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July 30, 2008

organized car travels part 2: organizer bags

In keeping with the "organized car travels" theme from...well...quite a few days ago...I thought I'd share a few more ideas I used on my recent trip to Iowa. This was an unplanned, last-minute trip so it was necessary to take along some work to do in the car. But just so you don't think it was all work and no leisure during the car ride, I did tote along a healthy stash of magazines to go through.

As you may know (if you've been here for a while) there may be one thing I like more than buckets, and that, my friends, is magazines.

To say I like them, well that's an understatement. I love magazines. Always have. And if I was a betting woman, I'd say I always will.

Before I send them to magazine heaven (via my blue recycle bin) I always look through them one last time to tear out inspiring photos, ideas and articles. It's a little (OK a lot!) OCD, but I truly love to me it's worth the time investment.

Anyway...a (several hour) car ride to Iowa proved a great opportunity to go through some magazines and do some work, too. So...I put together a little get-stuff-done-in-the-car-kit using some Organizer Bags from Lara Gallagher (a.k.a. the lazy organizer). (Have you seen these? OK...more on those in a minute.)


In the one bag I had my magazines. What I typically do is decide which magazines are ready to go to the blue recycle bin, and then, go through a bunch of them all at once when I have a decent sized block of time. A car ride to Iowa was the prefect opportunity. I have a little system. I go through the magazine, tear out the stuff I like and then, fold down a large corner of the front cover of the magazine. This folded corner let's me know which ones I've been through already, and which ones still need to be gone through.

The organizer bag made it easy to keep all this stuff corralled magazines to go through, those I had been through, and the clippings to organize once I got back home.

In the other bag I had an office-in-a-bag:  pens, Post-it flags, a notebook and some paper-clips. I used the tools for an editing project I was working on in the car. The bags made it super-simple to find the tools I needed and keep them neat and tidy instead of floating around randomly at the bottom of my bag.

So let me tell you a bit more about these bags. They're made of high quality materials, have a sturdy handle and a clear front—so you can see what's inside. I have to tell you, the uses for these guys, both in the car and at home, is unending. They'd be great for corralling together kid's toys, coloring supplies, and books...and like one commenter posted in my earlier post on organized car travels, you could rotate a series of these bags loaded with kid-friendly goodies, throughout the trip to keep the kiddos occupied.

They could also be used for keeping together driving directions, maps, brochures and other travel related items...both before the trip and those items you collect as memorabilia along the way.

Also, earlier this week we spent the day at a local water park. (Yahoo! One of my highlights of summer.) Anyway, the medium sized bag was perfect for toting sunscreen, lip balm, and other stuff like that. I loved keeping these items in a separate bag within my larger bag, but not tossed and lost at the bottom below all the beach towels. And with that nice, see-through front, I could find just the right sun protection in a snap. (Now, if only I could figure out how to make sure I apply said sunscreen consistently over all areas of the body.)

I could go on...but Lara has a bunch of great ideas for using these bags on her blog, too. Check those out here.

Have you tried these bags? If so, do share. How do you use your organizer bags?

By the way, Freebie Friday will be back this don't be a stranger!

July 23, 2008

where did I get my market basket?

A couple of you asked where I got my blue market basket (shown in this post.) So here is the answer. :)

I found mine at T.J. Maxx (yes, on discount, lucky me) a couple of years ago. Around that time they also had these same totes at Linens 'N Things.

The Container Store has it in black and also in floral. And, as someone else mentioned in the comments, I have seen something similar at Target recently, too...but it has been a few weeks. (So please call ahead if it's a long journey to Target for you. The ones I saw were in the closet / college area of Target.)

Hope this helps!

July 22, 2008

make the most of summer...

...and get organized for fall. This is the topic of my July newsletter (which I'll be sending out later today!) It's hard to believe it, but where I live, there are just four weeks left until it's back to school! In my article this month I talk about ideas to make the most out of summer, and get started now for fall.

