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.

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!

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!

Happy Spring Cleaning!

organized closet

Who is thrilled that Spring is here besides me? I love spring so much because the weather is perfect (not too hot, not too cold, and usually sunny), people are in better moods, and the blooming flowers and trees are gorgeous!

I also love spring because it signals a new season of growth which makes me think of shedding anything old, worn out, or tired. I’m more excited about spring organizing than spring cleaning and I love anything that makes organizing easier.

I put together a list of 51 Things You Probably Have Too Much of and Can Get Rid of to help you (really me) purge the excess and stuff that is old, worn out and tired that you no longer need. Don’t let the long title scare you! Having a list to use makes your spring organizing work more focused and effective because you’re not just wandering through closets wondering what you’re looking for.

Go through the list of 51 Things You Probably Have Too Much of and Can Get Rid of and mark off anything that you were able to get rid of. There is nothing more satisfying than marking things off a list!

Oh, and remember that “getting rid of” can mean giving away, donating, recycling, or throwing away. Someone may need exactly what you no longer need so try to find a good recipient. Here in the Atlanta area, I love taking things to the Sandy Springs Recycling Center because they also have donation resources there. You can search for “recycling center” and your town or county name to find something similar in your area.

Happy Spring organizing!

Expand Your Closet in 60 Seconds

Most people I work with are looking for ways to expand their closet space. They aren’t looking to renovate their house or tear down walls but they need more space for clothes in their closet. I can give you more space in your closet in 60 seconds or less.

It’s simple. All you have to do is clean out the empty hangers in your closet. Maybe this applies primarily to people who get their clothes dry- cleaned but I’ve seen it in just about every closet I’ve organized. Empty hangers accumulate.

Just take out the empty hangers and you’ll find inches and maybe even feet of space.

Remember you can take wire hangers to dry cleaners and they can and will recycle them. I take my extra plastic store hangers to an alterations shop across the street. They are thrilled to get them because most people bringing in clothes to be altered don’t bring them in on hangers. When they have completed the alterations, they always hang the clothes.

You can also check with your local consignment stores and charitable organizations that sell clothes to see if they need them. Usually someone is in need of what you are trying to discard so do a little research to find it a good home.

Happy organizing!

 

How to Organize Receipts

Do you feel like everywhere you turn, you’ve got paper receipts staring at you? You see them in your pocket, purse, wallet, car seat, bedside table, kitchen counter, etc. It’s like they are breeding and following you. It can be so overwhelming trying to figure out which ones to keep, which ones to toss, or should I be shredding them?

 

To free you from the feeling of being overwhelmed and anxious about paper receipts, I’ve put together a guide for what to do with the different types. You can relax knowing you’re keeping the good ones and discarding the ones you no longer need.

 

This guide is for personal spending only. If you are deducting expenses for business purposes you will need to keep and track those more specifically.

Receipt Type What to do
Grocery store, gas station, fast food, service receipts Track and toss.
Restaurant It is a good idea to verify restaurant receipts with your credit card statement to make sure tips are added correctly. The receipts can be tossed as soon as they are posted online or in your statement.

 

Clothing If you didn’t try the clothing on and there’s a chance it doesn’t fit or you might return it, keep the receipt in the bag. Try on the item and make a decision about keeping or returning pronto. If you are keeping toss the receipt. Items to be returned should be put in the bag with the receipt and taken to your car. Do not delay with this dangerous practice. It’s too easy to let time pass and not be able to return the item.

 

Gifts Request a gift receipt from the store and include it with the gift. You can toss your receipt.

 

Appliances (small) Test out the appliance such as a coffee maker, humidifier, hair dryer, to see if you’re satisfied with how it works. Keep the box and receipt for 30 days. If it’s a keeper, toss box and receipt. If you’re returning it, you have everything together to process the return.

 

Appliances (large) For appliances like dishwashers and washing machines, you’ll want to track when & where you purchased it and how much you paid. The ink will fade from the paper that most registers use so it’s a good idea to make a paper copy of the receipt and keep it with the warranty information. Should something happen, the manufacturer will ask you when and where you purchased it. If there is a replacement cost, you’ll know how much you paid.

