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June 24, 2010

summer sanity saver

So I've had my head in the sand for the past week working on a big project deadline. I'm coming up briefly...for air and to share this summer sanity saver—my kid's daily to-do list. This handy dandy form has helped give our days some much needed structure (and sanity!) Feel free to use it (if you have a dog and kids that play guitar) or use it as a spring-board to create a checklist of your own.

In addition to the to-dos listed, each day I assign a daily task such as vacuuming, emptying the trash and recycle bins, dusting, folding a load of laundry, watering the flowers, and so on. If the tasks are done by the time indicated, life is good. If not, the next day an extra task is added to their list.

We're in the middle of our second week with this new system, and we seem to be getting into a groove. This gives the kids something concrete to do each day—and lightens my housework load a bit. All of which means everyone is a notch happier (believe it or not) and there's more free time and family time in the evening when my work day is done. Ah yes, my love of checklists just keeps on growing. :)

What are you doing to keep your kids occupied this summer (and keep yourself sane?) I'd love to hear!

June 15, 2010


Around here we’re (kind of) getting into the groove of summer. We have two weeks under our belts, which is a good thing. Things are definitely getting easier. The newness and bumpiness (and grumpiness that comes with change) is wearing off…and we’re starting to see signs of getting into a summer groove.

So far this summer has consisted of:

2 baby showers
1 wedding shower
1 day at a flea market
countless garage sales
1 trip to the circus
2 basketball summer camps
1 golf clinic
4 baseball games
1 trip to the pool
1 bike ride
1 cooking class
(And…we’re only in our third week of summer.)
1 new summer checklist for the kids
5 new round, white buckets from Target, 1 put to use serving bagels at the wedding shower


0 trips to the farmer’s market
0 tomatoes from the garden

Tomato flowers-2

(Really looking forward to seeing some red juicy tomatoes on those vines. Soon I hope!) it just me, or is the transition to summer a bit rocky in your house, too? What do you do to ease the transition? I'd love to hear! Thanks for sharing...and here's to getting into the summer groove!

June 08, 2010

Paper Organizing Tip 7: Take action on your paper regularly.

Paper clutter-c A common cause of paper clutter is the lack of habits and routines for handling and staying on top of your paper. Paper requires action, so to keep paper clutter away you must act on your paper regularly. Begin by processing your paper every single day, or in other words, strive to completely empty your collection bin once every twenty-four hours. Do this by recycling the junk mail, filing papers you need to keep, and placing bills and other actionable paper into your action system. Remember, action creates change!

I hope you enjoyed this week of paper organizing tips, and even more, I hope you’ve taken action on at least one of the ideas. If you haven’t, and you’re not happy with the paper clutter situation in your home, why not join me in Organize Your Paper Clutter? This six lesson / seven week online workshop (which begins today) makes it simple to take action on your paper clutter! The tips and ideas presented on the blog this week merely scratched the surface when it comes to organizing your paper clutter. The workshop gives you a comprehensive plan to organize your paper and set up systems that will keep paper clutter at bay. But even more important, the workshop’s clear cut action steps and supportive online community means you won’t just learn how to organize your paper—you’ll do it, too!

If you aren’t sure if an online workshop is right for you, no worries! You can try Organize Your Paper Clutter for two lessons risk free. If you don’t feel the workshop is helping you, simplify 101 will give you your money back, no questions asked. (Click here to read our entire satisfaction policy.)

And one more thing, I know that many of you are heading out of town for vacation this summer, so you’re worried that you’ll miss out on some key content while you’re away. Here are two things to keep in mind. First, our alumni rate means you can repeat a workshop for half-off the second time around. Many people repeat workshops so they can continue taking action on the workshop concepts with the support and motivation of the online community. Second, lessons are released once a week and once a lesson is released you can access it (and act on it!) through the workshop close date. So, if you’re going out of town, no worries. Simply take action on the lesson concepts at your own pace. I'm happy to answer questions on the online message board about any lesson at any point of the workshop.

I’d love to spend the summer with you organizing paper clutter! What do you say—are you in?

June 07, 2010

Paper Organizing Tip #6: Create an Action File...

…and put it where the action is!


