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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kitchen Organization

They say the kitchen is the heart of the home. If it’s true then I’m in desperate need of a quadruple bypass!

My husband’s reminder sticky notes cover the walls. The kids’ school work, phone lists, and permission slips are taking over the counters. Hopelessly mixed up with junk mail, there is no chance our bills will be paid on time. We’re drowning in paperwork to the point that take-out menus, coupons, and newsletters have replaced coasters in our house. If you could bring back the trees killed for all this paper we would have our very own forest.

In my previous home I had a much better handle on kitchen office organization. I had custom designed my small kitchen and what it lacked in square footage it made up for in organization; careful planning and well-placed cabinets. A small area near the phone was my command central.

Never has my REGROUP method been so needed. I previously had control of this area in my life, but major life changes have been at play, a new baby and a cross-country move could send even the most organized of people into utter chaos. It’s time to REGROUP, what worked in the past isn’t working now. I need a new system.

Here’s what I did.

1 Assigned my husband a notebook. Rather than having notes posted all over the kitchen he has one place for lists and notes. If I find a loose note when straightening up the kitchen I simply staple it inside his notebook. Pick something attractive that you won’t mind sitting out on the counter.

2 Downsized the cook book collection and created a recipe binder. All you need is a few paper pockets, dividers, a binder, and sheet protectors. Magazine pages and even recipe cards will fit easily into the sheet protectors. If you have a few cook books that you only use 1 or 2 recipes from then photocopy those recipes and put them in your recipe binder. If you want to really go crazy include a section for meal planning, a place for grocery lists and weekly menus.

3 Traded my letter trays and complicated menu binder for magazine files. They don’t take up a lot of space and they are easy to access. I use one for kids stuff, one for menus and local events, and one for office. The office magazine file has financial stuff like bank statements, bills and receipts. When my husband sits down to pay bills he empties out the file and puts everything where it goes in the office.

4 Created a binder to store phone lists, the school year calendar, frequent shopper cards, schedules, emergency contact information and even a list of repair persons, like the plumber.

5 Used drawer organizers to keep the “junk drawer” neat and tidy. It can be tempting to hide clutter in drawers. Using labeled drawer organizers to create dedicated spaces will make your family think twice about stuffing random junk in kitchen drawers. What do I keep in my kitchen office drawer? A stapler, tape, scissors, clips, rubber bands, sticky notes, permanent markers, pencils, a sharpener, pens, super glue, lip balm, hand crème, and an eye glass repair case. I also noticed that we had collected a lot of loose change in the drawer so I labeled a bin for that, no sense in fighting the inevitable.

6 Got a Whomi Family Wall Calendar for quick reference and attached a pencil to it. School holidays, kids’ appointments, business trips all go on the family calendar.

Monday, January 10, 2011

One For the Road

Depending on where you live, a significant percentage of you and/or your family’s life could be spent in the car. At times you may even ask yourself why you bought the big fancy house and the little sports car; it should have been the other way around.

Make the most of your travel time by taking some time to organize your car.

Jane’s List of Car Must-Haves:

1) First aid kit. I’m not suggesting you be prepared to perform a roadside appendectomy. A few bandages, antibiotic ointment, and aspirin (in a child-proof container) are sufficient for most people. The Mini-Emergency Kit is a good start. If you prefer to customize something to your lifestyle, create your own first aid kit by filling a Barcelona Bag with exactly what you need.

2) Flashlight. From late night reading or to find a dropped earring between the seats a flash light is important, even if you wouldn’t dream of changing a tire in the night.

3) Trash bin. Keep one in each door so there are no excuses for stray tissues and gum wrappers. Empty the bags each time you pump gas. My favorite type is flat and slides into the door cubby. I’ve only found them at car washes or gas station gift shops. You could also recycle gallon size resealable bags--just not one you previously used for frozen fish. A shop towel or some paper towels can also keep your auto neat and tidy.

4) Cash. I read somewhere that Jackie Kennedy always kept a dollar zipped in her purse for emergencies. A dollar won’t go far these days, so I recommend a $10, two $5, and five $1 bills in your glove box or center console. If you spend it be sure to put it back, and don’t ever let your children or husband see where you hide it.