 

Furniture & decor High dollar items that are an investment in your home should be tracked in case there is a warranty associated.

 

Medical care Keep receipts while confirming that insurance has covered the appropriate portion. If you’re treating a chronic or serious accident or illness, it is good to keep those receipts and paperwork together. Annual checkup receipts can be tossed once verified and paid.

 

Jewelry, Antiques, Cars Keep these receipts forever in your file drawer or container. You will need them for proving value in case of loss or sale.

 

Home Repairs & Renovations While not required, it is a good practice to keep these receipts because they usually include descriptions of the work performed. If you have repeat problems or want the same company back in your home, you have a detailed list of the services performed and when. You may also need to have this information for warranty issues.

 

Click the link here to get a copy of What to do with receipts to print out for your home use.

Happy organizing!

Best Gifts that Don’t Create Clutter

I love selecting, wrapping, and giving gifts. I start my Christmas list in January so I can write gift ideas down throughout the year. I buy ribbon in bulk so that wrapping a gift or even dressing up bottle of wine is easy. Everyone needs a place to store gift wrap, ribbon, tape, and any other supplies that you need for gift giving occasions.

However, frequently when I work with clients, we come across clutter that started as a gift. It could be a hostess or thank you or even a birthday gift that didn’t fit or suit them for whatever reason.

It truly is the thought that counts; they thought well enough of you to gift you with something. I am not an etiquette expert but I do believe that once the gift is yours you may choose to do with it what you will, even if that means passing it on to someone else.

I wanted to give some thoughtful suggestions for gifts that don’t cause clutter. We tend to think of giving something extravagant as a means of expressing our affection. But there are gifts that don’t require much expense that can be quite moving and equally communicative. And they don’t cause clutter.

Here is my list of Best Gifts that Don’t Create Clutter:

  1. Flowers–yes they wilt but certainly brighten up anyone’s home while they are alive and can make it smell wonderful.
  2. Candles–tried and true but always used.
  3. Wine–sharing bottles of wine you’ve loved makes is more special
  4. Coffee/ Tea–this is my personal favorite because I drink so much of it
  5. Food–this could be anything from a new honey or cheese crackers to a meal service. We all have to eat so it’s fun to share new foods as gifts.
  6. Framed photos–bonus if there is a story that goes with the photograph that becomes part of the gift.
  7. Photobooks–taking the time to put this together is always appreciated. Everyone loves a good story!
  8. Letters–taking the time to write a letter to a loved one expressing how you feel or reminding them of a significant story is irreplaceable and thus priceless. Bonus points for neat handwriting on pretty stationery.
  9. Self care services–massage, manicure & pedicure, haircut, car wash, or even having a house cleaner come for a few hours is a very luxurious gift.
  10. Experiences–Never underestimate the power of spending time doing something fun with someone to create more lasting memories. It could be taking a class, going to tea, or skydiving together or giving them a gift certificate to do something they’ve always wanted do that is highly appreciated.
  11. Make a donation to their favorite charity. For the person who has everything, giving a donation in their name to their favorite charity is an easy way to show you know what is important to them.
  12. Subscription to audio books or classes. I love listening to books while I exercise or walk the dog and learning something at the same time. Subscriptions Audible.com or ITunesU are 2 options for books or classes that can be gifted. Include a list of suggested books or classes to personalize it further.

And I’ve saved the best for last: give the gift of your time.

Whether you’re treating someone to a meal, a walk, or a concert know that time is the one non renewable resource that we’d all like to have more of. Spend time with your loved ones and focus your attention on them. Time together creates wonderful memories that will last forever, don’t have to be wrapped, or decluttered in the future.

Happy organizing!

Organizing Mistakes to Avoid like Friday 13th

While I prefer sharing organizing tips and positive suggestions, there are some mistakes I’d like to tell you to avoid at all costs to get and stay organized.