I’m a huge fan of the counter top action file, because in so many homes the kitchen is where the action is and consequently where the paper is! Do you pay your bills, fill out permission slips, handle the mail, or take care of any other type of paper work in the kitchen? If so, consider if a counter top action file could solve some of your paper clutter dilemmas.

June 06, 2010

Tip 5: Use Storage Solutions that Work for You.

Organizing is not a one-size-fits-all proposition—especially when it comes to paper. The most effective paper storage and organizing solutions are those that work for you and how you naturally do things. Here are a few examples from Smead.

If you’re a visual person, you may be inclined to keep your papers in stacks so they're out in the open where you can see them. If stacking works for you—by all means keep on stacking! But, if stacks make you feel uncomfortable, or if you don't like how they look, try a paper storage solution that allows you to keep your papers visible and vertical. The new Stadium FileTM from Smead could be the solution for you. It has a tiered design that allows you to keep twelve file folders in sight and in-reach…which just might mean an end to piles. You can find this product at Office Depot, Franklin Covey and


If you’re someone who likes to color code, Smead Viewables® labeling system makes labeling and color coding your files and hanging folders a breeze. I’m usually not a fan of color coding because it adds a level of complication to the filing process in that you have to keep an invetory of every colored file folder or label in your supply cabinet or drawer. But this patented product allows you to customize your filing with color and fonts with a single product, which makes color coding simple. The starter kit comes with label sheets, and the latest version of the software which remembers how many labels are left on your page so there’s no waste. (Okay, how cool is that?) Look for this product at Office Depot or Staples.


If you’re someone who loves to label, Smead Supertab® File Folders have nearly double the labeling area of standard folders. This means more space for larger, more descriptive labels, or big printing, which again is a great idea for visual people. These super-sized file folders come in wide variety of colors including go-with-everything manila. Supertab File Folders are also available at Office Depot and Staples. 


Thank you to Smead for sponsoring this content. (Please note that I was given product samples and a nominal gift card to do this post. That being said, I do not blog about anything I do not believe in and Smead did not edit my post or direct my content in any way.) So, I hope you enjoyed finding out about these new products. I’d love to hear what you think about these products, and what works for you. What products are paper-clutter-life savers for you? Thanks for sharing! 

June 05, 2010

Paper Organizing Tip 4: Establish a spot for incoming paper.

Magazine-box-2 Paper clutter often begins when new paper comes into the home. If you don’t have a specified place for all your to-be-processed paper, the result is that it stacks up haphazardly on any flat surface or on top of yesterdays (or last week’s) stack. The first line of defense for paper clutter is to stop it where it begins: right when it comes in to your home. Do this by establishing a single collection spot for all of your incoming paper. You can use a traditional in-box, a plastic tray designed for serving food, a magazine box or even a wicker basket. Select a container that works well in the space where your paper typically lands today. If you handle your paper in a different location from this landing spot, choose a portable container for collection.

What works for you? Do you have a designated spot for incoming paper? What type of container do you use and where is it located? I'd love to hear!

June 04, 2010

Paper Organizing Tip 3: Go through your kid’s school papers now.

Summer is a terrific time to clear out any lingering paper clutter left over from the past school year. Consider tackling this project with your kids in fifteen minutes spurts so it doesn’t become too overwhelming for anyone. Sift through papers like art projects, completed assignments, teacher newsletters, and any end of the year notices and forms. Decide which pieces to keep as mementos of the past school year and which papers need your attention over the summer. Then, recycle the rest, and enjoy the summer knowing there’s nothing lingering in the backpack that needs your attention.

Kids-artwork-bindersFor completed school work it can be tricky to decide what to keep. My process is to first decide how much storage space to devote to one school year’s worth of artwork. Do this by deciding where you will store the papers—in a file folder in a file cabinet? In a box or portfolio made especially for artwork? Or in a three-ring binder on a shelf? I find it’s helpful to start with the overall storage location such as the file cabinet or shelf, and then select a storage solution that fits that space and the items you’ll be keeping. Our past year’s school papers live in three ring binders on a shelf in a closet. We also have a single box per child to corral over-sized artwork from multiple school years.

