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September 28, 2010

Organizing the Garden Tool Shed

This past weekend my husband and I started getting our yard ready for fall and winter. It was a gorgeous weekend—so I was in search of a project that I could do while spending time outside. Organizing the garden tool shed in our backyard was the perfect choice. It was a fun and rewarding project. Well, except for that moment when there was a really huge spider crawling on my arm. THAT was exciting (and embarrassing) but by no means fun.


But, enough about spiders. Want to see a photo?


Tool shed 

We purchased this tool shed a few years ago (from Target) at a time when it seemed like the kid’s outdoor toys were getting incredibly large and plentiful. It’s an interesting thing about added storage— it fills up quickly! You begin to wonder how you ever lived with out your new storage. Our shed is just like that. Now it is the home for gardening items like flower pots, a watering can, gardening tools and gloves, and the sprinkler, as well as other backyard items like the hammock, a fountain, citronella oil lamps and the fire pit. (It is apparently also the home to a spider or two.)

The first step was to empty out the shed and group like items together. I also went around the yard and emptied out most of the flower pots, keeping just one pot out for a potted mum. I’m at that point of the season where I’m just a bit over it all…and having just one pot to attend to is, well, plenty. I cleaned out the pots and washed the gardening tools, figuring I’d be really pleased with my self next spring when it was time to plant again and everything was already clean. And I also hosed down the shed itself. Next, it was time to fill it back up. For storage, I used some of the items that also needed to be stored, which meant all the storage was free.  



Two clay pots filled with sand hold gardening tools.


A third clay pot holds gardening gloves.


A tall clay pot holds outdoor candle holders, and…



...a galvanized bucket holds hummingbird food.


I nested empty pots to make the most of the available space…and grouped like items together to create zones. One of my primary goals was to use the vertical space as much as possible, and to make the fire pit and hammock easily accessible, since hopefully we’ll put these two items to use this fall.


 Tool shed


All in all, it was a fun little project, and even though I don’t use or see this space all too much—it feels good to have it done. Organizing is like that you know, every little step forward feels good and energizes you to do more. And getting the outdoor projects done, means I can turn my attention inside and finish up a few decorating projects before the holidays hit. Woohoo!


What’s on your fall to-do list? Will you be doing any outdoor organizing in your garden shed or garage? Do you have any decorating projects on your to-do list? I’d love to hear what you have planned for fall. Thanks for sharing!!

September 23, 2010

Three Fun Things

And better yet...three fun things on sale!


Fun thing #1:  Save 10% on Organize Your Closet—final day!
If you’re looking for simple ideas and a simple process to transform your closet from argh to ahhh then join me for Organize Your Closet. In this two lesson workshop you’ll learn all my tips and secrets for creating an organized closet that makes it simple and fun to get dressed—without spending a fortune on closet organizers. Class begins today!



To save 10% off this workshop, use coupon code ORGMYCLOSET during checkout. (Coupon good through today, September 23, 2010 and may not be combined with any other offer.)

Fun thing #2:  Save $10 on Project Life through September 30th
How fun is this? The original (current) edition of Becky Higgin’s Project Life is on sale for $10 off. (The regular price is $49.99 and now it's $39.99.) There has never been a sale on Project Life before now—so it’s very exciting that this simpler-than-ever scrapbooking system is being offered at a lower price. If you’re thinking about your holiday gift list (for yourself or someone else) this would be a terrific gift for anyone who needs help getting their pictures organized into a book without feeling overwhelmed by the process.



If you’re not familiar with Project Life, here’s the scoop. The idea behind Project Life is to get pictures and memories in the form of a scrapbook in the simplest way possible. No glue, no techniques, nothing to be afraid of or overwhelmed by. Everything is pre-designed and ready for you to place your photos and journaling blocks in the pockets. That's it. No more feeling guilty for not having your photos organized. And no more feeling overwhelmed by what "traditional" scrapbooking can often feel like. I seriously love this product because it simplifies something that can very easily become way too complicated. So, hop on over to Becky’s blog for the scoop on the sale and some exciting news about what’s next for Project Life.


Fun thing #3:  Save 10% of Lisa Leonard’s "through my lens" necklaces thru September 30th, 2010.
I don’t think I’ve ever shared with you my complete adoration of Lisa Leonard’s jewelry. My dad gave me this necklace last year for Christmas…and it ranks up there at the top of my “best gifts ever” list.



