Friday, July 29, 2011

Groupons, Living Social, and Other Online Deals

I have purchased many of these deals. Half off of one of my favorite restaurants? Yes, please. Half off a horse back riding trail? I'll take it. I've yet to waste my money by not using one. However, I can see how easy it would be to do.

So, my Groupon-Living-Social-Etc-Etc-Etc tip:

Write the deal and expiration date in your planner as soon as you buy it. That way you can see when it's about to expire so you don't end up throwing away a good deal.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Renovation Organization!

Renovation. Just the word sends shivers down my spine and hives start to break out all over. And all I've ever done to renovate a house is to get granite kitchen counters and had our kitchen cabinets painted. The process left me crazy tired. And all I had to think about was what granite to buy and what color to paint. That just about did me in. Not sure what I'd do if I had to actually pack up everything, store everything, figure out how to feed my family without a kitchen, and plan everything. Enter my dear friend... is one of my favorite bloggers and she just recently went through a renovation. So, I asked her to write a post on how to organize the process. Even if you are not planning to renovate your home anytime soon (or ever), read this post...not only is she a great writer, but very wise. The tips she gives are good ones for life, not just renovations!


Tips for Pre-Renovation Organizing

A few months ago, I shared five tips on how to survive a home renovation project []. In tip #2, I suggested getting organized before you start.

Sounds simple enough, right? Except that I didn’t actually do that. And I paid for it – both during and after our major renovation project.

Now that all the work is done (check out our kitchen before-and-after, we’re still putting the house back together. Sadly, although our construction crews did a beautiful job, they didn’t stick around to unpack boxes, hang pictures, arrange furniture or shop for new rugs. But even in its slightly unfinished state, our “new” home is still beautiful – and totally worth the pain.

So how can you make your renovation project a little less painful? Here are ten tips to help you get organized…

1.       Move out. Yeah, okay, that wasn’t an option for us either. But it would have been awesome. Especially if we could have moved into someone else’s beach house for four months and then come back home for the magical, made-for-TV reveal.
2.       Purge. Take a serious look at your stuff – clothes, kids’ toys, knick knacks, junk, furniture, everything. Give away, donate, sell or trash anything you don’t need or use. Take this project as an opportunity for a fresh start.
3.       Store. Anything you didn’t get rid of but that you don’t absolutely need during your project, pack it up and store it out of the way. Once the work starts, there will be dust EVERYWHERE – and by that, I mean you will find thick layers of drywall dust behind a closed door in the farthest room from your project. So packing things away will make your space easier to live/work in and also keep your stuff safe. That might mean getting one of those lovely portable storage pods for your driveway – we decorated ours for Christmas:

Or, if you’ve got the space, just load boxes into your attic or garage. Either way, get them out of the parts of the house where you’ll be living or where crews will be working. Be sure to label boxes clearly so that you can find things if/when you need them.
4.       Purge again. Now that you’ve got some things out of the way, check to see if you’ve got more items for Goodwill. Trust me when I tell you that you’ll thank me when it comes time to put things back after the project is over. Otherwise, your house may look like this mid-project:

