Getting Ready for Dorm Life: Tips and Tricks for Organizing Small Spaces

by Tina ~ August 19th, 2015

Life in the Dorm: Tips and Tricks for Organizing Small SpacesGoing away to college or university is often seen as a rite of passage, the first time living away from home for many young people.

If you’re not prepared, it can come as a bit of shock to arrive on campus with your personal belongings, only to discover that there just isn’t enough space for everything. A little advance planning can go a long way, so I’ve created this five-step guide to help you through this exciting moment in your life.

Step 1: Obtain as much information as possible from your school’s Housing Department.

Common questions include:

  • Are furniture and bed linens provided, or do you need to bring your own?
  • Are there any restrictions on what you’re allowed to bring?
  • What is the size and shape of your room?
  • What amenities are available in common areas?

You can probably find most of these details on the school website, but don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call if you can’t find the answers you need.

Step 2: Get in touch with your roommate (if applicable).

With limited space, it probably doesn’t make sense for both of you to bring large items such as TVs and printers. See what arrangements you can make. Perhaps you can share the costs of renting a mini-fridge.

Step 3: Draft a floor plan.

As you might have done with your bedroom at home, map out your space, planning zones around your habits and preferences. Since you’ll be spending many hours studying and working on your computer, pay particular attention to lighting, both natural and artificial.

Step 4: Create a master list of everything you’ll need in your dorm room.

DormSmart’s free printable Dorm Room Checklist for College includes some great ideas for maximizing space in your dorm room. I especially like these:

  • Collapsible storage bins to use on shelves, under your bed, and in your closet
  • Storage hooks to hold book bags, purses, jackets, towels, etc.
  • Storage caddies for school supplies, makeup, etc.

You probably won’t need or have space for everything they suggest, so be realistic!

Speaking of being realistic, when you’re deciding what clothes and other personal items to bring, keep these two things in mind:

  1. What will you do while you’re away at school? There’s not much point in bringing hobby supplies if your time will be filled with part-time work, academic and social activities.
  2. How often will you be returning home? It may be more practical to bring only what you need in between trips, and to swap seasonal clothing as needed.

Step 5: Review your master list and create a separate list for items you need to purchase.

You might be better off shopping for some things locally after you’ve arrived on campus. This will give you a chance to make sure you really need and have the space for them, and eliminates transporting large items.

Bonus Tip: Be flexible.

Remember that no matter how much you plan, you may run into changes that are beyond your control.

Perhaps you were expecting a room on your own, and you end up sharing with someone else. Or the room isn’t quite the size you were told. Just roll with the punches, and don’t let it spoil this exciting time in your life.

Please ‘like’ our Facebook page for more organizing ideas!

Illustration © Elvetica / depositphotos

How to have a really good camping trip

by Tina ~ July 1st, 2015

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy... here’s how to have a really great camping trip!

Now that summer’s here, you may be thinking about going camping. There’s nothing like some well-deserved R&R!

But before you throw everything in your car and drive away, remember that camping is just like any other aspect of your life – a little planning and organization will go a long way.

I went camping last summer for the first time since I was a kid, and discovered a few tricks that made for a much more enjoyable experience.

Must Brings

In addition to basics such as rope, tarps, water, and playing cards, we found that folding buckets, water jugs, and small tables – pretty well anything that folds so it doesn’t take up a lot of space in your car – are great.

A large plastic sheet to place on the ground when you are emptying the car allows you to lay everything out while you’re setting things up without putting it on the dirty ground.

Double Duty

A Frisbee can be used as a fire-fan as well as a fun pastime!

A large umbrella can be used to keep away rain, catch water, block the sun, or as a prop for kids’ games.

Cool, Useful and Space Efficient Gadgets

  • Zippered, netted food covers
  • Bungee cords
  • Picnic bench covers and clips
  • Tie wraps – for securing during high winds or travelling, when rolling up stuff for packing up
  • Collapsible prep bowls
  • Mini crazy-glues

Fun Food

One of the best parts of a vacation is eating different food than you eat at home. Smores are a traditional camping favourite, but you may want to also bring along some special drinks and appetizers,  just in case the cooking dinner over the fire takes longer than expected.

Camping Décor (crazy, I know!)

