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June 30, 2011

Your July Get Organized Checklist

Its official – the year is half over! It’s hard to believe that it’s already July 1st…but indeed it is. The first of the month is the perfect time to step back, check in with yourself on how things are going, and make a plan for the month ahead. This is exactly what the monthly get organized checklist post is all about—a simple but fun organizing plan for the month ahead.

You’ll see that this month’s checklist is a bit shorter than some of the checklists in the past. This is in celebration of the month of July, a time to slow down just a notch and enjoy the midway point of the summer and of the year. It’s also a great time to pull out your past checklists and see if there’s something you haven’t checked off yet that you’d like to work into this month’s plan. (For me, this may just include washing the windows! I think the weather and our weekend schedule may be in sync enough to permit this to happen.)

Alright, let’s get to the checklist!

July Get Organized Checklist

Set your goals for the month. This is such a terrific way to start the month…and the second half of the year. What are your goals for the month?

Check your monthly tickler folder. If you’re using a tickler file system, remember to empty out your July folder and distribute the contents to your daily folders. 

Declutter and organize your electronic files. Around here July tends to be pretty toasty. So it’s a great month to stay inside where it’s nice and cool, kick your feet up, and do some e-decluttering. Even though you don’t get the same visual impact as you do with decluttering in the real word, e-decluttering provides a tremendous sense of relief and peace of mind. Give it a try this month, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes a week.

Declutter and organize the pantry. Now is a great time to declutter and organize the pantry to create some space for freshly canned salsa and tomato sauce. If you plan to do some canning this year, take a few minutes to also check your inventory of cans, lids and other canning tools and supplies.




Celebrate Independence Day on July 4th and / or…



Declare your independence from clutter! Spend fifteen minutes a day tackling a clutter hot-spot in your home.

Declutter one task from your to-do list to create a bit more breathing room in your schedule. Then, give yourself permission to slow down just a notch and enjoy your favorite things about the month. If your approach to time and task management could use a revamp, add that to your to-do list this month. Consider joining my online workshop It’s About Time which will show you how to spend more of your time doing the things you love. If you’re interested, sign up before July 5 to take advantage of early bird savings.


Fix something broken. Or decide you never will and let it go.

Here is the PDF for this month's checklist:  July - checklist. (You will need Adobe Reader to open the file. You can get that here:

Here’s wishing you a happy and productive July! If there’s something you’ll be adding to your July get organized list, please share your ideas in the comments! I’d love to hear from you. 

June 29, 2011

Organizing Games

This past weekend, I decided to go through our game cabinet and do a bit of decluttering and organizing. It was time to say goodbye to some games that my kids have outgrown, and I wanted to move some games to our downstairs family room. We hang out more downstairs during the summer (it’s cooler down there, after all) and I wanted to make it easy to choose games over the T.V. (We’ll see how that goes.)


Here are a couple of after photos of the freshly organized game cabinet in our family room. 



For the downstairs games, I allocated two shelves on the bookcase. I asked my son which games he was likely to play this summer, and which ones made sense to play downstairs. He chose Risk and Monopoly since these games take longer to play…and it would be nice to be able to keep them set up between game playing sessions. (This is much more possible downstairs than upstairs in our main living area.)




I put smaller games like cards, checkers, and Pit inside the antique Coca Cola tray I picked up at the flea market last month.




It was a fun project that hopefully will encourage some family game playing. :) If you’re planning to organize your games sometime soon, consider these tips:


  • If you store games in their original boxes with the boxes sideways, it will be easier to access any game you want to play, instead of just the game on the top.


  • Store a score pad and pen with your games.


  • Keep your games as near as possible to where you play games. This just makes it that much more likely that you will choose games over another activity.


  • Use containers such as baskets or metal buckets to corral small games such as card games.


  • If you don’t want to see games on open shelves, consider disguising them with containers like I did with the Coke tray. You could also use canvas bins or wicker baskets, or store your games behind closed doors in a cabinet.


