simplify 101
Creative Organizing Blog

« April 2010 | Main | June 2010 »

May 28, 2010

Bring on the Summer!

Summer_gear-2 It’s the last day of school…and I can’t help but wonder where the school year went. It seems that as my kids get older the school years just keep going faster and faster. Is it just me? Or have you noticed this, too.

It was a great year which I’m sure added to the speedy passing of time. Both of my kids were at the same school, which somehow I found very comforting. And both of my kids had great teachers, which obviously I found very comforting. It was a good year indeed.

I’m a bit distracted today, with summer right around the corner. I keep wondering how the last day is going for them. I know my daughter is going to be really sad to say goodbye to her teacher. I hope she’s doing okay. My son is more than ready to go onto Middle School next year—so I’m pretty sure today is just a fun day for him. Nothing more; nothing less.

I guess it’s time to shift gears and get into summer mode. I have just over two hours until it is officially here! We don’t have anything big planned for the summer. I’m hoping that my parent’s will each come for a visit. But other than that and a few summer camps for the kids, the summer is mostly wide open.

I thought I’d use this post to make a little list of fun things I love about summer—just to help me get excited about shifting from school year mode to summer mode. So here it goes.

Dealing with less paper!
Okay, so one of the things I absolutely love about summer is that there is less paper to deal with every day. Hooray for that! Over the summer I like to go through the past year’s school papers and art projects and organize them into binders. I have a hard time tossing my kid's papers the minute they bring them home. It just doesn’t feel right to me:  “Nice job sweetie! Let’s run that beauty through the shredder.”

So instead I collect artwork throughout the school year in a bin, and then we go through it over the summer. This project is high on the list.

The circus.
I’m really looking forward to this year’s Circus Flora. This is a super fun summer tradition that we’ve been doing as a family since 2004. This year we’re going with my friend Elise and her family. Hooray!

The flea market.
This weekend I’m going to this Flea Market with my friend Stacey. Very excited to see what treasures I find.

Eating really fresh food.
Hands down fresh food is one of my favorite things about summer. We have a small garden on our side yard—tomatoes, peppers, herbs and some flowers. The garden and our local farmer’s market makes it so simple to enjoy fresh food all summer long. This, along with grilling and eating outdoors—okay, I’m getting quite excited that summer is almost here!

My nephew’s wedding.
I’m so happy for him. The wedding is in August but the bridal shower is next month. It seems like it’s been quite a while since we’ve had a family wedding, so it’s really exciting.

Fourth of July fireworks.
One out of four Garvey’s agree – fireworks are where it’s at! Yes, I’m in the minority on this one, but I really do love Fourth of July fireworks. And everyone else in my family enjoys them more than they think.

Days like today.
After a really rainy and hot May, today is just plain perfect—sunny, low humidity, and seventy nine delicious degrees. I hope we get many more days like this all summer long.

Riding bikes and going for walks.
Or any other excuse I can think of to be outside.

Sitting on the front porch listening to the rain.
Ahhh…I can’t wait for this one.

Fresh, homemade guacamole.

Reading in the hammock with iced tea close at hand.
Oh, doesn’t that just sound like summer?

Okay…I think I’m ready! How about you? Is it summer where you live? If so, what do you love about summer or what are you looking forward to? Of if it’s cold where you live right now, what do you miss about summer? I’d love to hear. 

May 24, 2010

Organizing Books

I mentioned earlier this month that I had five projects on my organizing to-do list, one of which was to go through our books so we could donate them to our school’s book drive. This project was unexpectedly rewarding for me. The original intent was to go through my kids' books so that they could create some space on their bookcases for new (old) books that we might find at the book sale. One child, the avid reader, had recently gone through her books, and didn’t have any more to contribute to the cause. She reads them and they’re organized, so I was okay with that.

The second child (who I would not classify as an avid reader) told me I could get rid of all of his books. I said, “Okay, go get them and put them in the book donation bag” (which was in the family room.) He thought I could do this for him; I insisted he do it himself.

And then—a funny thing happened. As he went through his books he discovered (get this) that he had some interesting books that he just might like to read. While this may sound like a step backward, since he wasn’t letting go of too many books for the sale, I was quite excited. He may pick up a book or two and do some reading this summer. (Woohoo!)