I love the way it feels around my neck. I love the noise the little pearl makes when it slides across the chain. I seriously adore my Lisa Leonard necklace. And I think everyone should have something that makes them this happy on a daily basis. So…if you’re a scrapbooker or a photographer…you will just love Lisa’s latest creation the through my lens necklace.


Use the code camera10 for 10% off the through my lens necklace or go here to see all of Lisa's lovlies.  (Necklace photos courtesy Lisa Leonard.)


Enjoy! :)

September 22, 2010

How to Organize a Garage or Yard Sale (Part 2)

This is part two of a two-part series on organizing a yard sale. This post includes tips to help you stay organized the day of your sale. You can read part one here.


Organize-yard-sale-supply-box Tip 6: Pack a supply bin.
My sale buddy is very organized, so it was funny when I showed up at the sale with a box of items that we might need during the sale, and she had one, too. Here’s our combined list of items that you might find handy to have on hand during your sale. Keep the following items in a storage bin, close to where you intend to collect money from your shoppers.

  • Duct tape
  • Clear packing tape
  • Scissors
  • Box cutter
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bug spray
  • Sun screen
  • Removable painters tape (for pricing labels)
  • Brightly colored copy paper (for signs)
  • Thick black Sharpie markers (for sign making)
  • Thin red Sharpie marker (for mark downs)
  • Price stickers (for last-minute pricing)
  • Paper towels or micro-fiber cloth
  • Multi-purpose cleaner
  • Scotch tape
  • Kleenex
  • Extra house key on a carabineer (so you can lock the house but have easy access when needed.)
  • Water bottle
  • Easy snacks like granola bars
  • Clipboard, paper and pen for recording sales
  • Bags
  • Paper for wrapping breakable items
  • Rubber bands

In the pockets of an apron or fanny pack:

  • Change – coins and bills. We started with $160 in change split between ones, fives, tens and quarters.
  • Cell phone
  • Lip balm
  • Sunglasses


Tip 7:  Be willing to negotiate.
I was very willing to negotiate on Day 2, because after all the work I had already put into the sale, the last thing I wanted to do was more work hauling items to Goodwill. My strategy when someone made me an offer lower than my asking price was “Will you meet me in the middle?” So if I had something priced for ten dollars and they offered five, I counter-offered with $7.50. It worked every single time. If you want to see some good negotiating in action, watch a few episodes of Pawn Stars before your sale. :)  


Tip 8: Plan simple meals for the days of the sale.
One thing I wish I had done was plan for some easy meals for the days leading up to the sale and on the actual sale days. Consider crock pot meals, made-ahead freezer meals, or plan to make something super simple like sandwiches. You won't feel like cooking after your sale—trust me. :)


Tip 9:  Prepare to be tired.
Oh my goodness, one thing I can say for sure is that yard sales are an emotional roller coaster ride. It starts with excitement about the prospect of clearing out and making money on things you no longer use. And then, for me, this turned into all sorts of crazy fears. What if no one comes? What if too many people come and we can’t keep up? Do we have enough stuff? Oh my gosh…we have so much stuff…how will we ever sell it all? And then, after all of that, you end up exhilarated every time something sells that you really (really) wanted to see go. The end result of this emotional roller coaster ride, for me, was exhaustion and a tremendous sense of accomplishment. It felt really good to see some of this stuff go and I really wanted to take a nap. :)


Tip 10:  Spend some of your money on something fun.
At the end of your sale, your home will look better, and your wallet will be a bit fatter. And while that’s really good stuff, consider sweetening the deal even more by planning to spend at least some of the proceeds from your sale on something fun. I'll keep you posted on what I end up doing with my fun money.


Last but not least, sit back, relax and enjoy your clutter-free home. You worked hard for it. 

September 21, 2010

How to Organize a Garage or Yard Sale…


This post has moved to our new organizing blog. Go there now to see How to Organize a Garage or Yard Sale.


September 20, 2010

Get Organized for the Holidays

What did you think when you read that blog post title?

a) Woohoo—I love the holidays. I can’t wait!
b) Are you kidding? It’s too early. Please—let’s not talk about this again until November!
c) Or, after groaning, did you think, Please don’t mention this again. Ever. I’m not a fan of the holidays. My strategy is to simply endure them.

Regardless of whether you love the holidays, or not so much, you may be wondering why I’m mentioning them now…in September. Here’s why: Today is also the last day to take advantage of early bird savings on Get Organized for the Holidays.