 How do you organize and story your games? I’d love to hear from you. 

June 28, 2011

the stocked kitchen - an organized approach to dinner

The-stocked-kitchen-copyright-simplify101 If you’re like many of the people who take my online workshops, meal planning is on your “get organized” to-do list. That’s why I was super excited when I was contacted about the book the stocked kitchen by Sarah Kallio and Stacey Krastins. The concept behind this book is brilliant. Every single one of the 300 plus recipes in the cookbook can be made from a single list of ingredients—the stocked kitchen grocery list. So, not only will this book simplify getting dinner on the table, but it will also simplify grocery shopping and keeping your pantry organized. (Love that.)


The book includes recipes for appetizers, so you’ll never have to stress-out about what to prepare for a last minute get together. And of course it is also loaded with yummy breakfast, main course and side dish recipes, plus really delicious sounding deserts like carrot cake, lemon bars, and peanut butter brownie sundae. (Yum, I’ll take one of those now, please.) Last week I tried the tomato–artichoke pasta with ingredients I had on hand in my own pantry. It was super fast and simple to make, and very tasty. (The publisher provided a download of the tomato-artichoke pasta recipe if you want to give it a try!)


I was also thrilled to see that many of the recipes in this cookbook have the meat listed as an optional component. The recipes are made from real, basic ingredients, so you’ll avoid buying an exotic ingredient for one recipe only to find the mostly full bottle in the back of your pantry months later. The book doesn’t just share recipes, you also get advice on how to “get stocked,” with ideas on organizing your kitchen and stocking up on the essential pantry items. And if all of this weren’t enough, the book comes with tear-out shopping lists, which means it will be simple to re-stock your stocked kitchen. 


The two things I wish the book had are nutrition information for each of the recipes and more photos of the prepared dishes.  But all in all, for me the pros of this book and the organized approach to meal planning outweigh those two missing ingredients. (Pun intended.)


Last but not least, the two ladies behind the stocked kitchen are from my home state of Michigan. In fact, they live in Grand Haven, a place we try to visit every time we visit Michigan in the summer because of the incredible beach. (In fact here’s a photo of me with my Dad in Grand Haven last summer.)



For some reason, the fact that these two ladies are from Michigan (and one of them went to Michigan State) just adds to my excitement about the book. If you’ve ever moved away from “home”, maybe you understand how anything that connects you to your home state is just…well…a notch more fun.


So if you’ve been looking for an organized and simplified approach to getting yummy dishes on your table, check out the stocked kitchen. This book will be available starting July 5, 2011.

June 24, 2011

5 Ways to Organize + Enjoy Your Kid's Artwork


This post has moved to our new blog. Go to 5 Ways to Organize + Enjoy Your Kid's Artwork.



June 21, 2011

Summertime Structure: Guest Blog Post

This post is my first-ever guest blog post. (How fun is that?) The post is from my friend and fellow professional organizer Janine Adams. When her newsletter and this article landed in my in-box last week, I thought it was terrific advice—advice I could use as my family eases into our summer routines.  I liked the article so much I asked Janine if I could share it with all of you. And Janine said yes. (Thanks, Janine!) You can learn more about Janine at her website


Summertime Structure
By Janine Adams


For some of us, summer can wreak havoc on the structure we have set up in other times of the year. For parents, school vacation means different places kids need to go and different schedules. Family vacations can disrupt the established flow of the days and weeks. Even if you don't have kids, summer can have subtle effects: The longer days might mean you're working longer and eating later. I'm an avid TV watcher and just the change in the TV messes up my evenings.


Structure is important and it doesn't need to go away if circumstances change. If you establish routines around certain things that happen on a daily basis, you can keep your structure, no matter what the circumstances. Here are some ideas for creating structure in your day:


Time block. Set aside blocks of time each week to accomplish certain important tasks. Select certain days on which to blog, for instance. Or enter data into financial software. Grocery shop. Or even go out to dinner. The point is that you put these things on your calendar and do them at a set time or day.