5) Girl Stuff. Why is it that bad things come in multiples? It’s rare for me to have just one thing go wrong in a day. If I’m going to split my pants, pop a button, chip a nail or have an early visit from my monthly visitor, it’s all going to happen at once. The Working Girl Survival Kit contains 22 health and beauty essentials including stain remover, a mending kit, an emery board, and even feminine hygiene products, all in a compact aluminum case. You can also make your own kit by filling a Jane Marvel Pouch or document size Barcelona Bag.

6) Guy Stuff. It’s not that I can’t change a tire or jump start a dead battery, it’s that after working full-time and parenting a baby and two teenagers I’m tired. Just dialing roadside assistance from my mobile phone seems like a lot of work. Nonetheless I keep jumper cables and a tire iron, but only in case I find a cute nice stranger to assist me.

7) Snacks. Break the fast food habit by keeping a few travel friendly snacks in your car. A bag of nuts, an energy bar (pick a type that won’t melt), or some trail mix will keep you from chewing your arm off or worse-- eating junk food. If you have kids, a few juice boxes can also come in handy.

8) Office Supplies. I’m not suggesting you prepare the TPS report during your morning commute, but there are some occasions when you could use a few office supplies on the road. Kill time waiting for a meeting or appointment by getting some work out of the way. A quick thank-you note to a client. Pay some bills. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with some basic supplies like envelopes, a few stamps, two pens, a pencil, a sharpener, a highlighter, sticky notes, paper clips and a note card or two. In the electronic age it’s nice to send a handwritten note, and the only time I have for that is when I’m stuck in a doctor’s waiting room for several hours.

9) Trunk Organization. How do you keep all this stuff from rolling around your trunk with every stop? If you have a trunk, use a sturdy cardboard box to contain all your supplies. If you have a mini-van or SUV your mobile organization may be clearly visible to the rest of the world. Use a plastic lidded bin or a pop-up bin. I like the bins from Bungalow.

Image above: 1. Mini-emergency Survival Kit, $15; 2. Bone Paper Clips, $8; 3. The Seven Year Pen, $8; 4. Lilly Pulitzer 'Stuck On You' Sticky $12; 5. Capsule Highlighters $8; 6. Working Girl's Survival Kit $38. 7. Animal Note Cube $15; 8. Pencil Pusher Sharpener $6.50; 9. See Jane Work Basics Pencils $7

Friday, January 07, 2011

Out With It

Although it's hard to recognize your own flaws, it’s even harder to talk about them. I can’t tell you how many times I look at organizing obstacles in my own life and blame someone else. “That darn mail carrier just keeps bringing mail, what nerve?” The other night I teased my husband about the 10 books stacked on his night stand. “You know you can only read one at a time, maybe you should keep them on the book shelf until you’re actually going to read them.” The smile on my face quickly faded as my husband quipped “At least I have an excuse, you have a Kindle and there are still 5 books next to your side of the bed.” He was right (but don’t let him know I admitted it).

I’m not sure if I should be telling you all of this, but we bicker about clutter quite often. We recently moved and had to store our belongings for about 6 months. It was the perfect time to get rid of all that unwanted clutter, and by clutter I mean his collection of concert ticket stubs, old text books, an old motorcycle jacket, maps from his trip to Europe….the list was endless. Unfortunately, he didn’t see the process quite the same way. Before I could complete my list of items to discard he had sent my collection of jelly jars to the recycle bin. “Wait!” I cried. “Someday I’m going to have a party and fill those jars with votives for center pieces.” He smiled as he asked, “in a day from now you won’t even have a house and yet you want to store 3 boxes of old jelly jars for when you have a house and eventually a party?” He had a point.

It’s time to air my dirty laundry so the next 5 blog posts will be about my problem areas and how I tackle them. Not the being a good mom, exercising and eating healthy problem areas; that would take way too long, just the clutter problem areas. I’ll cover the night stand, kitchen counter or entry way, car, desktop and desk drawer. I can’t promise my ideas will work for you, but it won’t hurt to read them. Please let me know if there is anything I’ve missed.