Uncomplicate your pantry: part 1

This month’s #uncomplicate is a series with the steps for you to uncomplicate your pantry one week at a time. Smaller steps are better anyway because we all have so much going on right now. I think we can all agree that taking a few minutes each day or week is certainly more doable than trying to get it all done at one time.

And the pantry needs attention year round due to its constant activity. We are constantly adding to and taking from it yet it’s frequently neglected because it just seems to take FOREVER.

This week I want you to focus solely on uncomplicating your expired foods in the pantry.

Take out each can, box, or package of food and look at its expiration date. The expiration date is typically 2 years after it was packaged. If you haven’t used it in that time, chances are you will not.

Look for the following:canned foodspastarice & other grainsmeal starters (Hamburger Helper, Rice a Roni)saucescondimentsteahot chocolatecerealoatmealnutsIf you can’t find a date, think hard about when you got it. If you’re struggling to remember, it’s probably time to toss it.

And speaking of tossing, that’s all you can really do with expired food. You can not donate it to a food bank or shelter. 

If the food is in a glass container, you can clean it out and recycle the glass. Or use it for storing other food once you’ve cleaned it out. Otherwise, just throw it away.

While you’re at it, throw away any packaged food like crackers, rice, pasta, nuts, etc. that has been opened and not securely closed. It is most likely stale and attracting critters. 😟

I’m going to give you steps in the coming weeks on organizing your pantry so you don’t have to deal with food waste in the future. Make a promise to yourself to do better about this and move on. 😉

Uncomplicate your computer

Our digital devices are working overtime right now helping us with work, school, information, and entertainment. But when was the last time we showed them a little maintenance love?

Last year I contemplated getting a new desktop computer. Yes, I am one of the few that doesn’t have a laptop. Given my line of work, I don’t need a laptop to perform my regular organizing tasks and I prefer the larger screen on my desk. 

I seriously considered buying a new computer because 1. mine was 8 years old and 2.  running sooooo slowly. It would take too much time to switch screens, open windows, or even save a file. 

But before I took the plunge to spend $$ on a new system, I checked with my friend, Chris Strickland to see if he could help.

Chris owns CleverGreen Technology which is like a help desk for personal computer users. You can check out his website for more of his wizardry capabilities. Long story short, he fixed my computers issues quickly and efficiently with some additional RAM and attention.

So when a client recently reached out to me seeking advice on computer clean up and organization, I reached out to Chris. 

He provided me with some excellent ideas and tips that you can do at home to help #uncomplicate your computer. 

Here are Chris’s expert tips tips for you to uncomplicate your computer so it keeps working well:

1.     Know where your files are saved

  • Identify a central file/folder location that’s easy to find – iCloud, OneDrive, Google Drive
  • Give you folders names that make sense and are searchable
    • Example: Finances -> 2020 -> January; 
    • Example: Family -> Vacations -> 2020 -> Location

2.       Use tools like Malwarebytes to detect malicious software on your computers

  • The free version works for most people and gives you the ability to scan when you feel like something’s amiss

3.       Keep your devices clean

  • Clean your mobile phones and tablets
  • Don’t spray anything directly on your technology’s surface
  • Use a microfiber cloth
  • Don’t use aerosol sprays, bleaches or abrasives
  • Don’t over-wipe it could damage the finish of your screen

4.       Make sure you have enough internet speeds to accommodate new ways of working and schooling

  • 70Mbps download speed is a good threshold to aim for. If you have less than 70MBps, you may run into spinning wheels or screen choppiness
  • Call your provider to check your service level
  • Use speedtest.net to test the WiFi around your home – either the website or mobile app

One last tip that I will give since I ❤️ decluttering:

  • Delete any files you no longer need. One way is to go to Finder and sort your files by Date Last Opened. Only Delete files, spreadsheets, and documents. Leave any file that you don’t know its “Kind” alone.

Uncomplicating kids’ papers

So everyone is probably a bit stir crazy at this point of #stayathome (is it day 14 or 414?) so I want to offer support and keep you busy. This week’s #uncomplicate will definitely take you longer than 5 minutes but I think that’s the point now. You’ve probably cleaned your junk drawer 8 times already and need something else to focus on.🤣

This week’s uncomplicate is courtesy of A LOT of messages I’ve received requesting help. The typical tidal wave of kids’ papers that parents have to process is usually overwhelming. 