Get up at the same time each morning. If you don't have a reason to get up at a certain time in the morning (if you're a solo entrepreneur, with no external demands on your time, for example), get up at a designated time anyway. Establish some morning routines so that you accomplish things by a certain time. This helps you get things done and ensures that the day isn't squandered.


Bookend your work day. At the end of the work day, clean up your desk, clear out your email inbox, file any papers you've generated. These sorts of activities help you stay on top of details and give your workday closure.


Have an evening routine at home. Just like your workday routine, a home life evening routine can be very beneficial. Put away stray items, run the dishwasher, lay out the clothes for the next day. You'll maintain order and hit the ground running in the morning.


Plan your meals. Whether you eat three squares a day or choose to eat more frequently, plan what you'll eat and when. It's so easy when you lack structure to just forget about eating during the day. Then you tend to end up with less healthy, quicker alternatives. Worse yet, you go without eating and your mental and physical energy drop. Plan what you'll eat and make sure you have the food on hand.


Providing just a bit of structure in your life can make life flow more smoothly, in the summer or any time of year.


June 17, 2011

Organize Your Paper Clutter – Try It for Free – Limited Time Offer!

Try-it-for-free-copyright-simplify101 Happy Friday my friends! Around here it’s turning out to be a rainy Friday…which means it’s the perfect Friday for a freebie! This week’s giveaway is my favorite kind…it’s the kind where everyone wins. This week we’re offering you a free sample lesson of one of our most popular online workshops—Organize Your Paper Clutter


So…what is this workshop all about? Well, Organize Your Paper Clutter addresses all of the most common paper organizing dilemmas that people face. 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. (Plus, you’ll get lots of ideas to set up systems that you find attractive and actually want to use!)   




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, June 20, 2011 at 9:00PM US CST. I hope to see you online soon!

June 16, 2011

Get Organized for Summer: Create a Summer Outings Survival Kit

In my June checklist post, I mentioned the idea of creating a summer outings survival kit. If this is on your to-do list, here are some ideas to jump start this project.

First, think about the places you will be going this summer. Do you spend a lot of time at the pool or the beach? At the park for picnics? Will you be going to festivals or on family outings like Fourth of July Fireworks?

Next, think about the stuff that would make these outings a notch more enjoyable if you brought them along with you, or things that would help you be a notch more prepared if there were a minor emergency. Here are some ideas to get you started:


  • antibiotic ointment
  • Band-Aids®
  • breath mints
  • bug wipes or bug spray
  • cleansing wipes
  • hand sanitizer / wet wipes
  • chewing gum
  • itch relief stick
  • lip balm with SPF
  • Pepto-Bismol® tablets
  • Rolaids®
  • safety pin
  • saline solution
  • sunscreen
  • Tide to Go Stick(TM)
  • tissues
  • Tylenol®
  • Visine®

Next, corral your items together into a small, portable container like a cosmetics bag. I like to use gift card tins for small items like hand wipes, bandages, and pain relievers. (These tins are great to stash in your purse for an everyday kit, too.) 


Purse organizer 

Finally, set up a place to store all your extra kit items and anything else you want to keep at the ready for outings. I keep my extra supplies in buckets on my laundry room shelf.



A nearby bin contains small bags and a backpack for transporting my stuff, as well as can coolers, a camera case, a small roll of toilet paper, and a little First Aid kit.



If you have kiddos, make sure to include a little emergency prevention in your summer survival kit, too. Think along the lines of small, portable entertainment items like bottles of bubbles or this fabulous set of magnetic wooden blocks from Tegu. (If you click on the link, be sure to read the Tegu story, too. Very cool.)

Photo courtesy Tegu


Once you assemble your kit, all that's left to do is get out there and enjoy summer!


Your Turn: I'd love to hear from you. What's on your must-bring list when you head out for summer outings? Thanks for sharing your ideas!