We've been having loads of fun this summer...catching fireflies, going for walks in the evening, riding our bikes, growing a garden, and just enjoying all that is good about summer. But I still have a few things I want to be sure to do before summer officially fades away:

  • Go to a local farmer’s market. We have a great farmer's market in my that baseball season is over and my Saturday's are freer, this is going to the top of the list.
  • Get up early and enjoy the cool(er) summer mornings going for a walk or a run. I love getting up at the crack of dawn and heading outdoors. It's getting to be the time of the summer when morning (or evening) are the few bearable hours heat-wise.
  • Make S’mores. Yum. Even though we don't have a camping trip planned...maybe S'mores over the grill. That sounds fun. :)
  • Go to the water-park. It's become a summer tradition...and it's still on the to-do list! I've got that one scheduled for next week. Keep your finger's crossed for good weather. now that we've got the fun captured, let's get organized for fall. Here are just a few of the ideas I shared in the newsletter, along with more info on making them happen:

  • Create a homework station. Keep a stash of extra school and craft supplies at home so your child will have everything he needs at the ready come homework time. With all the back-to-school sales, now is a great time to stock up. This past blog post shares ideas for setting up a craft / homework cabinet.
  • Set-up a lunch station. Carve out a spot in the kitchen for lunch-making supplies. This past blog post shows you how.
  • Update your command central binder. Clear out old info and create space for the new school paperwork headed your way. 
  • Set up a school paperwork binder. If there's one thing I don't miss about school, it's all those papers that come home in the backpack! (Are you with me on that one?) Get ready for the onslaught of paper by setting up a school artwork binder—a centralized place to corral together the keepsakes your kids bring home from school. You can find more info on that project here.

How about you? What are your plans for squeezing the best out of what's left of summer? Do you still have things on your summer fun to-do list? How about plans for getting ready for fall? Please share...I love hearing your thoughts and ideas!

get organized: new workshop teaches you how!


I'm happy to announce that organizing 101, my latest online workshop is now open for enrollment! (Woohoo!)    

I'm seriously excited about this workshop...because I think it's going to help so many people get past the obstacles that get in their way of getting organized.

This workshop teaches basic yet powerful organizing principles. By the end of the workshop you'll have the tools, ideas and a plan to organize your home. The ideas and concepts are bite-sized and loaded with simple action steps you can take to make the concepts stick and build your organizing plan.

Plus, the workshop includes the support, interaction and energy that comes from being a part of an online community. (This, by the way, in Quick & Simple Clutter Control was amazing! It's so fun to see people jump-in and make new friends, and then offer each other support, encouragement and great ideas. Seriously good stuff.)

Anyway...take a look and see if organizing 101 is what you need to turbo-charge your organizing journey! I hope to see you (and get to know you better) in class!

July 19, 2008

organized car travels

I love a good road trip...loading up the car, packing a picnic lunch, and heading out of town. As a child we used to pack our family of five into a huge green station-wagon (with a camper towed behind) and head out to see the country.

One of the many fond memories are the picnic lunches my Mom would pack. We'd always get Pringles when we traveled—a rare treat My Mom was quite industrious (and organized) in those days before plastic storage bins. She painted a beer-box avocado green (back in those days the beer-boxes were really sturdy and had lids that you could reopen over and over again.) Mom would corral all of our snacks, paper towels, plates and other goodies into the beer-box. With our green beer-box full of food and our green, metal Coleman cooler loaded with drinks, we were all set for a picnic on the road.

On our road trip earlier this summer...Jay and I carried on the family tradition, packing a picnic lunch to eat on the go. (I love to eat on the get to your destination faster, plus we put what we saved in food to an extra 2 gallons of gas! Woohoo!)

We had a small cooler with our lunches packed inside, and then, corralled some healthy snacks, and other essentials like tissue, TP (you just never know when you might need some of that), hand sanitizer, etc. inside the blue market tote. I put small items in a little metal bucket inside to keep them together and easy to find. (See those buckets do come in handy.) Using this open, handled container, it was easy to get to the food (and see what we had) while we were on the road. The best part was by packing all this healthy food...we didn't stop and eat junk food.