Next, decide which pieces make the cut. Pull out any papers that need your action over the summer such as registration forms or the school supply list, and put these in your paper action system. Then, decide which mementos to keep. I use the “ahhh…” test, and keep things that really tug at my heartstrings. It’s the original artwork or the creative writing stories that are most special to me. Spelling tests and math worksheets just don’t have the same tug, but we might keep one or two of those, just so we can see how things change from year to year. By including my child in the process, I also make sure we keep items that are meaningful to her. Once we make our selections, we pull out a three-hole punch and some sheet protectors and load up the binder. Then, we sit back, relax and wait for the whole process to start again this fall.

For more information on putting together an artwork / school papers binder, check out this blog post.

I’d love to know your litmus test for items your kids create such as artwork, school assignments and the like. How do you decide what stays and what goes? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Thanks for sharing! 

June 03, 2010

Paper Organizing Tip 2: Create a Seasonal Recipe Binder

This tip comes to you courtesy of my weekly quick tip newsletter. Sign up here if you'd like tips like these delivered to your email in box each week. 

Creating a seasonal recipe binder is a project that’s on my own personal to-do list right now. My main recipe binder is a life-saver, but when the seasons change, so do my eating habits. For me, the summer months mean more grilling, more main dish salads, and the desire to experiment with new recipes and farm-fresh ingredients.

Here’s my plan to simplify my summer meal prep (and yours, I hope!) by creating a seasonal recipe binder. 

Recipe-binder-1 Collect necessary supplies. A three-ring binder, some empty sheet protectors, a binder pocket folder, and some post-it notes are all you need to get started.

Collect new recipes. Use your binder pocket folder for recipes you want to try. When you get new magazines tear out the recipes that sound yummy. If you find an interesting recipe on a website, print it out and place it in your recipe binder pocket.

Make a list of tried-and-true seasonal favorites. Include ideas for simple dinners, lunches, snacks and potluck dishes you enjoy serving this time of year. Add to your list throughout the season as you recall and make your seasonal favorites.

Plan weekly meals. Once a week, pull out your seasonal recipe binder and pick a few recipes to try. Mix in a few tried-and-true favorites, and add the ingredients to your shopping list.

Transfer “keepers” to sheet protectors. As you try new recipes throughout the season, transfer the keepers—those recipes you and your family enjoyed and want to have again—to the sheet protectors in your binder. When the season is over, remove any “to-try” recipe from your pocket pages so you can start fresh again next year.

Do you change your menu seasonally, too? If so, what are your favorite things to cook this time of year?

June 02, 2010

A Week of Paper Organizing Tips and Ideas

With the next session of Organize Your Paper Clutter just around the corner, I have paper organizing on my mind. So for the next seven days, I thought it would be fun to do a series of blog posts on paper organizing tips and ideas.

Now if summer is starting up where you live, you may not be thinking about your paper clutter too much. But summer is a terrific time to get some paper organizing projects completed. When it’s too hot for outdoor organizing projects or indoor organizing projects that require heavy lifting, making progress on your paper clutter is a cool alternative. Plus, if you have school aged kids, this is one time of year when the flow of paper slows down, giving you time to catch up on your paper backlog. So…let the paper organizing begin!

Paper Organizing Tip 1:  Tackle Your Action Paper First

If you’re faced with an overwhelming amount of paper clutter, you may find yourself stuck, wondering where to begin the process of digging out. I recommend starting with a high level sort. Separate your action paper from your reference and archive paper. How will you know your action paper when you see it? Well, your action paper has a to-do associated with it. Bills to pay, invitations that require your response, and registration forms that need to be completed, are all examples of action paper. This is the paper that is keeping you up at night…it’s the paper that leaves you wondering “Did I take care of that” or “Where is that bill? I really need to pay it.” This is also the paper that can have the greatest consequences when you don’t have an effective system for dealing with it. If you don’t pay the bills because you can’t find them, you could face late fees. If you don’t RSVP in time or enter the date of the party on your calendar, you may miss the party, or you may feel bad when the hostess follows up with you to see if you’ll attend. But, when you gain control over your action paper, and take care of the associated to-dos, you create tremendous peace of mind. So start with your action paper first…and then move on from there.

I'd love to hear what paper organizing projects are on your to-do list. And where do you start when you've gotten behind on your paper?


Tomorrow I’ll share a fun paper organizing idea for summer—creating a seasonal recipe binder. (Which is a project that's on my personal to-do list.) See you then!

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