When you set up camp, you’re building your temporary home, so you need to utilize the space you have available as efficiently as possible. Why not create an ambiance and purpose for each area you set out for yourself? There are many ways you can accomplish this.

Lighting is a fun and easy way to use to create space and purpose, whether you use solar lighting for patio lanterns, ground illumination to create pathways, reflectors, candles, or a combination of these.

Flooring such as patio rugs or rice mats outside the entrance will help keep the dirt out of your tent or RV.

Positioning: Create a triangle with your tent, car, and picnic table to define your space.

RV Space-Saving Tricks

Camping in an RV is a lot different than camping in a tent, because you have so many more amenities. Although space is still at a premium, you can make the most of it by using one or more of the following products:

  • The Smart Dryer provides 30 feet of drying space in a small area.
  • The Stove Topper acts as a cutting board or extra counter space when you need it.
  • The Extend-A-Shower rod gives you more room to shower and can also be used to drip dry bathing suits, towels, or laundry.

Are you thinking of staying home this summer because you can’t stand the thought of coming back to the clutter? Contact me to find out how Spot On Organizing can help you.

Photo courtesy of DeaShoot, used under a Creative Commons license

How to Save Money and Your Peace of Mind while Moving

by Tina ~ June 10th, 2015

moving box with organizational labelYou’ll never hear someone say, “I love moving!” It’s tiring, unsettling, and expensive if not carried out thoughtfully. All of us can recount stories of frustration, exhaustion or expense that we or someone we know experienced during a move. I’ve heard quite a few of those stories myself.

If a move is in your future, these four strategies will help you to keep it both efficient and cost-effective.

Tina’s Top Tips for Packing and Moving

  1. Edit, edit, edit. De-clutter and purge before you begin packing. Don’t pay movers to move stuff you really don’t need!
  2. Buy proper moving boxes. Don’t try and use liquor or grocery store boxes; they’re not quite the right sizes.  Uniform boxes allow the movers to pack their truck more space-efficiently, saving them time, and you money.
  3. Don’t pack too early. No need to live in amongst moving boxes a month before the big day. If you hire professionals, a good team can pack an entire house in 2-3 days.
  4. Beware of moving companies who un-pack for you. They usually provide a service called “pack to a level surface”.  This means they will simply unpack all of your belongings onto any counter, table or floor surface available – and then you are left with your belongings spread out all around your house.  Pretty overwhelming – that’s usually when we are called in to help!

Have thoughts of moving got you feeling overwhelmed? Professional Organizers can help you create and execute a personalized moving plan:

  • Sort and help purge what no longer fits into your life
  • Provide a plan for what to sell, donate or recycle
  • Recommend competent movers, provide reputable trades, source affordable suppliers, etc.
  • Work with you at your new home with decisions on furniture, space planning, room flow and décor
  • Pack your possessions efficiently and safely so they’re easily found in the right room

Contact me to book your free 30 minute in-home consultation.

© bradcalkins / depositphotos

Organizing Cosmetics and Toiletries

by Tina ~ May 27th, 2015

Is your bathroom or dresser top overrun with cosmetics and toiletries? How much time do you waste every day trying to track down just the right eye pencil or lipstick?

too much make-up

Today I’m going to help you regain control over your personal products with my three-step process.

Step 1: Eliminate what you don’t need

It is often said that we use 20% of our things 80% of the time. This certainly applies to cosmetics.

How often have you bought make-up, only to get home and realize it wasn’t the right shade for you? And what about all those free samples and gifts you’ve received with purchases? Not to mention small bottles of lotions and shampoos brought home from hotel stays!

So let’s start by gathering everything up and seeing exactly what you have. You should be able to group them into the following categories:

1 – Toss:

  • Anything past the expiry date on its label
  • Nail polish that has separated or dried out
  • Anything that smells “off”

Many labels don’t have expiry dates, so for guidelines on how long cosmetics should be kept, check out Good Housekeeping’s Have Your Beauty Products Gone Bad?

Please note that nail polish, nail polish remover, aftershave, perfume, and other alcohol-based lotions are considered hazardous household waste. In Toronto, these items should be taken to your nearest Drop-off Depot or a Community Environment Day for safe disposal.