June 15, 2011

Watch Our First Video About Organizing with Your Kids

To celebrate the launch of my brand new online workshop Organizing with Your Kids, we put together our first video. Woohoo! In this video I talk about my journey organizing with my kids…how it began and where we are now. Plus, the video gives you details about the workshop and how oline workshops work. Check it out here:



Follow this link to learn more about Organizing with Your Kids and / or sign up! But act fast because class starts tomorrow!

June 13, 2011

Organizing with Your Kids – Workshop Q + A

Thanks so much for all your great questions about Organizing with Your Kids. I did my best to answer the questions about the workshop. See below for answers!

How long is the course and how long are the course materials available for review? The workshop consists of three lessons which are released over four weeks. All of the workshop materials can be downloaded and saved to your computer at which point you can access them forever. 

Since I'm from Sweden will there be a lot of tips for storage bins and boxes that can only be bought in the states? My approach to organizing isn’t a one-size-fits all solution. So, I don’t say “go out and buy this container” and it will solve all your organizing dilemmas. I believe that storage is just one piece of the overall organizing puzzle and you can create an organized space with a variety of storage solutions.

With that said, if you enroll in the workshop and need specific ideas for storage in a kid area in your home, I would be happy to help you figure out some solutions that would work for you. You could post photos of your storage dilemma in the workshop gallery, and provide links to retailers in Sweden that you shop at (or are near to you) and I would brainstorm storage ideas for you.  

Does this workshop deal with how to deal with all the papers and pictures that kids bring home from school?  This is covered briefly in the workshop and I’m happy to help you figure out what will work for you via the online forum. I do have a comprehensive paper workshop, called Organize Your Paper Clutter which begins next week.



My question is: How can I get my son (12 yrs old) on board with this workshop? I did not get the most enthusiastic response from him when I mentioned it! I think the best way to get anyone on board with anything is to show them what’s in it for them. How will your son’s life be better as a result of doing this with you? Is his clutter a source of stress and disagreement right now? Can you see how things would improve if you came together on this issue, and worked as a team to meet in a place that works better for both of you? Can you think of ways that the current situation is causing negative consequences for your child? And / or can you think of ways that things would be better for all of you if your child were to get on board?

I have a twelve year old son, too, so I know it can be hard to get them enthused about things. But, if I key in on what motivates him specifically and frame things in a way that speaks to what is important to him, then I find I have the most success.

When does the workshop start and how much does it cost, for us non-winners? ;-) How many weeks is this course?  The workshop begins on Thursday, June 16, 2011. It is $45 for 3 lessons and four weeks of access to the online workshop system. This means four weeks of opportunity to ask me any questions you have about organizing with your kids. I’m on the message boards daily Monday through Friday to answer all of your questions.

Do you address space issues? The topic of space is addressed in the lesson content. And I’m always happy to address specific questions and brainstorm space-saving solutions with you via the online forum and photo gallery that is included with the workshop. 



There were a few questions surrounding children’s age for this workshop, as well as how the kids are involved in the workshop. I’ll try to answer all of these in groups.

What is the youngest age this workshop will help? My girl is only 3 years old. Does this workshop work for her too? The workshop is written for the parent. As a parent myself, I’m a big fan of starting kids young when it comes to organizing. A very young child may not have the attention span to help you with every single minute of an organizing project, but he or she may be old enough to help with bits and pieces of it.

I started involving my kids in organizing projects when they were four and six. When my daughter was four, she didn’t last the duration of the project. I was able to get her input on things and she helped with the organizing enough to give her a sense of ownership with the end results. This ownership is a key component in having your kids help with keeping things organized going forward.

What age is this workshop recommended for? I've read the Organizing with Kids workshop description and it sounds great for younger kids, but is it also appropriate for a 13 year old?  As I mentioned above, this workshop is written to the parent. If you have kids living at home with you and you’d like to teach them how to organize and involve them in the process of organizing their spaces, then this workshop could be for you. For this workshop to be effective for you and your child, however, it’s important that you still have your child’s ear. In other words, you and your child need to be able to communicate effectively with one another and work together as a team. I think this line of communication with one another is more important than the child’s age.  

