Thursday, July 28, 2011

You Aren't Home Until You've Unpacked

It's a busy travel season and many of you will be coming home from vacations and trips with all sorts of stuff. You actually do this everyday. If you are like me, you feel like you are moving everytime you leave the house! I group trips together so it's not unusual for me to have a gym bag, professional items and a purse with me, plus possibly store bought items to come home with.

I'm not perfect at this suggestion, but I'm working on it. I find that if I fully unpack all items right after I get home, it goes a long way to staying orderly and knowing where things are. So here are some tips:

Gather it all up. Collect whatever bags, purchases, cups, trash etc you can carry and clear out that car. This will help you keep it picked up.

Use a staging area. Clear a spot near the door you most use (this may be a mudroom, garage or back porch) and keep it clear as a staging area. Deposit all the stuff (purse, tote bag, groceries, trash etc) on that table or counter as soon as you come in the door.

Get briefly settled. Take off your coat and shoes, hug your spouse...whatever you typically do when you first get home. But don't let it distract you.

Unpack one bag at a time. Starting with any perishable items, take one item at a time and put it where it needs to go. Food into the fridge. Mail you've picked up onto the desk. Receipts into a tray. Coins into a "cash in later" container.  Keys onto a hook. Dirty or wet workout clothes into the laundry area. You get the idea.

Restock. Refill any items you've depleted. For example, do you carry checks and have no more in your purse? Get another check. Drink from a water bottle all day? Rinse, refill and stick in the fridge. Out of cash, draw from your cash envelopes to replenish if you use that system.

Relax and reflect. How long did this take you? Probably no more than ten minutes on average, more if you are unpacking from a vacation. But you'll be delighted that everything is put away and when you are in a rush tomorrow morning, that your water bottle is already full and cold, ready to grab. Trust me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Losing Things (But Not Our Minds)

I'm adding to my list of things I have misplaced at home. A few months ago I lost a Bluetooth headset. Never have found that and had to accept the wasted money.

Now, I can't find my iPod, which I typically use regularly for podcasts, etc. I remember (I think!) syncing it just a few days ago and carrying it out of my home office. From there, I don't know where I set it down.

Does this ever happen to you? It is frustrating to know something is somewhere in the house but you can't remember where you laid it. So here are some tips that I need to apply and will hopefully help you, too.

Fight distraction. I'm a multi-tasker by nature, but the older I get the more I think I get absent minded partly because there is too much in my head. It may seem silly to concentrate on where you lay something down, but it will help you later when you are looking for it!

Limit locations. Re-train yourself to only lay certain types of items (i.e. keys, technology, etc.) in certain locations at home. For example, have one key hook and never put your keys down anywhere else. Have only 2-3 "acceptable" places for cell phones, iPods, laptops, etc and always return them to one of those three places.

Store logically. Though it's tempting to throw things on the bed or the kitchen table to deal with later, instead think of logical spots for things. Can you hang a hook by the door for keys? Have a charging station for cell phones? Think it through and put things in their home.

Fully unpack when you come in the house. This makes a BIG difference. My tendency is to lay down my bag on the kitchen table, etc and move on to any of a number of other needs. But I am revamping my thinking to not consider my errands finished until I unpack the collections of the day. More on this in next week's post!

Update: my husband found my iPod on the floor (dark tile) under a chair where it must have fallen but the ideas above still apply.

By the way, organizing hope typically changes posts on Fridays, but starting next week, the new posts will be available on Thursdays. I also invite you to check out our latest blog, HOPE Hintsfor nearly DAILY tips about all sorts of ways to stay close to God and do life well.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Veggies and Fruits

Just a short post today to give you an idea about organizing one part of your refrigerator. If you are trying to eat more fruits and veggies, make it easy to do so. Get two divided trays. Once a week (maybe on the weekend?) cut up veggies and prepare fruits, filling the tray (i.e. slice tomatoes, cut up strawberries, cucumbers, pineapple, etc.) Keep this tray in the fridge to easily pull out for adding fruit to cereal or grabbing veggies for a wrap.

Start a new tray the next weekend, moving only the fresh remains to the new tray. Wash/sanitize the other one. This way you'll be rotating clean trays and getting rid of pieces of fruit/veggies that are no longer fresh.
This makes it easier on your family to make healthy choices. (You too!)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Where's that Receipt?