Since kids are home and not bringing home papers, NOW is the perfect time to set up a system to manage these more efficiently in the future. Because you will have kids going back to school. Eventually. And the papers will start coming back.

Uncomplicate your kids papers

I’m talking about the daily papers that typically come home every day, covering your kitchen table, mudroom, desk, and living room. Some need to be read and trashed. Some are homework, worksheets, or school work for you to see progress. And some require your attention and response.
  1. Get an inbox for each child. This could be something that sits on a counter or is attached to the wall. 
  2. Put the inbox close to where these papers come in to your home. It might be on your kitchen desk or wall near the back door. Every home will have its own landing spot. 
  3. Put your child’s papers in their own bin. Label it with his or her name. Later, each child can put his own papers in there. As they get older, there will be fewer papers to process but it’s great for them to know where their stuff is.
  4. Now that the papers have a home, you’ve got to set aside time to go through them.
  5. Anything that requires your attention or signature needs daily action. Add any important event dates or appointments to your calendar immediately. 
  6. Once a week, at least, go through any remaining homework, school work, and art. Put a To Do on your calendar as a reminder. Be judicious in what you keep. You can’t save everything!
  7. Assignments that they’ve written about themselves or something that interests them is good to keep. Art that shows their personality is also worth keeping. Also, save some samples of their handwriting from each year. It’s fun to see it mature as they do.

This week: I want you to create a landing spot for your kids’ papers.

  • Get a pretty basket or bin to be the landing spot for your kids’  incoming papers. Think rectangle, open top, no taller than 3″ high. I like these to be flat and open on top so you can add to it easily
  • Here are links to some solution ideas you can order. 
  • FOR DIGITAL information, create a folder in your inbox called *Child’s Name* School Notifications. You can have a separate folder for each child and school.
  • Move relevant emails to the folder once you read them so you can find them later. Delete when you no longer need,
  • Add future events and appointments to your calendar immediately. Add them to your paper and digital calendars if you use both.
  • Make a weekly date with yourself to go through your kids’ inbox(es) and process it fully. Call it a “School Papers date” on your calendar with a weekly repeat.
  • Don’t be afraid to throw papers away.

Uncomplicate your quarantine

I can honestly say this is the first post I’ve ever done that had the word “quarantine” in it. “Social distancing” was not a phrase I had ever encountered until now.


Like most unanticipated situations, a quarantine at home can get complicated. There are so many questions, emotions, extra food, hand sanitizers, and toilet paper! And how are we supposed to keep our sanity with kids and spouses together 24/7?

While I don’t have all of the answers to today’s problems, I certainly can help you uncomplicate your quarantine by offering suggestions to stay sane in this time of uncertainty. 

I’m going to change up the Joan Baez quote to include some alliteration:
 

Action is the antidote to anxiety


Doing something is far better than doing nothing. And this is what I’m doing and suggesting to uncomplicate a very complicated time.

Make your bed. I’ve said it once so I’ve probably said it a 1,000 times. Make your bed. If you accomplish nothing else today, you will have accomplished that. It’s a small victory that can spawn other victories. It takes 5 minutes and you’ll instantly feel like you’ve left zombie land.

Get dressed. Like real clothes. I’m writing this wearing jeans and a sweatshirt but it’s a CUTE sweatshirt with a satin ribbon at the back. I showered and put on makeup. Seriously, put yourself together as if you were going to interact with the world. You’ll feel like a real person. 

Clean/ Organize/ Declutter a forgotten space. You’ve now got the time to go through that closet or cabinet you’ve been avoiding all this time. Just organize it! You’ll feel so satisfied and accomplished you might even do another!
Here are some suggestions of great organization potential:  
–clean your makeup brushes
–go through your jewelry. You may have some pieces you’d like to remake or donate.
–organize your leftover paint so see if there’s any you can throw out because it’s already dried out.
–match up your sheets and pillowcases

Listen to some new music. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying playing some opera arias that I’ve heard in movies. Thank you, YouTube. Peruse Spotify, iTunes, or ask your kids what they like to listen to. You might be surprised that they like some of your music, too.

Practice gratitude. There is always, always, always something to be grateful for. This is probably the most time you’ve spent with your family in a really long time. The weather is beautiful albeit a little rainy. Hopefully you have your health. If you’re reading this you still have your sight. 