And whether you can’t wait for the holidays to begin, or can’t wait for them to end, this workshop is designed to help you create a meaningful and enjoyable season. This workshop isn’t just another item on your already too long seasonal to-do list. Instead, it is designed to make it simpler and more fun to do those things that you are already planning to-do. It’s a way to simplify the holiday season, and focus on the aspects that are most important to you. And if you’re not a fan of the holidays, it’s a way to help you get inspired and create a holiday season that really works for you.



If you’ve taken other simplify 101 workshops, keep in mind that Get Organized for the Holidays is a much lighter, slower paced workshop than my other online workshops. This workshop begins November 2nd, just when you’re ready to switch gears and begin thinking about the holidays. Best yet, this workshop stays open throughout November and December which means you will have ongoing support, ideas, and motivation to get your holiday to-dos done while staying energized and inspired all season long.


This workshop really isn’t another task on your to-do list, but instead, a way to manage and enjoy those things that are already on your holiday list. As one workshop participant said about last year’s class, I have never enjoyed the holiday season as much because I was organized and not stressed.


Sign up today to take advantage of our early bird savings. This represents the lowest price you’ll see this year. I'd love to spend the holidays with you.

September 15, 2010

Organize Your Paper Clutter – Try It for Free

Try-it-for-free We’re at it again! The try-a-lesson-for-free promotion is back. But this time we’re offering a free sample lesson of one of our most popular online workshops—Organize Your Paper Clutter. This is the last time the paper clutter workshop will run this year, and it’s the first time we’re offering a free lesson. This is news worth sharing! Please feel free to spread the word...on your blog, via Facebook, or on Twitter. The more the merrier! 


So…what is this workshop all about? Well, Organize Your Paper Clutter addresses all of the most common paper organizing dilemmas (like the ones you all listed in the comments of this post.) If you’re struggling to set up a good system for your receipts, coupons, medical papers, legal docs, notes, bills, or all of those pieces of paper that you can't throw away but don’t know where to file—this is the workshop for you.


If you’re overwhelmed by the daily in-flux of paper like mail, junk mail, your kids’ school papers, the newspaper, or you have too many magazine clippings of recipes, holiday themed craft or food ideas, decorating ideas, scrapbooking ideas, etc. this workshop will help.


If you’re having no fun trying to make your way through a mountain of paper backlog, the supportive online community at simplify 101 will help you stay motivated and get this job done!


If you're not sure how long to keep documents and which papers you need to shred—this workshop will help you sort through that as well.


If you need to see your paper to remember to do something with it and this leads to piles on your kitchen counter and / or home office—this workshop has ideas and solutions for you, too.


In a nutshell, this workshop will help you create homes for all your paper, so you don’t have to let it pile up (and stress you out!) anymore. And best yet, you’ll put together systems that work for you, your home, and how you naturally do things.


Files with computer labels 
So if you’re thinking…sounds good, but would an online workshop really work for me? This is your chance to see for yourself first-hand! For one week, you’ll get the ultimate taste test of Organize Your Paper Clutter absolutely risk-free and free of charge. Click here to learn more about this special offer. But hurry—this offer expires Monday, September 20, 2010 at 9:00PM US CST. I hope to see you online soon!

Attention St. Louis Area Readers: Big Sale on Storage & Organizing Products!

If you’re in the St. Louis area, this post is for you. (If you’re not, check back later…and I’ll have a post for you.)


So, here’s the deal:  at simplify 101 we are simplifying! In order to focus on our online workshops and professional organizing services, we have decided to get out of the products business. So, we’re clearing out our inventory—and I'm having a sale! It's a combination yard sale / inventory close out sale, and I'm selling off all sorts of storage and organizational products. This includes a whole slew of storage items for scrapbooking. I’m also selling off product samples, some things I’ve made for workshops, gently used storage items from my own personal stash, and a few remaining Russell and Hazel items.


Here’s a partial listing of what’s up for grabs:


Closet organizing products

  • Canvas 6 shelf sweater organizer. (These are great for stretching space in your closet on a budget!) 
  • Canvas - Drawer for 6/shelf sweater organizer. 
  • Kids organizers – under bed storage bags and pocket organizer.
  • Commercial Triple Laundry Sorter with Wheels in natural canvas color, to which you can add fun labels like these:


I use one of these and love it! But I don’t need as many as we have in stock. ;)


NEW scrapbooking storage and organizing products including products from Making Memories and Mimi like...

