Change – The Ultimate Organizing Test

A lot has been happening in my family’s life lately. We have already and continue to make some big changes.

  1. In the fall I left my corporate job. It was a necessary move but one we weren’t really prepared for – emotionally or financially.
  2. This month I began a new part-time job in an entirely different industry and career path. I’m very excited about it but there’s a lot to learn and I’m starting at the beginning.
  3. Two kids started their first season of competitive sports – and the time commitments are pretty intense. And these are not sports with a “season” really – they are the kind where you practice extensively year-round (gymnastics & cheer).
  4. We decided to relocate our family back across the country to be closer to family at the end of the school year. This means we have to sell our home, find new jobs, and find something new.

It’s a lot. I have to admit that I’ve struggled to hold everything together some days. But we are making it work. So over the next few months I’ll be sharing this journey with you – the good, the bad, and the very messy.

Life IS messy. It does not always stick to the plans we set out to follow. So I’m finding my routines and organizing strategies are that much more important… and that much harder to stick to. I hope you’ll follow along as I share with you the challenges and successes of organizing through major life changes.


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!


50 Things To Do in 5 Minutes

No, I’m not suggesting you complete 50 tasks in 5 minutes.  This isn’t some kind of scavenger hunt.  Rather it’s 50 separate suggestions of things you can accomplish in 5 minutes. 

We all love dramatic before and after photos. It’s amazing to see all we can accomplish with enough time and resources. But the reality is that most of our lives isn’t made up of a day or a half day spent on organizing projects. Our lives are made up of 5 minutes of availability squeezed in between work, changing diapers, getting out the door, folding laundry and watching Grey’s Anatomy. And that’s how we live organized… by taking advantage of those moments.

So the next time you have 5 minutes, step away from Facebook (where you know you’ll spend way more than 5 minutes getting sucked into it) and try to do one of these things to make your life a little simpler, your home a little more organized and your heart a little happier.

  1. Check Voicemail
  2. Schedule an annual doctor visit for yourself (& write it on the calendar)
  3. Delete 25 out-dated emails from your inbox
  4. File a small stack of papers
  5. Shred a few old bills
  6. Repair a loose button
  7. Throw out expired or old condiments from the fridge
  8. Clean out your purse (or at least one section of it!)
  9. Download pictures from your camera to your computer
  10. Purge a stack of magazines
  11. Clear out the ice cubes that have collected in the bottom of the freezer
  12. Toss expired coupons
  13. Go through one file of photos on your computer and delete the duplicates and bad ones
  14. Cleanse your garbage disposal by running it with a cut up lemon, baking soda and ice cubes
  15. Clear one clutter “hot spot”
  16. Refill the soap dispensers in all the bathrooms
  17. Update your voicemail message
  18. Plan your dinner menu for the week
  19. Choose 3 things from the closet that you’ll never wear again and put them in the donate box
  20. Update your Netflix queue
  21. Write a love note to your spouse or significant other
  22. Transfer the $5 you didn’t spend on coffee this morning from your checking account to your savings account
  23. Schedule e-cards for friends with birthdays this month
  24. Update your child’s baby book
  25. Throw out expired medications
  26. Clear out the containers of last week’s leftovers from the fridge
  27. Answer 1 important email that you keep putting off
  28. Uninstall 3 apps from your phone that you never use
  29. Add critical numbers to your cell phone contact list – poison control, local sheriff department, doctor, dentist and other key doctors
  30. Move your donation bag/box to the trunk of your car so you can drop it off on your next trip out
  31. Restock your diaper bag with wipes, diapers, diaper cream, a small snack & a bottle of water
  32. Check your coat closet for out of season items that need to be moved
  33. Research options for your next vacation
  34. Search for a new recipe to try with ingredients you already have on Epicurious or All Recipes
  35. Clean off your doorbell and exterior door knob to make the welcome warmer for visitors
  36. Put away 5 things that are not in their correct home
  37. Dust the television & electronic components
  38. Clean the kid fingerprints off your DVDs with Windex and a soft cloth
  39. Clear out the unmatched socks from your drawer
  40. Sweep out the side of the garage without a car in it
  41. Empty your shredder and the bottom tray on your 3-hole punch
  42. Empty the crumb tray on the toaster and wipe off the finger prints from the outside
  43. Remove 3 outdated documents from the front of the fridge
  44. Delete 3 recurring timers from your DVR of shows that you never watch or that have been canceled
  45. Microwave a bowl of water with lemon juice for 3 minutes to loosen gunk then wipe down the microwave with a damp cloth
  46. Clear out the unnecessary receipts gathered in your George Costanza wallet
  47. Send a quick “thinking of you” email to 3 friends
  48. Unscrew the filters from your faucets and soak in a small bowl of white vinegar to clear the mineral deposits
  49. Update your to-do list.  Eliminate one thing you don’t really need to do and probably won’t do anyway
  50. Read a Delightfully Organized blog post!