5.       Plan. Be very clear about what work is within the scope of your project – and, more importantly, what isn’t. The urge to add “just one more thing” once you get going is painfully strong. But adding a few “one more things” can double your budget in a heartbeat. Write your list down, share it with your contractor and consult it regularly.
6.       Visualize. Use a computer-based or web-based program (like Evernote or Pinterest) to collect online images and digital photos of ideas you like. The more you can show your contractor, designer or architect exactly what you want, the more likely you are to get it. Keeping those pictures stored in your computer instead of clipping pages from magazines eliminates at least one layer of clutter.
7.       Decide. Make as many decisions as you can before you start any actual remodeling. Pick out paint colors, counters, floors, lighting – any detail you can – and go ahead and order them if possible. That way you’ve got all your materials lined up and ready to go. Otherwise, you might end up slowing down a crew that’s ready to work, making your project take longer than necessary. Our new fridge, stove and dishwasher sat in the living room for weeks because we bought them on sale after Christmas, but couldn’t install them in the new kitchen until late February – annoying, yes, but they were there and ready, plus we got a better deal.
8.       File. Get a portable file of some sort – an accordion file or a plastic file box, anything you can carry with you. You’re going to need a place to keep all those receipts, plans, invoices, permits, etc. – and you don’t want to put it all inside a cabinet that’s going to get ripped out halfway through your project. Keep a specific folder for all contact information and business cards. I’d also recommend storing phone numbers for your key contractors or vendors in your phone in case you need to call them when your file folder isn’t handy.
9.       Tag. If you use an email service that lets you tag or label messages (like Gmail), create a “renovation” label for all related correspondence. Use it to tag any messages you send to or receive from contractors, vendors or other people related to your project. That way when someone says, “I never told you we could be there on Friday,” you can say, “well, actually you did.”
10.   Eat out. If your renovation involves your kitchen and/or dining room in any way, give yourself permission to eat out. A lot. Help keep this strategy within your budget by collecting coupons and buying online deals (like Groupon or Living Social) ahead of time for restaurants you like. See this post [] for more tips on eating without a kitchen. Even if you’re not tearing out your kitchen, keep this tip in mind. You know, just in case the floor installers move your fridge behind the couch and then pack more furniture in front of the couch so that you can’t open the fridge when you get home one night:

Now take a deep breath. And take lots of “before” photos so you can show off all your hard work when it’s done. Happy remodeling!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Tension Rod

Is disorganization causing you tension? Try the tension rod. It's not just for hanging shower curtains anymore. Here are some cool ways to use it to get organized:
1. Cleaners for under the sink. Check out this idea on Apartment Therapy.

 2. Baking sheets, trays, or cutting boards. This idea is from

3. Pictures. This is from and is adorable

4. Organize ribbon. This cool idea comes from

Monday, July 11, 2011

READER REQUEST: Paper Management Systems


This post is dedicated to one of my readers who requested a post on organizing all the paper that comes in her house. If you have a request for a specific organizing solution or have a question, please let me know and I may blog about it!

There are many solutions to the paper over-load problem. The first step is to figure out what papers are the clutter culprit. To do this, go around you house and focus on all the papers that are lingering where they shouldn't. Is it school work that's sent home? Mail? To do lists? Receipts? Magazine clippings? You get the picture. Figure out what the problem is, then you can find a solution that works for you.

Here are some posts that I've already written about some potential paper problems and possible solutions:

  • Instruction Manuals  This is for those who either find manuals where they are not supposed to be or can't find them when you need them.
  • Desk and File boxes  This post tackles papers that need to be filed somewhere (like a card that you want to keep, a recipe that needs to be put away, etc) or papers that need to have something done with them (like put a date in your planner, sign your child's homework, etc).
  • Recipes  This is a post on how to organize all those recipes that end up all over.
  • To Do Lists This post is about how to manage your to do lists well.
  • Receipts If you have receipts floating around your home, read this post!

OK, now down to business. Here are some tips to make sure all those papers that enter your home don't get in the way of enjoying your life:

  • Address it as soon as it comes in. Sort mail as soon as you bring it in the house. Throw away any papers that come in that you know you don't need. Use this rule especially for junk mail. I never even bring it in my home. I sort through the mail on the way from the mailbox to the house and stop by the recycling bin on the way in and toss the junk in there.
  • Create a system. Have a designated home for each kind of paper. Put all the mail in its spot. Keep any time sensitive mail (like bills or invitations) in its own place. Fight the urge to just drop it anywhere - you'll end up paying for it in time and energy in the future. 
  • Use file folders. Have a child in school? Keep a file folder of his or her papers that come home.  Stick those papers in as soon as you get them if you can. If you can't get to it right away, put them in a "to file" bin and do it as soon as possible. Keep a 3-ring binder close by to put any homework, writings, drawings, etc. that you want to keep as a memory.
  • Pay bills online. Not only does this keep the clutter out of your house, it saves trees and energy.
  • Separate your papers.  Try to keep like items together. Keep all the bills together. Keep all the items that have to do with your planner or calendar together. Make sure your school paper pile just has school papers in it. You get the idea.
  • Cork boards are fabulous! I keep a cork board right beside my desk. It's for papers that don't really have a the fandango gift certificate I have and the paint color of my kid's room. 

Still have a question? Email me or comment below your problem area and I will try to find a great solution for you!