  • 12” x 12” Page Protectors 
  • 12” x 12” file folders 
  • 12" x 12" paper organizers 
  • scrapbook totes 
  • 12” x 12” hanging file folders 
  • Memory Book - 12 x 12 Embellishment Style for 3-D Pages 
  • 8-1/2 x 11 Sheet Protectors 8 1/2" x 11" 
  • 4" x 6" Photo Organizer 
  • Memory Book Organizer Pages – Assorted 
  • Aimee J. Baby Day’s scrapbook pages, scrapbooks, and embellishments
  • Tons of stuff from the Making Memories storage these...


Office supplies such as 8 1/2" x 11" Standard Weight Sheet Protectors (great for making recipe binders or your own command central binder.)


Many sample organizing products that are new or very gently used such as wooden organizing drawers, paper sorters, a new lazy Susan, storage totes on wheels (great for kids rooms), magnet boards, magnets, Real Simple Magazines, one unfinished in box that you can use to make one of these...


and MUCH MORE! Items are marked down 50% to 75% on Friday, and will go even lower on Saturday. Sale is Friday from 3 PM to 7 PM and Saturday from 8 AM to noon.


If you’re in the St. Louis area, email me for with questions or to get directions at aby at simplify101 dot com. Hope to see you this weekend! 

September 09, 2010

Ten Tips to Simplify Meal Planning

Is getting dinner on the table an unpleasant or even stress-filled event at your house? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, meal planning is one of the hottest topics in the private forum of the current session of It’s About Time.


So why is this? Well, whether you love to cook, or hate to cook, eating is one of life’s basic necessities. Figuring out how to get food into your stomach and the stomachs of your family simply has to get done—three times a day—so it makes sense to simplify it as much as possible. And that’s where meal planning comes in. Meal planning takes the guess work (and stress) out of getting meals on the table. 


Meal planning has many other benefits, too. For example, when you know what you’re going to cook for meals, you can shop intentionally. This saves time at the store and time racking your brain to see if there really is a way to turn the five ingredients left in your refrigerator into a tasty meal. Meal planning also helps you eat healthier and save money. You’ll find yourself making fewer last minute trips to the grocery store for that one missing ingredient you need for tonight’s dinner, and you’ll be less likely to order carry out or go through the drive through. And if all of this wasn’t enough…planning your meals in advance also allows you to waste less food which is good for your wallet, not to mention the planet. In short, meal planning can save you time, money and give you tremendous peace of mind.


Now if you don’t currently meal plan and you don’t much like the thought of giving too much structure to that part of your life, keep this in mind. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can decide how much planning will work for you, how rigid you want to be with your plans, and how much flexibility you want to fit in. If you currently wing it and its working great for you—keep on winging it. But, if your current plan (or lack there of) is causing you to waste time, waste money or create unnecessary stress, give some of the tips below a try. Think of these tips like they’re ala carte menu items—choose the ones that will help you build a meal planning system that works for you. 


Recipe-binder6 Tip 1: Make it simple

If it’s simple you’re much more likely to do it. So, make it super easy to plan your meals by corralling together your favorite, tried and true recipes into a recipe binder, or into a directory on your computer. Then, use a simple form that allows you to capture your meal plan and shopping list. 


Tip 2: Start small.
If you don’t currently meal plan, start by planning just a meal or two each week so you can see what works for you and what doesn’t. Then adjust accordingly. My current system involves planning six or seven dinners each week, with a weekly grocery shopping trip. I have tried planning and shopping for two weeks worth of groceries, but this didn’t work for me. I know people who plan for (and shop for) a month of meals. (Just the thought of that causes me a near panic attack.) So, give yourself permission to start small and stop at the point when you’ve created a system that works for you.


Tip 3:  Remain flexible.
Just because it’s a plan doesn’t mean it has to be set in stone. For example, I assign meals to specific days of the week, but then we go with the flow. If make-your-own pizzas were slotted for Friday, but everyone is craving pizza on Tuesday, we have pizza on Tuesday. So we have a plan but we keep it flexible.


Tip 4:  Keep doing what works.
When you find a meal (or even a week’s worth of meals) that you and your family loved—use it again. Don’t feel as if you have to reinvent the wheel week after week. Instead, build a repertoire of meals and / or meal plans that works for your family, and reuse them. Tuck them away in your recipe binder so you have a plan to follow on weeks when you’re short on time or not feeling very inspired to experiment with new recipes.