What do you do with 5 minutes to spare?

Are You Prepared?

Today’s post is inspired by a reader and friend, Robin, who asked me a very good question: Do I have an emergency preparedness kit?

Sadly, the answer for me is NO!  I am woefully unprepared for any kind of natural disaster.  Of course, I have the luxury of living in an area that is not prone to most of the major disasters we see on the news – hurricanes, earthquakes and mudslides.  But we do get tornadoes here (though not usually in my town) and my family really should be prepared.

About 5 years ago I actually printed out a list of the things I would need for a kit but I never acted upon it.  It’s still sitting in our family BOB (Big Ol’ Book – a manual for our household) but has never been used.  It’s probably about time I thought about that.  Especially with kids, if we did need to hunker down in our basement for a tornado those kids would go crazy without a few creature comforts (and so would I!).

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) actually has a whole website devoted to helping Americans get prepared:   Here’s their list of suggested items for a kit:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Additional Items to Consider Adding to an Emergency Supply Kit:

  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
  • Cash or traveler’s checks and change
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. You can use the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) – PDF, 277Kb) developed by Operation Hope, FEMA and Citizen Corps to help you organize your information.
  • Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

It’s a great list actually!  And one we should all be working on assembling for our homes.  Of course another key piece is adding a tickler to your calendar to check the kit at least once a year (maybe when you change the clocks?) to rotate out food and other products that might expire or lose their effectiveness.
I’m adding this to my to-do list for this spring.  Once I have a kit assembled I’ll be back to share it with all of you.
Now it’s your turn?  Do you have a kit?  If so, let us know!  Share a link to your blog post about it or share a picture on Facebook!  We want to know how you are preparing!

So Much More Than Good Enough

This post is for the women out there who’ve ever felt “less than” because of something they’ve seen on a blog.

Have you ever read a blog post and thought, “Oh, that’s gorgeous. What a great idea! Too bad I don’t have time for that!”?  What, you just read one of those this morning?  I thought so.

If you’ve wandered around the blog world long enough you’ve seen all make and manner of wonderfully creative ideas.  Women are out there writing about food, home decor, crafting and every manner of amazing ideas you can think of (or couldn’t think of, as the case may be).

These are women who hit the thrift stores and estate sales.  They own cricuts and silhouettes.  They bake from scratch and grind their wheat into flour for home baked breads.  They are homeschooling their children while sewing awesome blankets to sell on etsy. They are, simply put, amazing.

You know what… I’m not one of those women. 
* I like to think I could be crafty but the closest I get to creative is picking out a wall color from a swatch.
* I have illusions delusions of grand sewing skills but the last time my sewing machine got use is when my awesome mom made my daughter’s Halloween costume.
* I want to scrapbook or digi-scrap or something with the word scrap in it, but the nearest I come is scrapping plans for a home cooked dinner when one of my little ones comes down with a nasty virus.
* I tried baking my own bread but the high altitude in Colorado wouldn’t let it turn out right (at least that’s what I tell myself) so if I want something “home baked” I buy frozen loaves.
* The last (and first) time I attempted to give something in my home a shabby-chic weathered look it just looked, well, shabby.

And you want to know the real secret… neither are any of those awesome bloggers we all admire. They each have their strengths and that’s what they write about. That may not be your strength. And that’s okay.

I still haven’t found one who is ALL of those things.  Bloggers write about what they know best.  Otherwise you wouldn’t read them!  And that’s the beauty of the blog world.  You can find the best of the best in all kinds of areas.