As I write this I remember one of my last conversations with my 100 year old grandmother who said when I asked how she was doing, “Well, I can’t see very well and I can’t hear very well but by the grace of God, I’m still here.” She was a master at practicing gratitude!

Sometimes you have to get a little ridiculous and find the smallest thing that is going well but do it. Focus on the little things that work like the internet or your hot water heater. We are all blessed in all kinds of ways. Sometimes we just have to look a little harder to find them. 🙂

Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash

Uncomplicate your shopping


One trend I’ve noticed through the years that has taken a negative turn is the Sale Section in any brick and mortar store. Whether it’s the $3 section by the Target entrance or the enticing end-cap of an aisle, or even the little table in the back of the store that just screams “Buy me, I’m marked down!” 

All of this stuff is bursting with potential which 99% of the time is unrealized. 

We complicate our lives with “oh, I should get this because it’s on sale even though I don’t know what I’m going to do with it.”

We think we are getting a head start on birthday/ graduation/ holiday shopping. 

We think we are smart squirrels storing away inexpensive toothbrushes, socks, packages of Mac n Cheeze that will prevent us from future shopping. 

We think we have empty drawers at home that are needing to be filled with something.

And who doesn’t think it’s a good idea to shop on sale. Saving money? Yeah!! Like that’s a no brainer. 

Until it means you aren’t using your brain at all. Your drawers and closets are overflowing with the gifts/ toothbrushes/ food/ cleaning products. 

You have a closet with too many clothes with the tag on them.

You have excess food in your pantry that is nearing its expiration date. 

This sale item isn’t what you’re looking for (cue Obi Wan Kenobi voice) and you have just complicated your life by giving yourself something else to find a home for, organize, clean, get altered, figure out a recipient, etc.

This week: I want you to avoid the sale section.

  1. Before you go shopping in a brick & mortar store, make a list of what you need to purchase. Even if it’s just 2 items, write it down.
  2. Check your home inventory first. Make sure you don’t already have these items but in a different location. So often we shop by habit instead of really verifying a specific need. (Trust but verify)
  3. Seriously, walk on by the sale section. Don’t even glance. 
  4. Buy the items on your list.
  5. If it’s not on the list, don’t buy it.

This may sound completely draconian and weird. You might be thinking that it’s a giant waste of time if you really do need something that you forgot to write down AND it happens to be on sale. This exercise is all about developing the habit of mindful shopping.

Mindful shopping:

  • buying what you need
  • not buying what seems like a really good deal because it’s on sale
  • shopping for specific purposes
  • spending with intention

Avoiding the sale section will 100% save you money because you’re not bringing home something that you didn’t plan on purchasing. It will keep you from shopping on impulse and adding to that already filled closet. You’ll have less stuff to clean, organize, and find a home for. That is #winning if you ask me. 😉

Uncomplicate your desk

Welcome to my least liked day of the year:  Daylight Savings Day. Losing an hour of sleep just makes me crazy. I know it’s minor but a fun fact about me is that I loathe losing time…..and sleep!

Here’s a heads up for this week:  Tuesday is National Organize Your Home Office Day so I’m going to help you get ready for the festivities early.

I always get questions about organizing home offices because it’s a relatively new concept. It’s not like we grew up watching our parents work out of their home offices. 

Correctly setting up and organizing a home office is hard because home is supposed to be relaxing, easy going, and calm. We don’t want to think about strategies, deadlines, rules, and expense reports in the same place we binge on Netflix, raise families, and share meals with loved ones.

The reality is more of us work from home  today, at least some of the time, and ALL of us need some kind of office to pay bills, go through the mail, and file important papers. 

Where do you get started on uncomplicating your office? At the top: the top of your desk

Understand that any horizontal space can become a clutter magnet. Your desk quite easily becomes the home of “I don’t know what to do with it so I’ll deal with it later but I don’t want to forget about it.” Sound familiar? 