So then it was my turn. I had books in a few different places—my office, our family room, and our T.V. room in the basement. I decided to go through all of them and decide which ones to keep and which ones to donate to the sale. In the process, I reorganized my books a bit. Now all of the organizing books are in my office, along with business books and scrapbooking books (all the things I do in my office.) I have home decorating books, and gardening books upstairs in the family room, along with other reference books and some keepsake books—books I may or may not read again but have special meaning to me. This includes the book a former coworker gave me when I was on bed rest (for the boy who now isn’t my avid reader.) On the bookshelf in the basement are books I’d like to read—either for the first time or a second time.

One of the things that was rewarding to me about this project was discovering books in my collection that I haven’t yet read. Some were simply ahead of their time for me, like this one. I was so excited to reacquaint myself with these books, and I can't wait to do some reading!

The sale was Saturday and Sunday, and boy was it fun. There were over 45,000 books to choose from. The soft cover books were $1 and the hardcover books were $2. And then on Sunday, near the end of the sale, you could load up a grocery sack full of adult and kids books for $7. We went to the sale both days because the kids read so much on Saturday, I thought we needed more to get through the summer. But let’s just say—we’re now all set on books for a while!

Oh, how I loved this whole event. It was so thrilling to see so many books there, and know that those books that were just weeks ago sitting in someone’s home not being read. Now the clutter has left their home, and the books have moved on to other people’s homes where they will be read, used and loved. Really cool stuff.


When decluttering, a happy home always helps.
Wow, can you imagine that 45,000 books left peoples' homes this spring in my community alone? If it weren’t for the sale, I know we wouldn’t have gone through our books at this time, which means we wouldn’t have created the space for new books to come into our home. We also wouldn’t have had the chance to become reacquainted with old books that we can’t wait to read.

If you have some books sitting around, use this post as a springboard to go through them and let some go! Find a happy home in the form of a community sale like the one our community just had. Contact your local library to see if they are planning, or are aware of, any sales in your area. Even if the library isn’t aware of an upcoming sale, they might be interested in your books to add to their collection.

Another option is to participate in a book swap. You could either set up a swap with friends, or you check out the website This (currently free) membership site allows you to swap books with other members. When you are ready to share a book, you list it as available for swapping. When another club member requests your book, the system will send you an email asking you to mail it out. You then print a wrapper using two regular pieces of paper and you can add pre-printed postage directly from the site. Then you can mail the book from your home mailbox. You have to pay the postage for outgoing books, but when the other member gets your book, you get credit for sending it. Each item you send gets you credit good to order for yourself. Each book is 1 credit. When you use the credit you earned, the item you order comes to you free of shipping costs. So you get each book for just the cost of the postage you spent to send out a book of your own. Pretty cool.

Organize your books so you can more easily enjoy them. Categorize your books based on how you think of them or based on why you would use them—as reference for a project versus reading just for fun. Then, store your books in a location that makes sense based on this use. For example, store scrapbook reference books in your craft room and store novels near your favorite reading chair.

Don’t be afraid to let some books go! When you let books go you create space for new books, and you send along your old books to a happier home—a place where they will be read and enjoyed by someone else. I can’t tell you how excited the people shopping at the book sale were to get their hands on new-to-them books. Keep the books you want to read or browse through again, and keep books with special meaning. But, send the others on to a happier home. You will be amazed at how energizing this is!

Remember the library. If books are hard for you to let go of—and your bookshelves are overcrowded—think twice before bringing new books into your home. Use the library instead.


Make it easy for young children to access their books. While were on the topic of books, I thought I’d throw in this final book organizing tip. If you have pre-readers in your home, store his or her books in baskets or bins with the covers facing outward. This will allow your child to easily see the part of the book she is most familiar with—the cover—by flipping through the container full of books. No more pile of books on the floor—gotta love that!

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you find it hard to let go of books—or exhilarating? What is your favorite place to donate books? Do you have any book storage or organizing tips to share? I can't wait to hear!

May 17, 2010

And the winners are...

Thank you to everyone who participated in Freebie Friday. I really enjoyed reading all of your comments. If you see your name below—it’s your luck day! Your name was randomly selected via the random number generator at Congrats to you! I will email you a personalized coupon code good for your free spot in Help—I Don’t Know Where to Begin. Class begins this Thursday, so get yourself signed up and get ready for the workshop!

If you don’t see your name below, registration is still open. It's just $7 to get in on the fun—plus the workshop includes a $5 off coupon on your next workshop enrollment. I hope you’ll consider joining this workshop so you can see how freeing it really is to just get started on your organizing journey. I hope to see you online.