Now, here's the best part. I was packing our sandwiches for the road trip and decided to wrap the bottom half of the sandwich in parchment paper, to keep turkey, laden with mustard, from spilling on our laps. (Isn't that parchment paper trick very Martha? ;) )

These multi-compartment containers are great for road trips, too. They keep lunch neat and tidy...and they're really convenient for young kids. When my kids were young we'd use these for eating McDonald's on the road—fries in one compartment, burger or nuggets in the big compartment and ketchup (and mayo!) in the third. It works great.


Sadly, I don't know a source for these containers. They were made by Glad-Ware (got mine at Target, naturally) but it was years ago. If anyone knows of an alternative divided container, please share. (Thanks.)

So, how about you? What are your favorite tips for staying organized on the road? Do you like to pack food or eat out? And if you do pack your own food, what's your favorite car-friendly fare? Or if you'd you have any car traveling vacation memories you'd like to share? Did your family load up into a green station wagon and transport food in a recycled beer-box? Can't wait to hear your ideas (and stories!)

July 18, 2008

buckets (again)


but in a cute new size. The ones on the right are the newest buckets. (Aren't they cute?) They're about five inches in diameter and 3 1/2 inches tall.

I just saw them there yesterday...and of course I had to get some because: 1) how could I tell you about buckets without sharing a photo? And 2) I'll use them somewhere eventually...for a gift, on a client project, or for some other honorable purpose in my own home.

So there you go, the latest bucket report. :) (Just when you thought I couldn't possibly have another thing to say about buckets...Target goes and makes a new size.) Go figure.

July 12, 2008

scrunch rules!

On my list of things I never thought I'd be blogging about, revealing the inside of my refrigerator and now, blogging about the rules of the card game scrunch are right at the top. I have a feeling you'll hear the rules and say "I know this game. It's called                 !"

So here we go.

To play, you need at least two players. (The more players the better—it gets exponentially crazier and fun with each additional player.)

Each player needs his / her own standard deck of cards. Jokers aren't needed.

To set up the game, each player counts 13 cards and places them face up in a stack. This is known as the scrunch pile. Four additional cards are laid out next to the scrunch pile, face up. The start of the game looks like this:


In this photo, the 10 of clubs is my scrunch pile.

The game is played similar to double solitaire. In the middle of the table you play cards up, by suit, starting with the Ace and ending with the King. On the four cards next to your Scrunch pile you play down, alternating colors.


This photo above is very early in the game. You can see that I played the Ace of spades in the middle, and moved the 10 of clubs off my scrunch pile. I also played the 8 of diamonds on the nine of spades.

The object of the game is to be the first one to "scrunch" by playing all the cards in your scrunch pile, and play the most cards in the center. You do this by moving cards off of your scrunch pile and by flipping through your remaining cards by threes, playing the card on top.


To keep score, you count the number of cards each player gets out into the center. If you were not the player to scrunch, you double the number of cards in your scrunch pile and subtract this from the total number of cards you got out. When I play with my sister we keep a running total, but with the kids we count the winner as the person who scrunches. (This keeps it more interesting for the kids...because each game is a fresh start.) guess what Jay just found? He found that there is a game called "Pounce" that seems to be the same game that we call Scrunch. Have you heard of that one?  Here's a website that does a great job explaining the rules of the game...just in case I missed any fine details.

By the way, there are a couple of differences in how we play and how Pounce is described. The first was mentioned above...we subtract two times the number of cards remaining in the scrunch pile from the number of cards played. This makes it interesting...and can sometimes lead to some hefty negative scores. The other difference is when you get stuck (when all players can't make a move) we take a card from the top of our pile and move it to the mix things up a bit.


July 11, 2008

two new hobbies + two winners

So it's been a whole week since I've blogged. (Hello! What is up with that?) Well, I have taken up two new hobbies in the past week. My first new hobby was reading all your amazing comments from last Friday's post. Seriously, these were some of the most touching and heartfelt comments I've read. I always read all the comments on my blog, but many of these just stopped me in my tracks. I'm completely inspired by what you shared. Thank you.