2 – Donate:

  • Unopened packages that you will never use
  • Anything you’ve purchased in bulk that exceeds your anticipated usage

If you’re feeling really ruthless, consider unloading these five beauty products you don’t need.

The following are some of the organizations in Toronto that accept donations of unused cosmetics and/or toiletries:

Thanks to Olivia Ha Makeup & Hair for compiling this list! Visit Olivia’s blog for additional details.

For health reasons, most places will not accept open packages, but the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) takes opened and half-used toiletries. Otherwise, you may be able to pass them on to a friend or family member. If you do, keep in mind that eye makeup should never be shared due to the risk of contamination.

3 – Keep:

  • Items you use regularly

See how much shorter this list is than the previous two? Once you’ve pared down your collection, it’s going to be so much easier to organize what you have left!

Jen at IHeart Organizing has an idea to free up even more space: she combined like products into one container and recycled the newly emptied bottles – brilliant!

 

Step 2: Organize what you are keeping

Once you’ve identified the items you use regularly, group them together based on how and when they are used. Typical groupings are:

  • Day-to-day toiletries used in the bathtub of shower, e.g. shower, conditioner, body wash
  • Toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss and related items
  • Facial care products, e.g. cleanser, moisturizer, masks
  • Everyday makeup
  • Special occasion makeup

Keeping similar items together will cut down on the time it takes you to get ready to go out, but it will also be easier to keep track of what you have, so you won’t run out of supplies or buy them before they’re actually needed.

 

Step 3: Contain and store

As shown in these photos, you can keep your daily necessities close at hand without having them scattered all over the bathroom!

Spaces by Bonita Kitchen & Bath Designers Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS
  • Lazy Susans
  • Hanging organizers
  • Sliding or stacking baskets or drawer units under the sink

But you don’t have to stick with conventional methods! Why not try one of these really creative ideas?

  • Affix a sheet of galvanized steel to the back of your medicine chest to hold magnetic hooks and small plastic cups with magnetic bottoms to corral small items (Source: Martha Stewart)
  • Use a spice rack to hold perfumes, lotions, face wash and other items (Source: IHeart Organizing)
Contemporary Bathroom by London Interior Designers & Decorators Clare Gaskin

Do you have a creative idea of your own? We want to hear about it, so please leave a comment!

photo credit: via photopin (license)

Laundry’s Gotta Get Done!

by Tina ~ April 30th, 2015

One thing that all my clients (and I) have in common, whether they live alone or with a large family, is LAUNDRY. It’s a necessary part of life, but with an organized routine and laundry room, it doesn’t have to be a major undertaking.

laundry basket

 photo credit: Day 86: “Laundry Night” via photopin (license)

Organizing Your Laundry Routine

Some people let their laundry accumulate all week and blitz it all in one day. If that works for you, great! But if you’re finding you can’t get through it all or if you’re tired of giving up a whole day to laundry, there are other approaches that might work better for you. One option is to toss a load in the washer before you head out in the morning, transfer it to the dryer when you get home, and put it away after dinner. This will allow you to stay on top of the laundry without eating into time you’d rather be spending on something else.

Save time sorting by having separate hampers for whites and darks, whether they’re in a central location or you have a set in each bedroom. Even young children can learn to put their dirty clothes in the right hamper. Keep a separate basket for items that need to be hand-washed, and designate a spot to place dry cleaning so it doesn’t get forgotten.

Instead of placing all the clean laundry in one container, keep a set of stackable baskets on hand. Use one for each room and sort the items accordingly. This will save you handling everything more than once.

You can sort, fold, and even iron clean clothes in front of the TV so you don’t feel like you’re giving up your evenings to laundry.

Teaching teenagers to do their own laundry will cut down on your workload and eliminate complaints that their favourite outfit isn’t clean when they want to wear it. At the same time, you’re preparing them for adulthood!

Make it easy for children of all ages to keep their clean clothes off the floor so they don’t end up in the laundry needlessly. Regularly removing clothing they’ve outgrown from closets and dresser drawers will keep those spots from becoming overcrowded and hard to access. You might also consider placing a coat tree in your child’s room or attaching hooks to the wall, making sure they are at an appropriate height.

