) for the larger ones.

File Storage
You could always add a small 2-drawer filing cabinet to the corner but for the number of files you have a small file box might work just as well.

Miscellaneous Storage

For all of the other items you have, using milk crates situated so the opening is facing out (like the black & white ones) would divide the shelves and help you group like things together. You could also easily remove the crates if you wanted to take the entire box of things to another room for a project.

Now about that teapot. It’s beautiful. I’m guessing it is some kind of family heirloom because most of us nowadays aren’t running out to buy beautiful ceramic teapots. Do you love it? If you do, find a place to display it. If you don’t love it or it’s just not your taste that’s okay. Are you just holding onto it because it was your grandmother’s or Great-Aunt Millie’s? If so, maybe there is another member of you family with a yellow & blue french country kitchen just waiting for a piece like this to display. You can still keep it in the family. And if you hate to part with the memory, I bet you could take some gorgeous art-style photographs of it that could hang somewhere in your home.
Good luck Heather! Any organizational undertaking can be quite a task. But I think this space has lots of potential.
And if you do make changes – let us know what the results are.

*Disclaimer – I have absolutely no affiliation to any organization, company or product suggested here or in any of my posts. Any advice or suggestions made are based on my own personal opinion and do not constitute an official endorsement of any such product or company.

Never Search for an Outlet Again

This is just a bit of humor to liven up your day.

From an organizational perspective, managing the mass of cords we all now have as part of our daily lives can be a huge challenge. Here is one very inventive way to solve the problem.

The Outlet Wall

Easy & Inexpensive Idea Homemade Supply Canisters

What’s holding your pens, scissors, children’s crayons, or kitchen utensils?

I love this great idea from the Hoosier Homemade for making your own Office Supply Canisters.

photo by Hoosier Homemade

You could use any paper to fit your personal style or the decor of your room.

If you try these, send me a picture of your final result. I’d love to see your creativity in action.


Home Keeping. Housework. Cleaning.

Cleanse. Tidy. Scrub. Sanitize. Sweep. Vacuum. Deodorize. Disinfect. Launder. Mop. Neaten. Pick Up. Rinse. Soak. Spruce Up. Wipe. Sterilize.

What do those words make you feel?
Guilt? feeling like your work can never measure up to some arbitrary standard set by your mother, mother-in-law, spouse, or yourself.
Dread? gotta do it. hate it but gotta do it.
Excited? only the rare few I’m guessing

We all want a clean home. Really, we do. And many of us have aspirations of keeping this model-home clean and tidy at all times. But we live in reality. If you have the cash, you have a cleaning person or team that comes in once every week or two and does some of the big stuff. If you really have the cash, you have a live-in maid who makes sure everything is just so. If that’s the case, you probably aren’t really interested in what I have to say about organizing because your home is already in great shape.

But for the rest of us cleaning – both surface cleaning and deep cleaning – falls squarely on our shoulders. I want to talk about how you can develop a system that works for you and your family.

First, understand that there is no one right way. That bears repeating. There is no one right way to clean your house.

Next, know that your cleaning needs to measure up to the standards of you, your spouse and your children – the people who live in your home. Your mother-in-law, mom, friends, siblings, and the moms from your playgroup don’t live in your home and don’t get a vote. Each person and each family has a different tolerance level for clutter and clean. That’s the level you need to meet – not the level of your Bestie who happens to be a little obsessed with scrubbing the back of the refrigerator.

The key to a clean and tidy home is having a routine. And the routine that works for you may not be the same as that of anyone else. That is okay.

So… how can you set up a routine that works for you?

1. Keep track for a week of everything you do to clean & tidy and when you do it. This isn’t the time to “step up your game” so it looks good on paper. No one is going to see this but you. Be honest and realistic about what you are currently doing to keep up your home.

2. Keep doing what you are doing. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel by instituting a completely new plan. If you’re already doing something to maintain your home – keep doing it!

3. Make a list of all the other things you feel like you should be doing and how often (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly). This can be things like making your bed daily, vacuuming the rug weekly and cleaning the baseboards quarterly (yes, quarterly. Maybe you “should” be doing it monthly or weekly based on some standard set in some book but listen, if you have NEVER done it before, saying that you need to do it weekly is just ridiculous. If you make that your goal you are setting yourself up for failure. Set a goal that’s slightly higher than what you are already doing and once you achieve it you can always add in more.)

4. Add one of the daily things off your list to your routine for the next month. That’s it. Just one. Try it when you think you’ll be able to fit it into your schedule. If after 7 days you find you only did it the first day and then never again then that wasn’t the right place in your schedule. Try it during a different time of the day. Or ask your spouse or a child if they might work it into their routine.

5. Once you’ve conquered one item, add another. Do this ad nauseam until you have a routine that leaves you with a home that is clean & tidy enough for you and your family.

It may take you a year or more to get your routine down to one that feels good. And of course, once you get into a groove, something in life will change. You’ll move, have a baby, adopt a dog, or send a child off to college. Something will upset the balance. And you’ll have to revamp your routine. That’s okay. This is life we are talking about. It changes constantly and we need to change with it. Just continue to make small adjustments to make your life and your home organized in such a way that it brings you delight and calmness enough to actually live.

Quick Tip Thursday

Does the end of dinner mean a mountain of dishes piled high with stuck on gunk and counters overflowing with ingredients both in their containers and spilled out?

In an ideal world we would clean as we go. Each dish and utensil would be carefully washed and put into the dishwasher immediately, leaving a clean kitchen when the meal is ready for the table. I’m not sure about you but I don’t live in an ideal world. Nor do I live on the set of a cooking show with a staff of assistants.

A middle-ground solution… as soon as you start your meal, fill one half of your sink (assuming you have a double) with hot water and a bit of dish soap. When you finish with a dish or utensil, just toss into the water. When your dinner is finished you’ll still need to rinse them and load the dishwasher but you won’t have caked on ingredients. The scrubbing will be mostly done for you.

[ IN ] PLACE by Peter Walsh

I made a quick trip to Office Max yesterday for a few supplies for my upcoming garage sale. I’m like a kid in a candy store in office supply stores. I love shiny new pens and notebooks and post-its and every kind of filing object you can think of.

The only saving grace was that I had an appointment 45 minutes from when I stopped in so I really had to keep focused on why I was there and avoid the intoxicating, eye-glazing displays that sought to lure me in with the organizational solutions.

But I did take the time to survey the new line of organizational products by Peter Walsh (the organizer from TLC’s Clean Sweep) – [ IN ] PLACE. I’ll tell you this – the man is talented. He’s taken the basic office supply and upgraded a notch with small, but effective design features that make them more practical. For example – sheet protectors for my notebooks that don’t stick out past standard tabs – perfect for stashing magazine clippings and notes until I can get home to file them away. And surprisingly enough, all of these great products were no more expensive than the old versions.