Would my son attend this workshop with me? Will you be directly talking to the kids - or is this more for us parents to take into our homes? How are the kids involved in this class? I picture the parenting reading the lesson materials and then involving their child in the action steps and organizing projects. For example, there will be an optional, fifteen minute daily organizing challenge in the forum. You and your child could decide to take part in this challenge and work together each day making progress on your child’s organizing projects.

Will you cover where to put the many stuffed animals that cover children's beds? I don’t cover this specifically in the lesson content. But my daughter is a huge collector of stuffed friends, so I’m sure I could come up with some ideas for you specific stuffed animal challenges via the workshop forum and / or photo gallery.

Are you going to address the issue of spouses with conflicting opinions on how much clutter is acceptable to allow for kids? This is a great question, one that I’d like to address here. Certainly if Mom and Dad aren’t on the same page when it comes to kid clutter, then it will be hard for the kid(s) to know what is acceptable and what isn’t. I think that the first step is for Mom and Dad to sit down and have a conversation and strike a compromise. You may not end up exactly where you want to be, but if you can both takes steps in the direction of the each other and reach a compromise then you can bring your kids into the equation. Without this agreement (or compromise) it will be really hard to get everyone moving in the same direction. 


Do these online workshops work for people anywhere in the world? (I’m in London). Is it all done in your own time, or do I need to be able to 'connect' to a discussion in a particular time-slot? These workshops most definitely work for people anywhere in the world. We have students from all over the world, including England. The workshop is done on your own time schedule. Once a workshop is released, you can do the reading and other assignments as it fits your schedule. You don’t need to be available to connect at a specific time slot. The workshop system is available 24/7 while the workshop is in session, so you can post a question for me or a discussion topic for your classmates anytime you’d like. I’ll post a response back to you during my awake hours, Monday through Friday while the workshop is open. 

My question is: How to strike that balance between a.) It's their room and the child should feel comfortable in it and b.) It's my home and I need to feel comfortable with its cleanliness/clutter level. I love this question because I really think this is such an important part of the process of organizing with kids—striking the balance between what your child finds comfortable and what you find comfortable. In my home, we’ve worked this out a couple of ways. In the shared and public spaces, it is expected that the norm will be my comfort zone and my husband’s. So, the kids are expected to keep their clutter in check in these shared areas. Certainly when they’re using the space it is okay if their things are out and in the space. But, everything gets picked up and put away before bedtime. And the kids know that this is their responsibility. Yes, we remind them from time to time…but they know this is expected and so it really isn’t a source of conflict.

In their own spaces—their bedrooms—I let things lean a bit more to their way of doing things. Oddly enough, my son’s room is a bit sparser than my comfort zone, and my daughter’s is more visually cluttered than my comfort zone. I think there are three elements to an organized space – how it looks, how it feels, and how it functions. My daughter’s room doesn’t look as organized as I might like, but it does function well for her and she loves how it looks and feels. We also have some kid-friendly rules to keep ourselves on the same page. (This is a topic I cover in the workshop, by the way.) For example, there are rules for putting away clothes, and keeping things off the floor. My focus is on making sure my kids know how to organize a space in a way that works for them, and that they have the habits to keep things organized, too. But it is also really important to me that my kids feel comfortable in their own rooms. I know how important that was to me when I was a child.  


Thanks again for all your questions! Remember, Organizing with Your Kids begins this Thursday, June 16, 2011. Grab your spot here! See you online soon.

Organizing with Your Kids Online Workshop Winner


Thanks again to everyone who participated in Freebie Friday! I enjoyed reading your comments and questions. I will post answers to the questions about the workshop very soon. But first…I’m excited to announce that the winner of the spot in Organizing with Your Kids is Kellie Taylor who posted “And I tweeted as well. :)” on June 11, 2011 at 11:39 AM. Congratulations Kellie! Email me at aby at simplify 101 dot com to claim your spot in the workshop!

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