Even if you have your own laundry equipment, laundromats are a great option for those times when you have an overwhelming amount of washing to do, such as after returning from a family camping trip, so you can do several loads at one time.

If you need to go to a laundromat or the laundry room in your condo or apartment complex, try to go at off-peak hours if your schedule allows it.

Organizing Your Laundry Room

Like any other job, laundry will be much more enjoyable if you have a pleasant environment to do it in.

Natural lighting is ideal, but isn’t always an option. Just make sure that your laundry room is well lit so you can identify and properly treat spots and stains before they go through the wash cycle.

Use your laundry room to store anything related to maintaining your clothing, such as mending supplies and spare hangers.

Housing detergent, fabric softener, spot removers and other products behind closed doors will keep them away from small children, keep your laundry room tidy, and allow you to keep tabs on when you need to buy more.

 

Contemporary Laundry Room by Redwood City General Contractors K.G.Bell Construction

As shown in the above photo, it’s not necessary to have a large laundry room to be organized, but if you have the space for one, a table or countertop will provide you with a great flat surface for sorting and folding clean laundry.

Create a spot for hanging articles that can’t go in the dryer, whether it’s a rod with hangers, a collapsible rack, or a retractable clothesline.

A foldaway ironing board will also save space and keep your laundry area neat, while making it easily accessible when needed.

Keep a couple of small baskets in the laundry room – one to hold stray socks until their mates reappear (unless you’ve taken my advice about buying all socks the same) and one to hold small objects that you remove from pockets. Of course, you don’t want to leave these things in the baskets indefinitely, but it’s better to give them a temporary home than to let them clutter up your laundry room where they’ll get forgotten. Labelling your baskets will make it even easier for you and other family members to keep track of things.

Assign each family member a specific sock colour. Not only does this speed up the sorting process, but you can usually save money by buying multipacks. When all socks are the same, if one goes missing or gets holes it in, it can still be matched up with others from that pack.

What’s your secret to keeping laundry under control?

“Get to work” – Setting up a Home Office

by Tina ~ March 18th, 2015

As computers play an increasingly important role in our lives, the home office has become an essential space for many families. Whether you have the opportunity to do some or all of your job from the comfort of home, run a home-based business, or simply need a spot to manage your household finances, you’ll be more productive when you have a comfortable and distraction-free place to work.

As with any organizing project, your first step is to plan your space.

If you happen to have a spare room, you don’t have to look too hard for your ideal spot, but don’t worry if you don’t. With a little imagination, you may find another area that can either do double duty or be converted to a home office. Here are a few examples:

  • Spare bedroom: Replace the bed with a sofa-bed so you can see clients in your office and still use the room for overnight guests as needed.
  • Landing: Some houses, especially older ones, have enough space at the top of the stairs for a small work area.
  • Dining room: Place the table next to a wall to use as a desk and move it out from the wall when you’re entertaining. A portable filing unit can easily be moved out of sight on those occasions.
  • Closet or alcove: Install shelves to create a compact home office.
Transitional Home Office by Boston Interior Designers & Decorators Twelve Chairs

If there’s simply nowhere for you to set up a dedicated office space, consider investing in an attractive armoire desk that will house your computer and other office supplies. Because you can close it up when you’re not working, it can sit in your living room or bedroom without interfering with your décor or your personal activities.

Eclectic Home Office

Be sure that your desk or workstation includes enough flat workspace for spreading out papers, assembling product orders, or any other tasks you may need to do. Proper lighting and a comfortable ergonomic chair are also essential, especially if you’ll be spending many hours on your computer.

You don’t have to break the bank to outfit your home office. Some people have created their own desk by placing one or more boards across two small filing cabinets. There are also many places in Toronto to purchase good quality used furniture, including Of Things Past, Elegant Garage Sale and foc!

Even if you don’t need a lot of workspace and are comfortable just using your laptop or tablet in whatever room strikes your fancy, I recommend that you have a dedicated spot to keep it when it’s being charged or not in use, as well as to store your files and office supplies.

When creating your home office, in addition to being functional, you’ll want it to be a comfortable room where you can enjoy working. Enhance your space with plants, artwork, desk accessories and office supplies that suit your personality. Office Candy has a great selection of fun file folders and other items to help you personalize your home office. Depending on your work style, you may also appreciate a bulletin board and/or desk blotter covered in fabric or wallpaper to match your décor.