Okay…here are the winners:

mb welch who said:
Maybe you can get me back on track (I hope so). I used to be much more organized when my kids were small, or at least I got lots more done than I do now. It's like I had to make use of what time I had, and now that I have more time...I don't know where to start!

jj24 who said: 
I've been following your blog since you were nominated for the Los Angelos organizing award several months ago. I 've put several of your suggestions to use already and they've really helped! I'd love the chance to take one of your workshops.

**jj24 please email me to claim your workshop code. I don't have your email address.**

tchrtiff who said: 
I haven't taken one of your classes yet and winning a seat in this class is just what I need. I love reading your blog posts with tips, strategies and encouragement on organizing so I'm sure I'd love your classes. If I win this class I'd use the $5 discount to purchase the class about paper I have cluttering our home. I'm so overwhelmed with all the mail (post and electronic) that I just avoid it and then it becomes even more overwhelming to deal with. Thanks for the opportunity. Have a great weekend!

Aloha who said: 
I would love to win one of your online workshops just to get a feel for how they work. I love your newsletter and the weekly tips you so generously share. Thanks for all of your hard work to help all of us do better at organizing our lives. Hope I win!!!!

Congratulations!! See you online in just a few days. Woohoo!

May 14, 2010

Online Organizing Workshop Giveaway

It’s my favorite kind of Friday—Freebie Friday! Woohoo! (It’s been a while, hasn’t it?)

S101WS0015-S4-2T Up for grabs this week is four spots in my online workshop Help! I Don’t Know Where to Begin. Whether the state of clutter in your home has you overwhelmed to the point of not knowing where to start, or you’re simply ready to turbo-charge your organizing efforts—this one week workshop is for you! “Help! I Don’t Know Where to Begin!” will show you how to begin the process of getting organized with a simple process plus ideas and support via our private workshop forum. 

I created this workshop because so often when people call me to inquire about my organizing services they say that they want to get organized but they’re so overwhelmed they don’t know where to begin. Getting started doesn’t have to be hard or overwhelming. This workshop shows you how to take that all-important first step on your organizing journey.

How to enter? Take a quick tour of our online workshop system. (This will take less than two minutes.) Then, come back here and share a comment about why you’d like one of the spots in this workshop. Or, if you’ve taken one of my workshops before, simply share in the comments your favorite thing about getting organized online with simplify 101’s organizing workshops. I’ll leave the comments open until this Sunday, May 16th at 8 PM Central Time. Winners will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

**Comments now closed. Thanks to all who entered!**

May 13, 2010

Week in the Life: A Glimpse at the Finished Project

At long last I’m sharing some photos and reflections on my Week in the Life Projects. I say projects (plural) because I never shared any pictures of the first time I did this project. So…no time like the present, right?

The first time around I used divided page protectors from Scrapworks. (I think these are no longer available for sale, but if someone knows otherwise please share in the comments.) This is the opening page which shows one photo of each of us, along with our ages and the dates of the project.

Wil-opening page


This time around I used divided page protectors and journaling cards from Becky Higgins Project Life. Here's how that one looks:




Here's how a full day looked the first time around. Left side...




and right side. I can't believe I got by with just 12 pockets per day...this was all the space I gave myself for journaling, photos and memorabilia. So, on some days (like Wednesday, for example) there wasn't much journaling or memorabilia. But perhaps the photos say it all --- we went to school, we worked, we ate, we did laundry and we cleaned. :)




Here's how a day looked this time around. Left side...



Right side...




Page two...left side...



and the right side.




Right side underneath the page protector...



Observations + Reflections


First and foremost, I have to say I just love this project. It really reignited my love of scrapbooking, and especially my love of creating finite scrapbook projects.


The approach the first time around was much simpler because I had just one size photo to print and just 12 pockets to fill. But I did far less documenting, and had to really edit down my photos and journaling. This time around I thought I would do just one, two-page spread per day and have 16 pockets to fill. But after all the documenting that was done and after all the memorabilia that was captured, I realized I needed more space. So, I ended up with 32 pockets to fill each day. The number wasn't the hard part, it was the two different sizes that complicated things because not only did I have to choose photos, I had to decide what size to get for each photo, crop and size them, etc. 


This led to a bit of a chicken and the egg situation. Do I carve out spots for journaling first? Or do I figure out where photos will go and then work in the journaling? I opted to start with journaling, so the first step in the assembly process was to transfer the journaling onto the Project Life journaling cards.The first day took forever as I tried to do a quick scan of which photos I had chosen as my favorites...and then select journaling cards that best matched the colors in the photos. That idea quickly went by the wayside when I realized I would never (ever) finish the project using that approach—especially because I hadn't really selected the photos yet. So trying to match the photos and the journaling cards was just making things too complicated, so I just grabbed any card that looked nice to me, and transfered my journaling to the journaling cards. Then, I counted up how many photos I needed to fill the remaining pockets.


