simplify 101
Creative Organizing Blog

September 30, 2006

what's that?

I have a blog? Oh yes, I vaguely remember something about that ... hmmm ... I seem to have abandoned you. I've been pondering what to do for a pre-holiday challenge and amid all the indecision (plus sending out my newsletter this week and some other exciting diversions like my lab puppy munching on a battery) I seem to have just avoided blogging. I feel like I need to decide what I'm going to do about the pre-holiday challenge before I can post again ... so perhaps now's the time. I'll just write and see what I come up with. This should be interesting ... but first ... I have to share a few things.

I'm sitting here with the world's worst headache --- the kind you wake up with and hope will somehow just magically go away. The kind that hurts so bad you can't even fall asleep when trying to take a nap. The kind that goes down into your neck and circles your entire head. And yet ... I have been awake for approximately 8 hours and 43 painful minutes and it just now occurred to me "Take an aspirin! Take two! Make the pain go away!" And so I did ... perhaps by the end of the post I'll have 1) a plan for the pre-holiday challenge, and 2) a pain-free head.

Do you know what that's all about? Why are there some things we feel we should just be able to bear? Be able to handle on our own? Be able to tough it out and just take it? Or just figure out all by our lonesome? For some reason I'm like that with headaches. How about you ---- is there anything you have like that in your life --- or am I all alone in this insanity?

I have a feeling this post is going to be one of those that my husband won't get ... the "random girl-talk" type of post. Do you ever do that? My best friend from high school, Liz, and I will do this ... we'll have about three to four conversations going simultaneously and they can extend over an entire weekend. We'll seamlessly jump from one topic to another and back again without missing a beat ... and if Jay overhears any of it he's completely lost. I miss that. I miss Liz. I should pick up the phone and call her as soon as I'm done with this mish-mash of a post ...

Hmmm ... maybe I don't need to create anything new! That's it ... we'll just do the same drill as last time. (I'm back to the post-holiday challenge again, Jay.) I'll pick one thing that I'm going to do by the end of twelve weeks and post about where I am each week. And you do the same. I'm feeling braver this time ... I'm going to tackle my PILE of magazines! It's true ... I have too many. There isn't much I overindulge in, magazines seem to be one exception. The other used to be plastic food storage containers, but I've got that one under control. This is scaring me ... am I really *that* boring???????

Alright ... here's what we did last time. So let's just do it again! Here's a recap:
1) Decide on a goal and describe the benefits of accomplishing your goal. For example, how you will feel, or your space will look, etc.
2) Make sure your goal is measurable (three times a week, four hours a day, eight pages a month, fits on a bookshelf, etc.)
3) Set a deadline.
4) Post your goal here and then, check in from time to time and let me know how you're doing. It's a simple way to create change in your life ... and just in time for the holidays, in this case. Yeah!!

So here's my goal:

1) Reduce my collection of magazines and magazine clippings so the collection will fit in my magazine bookcase, metal basket by my desk and one other small "in-process" basket (to be designated.) Also, set up a system for storing magazine clippings so they're useful and accessible. Doing this will help me to feel more in control. I will be able to easily find all the beautiful and inspiring photos I've been saving. And my space will be more organized by containing the magazines in a single location. (OK ... maybe it's two.) 

2) The magazines will fit in the spaces designated above --- and as new magazines come into my life, old ones will go bye-bye. (Ouch!)

3) My magazine collection will be organized and in control by December 23rd. What has not been gone through or put into a system will be pitched if it doesn't fit in the spaces designated above. And I need to add a space ... the clippings will probably go in binders ... and those can be on my other bookcases that I use for reference. And I have to decide if it's OK to keep the large picnic basket full of clippings ... OK ... I'll decide soon.

4) I'll check in with you --- if you'll check in with me. Deal?