Setting up your home office is just the beginning – you’ll need to develop strategies to organize it and help you to keep it that way. For inspiration, read about my work in Becky’s Studio and Steve’s Office and consider ways to adapt their systems to your own office.

Need help getting started? Contact me to find out how Spot On Organizing can help you.

Is your loved one challenged by chronic or situational disorganization?

by Tina ~ February 25th, 2015

disorganization

 
If someone you care about is struggling with clutter and disorganization, you may be wondering what you can do to help.

The first step is to determine whether they are chronically or situationally disorganized.

Situational Disorganization

The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) states that

“situational disorganization occurs when one finds oneself in clutter or chaos for a short period of time, resulting from an unusual turn of events or changes in living arrangements.”

We’ve all been there at one time or another. Being ill, caring for a sick family member, moving, and changing jobs are all examples of the types of situations that may disrupt our routines and cause temporary disorganization.

Offering a helping hand to get things back on track may be all that’s needed, but it often helps to bring in a professional organizer who can create systems that will make it easier to stay on top of everything the next time life throws a curve ball.

Chronic Disorganization

Chronic disorganization, on the other hand, goes much deeper. In her book, Conquering Chronic Disorganization, Judith Kolberg states that

“Chronic disorganization that has a long history, undermines one’s quality of life on a daily basis, and recurs.”

Rather than resulting from a short-term situation, chronic disorganization may be caused by a number of different factors, including neurological conditions, mental health issues, and addictions.

Unless you are a trained professional, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to provide the type of support that is required by someone who is chronically disorganized, but you can encourage them to seek treatment for the underlying problem.

To help determine whether your loved one is chronically or situationally disorganized, and to develop a plan of action, the ICD offers a number of free downloads, including:

  • Are you chronically disorganized?
  • Are you situationally disorganized?
  • Common characteristics of individuals challenged by chronic disorganization
  • Factors associated with disorganization
  • Should I hire a professional organizer or work with a friend?
  • How do I find a professional organizer that’s right for me?
  • Readiness for change

Hoarding Disorder

In 2013, Hoarding Disorder was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). More serious than either situational or chronic disorganization, this disorder has come to public awareness through such TV programs as Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive.

A person who has hoarding disorder experiences an irrational, persistent difficulty in discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.  Over time, they’ll collect so much clutter that it becomes next to impossible to live in their apartment or home in a normal manner.

It is estimated that hoarding disorder affects somewhere between 2 and 6 percent of the population.

(Source: Hoarding Disorder Symptoms, PsychCentral)

Here are some interesting facts about compulsive hoarding:

All About Hoarding Infographic
All About Hoarding – An infographic by the team at Bingham Self Storage

If you suspect your loved one may have Hoarding Disorder, you may find it helpful to read How to Talk to Someone with Hoarding by Cristina M. Sorrentino. As with any mental illness, you can encourage someone to seek professional help, but you can’t force them to do so.

Recommended Reading

  • Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding, and Compulsive Acquiring, by Michael A. Tompkins & Tamara L. Hartl
  • Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding, by Jessie Sholl

The Emotional Side of Clutter

by Tina ~ February 11th, 2015

emotional clutterIn a previous blog post, I said that organizing memorabilia is different than other kinds of organizing because your focus isn’t so much on the practical value of the items, but on what they mean to you.

However, emotional attachment isn’t limited to old photos and other keepsakes. For many people, the thought of getting rid of any of their belongings is stressful.

Here are some of the most common obstacles to clutter-clearing that my clients report.

“It’s worth a lot of money.”

Have you bought something only to come home and realize it was the wrong size or colour, or that you didn’t really like it after all? Maybe it was on final sale and can’t go back, or you just didn’t get around to taking it back within the time allowed. Every time you see that item, you’re reminded of the money you wasted, but keeping it isn’t going to bring back your money; it’s just going to make you feel worse.

“I might need it one day.”

Are you afraid to get rid of things in case you need them again in the future and can’t afford to replace them? If your parents grew up during the Depression, they may have instilled this mindset in you, even if you’ve never been short on funds yourself. Although it may be practical to a certain extent, accumulating large quantities of items that can be acquired at a dollar store is not, especially if they’re taking up valuable space in your home.