Please, please, please do not measure yourself against others.  Take the talents others have to share and fit them into your life as best you can, and as much as you want to.  You are amazing just the way you are.  You’re out there living a life – working (whether at home or in an office), taking care of family (kids, pets, parents & spouses), and trying to find your own patch of peace in this world.  Give yourself the grace to know that you are good enough – more so, even.

Be kind to yourself.  If your organizing projects don’t include cute handmade tags that color coordinate with the color of your towels, don’t worry.  If your organizing feels more like being glad your kids at least got the towels in the right closet on the right shelf then your doing just fine. 

Here at Delightfully Organized my goal is to give you practical examples of how everyone can enhance their life by making things just a bit more simple.  The goal of organizing isn’t to impress your friends, it’s to make your life easier.  Stick around and let me help you do just that.

Quick Tip Thursday – Just For Now

WARNING:  Beware!  Around your home and around your brain lurks a clutter foe so persistent in his schemes to keep you from having the home you want that he is nearly impossible to evade.  His name is Just For Now and he is cunning.

You may have met Just For Now when you brought in the mail yesterday.  He enticed you to drop that stack of catalogs and bills right there on the kitchen counter.  And he probably dropped by as you were helping your kids in from the car.  He encouraged you to put your car keys down on the coffee table while you helped get coats and hats and scarves removed.  And then he convinced you it would be okay to leave said winter gear on the arm chair by the coat closet.  After all, it’s “just for now.”

How can you combat this wily enemy? With your dear friend Do It Now. I’m talking about the ability to stop when you hear yourself thinking  “I’ll leave this window cleaner on the counter just for now while I check my email. I’ll put it away right after I send this text message.”
Instead think to yourself “You know, self, how about if I just return the cleaner to the cupboard right now.  It’ll take an extra 15 seconds and will be one less thing to pick up later.”

So when you hear yourself saying or thinking “just for now” in relation to where you put your things, realize that by combating just this one phrase you could potentially save yourself hours of work later on.

Think about it!

Time In A Bottle

As a culture we here in the US are a wee bit obsessed with time. We talk about it all the time a lot. See what I just did there? My first instinct was to use a “time phrase.”

What are some of the ways we talk about time:

  • I don’t have enough time.
  • That will take too much time
  • Time well spent
  • Time’s up!
  • All the time
  • Is it time to go home yet?
  • Take your time
  • Time flies
  • Most wonderful time of the year
  • Having a good time
  • Big-time
  • Time’s a-wastin’
  • It’s about time!
  • Next time
  • Been a long time coming
  • Pass the time

Even our favorite sporting events are centered around time. Football, hockey, basketball, and soccer all have a clock. And while it’s true that our National Pastime, Baseball, is a clock-less sport, interest in baseball has been eclipsed by football viewing, as evidenced by the record numbers of viewers for last week’s Super Bowl XLV.

Have we lost our ability to savor moments and events like a long baseball game? And what about the double-header. Anyone been to TWO major league baseball games in the same day lately? Not likely. Who has the time to give up an entire day to enjoy the sunshine, a cold beverage, a few hot dogs, and some time spent with friends or loved ones? That is unthinkable for most of us. There’s so much to do! 

And yet, we can’t make more time. We only get what there is. Yes, it does vary by a few minutes over the years (thus leading to leap years) but overall, we get 525,600 minutes each year to live our lives (if you’ve seen the musical Rent you already knew that 🙂 )

I had my first revelation about time in college. Like other student I was perpetually rushing around and cramming in too much studying/work/classes/partying into each day. But one night I sat reading near a group of students studying together and overheard a guy said that he needed “another hour in the day.”  It struck me then, like a bolt of lightening a whisper from God, that we don’t NEED more time in the day.  If we needed more time in the day He would have given us more. What we need to do is use the time we have been given in the best way possible. And be grateful for those 24 hours and the fact that more is not expected of us than what we can accomplish in them.

My second revelation about time came about 10 years ago. I was dating a guy and he had some friends visiting Chicago, where we both lived, from out of town. The plan was to spend the weekend with them site-seeing and dining and just having fun. That Saturday morning I didn’t put on my watch because I wasn’t the one leading the itinerary. And I wasn’t the driver. I just had to enjoy the days and go when everyone decided it was time to move on to the next activity. And you know what… it was LIBERATING! I didn’t worry about the time. If lunch took 2 hours it didn’t matter, because there was no where else to be but where we were and no one else to be with but those sitting next to us. 