Oh before I sign off, update on the headache: gone ... yeah! And, do you want to see my "collection?" These are some old photos --- I thought about doing this before but I wasn't ready ... now I am ... or at least I'm making myself be ready. Here we go:


aren't they lovely? here's more ...


and last but not least ... the picnic basket. Again, this is an old photo ... currently the very large picnic basket is loaded full of clippings!


I think this is the world's largest picnic basket ... roughly 2 cubic feet of storage. (A TON of clippings!)

Better go get busy! Have a great weekend :)

September 03, 2006

creative organizing project: create a fun craft + homework cabinet!

In keeping with the back to school theme, here's a great project for all of you with kiddos in school. It's a fun way to keep art, craft and homework supplies organized and in easy access of the little ones. No kids in school? No problem. Use a similar approach for organizing *your* craft or scrapbook supplies.

Here's the cabinet before creative organizing intervention:


And ... drum roll please ;) ... here's the cabinet after creative organizing intervention:


Here are some of the details. Small plastic drawers hold the basics: glue, stickers, pencils, colored pencils, crayons and markers. They drawers are labeled using rub-on letters and die cut monograms adhered with rubber cement.

The glass jars hold assorted goodies like wooden stencils, erasers, rubber stamps and small fabric scraps and other fun stuff for gluing (like foam letters and wooden shapes.) These are labeled using ribbon, metal rimmed tags and rubber stamps for the lettering.


A paper sorter holds plain white paper and colored construction paper. And that rounds out shelf one.

On the second shelf each child has their own supply basket ... with their personal supply of favorite pencils, glue sticks, markers, erasers, scissors and so on. (The drawers serve as central supply for sharing and restocking their own basket.) These are labeled with each child's initial.


The bottom shelf holds workbooks and coloring books in a dish-washing bin. And next to that are magazine sorters that hold notebooks and magazines (for cutting and gluing.) And then we have little metal buckets full of stamp pads and markers! And play doh and play doh tools are in the toolbox and shoebox below.


So ... all in all, this makes me happy. It's simple for the kids to find their stuff and put everything away. (Love that.) And if they forget or don't do it? I really don't even mind ... the cabinet makes me so happy ... I'll gladly do it myself!

It's late ... so I bet I forgot some details ... let me know if you have any Q's!

Happy Labor Day to you. Hope you spend the day doing something fun and creative!

August 25, 2006

challenge update

I promised I'd share my progress on the 12 week goals ... so here we go!

Goal #1: purge my college text books and notebooks by August 22nd.
Progress: mission accomplished!

Goal #2: implement a workable chore system for my kids by August 21st, and consistently follow through. The system will be easy to follow, even for my daughter who isn't reading yet. I will consistently follow through on making sure it gets done and reward them appropriately. Also, need to decide on an allowance system.

Progress: mission almost accomplished! Yep ... I'd say I'm almost there. We've defined what the kids will be responsible for and we've set up a checklist system and created clip boards for each of the kids to use. We've also decided basically on payment. Chores are top of mind for me on a daily basis --- so I'd say I'm pretty close to consistently following through. We need to add some things to the system. There are a few chores they don't fully understand yet and we have to work through this. But all in all ... we're well underway. And I must say ... much farther along than I would have been were it not for "going public" here. But ... like most ongoing things ... my chores system is a work-in-progress. So all in all I'd say I'm happy with our progress.

So what's the system all about ... well, they each have daily chores which include things like making their beds (which come to think of it they didn't do three weeks ago --- yea, a total victory!), clearing the dishes, setting the table, getting themselves dressed, helping to make lunch, picking up their things each day before bed, doing homework and so on. Basic things. We took away the dog responsibilities after one too many incident of the puppy eating the older dog's food. The consequences were just too stinky. So it was a very beneficial tweak in the system.

We also have weekly chores. I think I'm going to update their chore charts so they can do one extra chore per day --- things like sweeping the floor, sorting laundry, putting laundry away, and so on --- instead of leaving all of this for the weekends.