Okay, I admit it. Paper filing is one of my weakest organizational points. It seems overwhelming to know what to keep, what to toss, and realize how long it may take to go through all those papers! Most stay safely tucked away in a file cabinet that stays closed all the time!

But I do feel I have a pretty good system for monthly receipts and so forth so here it is:

  • Obtain four sets of three drawer plastic cubes.
  • Label each drawer for each month of the year.
  • Keep the current month's drawer handy on your desk.
  • Stick all receipts, policy renewals, even cards and letters in the box.
  • At the beginning of the new month, put this drawer away. Pull out the next drawer.
  • Go through the new drawer, removing any receipts you no longer have to keep (i.e. Walmart, etc.) Shred those.
  • Keep important papers or things you are unsure of in that drawer. Consider scanning them and saving them to a service like Evernote, so you can discard them. (If tax, legal, medical, move them to special files of those categories.)

Enjoy reviewing nice notes and cards you received this time last year. Then, decide whether you still want to keep greeting cards, etc. Consider finding another sentimentality container for those now, maybe for review on New Year's day. Better yet, scan them to Evernote or scrapbook them.

Continue this rotation every month. This keeps the job manageable, and items immediately accessible for a year. It doesn't take long to rifle through one bin to find that missing Kohl's receipt to return that item, particularly if you have an idea of what month or season you bought it.

What are your ideas for managing files?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ten More Travel Tips

Last week I shared several "travel tips" to help you be more organized when you leave town. Here are a few more:

If you have access to refrigeration at your hotel, cabin, etc. you'll be able to save leftovers, purchase inexpensive items such as cheese or milk and save leftovers (i.e. from KFC) that can stretch to another meal.

Bring something small but comfy and familiar, such as a favorite pillow, stuffed animal, etc.

Keep tote bags prepared for local getaways, stocked with non-perishable items you will need for a day at the park, the beach, the community pool or the Y, etc. You may want to get several of the same size totes but in different colors or designs corresponding to their use. Then you can grab and go!

Mark on your calendar six to nine months before your passport expires so you have time to renew it.

If you have a smart phone such as an iPhone or Blackberry, there are several ways to consolidate things you will need in one place. i.e. a Bible app can help you keep up with daily reading. Fitness tracking apps that sync with websites (such as My Fitness Pal can help you keep tracking goals even while you are away. Kindle app can allow you to bring several books on your phone. There are even apps to suggest games to play on long car rides!

Always expect to wait or be delayed in travel. You'll be less stressed if you expect it, and if you have a book or other project ready to work on, you can consider it an enforced rest period!

Pray for open eyes and ears. Often, God has a plan for us that may differ a bit from our plans for vacation. Is there a person He wants you to encourage? Does He want you to notice something special? Do you have opportunity to work through something challenging (i.e. a delay, breakdown, extra expense) with those you love and later can look back on it as a  bonding experience?

Realize that extended time together with friends or family may end up feeling different than you may expect. Most of us see our family or friends in pockets of time, rarely spending entire days together. Be aware of needed space for everyone to have some personal time, and be sure your friendship is solid enough to share the same living quarters for extended days! Families especially are often running in different directions, and too much "together time" at once can lead to frustration or some tension.

Journal and take pictures, but not at the expense of being "fully present." I spent the day at Disney alone one time, and the first ride I went on was a safari in Animal Kingdom. I took a couple of pictures, but was amazed at the people behind me that were working so hard to capture every shot they could that I wondered if they were really enjoying the experience itself. You'll never capture (with a camera) every image from a vacation. Just try to get a highlight or two, and enjoy what you are doing and who you are with.

Be careful about social media updates. We have a policy in our home not to give specific info about travels until after we return home. Much as I would love to post updates while I am experiencing the trip, I don't because 1) I don't think it is wise to give one's specific location out to a large network often, and 2) it puts me in a mind frame of "how can I write about this" rather than fully experiencing it and 3) it can cause me to be a little too self important, as if people need to know my experiences as they occur. Maybe not. It can be a challenge to fully unplug but it can be very healthy to do so.

What tips would you add to this list?