So, now that we've brought to the surface the importance of capturing our memories on paper, let's go forth and scrap, shall we? I am ready to capture those most important memories. I have a new found enthusiasm for the original hobby: scrapbooking. And if you do too, please keep me posted. I'd love to hear what you create. OK? before we get to the big announcement, I have to tell you about my second new hobby. It's called Scrunch and it's a card game. (Have you played this?) My sister and I would play this all the time when we were kids. And to this day when we get together we play Scrunch. It's an all out battle. She kicks my, uh, you know what, most every single time. The competition is fun, fierce and often hysterical. So here's the best kids started playing this game this past week. I really don't even remember how it all came about. But now, we're having family Scrunch nights and it's just so fun—even though it has taken a big bite out of my blogging time. You'll forgive me, right? I mean, I'm carrying on a family tradition and you couldn't blame me for that. Of course not. I'm creating memories, and you're all for that. Whew. Thank you for understanding.

So now I'm getting myself ready for this fall's Scrunch competition when my sister comes to visit. Who knows, if we keep up this family Scrunching madness...maybe just maybe I'll kick *her* little you know what. Now that...that would make me happy. :)

...And so does this! Announcing winners. Woohoo!

(Drum roll please...)


The first number my little assistant pulled out of the basket was #97...and you know what that means? Cami Haveman you won the first copy of Photo Freedom. Woohoo!

And the second winner is...


...commenter #62 Sarah Galbraith. Yay, Sarah!

Congratulations to Cami and Sarah. Email with your mailing address...and your book is on it's way!

Have a great weekend everyone!

July 04, 2008

On this day of Freedom…

Let’s have a Freebie Friday. What’s up for grabs this go-around? A book that’s all about freedom…


That’s right, it’s Photo Freedom by Stacy Julian. Woohoo!

OK, so for your chance to win you may just have to do a bit of soul-searching. Here’s what I mean.

In the last two weeks, I’ve come to a new appreciation about scrapbooking and photos and their importance. Sure, scrapbooking is a fun, creative outlet. We get to play with glue, paper, scissors and photos, but there’s something magical that happens when you bring together a photo and a story. By scrapbooking we have the chance to document our lives, to share our love for the people we love, and leave this behind when it comes our time to leave this planet.

The importance of my own scrapbooking has been weighing heavy on me since the passing of Tim Russert, followed just days later by the passing of a dear friend’s father. Both of these deaths were untimely and shocking. Both of the men who passed-on were incredible people, who inspired many, many people.

At the visitation of my friend’s father, I was moved by the hundred’s of photos they had showing his full and happy life. As Jay said afterwards, “there was no shortage of photos of (my friend’s dad) smiling.” And there wasn’t. My friend is a scrapbooker and she always has a camera at the ready; my friend’s Dad was always smiling, laughing and loving life. His love of life was infectious; you couldn’t help but be happy and have fun when you were around him. And this was so evident in the photos displayed at his wake.

Now, I didn’t know Tim Russert. (I did pass him on a sidewalk in San Diego many years ago, but that hardly counts.) Nonetheless, I was sad when he passed away. He was a Dad, and a son, and a husband, not to mention the impact of his career on the lives of so many people. For some reason, his passing stopped me in my tracks. It made me step back and think about the fragility of life.

I found comfort knowing that he had left behind a legacy; he had written books. Like his book “Big Russ and Me” which shares a piece of his heart and soul on paper. I was comforted knowing that his son and wife would always know what was in Tim’s heart. It is right there in black and white.

And then it occurred to me:  we don’t have to be best selling authors to have this same opportunity. The opportunity to share our love for our loved ones and tell our stories is right there for us, right now, because we scrapbook.

I thought about my own scrapbooks and the gaps in my stories to tell. (And there are many.) I thought about how this aha-moment could help me shape the direction of my own scrapbooking.