One part of the system was to make it easy to understand for my non-reader (the little girl on the yellow bus from yesterday). So I created this:


It has a picture of each chore along with the words. It's hot off the press --- so I'll let you know how it goes.

All in all, it was a successful 12 weeks. I know these two things would have fallen off my radar screen were it not for all of you --- so I thank you. Thank you for all of you who joined in, commented or just read along silently. Because of you, I have a bit less clutter in the form of college text books and a few less chores on *my* daily to-do list. And ... my daughter is learning to spell the days-of-the-week and various chores because of this little challenge. Yep. I'd call it a win. :)

update: My husband took the photos I used in the little book. And I laminated the photos using wallet size lamination pouches.

August 24, 2006

time's up!

That's right ... the 12 week challenge is officially over! How did you do? Here's what I'd love to know:

  1. Where were you when you started? In other words, how did you feel and why did you decide to join in the challenge?
  2. Where are you now? In other words, it's time to toot your own horn loud and proud! Tell me about your progress and more importantly, let me know how you feel about it.
  3. Do something today to celebrate your progress. Even if you aren't as far along as you'd like to be (or as far along as you thought you'd be) do something today just for you! Take a walk. Take a bubble bath. Go get a pedicure. Spend some time scrapbooking. No matter where you are in the pursuit of your 12 week challenge, I bet this is true for each of you: you're farther along than you would have been if you hadn't participated. Right? And that, my friends, deserves celebration! Congratulations! I'm so excited for you!!

I have a full day of appointments today ... so I'll post about my progress in the 12 week challenge tonight ... OK? Can't wait to hear from you!

August 08, 2006

two weeks ...

that's right ... just two weeks left in the twelve week challenge. How's everyone doing?

We're good on the chore front ... still have the last bit to finish up with the non-daily chores and making it friendly for my little non-reader. Thanks all for your great ideas and tips on this ... my wheels are turning! I'll post here as soon as it's "done." The kids are doing well with the daily lists ... and we're getting in the habit of remembering to do everything on the list. Less nagging. More getting done. That's what it's all about, isn't it?

I'd love to hear how you're doing ...

August 02, 2006

aren't surprises fun?

I think they are ... so I thought I'd surprise my kids tonight. My son LOVES surprises and I should surprise him more often --- nurture his little self a bit, you know?

So since I'm in back-to-school mode, I picked up these today at Target.


Cute, aren't they? So it's a little surprise... something to get them just bit more excited for school and get all of us a bit more organized for school.

I packed them up like this,


using a few little scrapbook supplies for some simple tags. I tucked a note inside inviting each of them to go shopping for school supplies with me on their own special day --- just mom and one kid --- alone time --- I love that.

Simple little surprises. One of life's little pleasures.

So here's your challenge. Who can you surprise this week? You don't have to go out and spend money ... just a hide a note under a loved one's pillow or a put a post-it note on the bathroom mirror with a little love message. Or maybe make a card with some "aging" scrapbook supplies and send it to a long distance friend. That'd be fun, wouldn't it? Keep it simple and have fun surprising someone you love.

Can't wait until my little ones see their surprise. I have my bets on which one will find them first! And ... I'd love to hear who you decide to surprise! Let me know ;)

July 31, 2006

making progress ...

... on my 12 week challenge. The good thing about this heatwave, (maybe the only good thing about this heatwave) is having a great excuse to stay inside and do some creative organizing projects, don't you think?

Are you making progress, too? I know some of you are (yeah!) thanks to your emails and blog comments. Thanks for updating me! It's exciting to see what you're all accomplishing in just twelve short weeks. Exciting stuff, isn't it?

Juel asked if I'll be doing an organizing challenge before the holidays. Thanks for the great idea Juel. What do you think ... should I do it? Let me know what you think ... would you join in?

Alright ... so here's where I am on the chore system for my kids:

1) Both children now have a clipboard to use to keep track of their daily chores. That was yesterday's project --- lots of fun.