“I’m going to wear it when I lose weight.”

You might, but there’s a good chance it won’t even be in style by then. Instead of motivating you to stick to your diet or fitness program, it probably just makes you feel bad. You’re better off treating yourself to a new outfit as a reward once you reach your weight loss goal.

“I’m going to use it someday.”

This is especially common when it comes to hobbies and other pastimes. Whether it’s exercise equipment, a musical instrument, craft supplies, or something else altogether, these items often represent activities that you no longer engage in, and maybe never did. Be honest with yourself. Do these objects really have a place in your life?

“I don’t like it, but it was a gift.”

People give you presents because they want you to be happy. If keeping that item is contributing to your clutter and making you unhappy, do you really think that’s what your loved one would want?

“It reminds me of a special time/place/person.”

It’s wonderful to keep things that bring back happy memories, especially if they’re well-organized so you can really enjoy them. But keeping everything takes up too much space and doesn’t set the extra special ones apart from all the rest.

Sometimes it’s better not to be reminded of certain times in our lives. Do you really want to surround yourself with memories of your ex, for example?

If you can relate to any of these obstacles, understanding why you are attached to certain objects is the first step to letting go.

Start with something small and see how it feels. You may be surprised at how liberating it can be!

10 Steps for Planning an Organized Space

by Tina ~ January 28th, 2015

10 Steps for Planning an Organized SpaceMany clients contact me after completing a DIY organizing project, only to find themselves back in the same situation after a few weeks or month.

What went wrong? They jumped into the project with both feet, without taking the time to draw up a plan first.

Although it may seem like more work, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration by following these steps for planning your organized space.

Step 1 – List the activities that take place in each room.

It may be helpful to download a Room Function Chart from Peter Walsh’s book It’s All Too Much. This handy tool allows you to capture:

  • The room’s current function
  • The room’s ideal function
  • Who uses the room
  • Who should use the room
  • What the room needs to contain in order to support the activities that take place there
  • What has to go

Print several copies, so each family member can fill one out for every room.

Step 2 – Create a vision of your organized space.

Hold a family meeting to review your completed Room Function Charts. Use the information to set common goals and plan a vision of your organized space and how to make it reality.

Step 3 – Identify which activity zones are needed in each room.

Activity zones are the basis of Julie Morgenstern’s Kindergarten Model of Organization, as described in her best-seller, Organizing from the Inside Out. If you look at a kindergarten class, you’ll see that it’s divided into zones for the various activities that take place there: music, art, reading, snacks, and so on. This same principle can be applied to your home.

For example, a child’s bedroom may include zones for sleeping, playing, getting dressed, and doing homework. Your kitchen likely requires zones for food preparation, cooking, dishwashing and storage, food storage, and household information.

Step 4 – Determine what supplies are needed for each activity.

Items should ideally be stored in the rooms in which they’re used. If you only read in bed, why keep the books in the living room?

Keeping things where they’re used most often will minimize the need to carry things back and forth and reduce the temptation to just leave something where it is instead of putting it away.

Step 5 – Assess your available space.

Now that you’ve identified the best place to store various items, you’ll need to figure out how much will realistically fit in each space.

Keep in mind that you can maximize your vertical space by using bookcases, cabinets, shelves, or hooks. Built-ins help make the best use of your space, as do double duty furnishings with drawers or shelves.

Consider storage units you already own and what you may need to purchase, but don’t buy anything just yet.

Step 6 – Map out your space.

Within each room, plan your zones around your natural habits and preferences.

Do you prefer to read by a window or a lamp? Plan your reading zone accordingly.

Be sure to also consider the relationship between various activities. For example, setting up a reading or homework zone near the TV is not recommended for obvious reasons.

Although there’s specialized software for creating floor plans, you don’t need to go to that much trouble. You can simply use regular graph paper or a free online tool such as Floorplanner.

Step 7 – Draw up a schedule.

You’ll most likely need to rearrange some of your furniture and storage units, and to move supplies to their newly created zones. Figure out the best time to do this, and be sure to allow more time than you think you’ll need so you’re not rushed. You may need to bring in some burly friends or paid help to handle some of the heavy lifting.