Today is the day to make those decisions and finally #uncomplicateyourdesk

  1. Pick the easy stuff first and throw away any obvious trash on your desk: dirty tissues, papers you no longer need, receipts that you don’t need, etc.
  2. Remove everything that doesn’t belong in the room / area. These would be your coffee cups, extra sweater, kids’ lacrosse gear, Amazon shipment that isn’t office supplies, etc. 
  3. Next, group the remaining contents by category which will be unique for everyone. Some examples are:
    * work related
    * bills to pay
    * papers to file
    * pictures to put away
    * sentimental cards to save

    Notice that the last 3-4 categories are “things that need to be put away and thus not stored on the desk top”
    Ultimately, you are going to have to designate a home for these items. It might be a pretty box or basket for sentimental cards and photos; a file folder for home or car related papers & bills.
    ***I’m putting together a workbook on uncomplicating & organizing your papers at home. Stay tuned!***
     
  4. The only things that should be on your desk at this point are things that you need there because you are actively working on it and things that you really want there because it makes you happy, like flowers or pictures. 
  5. If you’re not actively working on something, off to its home it goes!


 This week: I want you to organize your desk top. Follow the steps above to get the top cleared off. Going forward, follow these guidelines to keep it that way!

  • Adopt a clear desk policy for your desk at home. This means that you put everything away on your desk before you shut down for the end of the day. 
  • Get a pretty basket or bin to (temporarily) store your papers to be filed. Think rectangle, open top, no taller than 3″ high.
  • Take advantage of any vertical space and keep the papers that you are actively working on within easy reach with a desktop file sorter like this one, or this one in gold or rose gold, or this fancy acrylic one.
  • Set aside 5 minutes each day this week to work on some aspect of your desk: filing papers, putting away things that don’t belong there
  • To help you out, I’ve attached a copy of my Organized Office Essentials Checklist to help with your office organization.

Depending on the state of your desk, there will be a lot to do but once you get a system in place, it will be a cinch and you’ll breathe much easier. 😁

Photo by Canva

Uncomplicate your mail

One thing that constantly plagues my clients is the never-ending bulk pile of mail sitting on their kitchen table, or whatever surface it ends up.

I totally get it. I’ve been there. There was a time in my life when I had the Sisyphean mail mountain. I traveled a lot so it just kept getting taller and wider and scarier. Obviously that caused a ton of stress because I wasn’t on top of things, I missed deadlines and even came close to getting my power shut off because I hadn’t paid a couple of electric bills.

That was too much anxiety for me so I took control and made a serious habit change.

Nowadays, I make a habit to sort my mail every day. The way I do it is:

  1. Sort out all of the junk while I’m walking from my mailbox to my house.
  2. Put the junk mail in the recycle bin so it doesn’t even enter my home.
  3. Open bills immediately and toss out any flyers/ marketing extras in eluded in the envelope.
  4. Put bills with their envelope around the bill on a tray on my desk. It’s fake silver but looks so much more attractive than scattered on the kitchen counter
  5. Catalogs and magazines go in their own basket. I have to admit I get a lot fewer of these than I used to because I just don’t have the time to read them. Hello, Instagram!
  6. Appointments and parties go immediately on the calendar. I’ll paperclip them to my calendar if they are cute or worth hanging on to until the event.
  7. Actual cards and letters are placed on my desk to open and savor in a quiet moment. Those are so rare I want to take the time to read them slowly to soak them in. I do have a special basket for sentimental cards and letters that I want to save.

 It probably sounds like I have 1,000 baskets in my house but really it’s all about assigning a home for everything. When you have a place to put things, you know where they go and where to find them when you need them. 

This week: I want you to sort your mail.

  • Adopt a zero tolerance policy for junk mail in the home.
  • Get a pretty basket or bin to (temporarily) store your incoming mail. Think rectangle, open top, no taller than 3″ high.
  • Unsubscribe from catalogs and magazines that you no longer have time to read.
  • To remove your name from credit card and promotional mailings, go to http://www.optoutprescreen.com
  • To remove your name from ValPak coupon mailings, go to https://www.valpak.com/coupons/show/mailinglistsuppression
  • Make a weekly date with yourself to go through your mail and process it fully. Call it a “mail date” on your calendar with a weekly repeat. Let NOTHING hinder this event. 

It’s not enough to have a place to put all of your mail. You still have to go through it. 😁

Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash

How to Organize Food Storage Containers

Oh, the struggle! How to organize plastic (and glass) food containers and their lids? If I’ve heard this question once, I’ve heard it 1,000 times.

Where should I store them: pantry, drawer, or cabinet?

Should I separate the lids from the bottoms?