2) We've decided on their weekly responsibilities --- for before school, after school and bedtime --- and have a daily checklist to use.

3) There's enthusiasm in the air for this new chore system. The kids are actually excited about it! Yippee! Now my job is to keep the enthusiasm going.

We have three weeks until school starts ... just enough time to get into the habit of doing these chores every day. So that's good.

What's left to do? Well ... I have to decide a strategy for weekend chores. This is when we do the serious house cleaning and laundry and I'd love some help from the kids on that. Who wouldn't, right? But I also want this to be less structured than the weekdays ... for all of us. So I have to figure out a system for the weekend chores, as well as how to make these chore lists "readable" for my daughter who can't read quite yet. I have some ideas percolating ...

More soon! Have a happy Monday!

July 26, 2006

4 weeks ... but who's counting?

I am. Are you?

4 weeks left in our twelve week challenge. I've still got work to do on my remaining goal: get a chore system implemented for my two kids. It's number one on my to-do list for this weekend.

How about you? Are you making progress? Are you on track to be where you want to be at the end of the 12 weeks? Let me know! I can't wait to hear from you!

More soon. Have a great day! :)

July 24, 2006

creative organizing project

In the perfect world ... this project would have posted while I was away. In the imperfect world where I live ... it had to wait until I got back home.

This project is just a little something fun I did before I left on my trip. It was one of those super quick and easy projects (my favorite kind) and it was a little diversion from all the preparation involved in getting ready to be out of town for a week. As I was getting ready I was decluttering a bit and came across this magnetic clip.


My first inclination was to throw it away because it didn't meet the criteria. I didn't love it. I didn't use it. I didn't need it

But then I thought ... why not alter it? Then I'll love it because it'll be cute. And then I can use it for hanging the weekly menu plan on the fridge. Suddenly, I needed this clip and couldn't figure out how I had lived without it for so long. ;)

So here's my new clip.


More fun, isn't it? To make this little beauty, all you need is a clip (yes ... this could be the hard part) and then simply use mod podge, a sanding block and rub ons --- just like the clipboard project only smaller. Very simple. Very quick. Very fun.

So if you dont have a clip ... maybe you can't play along this week. Or can you? What can you save from the trash can or recyle bin by altering with some cardstock, mod podge and a little imagination? Hmmm ... I hear the wheels in your head turning .... I can't wait to see what you come up with!!

June 28, 2006



So I did it! They're gone, gone, GONE! Saturday night I went through my college textbooks and class notes and had a major purge fest. Whew! It felt good. I needed something that I could get done and get done fast. I was in a crummy mood --- the perfect mood for me to do some purging.

Why is a crummy mood good for me? Well, I was frustrated with a few things ... and this project was a way of regaining control. I was completely in control of what to keep and what not to keep. I can SEE progress with a project like this ... where once there were boxes full of indecision, in just a couple of hours, decisions and progress were made. By being in a crummy mood --- I was  bit less sentimental and more task oriented. I simply wanted to get it done. Why do I share all of this? Well ... you may find it useful to think about the best mood for the different tasks on your to do list. When your mood is in sync with the task at hand --- major stuff gets done and it's a whole lot of fun!

I started the project at 10:15 PM ... right after taking a shower. (Not the best time to sort through dusty boxes, but I was a woman on a mission.) I grabbed my buddy Sam, a couple of empty boxes, and a trash bag and pulled the boxes of books down from the shelves in my basement. Getting rid of the books, for the most part was easy. I was ready. Goodbye Accounting! Goodbye Finance! Farewell Statistics, Information Systems, and Business, Government and Society! Easy, easy, easy. Marketing ... not so easy. I kept three of those and one on business strategy ... I'll keep them around for a year and if I don't look at them during the year ... they're history (no pun intended.) I also kept two undergraduate books about packaging ... more for posterity sake.