My kid’s will remember that we went to the pumpkin farm every year; but will they know why they mean the world to me? This is the gap I need to fill in my scrapbooks.

Have you scrapbooked your most important stories? If so, what are they? Have you shared what’s in your heart and soul for those you will be sad to leave when your time (or theirs) comes?

I have for some. I made my Mom a scrapbook for Christmas last year sharing ten wonderful memories and what I love about her. I made my Dad a scrapbook for his 70th birthday. The scrapbook celebrated him, his life, and his children’s deep love for him. I made Jay a scrapbook for our tenth anniversary: 10 Years, 10 Memories, 10 Reasons I’d do it All Again.

But, my kid’s don’t have anything like this. And I haven’t told my own story.

These three projects are my new scrapbooking priorities.

So, the give-away for this Freebie Friday is very fitting. Stacy was the person who introduced me to the idea that I didn’t just have to document dates with photos. And I didn’t have to go in order. Without this breakthrough thought, I wonder if I would have made the connection that I could leave a legacy for my kids, in much the same way Tim Russert did, through my scrapbooks.

If you would like a chance to win Stacy’s book (that will show you how to organize your photos so that you, too, can scrapbook your most important memories, in whatever order you choose) here’s what to do:

  • Leave a comment sharing your most important stories---either already told or those that you still want (and need) to tell on your scrapbook pages. Have you told your most important stories? What are they? Where are the gaps in your scrapbooks?
  • Post your comment by Friday, July 11th at 8 PM Central time. (I’ll turn off the comments then.)
  • I will draw not one, but two lucky winners at random.

So you have a full week to think about your most important stories to tell on your scrapbook pages. And if you feel you’ve done this already, inspire the rest of us by sharing the important stories you’ve captured forever on the pages of your scrapbooks.

Oh, and happy Fourth to those you in the U.S. Stay safe and go create some memories!

July 02, 2008

organizing + storing sentimental items

I seriously love this story.

I received this photo along with an email from a newsletter subscriber. She read my article on clutter-free souvenir ideas and it made her think of the fishing lures and bobbers in her home. I loved it so much I just had to share:

When I read your newsletter I immediately thought of something my husband recently did to organize something special.  I have included a picture. 

When my father passed away last November, my mother had a hard time parting with some of his things.  My husband loves fishing and when she found some old lures and bobbers she asked my husband if he would want them or had any use for them.  My husband was quick to reply, "Yes!  I would love to have them".  I wasn't quite sure what my husband would do with them or if he would just toss them in his tackle box.

I was pretty excited when I came home to find this:


My husband had found a beautiful way to display my dad's old fishing memorabilia and a way to keep them protected from little ones.  Now, every time I walk by those jars I think of my dad and all the wonderful times we had when we went fishing on family vacations.

I love this story for a number of reasons (in fact, just reading it again gave me a whole new round of goosebumps.) So many people I encounter have their precious memories stuffed in cardboard boxes on a shelf in a storage area in their home. The man in this story found such a beautiful and meaningful way to bring the memory of someone important, his wife's father, out in the open and on display—and in such a simple, beautiful way. This display allows the husband and wife to remember wonderful memories on a daily basis—fishing on family vacations. This, to me, is what it's all about. Having what we love out and on display, filling our homes with wonderful feelings and memories of a special person or event.

Seriously good stuff.

So, I asked everyone to share their favorite, non-traditional souvenir ideas, and you didn't disappoint. What fabulous ideas you all had! Thank you. So, let's do some more sharing, shall we? I would love to hear how you store and display your most precious keepsakes and sentimental items. The thing is this...when we get these really special items out in the open we find we don't need to keep everything to hold onto our memories and honor the people we love. A few carefully selected and displayed items fill our homes with enough joy and connection to the past and our loved ones to sustain us. So then we find we just don't need as many cardboard boxes full of mementos in the basement. You know what I mean? So, if you have ideas for getting your precious memories out of a box and into the sun, I know a whole bunch of blogging friends would truly benefit from your ideas.

I can't wait to hear your ideas. :) 

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