Do I need an organizer to keep the lids in order?

Should I stack them?

I have organized so many pantries and kitchens and while everyone’s needs and spaces are different, I’ve come up with an easy, simple way to organize and store plastic and glass food storage containers with lids.

  1. The first thing you want to do when you tackle this area is to match up lids and containers. If any of them don’t have a mate, toss them. You don’t need to keep extras “just in case.”
  2. Toss any lids or containers that are melted, stained, or otherwise unusable. These types of containers aren’t usually obvious until you take them all out of their current location and examine them. They just keep getting shoved to the back of the cabinet or drawer, NOT being used.
  3. Now that you have matched containers and lids, you can see just how much space you’ll need to keep them. There are no specific rules on where they should be kept except that they need to be easily accessible for when you do use them.
  4. I store them in a drawer or cabinet, WITH the lid attached to the bottom. Yes, this takes up more space but you can stack them and there is no searching for the lid. You can also keep them in the pantry on a shelf.

Keep your food storage containers and lids where it makes sense for YOU. If you use them frequently, you may want them closer in your kitchen in a larger drawer or cabinet. If they only get occasional use, the pantry or even a high shelf might be fine.

Remember that this space will get cluttered again. Because you will adding and removing containers as you use them and then wash them, there will be activity in this space so the order will change. That is ok! You just have to take a few minutes when you’re putting them away to reorder a little. It’s much easier once you have your basic system in place to tweak than it is to completely organize the first time.

Happy organizing!

Do You Feel Overwhelmed About the Holidays?

The Secret To Peaceful Holidays

Everyone knows that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure but how do you know where to start? After helping clients organize before, during and after the holiday season, I’ve seen first hand how a little preparation makes a massive difference in whether or not people enjoy the holidays. 

Whether you stay home or travel, have kids or not, work out of the office or at home, the holidays are stressful.

From the first of October to the end of December time flies by in a blur and most people would do anything to make it slow down just a little. 

But what if you could start now preparing and make it all a little more enjoyable, a lot more peaceful, and way less stressful.  

Click this link to get 5 things you can do NOW to enjoy the Holidays to get started. You’ll be glad you did!

 

Life Happens…That’s Why You Need to be Organized

Life has been a little hectic lately which explains my social media absence and confirms my belief in organization. This week our very sweet dog Edie (I’m sure you’ve seen her picture on Instagram and Facebook. She’s quite the model!) has been very sick. The kind of sick that makes you ask the hard questions you never want to think about when it comes to your pets. As I write this, she’s better but not free and clear.

So what, if anything does this have to do with being organized? Everything actually.

This has been a week of doing all the things that downgrade your home to disaster mode:

  • No laundry done
  • Dishes not put in dishwasher
  • No grocery shopping
  • Clothes not folded or put away
  • Mail piled up on the counter
  • Glasses left on table tops
  • Suitcases not emptied
  • Beds not made

All of this adds up to a recipe for chaos and clutter and it can’t go on. I draw the line because I have a low tolerance for cFortunately, we have a system for dealing with all of the above and it will be easier to get on track because of it.

  • Mail has a basket that it needs to live in (i.e. not on the counter)
  • Dishes are normally put away after the running the dishwasher
  • Laundry is typically folded and put away

All of these are examples of systems that we have in place here. Systems are what keep us sane and not living in that disaster mode. T-shirts have a specific home in a drawer in the closet. We process mail by immediately throwing away (recycling) the junk and the bills go on the desk. We “pick up” the house before bedtime so that no dishes or glasses are left out. And yes, I normally empty my suitcase right when I get home.

If you don’t have systems in place nothing in the above paragraph happens. Clutter accumulates faster than your teen can text a message with juicy “t” and it’s too easy to claim “crisis mode” for not dealing with it quickly.

Eventually the crisis will be over and you’ll be stuck with a depressing, cluttered home that’s too overwhelming to tackle.

These are life situations that we all deal with: sick family, school starting, home repairs, major renovations, car accidents, etc. that force an interruption in our schedule. Tend to those issues and then get back to your regularly organized life.

Set up systems so that it’s easier to rebound. You know where everything goes and it just takes a little time to get back to normal.

If you don’t have a system you don’t even know where to start. And that makes life that much harder. Life is hard enough; being organized give you control over the chaos.

Happy organizing!