I ended up creating a "to print" folder for each day of the week. And I'm soooo glad I did. This helped me keep track of how many photos of each size I needed for each day, and was very handy when all the photos came back from the printer sorted in a completely random order. (Hello? Why did they do that?)


This project, like all scrapbooking projects for me, is an interesting tug of war between my real reason for scrapbooking and the desire to have it turn out as close to perfect as my scrapbooking abilities allow. Yes, it was an ongoing battle between the recovering perfectionist in myself and the loving Mom who just wants to do a scrapbookig project to document what things were like in a regular week in the year 2010.


I had to keep reminding myself that even though the photos aren't perfect, and even though my handwriting isn't perfect, and even though some of the photos aren't cut to exactly the right size (which looks a bit messy), and even though things don't coordinate perfectly—no one will care. (Not even me!) No one that encounters this project in real life (in my home) will be judging my scrapbooking or photography skills when they look at this project. All they will see is the memories. They'll read the journaling and they'll see how the people looked and how the cars looked and how our home looked and they'll say "Wow, that's so cool. Things were so different then." 


How do I know this? Becasue this is exactly what I do with the photos from my own childhood. There aren't many photos and I cherish every single one of them. I'm not worried if the photos are a little too dark, a little bit out of focus or a little too anything that I would notice and critique in my own photos. What I see in old photos are memories and little snippets of the way life used to be. Someday, that's what my Week in the Life photos will be to me and my kids. It's the memories—that's all that matters. 

May 06, 2010

Now Is a Great Time to Get Organized!

Organizing is an ongoing process—I like to think of it as a journey. You organize a space, and arrive at “destination organization” and things work just great for a while. But then, life changes and it’s time to reorganize or begin the next phase of the organizing journey. Lucky for me, I enjoy this process. I think its fun to recreate a space, and change things up to reflect how our lives are changing. And I especially love to do this during the month of May. The outside world has created a fresh start—everything is so green, fresh and new. And it always makes me want to freshen things up on the inside, too. Plus, life is about to change in a big way. School is winding down which means the kids will be home for three months.

And so…with spring in the air, I have some organizing projects on my mind. Here’s what’s on my organizing to-do list:

Project #1:  Reorganize the art supply cabinet. In this photo from long ago, our art cabinet was organized to house art supplies for younger kids—things like crayons, Play Doh, tracing templates and things like that. It pretty much looks the same today, but the kids are growing up and the art projects they like to do are changing. Just last weekend my daughter wanted to get some soft pastels. So it’s time to reorganize the art cabinet, clear out the old supplies they won’t use any more and make space for new supplies and projects. I like the idea of having things well stocked for the summer, so they can exercise their creative muscles a bit over the summer. Perhaps we’ll create space for paint brushes and paints, along with something to protect the table from spills. Hmmm...this will be a good project to work on with Kailea.  


Project #2:  Reorganize the game cabinet. Again, thinking about the summer, I’d like to clear out the old games so it’s super easy for the kids to play with their favorite board games. Somehow, board games seem like a better way to spend a summer day than video games. So this simple little project will be high up on my to-do list, too. For this one, the plan is to enlist the help of both kids.


Project #3:  Declutter the kids’ bookshelves. Our school district is having a book drive and book sale later this month, so it’s a great excuse to clear out some old books, and create space for some new books to read over the summer. I think I’ll pare down some of my old books too…and perhaps create a bit of space for a few new books of my own to indulge in over the summer.


Project #4: Reorganize the pantry and the refrigerator. This one is also motivated by summer being just around the corner. I’d like to carve out some space in the pantry and the refrigerator for bins of healthy snacks and lunch making supplies so the kids can help themselves to something healthy this summer. If the healthy stuff is in plain sight, maybe (just maybe) they’ll opt for that over the less healthy options. We’ll see how that one works out.


Project #5: Re-organize the laundry room. This one is also motivated by summer. A few weeks ago I cleared out the winter gear and got out the sunscreen. But as soon as school ends, I’ll be putting away the backpacks and moving the cleaning supplies to the cubbies that used to contain them. This will make it super simple for the kids to help with cleaning this summer. (Boy…just writing about these projects has me getting more excited about summer. Remember, the first projects included fun activities for the kids, so it won’t be all work and no play for my kiddos.)