That was in 2000. I never put my watch back on. Six years ago Mr. Brown gave me a beautiful watch as a birthday present. I love it, I really do. I tried to wear it. That lasted about a week. Sadly (because he put so much thought into picking it out) it sits in my jewelry drawer untouched with dead batteries. I don’t wear it for two reasons:
1. I have a clock available to me and nearly every minute of the day. There’s one on my computer, in my car, on my cell phone, in the office at work, on the walls at home, on my stove, on my microwave and next to my bed. I don’t need any more!.
2. As much as I use all those clocks, I don’t like the symbolism of actually wearing a time-piece on my person. For me, it feels a bit like an anchor. I feel compelled to check it and let it dictate my time. And I want to be able to savor moments instead of looking ahead to what’s next and making sure I’m on schedule.

All this is not to say that I don’t keep a calendar or a schedule. I certainly do. But when life permits, I thoroughly enjoy ignoring the clocks.

So, the next time you feel like there isn’t enough time to get organized, remember that organizing isn’t about time. It’s about life. Being able to enjoy each moment because you aren’t stressed over what you should be doing is the goal. And one great way to achieve that is to live in such a way that your stuff doesn’t consume your time – the people who matter to you do.

There are a lot of organizers out there who will promise to help you “get organized in a day/weekend/week/month/year.”  But in my opinion, organized isn’t something you “get” in a set amount of time – it’s a way to live from one moment to the next.

My Life In One Place

My newest favorite organizational tool is my Spring Pad account.  I’ve been using it for almost 2 months and I can’t get enough of it.  The reason it took me so long to let you all in on it is because I wanted to make sure I really loved it before I raved about it.  But I do.  I really, really love it.

What is Spring Pad, you ask?  Only a totally awesome web tool and mobile app that you can use to track every thing you need for all sorts of different projects.

Here’s a brief description from their company website:

Things I love About Spring Pad:

  • I can add items while at my computer and pull them up later on my phone.  This is amazing for shopping lists (make at home, use at the store).
  • I can add items from my phone and pull them up later at my computer.  This is perfect for when I see inspiration at the store and want to blog about it later.
  • There are only a few background choices – I don’t feel compelled to waste spend hours designing a cool background for something that no one will ever see but me.  The designs they offer are simple, modern and attractive.
  • I can type in the name of a product or book and it will find an exact match for me.
  • It gives me alerts when I have deadlines coming up.
  • I can keep all of the areas of my life in one place – my family, my job, my blog, my other organizations.
  • I don’t make notes in 10 different spots and lose the notes later. 
  • It’s free!

***Note – Suzanne has not been compensated in any way, monitarily or otherwise, for this review.  This is my personal opinion of a product that I personally use. 

What’s your organizing personality?

We all have an organizing personality.  It’s the way we approach an organizing project and the way we walk away from it.  Here’s my take on the different attitudes people have when taking on a project.  I bet you’ll see yourself in a few of them but you’ll know which is your strongest personality.

Not-Enough-Action Jackson
This person has big ideas and the house full of supplies to prove it. He starts a lot of projects. He gets an idea, rushes to the store to get supplies and can’t wait to get started. But the bags of supplies sit in the car unopened. Or if they make it into the house, the project gets started and he is super excited. But ¼ of the way into the project he realizes he forgot one item she really needed or he encounters a situation he didn’t plan on. He will then “take a break” to get the item or assess the issue. However, he never returns to actually complete the project. His house/craft room/garage is full of supplies for 101 projects that he will probably never finish.

Close-Only-Counts-In-Horseshoes-And-Hand-Grenades Renee
This person works diligently on a project until she sees actual progress. Once the pieces start to fall into place she gets so excited about how much better it is than when we started. And she stops. The job is 90% complete but she still needs to do those last few things to actually cross it off her to-do list. It may be that the accumulated trash or donation boxes sit in the project area waiting to be disposed of for weeks, or she get the entire closet organization system put into place except that one last rod that she needs to pull out the step ladder to put into place. Her projects look good. Her friends are (mostly) impressed. But there is always a remnant or two of “I still need to” hanging around making her feel guilty. She never gets to feel complete about the project and those remnants only create another clutter issue because she can’t put them away because her self-image says she’ll get to it “someday.”