  • Declutter first. While this seems like a simple task to start with in an organizing project, it is usually the most time consuming and mentally taxing. However, you need to remove what you don’t need any longer before you can create workable systems. I tell clients who are dealing with an overcrowded desk or closet or cabinet to throw out any trash that they see first. It’s usually easier to spot wrappers, empty containers, old catalogs, and toss them first to get your decluttering mojo going. Then you can move on to the items that are going to require some thought. Consider it your warm up time before a work out. 🙂
  • Measure twice, shop once. Do not buy organizing supplies without measuring not only the space where it will go but also what it should contain. If you are replacing hangers, you need to count the number of hanging items first, Yes, each one. Measure a shelf’s height and width and depth before shopping for a basket to put on it. Measure kitchen utensils before buying drawer dividers.
    You will save yourself so much in terms of money, time, and frustration by not having to make multiple trips to buy and return excess items.
  • Don’t buy because something is On Sale. This applies ANYTHING that is on sale not just clothes, shoes, and fun stuff. Think carefully before stocking up on food, cleaning supplies, gifts, cards, holiday decor, candles, shampoo, makeup, etc. These “great deals” have a way of taking over our storage space without much notice and then we tend to forget that they’re there. The next trip to Target to buy toilet paper turns into a crazed shopping spree and you forget about the shelf/ closet FULL of toilet paper/ paper towels/ shampoo that you already have waiting for you at home. Ask yourself the following questions before you stock up on what seems like a great deal:
    • Do you have enough already?
    • Do I really need this?
    • Do I have an imminent use for this?
    • Do you have a place to store it if you buy it?
    • Do you know how soon you’ll be able to use it?

I define being organized as knowing what you have and where it goes. Having too much, even of a good thing, crowds your space and doesn’t allow for new experiences to be a part of your life. Shop carefully and thoughtfully so you don’t have to spend time later decluttering it or returning what doesn’t serve you.

Happy organizing!

Who is ready for some Spring Organizing?

Does the warmer weather make you want to put away all of your heavy sweaters, coats, and scarves?
Do you have the unexplainable urge to dump out your drawers and curate the contents?
Does file folding bring your warm fuzzies?
Have you been cleaning and putting up blankets and flannel sheets?

Are you feeling the Spring Organizing buzz? Ok, maybe that’s just me….

I love the change of the seasons and all the beautiful colors that Spring brings. I’m happy when Fall brings cooler weather and changing leaves and I also enjoy the cold and snow when Winter follows after. There is a season for everything and a time to enjoy whatever nature brings. It’s all going to change shortly anyway so soak it all in, whatever season it is.

When Spring comes around bringing warmer temperatures, I relish the natural inclination to spruce up my own house. The New Year’s phrase, “out with the old, in with the new” resonates strongly with me and I love helping other people do the same.

It’s not necessarily about throwing things away but rather putting away the seasonal things you don’t need right now. Having fewer choices actually makes your life easier because your brain doesn’t have to process all of the different options that your eyes see.

I like to call this curating your closet although it applies to any part of your home. Removing the distractions so you can see what’s essential, loved, needed, and used.

cu·rate2
ˌkyo͝oˈrāt,ˈkyo͝oˌrāt/
verb

  1. select, organize, and present (online content, merchandise, information, etc.), typically using professional or expert knowledge.

Did you know that we are naturally programmed to want to Spring Clean? No, seriously. In the Winter, when you spend less time outdoors and even less time exposed to light, your body produces more melatonin which tells you to sleep and stay inside.

As the weather warms up, and we spend more time outside, the melatonin production decreases so we become more energized. We have an innate desire to shake things up and peel off the heavy layers of winter.

Historically speaking, we would have opened the windows to clear out the dust and soot from our wood and coal burning fires and had to scrub the walls and ceilings. Fortunately, we don’t have to air our houses out in order to breathe or literally wash it top to bottom but it sure is nice to get that fresh air in.

If you’re not feeling the Spring Organizing buzz, let us help you out. Neatsmart is all about editing, curating, and creating the personalized system that makes your life easier. Give us a call if you’d like help with cutting your home for Spring.