Step 8 – Move everything that needs to be moved.

Pause to give yourself a pat on the back – you’re almost done!

Step 9 – Identify what storage units, if any, are needed to complete the plan.

Once everything is in its new home, you’ll have a better sense of how well it all fits.

Now that all like items are gathered together, you may find that you have more than you need. Get rid of the surplus before you figure out if you need to buy any baskets, bins, shelving, or other storage units.

Step 10 – Develop routines to maintain your organized space.

Although organizing your home into zones will help you confine items to the area in which they’re used most often, you still have to make an effort. Getting in the habit of dealing with paperwork as it comes in and filing things right away will go a long way towards keeping clutter under control.

So there you have it: 10 steps for planning an organized space! If it feels a bit overwhelming, keep in mind that Spot On can help you through any or all of the steps. Contact us for more information.

Setting up Your Files for the New Year

by Tina ~ January 14th, 2015

organized filing systemThe start of a new year is traditionally when we begin developing new habits: more exercise, less junk food, more productivity, less clutter… you know how it goes.

January is also the perfect time to set up or update your filing system, and not just because you’re already thinking about making improvements. For individuals and most home-based businesses, it also represents the beginning of a new fiscal year.

Where to start

If you don’t yet have a good filing system, this is not the best time to deal with the backlog. Just take all your old papers and put them in a box (or multiple boxes, if you have a lot). Once you have your new system set up and it’s working for you, then you can deal with the old stuff.

If you already have a good system in place, now’s the time to archive or destroy your oldest files and set up new files for this year.

What papers to keep

Everyone has a number of VIPs (Very Important Papers) which should be retained for as long as they’re valid, and sometimes even permanently. Your VIPs may include any or all of the following:

  • Adoption papers, birth certificates, baptism and confirmation records
  • Business ownership papers, patents and copyrights
  • Citizenship and naturalization papers, passports, social Insurance cards and numbers
  • Financial accounts, credit card information, debts
  • Educational records, employment records, military records, identity cards
  • Family history, marriage certificates, divorce papers, death certificates
  • Household property inventory, safe-deposit box inventory
  • Income and expense records, net worth statements, investment records, pension plans
  • Insurance policies, funeral and burial plans and records
  • Medical records, veterinary records
  • Memberships and subscriptions
  • Property appraisals, deeds, titles, easement papers
  • Tax records (Refer to Canada Revenue Agency for their requirements)
  • Warranties, guarantees, and owner manuals
  • Wills and trusts, powers of attorney, advisers and contacts lists

(Source: Organize Your Important Household Papers, eXtension)

How to get rid of old documents

For your protection, any documents containing personal information should be shredded. You have essentially three options:

  • Take your old paperwork to a local office supply store or shredding facility
  • Hire Enviroshred to pick up your old records for safe destruction
  • Buy your own shredder, ideally one with a cross-cut design to prevent reassembling of the pieces

How to set up a new filing system

Your filing system consists of three major categories, which should be stored in a way that makes the best use of your available space.

“Active Hot Files” are items that you receive and access daily, weekly, or monthly. These should be kept close at hand, whether they’re in a drawer beside you, sitting in a hanging file box on your desktop, or on floating shelves within easy reach.

Since you rarely need to access many of the VIPs listed above, there’s no need for them to be kept in your living or working area, especially if you don’t have a lot of space. They may be tucked away in a closet or anywhere else that’s out of the way but can be accessed when needed. If you decide to store any files in your garage or basement, be sure to use plastic rather than cardboard boxes to prevent damage from moisture.

As you sort out the rest of your paper, they’ll generally fall into categories such as taxes, banking, utility bills, manuals, resources, references, and so on. Each category will need its own heading on a hanging file and a separate file folder for subcategories. For example, in the hanging file labelled BANKING, you would have a separate file folders for each bank where you do business.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to use the boring filing cabinets you see in offices all over the city. Create a system that suits your décor and your personality!

 

Traditional Home Office by Birmingham Interior Designers & Decorators AMW Design Studio

For more details about this process, read how Spot On helped to organize Becky’s Studio and Steve’s Office.

photo credit:  tpholland via photopin cc