Cubby-top half

The great thing about these projects is that they’re all really quick and simple organizing projects that won’t take much time or money, and yet they’ll really help us ease into summer. And since they’re quick and simple, they’ll be easy enough to fit into our busy-because-school-is-ending schedule. I’m excited to get started—maybe tonight?

What's on your organizing to-do list? I'd love to hear!

By the way, did you know that the online workshop Organizing 101:  Learn How to Get Organized begins today? Which is really fun, because not only do I get to work on my own organizing projects, but I also get to help workshop participants with their projects, see their before and after photos, share ideas, and all of that fun stuff. This workshop teaches you the step-by-step process I use for tackling organizing projects like the ones above, as well as bigger organizing projects like an entire room. Workshop participants start by organizing a small area like a bookcase or their junk drawer, but then continue on with larger and more involved organizing projects. The workshop includes seven weeks of online access to me and a supportive community of fellow workshop participants so you’re sure to get the answers, ideas and support you need to make progress on your projects! Class begins today—so why not join in the fun? I hope to see you online! 

May 05, 2010

Yes—it really is a post about bagels

You may not yet know this about me, but I tend to get (overly) excited about simple little things. Especially simple little tips that make life just a notch easier. Case in point—the bagel tip I’m about to share. But first, a bit of background.

So, yesterday after a mega office organizing session with a client, I stopped by Trader Joe's on my way home. Stopping at Trader Joe's, in and of itself, is always a treat since there’s isn’t a Trader Joe's in my town. In fact, I have to drive forty-five minutes and all the way to another state to go to Trader Joe's. But, it’s always worth the trip.

Yesterday’s stop at Trader Joe’s was particularly worthwhile. It was a quick stop for just a few mission critical items—coffee filters, oregano, peanut butter filled pretzels and salmon. Plus, a few impulse purchases made their way into my cart like a bar of soap and bagels.

After picking up the essentials and non-essentials, I made my way to the checkout area, and started chatting with the checkout lady. I always enjoy this aspect of my Trader Joe's shopping experience because the checkout people are always so friendly and they make really interesting small talk about the items in my cart. “Oooh, this snack mix is to die for.” Or “Have you tried the Fire Roasted salsa? It’s really good.” I love the enthusiasm of the checkout people, as it kind of validates my long drive for groceries.

Yesterday’s check out chat included small talk about bagels. Now, if you aren’t familiar with Trader Joe’s bagels, they’re really yummy. And they contain no preservatives so the checkout lady was reminding me to refrigerate or freeze my bagels once I got home. But, she took it a step farther and suggested that I slice my bagels *before* freezing them, just like she does. And that’s the tip that seriously made my day. It’s so simple and yet I never thought of it before. Instead, my approach has been to freeze my bagels whole, and then microwave them before toasting them. Usually I microwave them a tad too long, making them either too hot to slice or a tad bit rubbery (or overly crunchy) after the toasting process. But no more—now I’m a slice-your-bagels-before-you-freeze-them kind of girl. And I’m really happy about it, too.  


Yep, that little tip had me grinning from ear to ear in much the same way I would have been grinning had the check out lady told me I won the free grocery giveaway. But nope, my grin was all caused by a little time-saving-bagel-toasting-made-easier tip. That really is all I need to make my day.

What’s your favorite life-made-easier tip? You know (after reading this) that I would love to hear it. And really, it doesn’t have to be earth shattering like the bagel tip, just some simple thing you do that makes life just a notch easier. Thanks for sharing!

May 03, 2010

What did you finish this weekend?

Just a quick check in post for my Finish It Friday friends. How was your weekend? How did you do with your to-do list?

I'm happy to report that I (nearly) finished my Week In the Life project. Saturday morning into early afternoon was spent making final photo decisions, cropping photos and placing the order. (Wow, that took a while!) I picked up my photos Saturday evening and assembled everything into the late evening hours. I have just a few finishing touches left to do (like pick up the *three* photos I forgot to include in my order - argh) and then I'll post a few photos later in the week.

I'm so happy I did this. And I'm really excited that the whole thing is nearly done just one week after documentation week. Setting the goal of getting it done in a set amount of time was really empowering for me. I didn't do it last time...and the project lingered for quite a long while. The deadline really helped me avoid some "perfectionism paralysis" at many points in the process. So, hooray, my Monday report comes in as an ecstatic (almost) done! Woohoo!

Can't wait to hear about your weekend and how you did with your to-do list!

Powered by Typepad