Pie-In-The-Sky Kai
This person loves coming up with big ideas. He has a solution to every organizational project you can think of. But when the rubber meets the road his butt hits the couch. He doesn’t have project supplies sitting around but he may have a binder or basket full of ideas pulled out of magazines. And his web browser probably has 87 favorites in their “ideas” folder. He WANTS to be organized. He wants to want to do the work. But he doesn’t do it. It may be a lack of time or money or it may be fear that his reality in completing the project won’t match his expectations. This person is a close cousin of CLWEA-Malone.

Can’t-Leave-Well-Enough-Alone Malone
For this person, no job is ever complete. Not because there are last-minute things that didn’t get taken care of like the NEA-Jackson but because he, well, just can’t leave well enough alone. When you stop by his person’s house his first comment is to ask you to “excuse the mess” of their “unfinished projects” and you look around and scratch your head because everything looks great. For this person there is always one more tweak to make, one more cool accessory to add, one more way to make it “just right”. He can never enjoy the fruits of his labor for a moment or two.

If-I-Say-It-It’ll-Be-So Jo
This person thinks she is organized. She has a closet full of baskets and bins full of things. But looks can be deceiving and she couldn’t actually tell you what is in each basket. As a result she owns 47 pairs of her favorite pair of scissors because she can never find the ones she was looking for. When she gets something new she puts it in a place that “makes sense” but then forgets why that place made so much sense in the first place and can’t find it again when she needs to retrieve it.

I-Think-I-Can-I-KNOW-I-Can Diane
This person is the friend you want to emulate. She has a list (written or mental) of projects she would like to accomplish. Before tackling a project she assesses what is needed to finish it, how much it will cost, and about how long it will take. She tries to get everything she’ll need beforehand but she’s realistic. She knows there will be at least 1 trip to the hardware, home improvement or big-box store for each day that the project takes and she knows it will probably take her 50% longer than she originally anticipated. And she is okay with that. When she runs into an issue, she hops online to look for a solution, heads to the store to get the item she is missing or she calls in a spouse or a handyman to help with the task that is just a little too hard to do alone. When the job is “finished” she takes a small break to enjoy her handiwork and then gets back to work finishing up the little details – hauling out the trash, making a trip to the donation center, putting things back in place, returning her tools to the toolbox and returning unused supplies to the store for a refund. Then she sits back with a glass of her favorite wine/coffee/soft drink/water and enjoys the feeling of accomplishment before thinking about what’s next on her list.

So, which one are you?

Plan to Plan

For some of you, this may be organizing overkill.  And if that’s the case, feel free to skip on down to Friday’s post.  But for the rest of you, this could be a great way to get started thinking about what you want to accomplish for the year.

This may sound crazy but I want you to plan the things you need to plan for the year. 

Wait, plan to plan?  Yep.  That’s what I said!

Hear me out on this.  It shouldn’t take you more than 5-10 minutes.  It’s a really simple exercise but will get your brain moving.  This year you need to accomplish a few things and you want to accomplish a few things.  Well, I want you to accomplish both the needs and the wants.  And I want you to do it without stress.  For me, having a good checklist & plan for the things I am going to accomplish helps alleviate the stress.

So take the next few minutes and jot down a list of everything you need or want to accomplish this year that needs some additional planning.  It doesn’t need to be a fancy list but put it somewhere that you can refer to it easily.  Here’s my list:

  • Daughter’s birthday party
  • Middle son’s birthday party
  • Baby’s 1st birthday party
  • Gifts to buy (& budget!) for babies on the way (several of my friends are expecting this year)
  • Mini-baby shower for friend
  • Trip to niece’s graduation (along with gift)
  • Needed home improvements (items, possible vendors, prices, budgets)
  • Blog plan
  • Christmas gift ideas

That’s it.  Those are the major events I need to have some kind of game plan for in 2011.  To come up with my list I looked at my calendar and noticed which things I had marked down that would require more than just an hour or two in which to prepare.

Now I can take those 9 things and start a notebook for them in Springpad (my current favorite application for organizing my ideas).  Then when I get a brainstorm I have a place to put it so the information is together.  And when I have a chunk of time to sit an plan, the information I’ve already thought of is there waiting for me.