Almost all of my undergrad notebooks and binders are gone. I kept creative writing papers from my senior year (very interesting) and handful (OK a bit more than that) of notebooks, artwork, notes from my mom and other things my mom collected for me through out my school years. I have a milk crate and a half full of this stuff, which I'll go through sometime to make a scrapbook. So really, a lot of this stuff was out of the scope of the project. I feel really good about keeping it and going through it in finer detail someday in the future.


I have to tell you ... I was dreading this project. I tried one other time to let go of this stuff but just couldn't bring myself to do it. All in all it was a pretty fun project. Here are some of the treasures I found ...

I always believed my handwriting had gotten worse with age but come to find out it was pretty crummy when I was younger, until grad school. I can not believe how neat my notes were in grad school ... no wonder people wanted to borrow them!

We had just gotten an AOL account when I was getting my M.B.A. I thought it was so cool to be able to do research at home. Isn't that funny?

Then I came across this:


A brown binder. At first I thought ... huh, I don't remember that. But then I laughed thinking "I was just so far ahead of my time!" So I opened it up only to find ... it wasn't mine! I accidentally pulled down one of Jay's boxes of school books. (Before me, there was only one color for everything in Jay's life --- from furniture to towels to dishes --- and that was brown. Not even I knew this love of brown extended to vinyl three-ring binders!)

More treasures:

Short stories I wrote in high school. In my mind I didn't know I had written anything creatively until senior year in college. That was the first time I remember someone enjoying my writing. Isn't that interesting ... it was there before and I didn't know it.

I came across magazine clippings from when I was in high school. I've always been a huge fan of magazines (OK -- I'm obsessed with them) and it was funny to see the things I cut out. Get this ... there was an article from 1987 on ... organizing closets! That's a keeper for sure.

The other great thing I came across were these pictures and a note from my Mom. It talks about how nicely I cleaned out my closet! I remember loving to clean out (a.k.a. organize) my closet as a little girl. What a treat to find evidence of that via my Mom's sweet note. Another keeper.


After the Saturday night purge fest, the next morning I loaded the notebooks and binders into my car (along with two eager helpers known as my kids) and we headed to the recycle dumpster ... where we proceeded to tear the pages from my notebooks. They thought this was the greatest fun since ... oh ... going to the water park (and I'm not kidding. They were sad when we were done and asked if we could do it again some time. Uh --- not likely.) As I looked into the dumpster I thought "a whole lot of my life is in this dumpster ... no its not, my whole life is out here ... helping me fill this dumpster." And isn't that the truth? The attachment to these things, to the past is so interesting in light of my very full and happy present life. It was time to let go of a little bit of the past ... keeping only those things that provide perspective and comfort. In the process, my kids and I made some wonderful new memories of a Sunday afternoon spent at the recycle dumpster. Go figure ;)

Today ... we donated the text books to the local university library ... this time with one little helper who also stood in as my photographer. It's really quite funny to see a little girl behind a big camera, thus my big grin. (Yes, I'm happy to get rid of the books, but come on, that grin is a bit overboard, don't you think?)


Boy ... this post has been an awful lot about me. You're probably bored to tears. So in an attempt to salvage the post here are some nuggets for you.

Think about your own projects ... what is the ideal mood for you to really dig in and make progress? Next time you're feeling that way ... see if you can't dive in and just get it done.

Go on a treasure hunt in your stash of books, notes, binders and so on. Which things are truly special and deserve a happier home than in a box in your basement? What stories do those treasures tell about you? What dreams did you have as a young person that you're living today? Which dreams need to be resurrected? What beliefs did you have about yourself in the past? Do you still have them today? I hope you'll take this journey ... I think you'll find it to be a lot of fun!

I'm really excited about all of you that have taken the 12 week challenge! I can't wait to hear from you as your projects get wrapped up, too! (Email me if you're getting stuck somewhere ... I'd love to help you get the momentum going again.) Or maybe, like me, all you need is one grumpy evening to get it done!

Now ... I'm on to chores!

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