Tip 5: Select meals based on your plans.
My meal planning sheet has a place to list activities we have scheduled each day of the week. This allows me to think through our nightly schedule and select meals based on how much time we’ll have for dinner prep and clean up. On nights when we’re running from guitar lessons to Tae Kwon Do with just a quick break in between, dinner must be simple. This is a great night for a crock pot dish that can be prepared in the morning when there’s more time in our schedule, or for a made-ahead freezer meal. I like to experiment with new dishes or make things that take a bit more time on weekends or when our schedule has a bit more breathing room.


Tip 6: Select meals based on what you already have on hand.
Another great meal selection criterion is to focus on using up the ingredients you already have on hand. Before menu planning, scan your refrigerator, freezer and pantry and jot down a list of ingredients you want (or need!) to use up before they go bad. Then, scan your recipe binder or cookbooks for dishes built around these ingredients.


Tip 7: Select meals based on what’s on sale.
If you like to shop the sales, use your grocery store’s weekly ad to help you decide which dishes to include on your weekly meal plan. 


Tip 8:  Select meals based on what’s in-season.
Our weekend routine this summer has included a Saturday trip to our town’s Farmers Market. We peruse the stands and select locally grown, in-season produce that looks particularly tasty. Then, we go home and plan our meals around our weekly produce selections. 


Tip 9: Write down your shopping list and sort it in isle order.
Once you’ve decide which meals you’ll eat, record the necessary ingredients on your shopping list. Group items together in isle order to save time at the grocery store.


Tip 10: Work menu planning into your schedule or routine.
Our current process is to plan our meals on Sunday mornings at breakfast. It’s a time when we’re all together, which allows us to get everyone’s input on which dishes sound good. Carve out a time to plan your meals each week, and then, as with everything else in this process, give yourself permission to tweak and adjust as you learn what works for you.


I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you meal plan? What works for you and your family? If you’re new to it…are you ready to give it a try? Thanks for sharing your tips and ideas!

September 07, 2010

The Organize Your Paper Clutter Workshop Winner is...

Kristina who said "My biggest paper challenge is my receipts and coupons....currently taking up precious space on my desk!" Congrats, Kristina. I look forward to getting to know you and helping you find organized homes for those receipts and coupons. 


If you aren't Kristina, no worries. There's still time to sign up for Organize Your Paper Clutter and solve your paper organizing dilemmas! Class begins September 21, 2010, so sign up today. Hope to see you online soon. :)

September 03, 2010

Freebie Friday + Farewell to Summer

Even though school started a few weeks ago, Labor Day weekend feels like the official end of summer around here. And today it really feels like fall is on it’s way…it's another cool and sunny Friday. Love that!


One of the ways I like to wrap up the summer is to take notes for next year that capture what worked and what didn’t work this past summer. What activities, outings, camps, etc. does everyone want to do again next year, and what things should we skip? This weekend will be a great weekend to poll the family, take a few notes of my own, and tuck these ideas away into my tickler file for next spring when we plan summer 2011. What things do you like to do to wrap up summer?


Errand center-1 How about if we send summer off in style with a Freebie Friday? Today’s freebie is for one spot in the upcoming session of Organize Your Paper Clutter. With fall activities about to start up again, and school now in full swing, one thing is for sure—the end of summer means the start of the paper “busy season”! But with effective organizing systems, those that make it easy to access and take action on your paper when you need to, the end of summer doesn’t have to mean the return of paper clutter in your home! And that’s where Organize Your Paper Clutter comes in. During this online workshop you’ll set up organizing systems for every type of paper in your home—from items with to-dos associated with them to items that you’re holding onto permanently such as tax documents or legal records. And instead of getting a one-size-fits-all solution to your paper organizing challenges, you’ll learn how to set up systems that work for you and how you naturally do things. You can view the complete workshop syllabus here. And if you’re new to simplify 101’s online workshops and wonder how they work, follow this link for all the details.  

To enter for a spot in Organize Your Paper Clutter

1)  Leave a comment sharing your biggest paper organizing challenge, or what you’ll miss most about summer.
2) For a second chance to win, either link to this giveaway on Facebook OR tweet this giveaway with a link on Twitter. Then, leave a second comment telling me where you mentioned this giveaway.

Post your comment by Tuesday, September 7th at 10 AM US CST.


Good luck! Oh, and before we go, there's one more thing ending this weekend...early bird specials on Quick + Simple Clutter Control and It's About Time. Just thought you'd like to know. :) Have a great weekend!

**Comments are now closed! Thanks for entering!**

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