Do you find that you have items everywhere that need to go somewhere else?  If you don’t already have a container (basket, Rubbermaid, etc…) get one.   Set it by your back door, or if you don’t have space, place it in your garage.

Now, take all the items that need to be returned (library books, purchases that didn’t work out and nBasket with books and maileed to be returned, borrowed items) and put them in that container.

Note:  For any items that need to be returned, tape the receipt to the item or put it in a bag with the item.

Look at your calendar and mark down errand days (or block out an hour here and there).  Now move the container into your vehicle and you’re ready to make all your stops.

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This year begin a new habit by creating one calendar with all your personal and professional appointments in one place.   Take time to enter all birthdays, anniversaries, doctor & dentist appointments, etc…Date Book

If you have kids, pull their school calendars out and and write in early-release or days that their schools are closed.  Also include any special days like Picture Day, Spirit Week or any other date where they will want to dress up or take something to school.   This way you can be prepared ahead and not scrambling as you rush to get them out to school.

Lastly, be sure to enter time for yourself, aka Do Nothing Days.   We’ve just passed the official day – January 16th – but schedule your own!

February (Make your Living room… livable)

Declutter

  • Empty and clean any bookcases and magazine racks.  Toss or donated anything you don’t want to keep.  Make piles for things that go to other rooms.
  • Walk through home, with ‘new eyes’, and make notes on any items that need repair, such as window sills, light fixtures or furniture.Natural Order - Organize your collections
  • Take a look at your knickknacks.  Are their dried flowers that are now just dust collectors?  How about the collection of frogs?  You know the one that continues to grow because everyone you know sends you one for every holiday or birthday.   Consider culling your collection to those that you really love.  Then donate or sell the rest.

Clean

  • Take down curtains to clean or dryer-fluff.  Try to rotate them to different windows if possible.
  • Dust all knickknacks and picture frames.Natural Order - February
  • Polish and oil wood furniture
  • Dry-clean slipcovers and vacuum furniture.
  • Vacuum and clean furniture, floor, baseboards, cushions, walls, fan blades, lampshades and blinds.

Maintain

  • Arrange bookcases.
  • Schedule any necessary repairs and if appropriate have your fireplace inspected and maintained.
  • Set up a basket or rack for magazines and newspapers

How often do you open up the refrigerator to pull out a sauce, beverage or condiment and wonder “Is this still good”?

Unless the bottle looks like something out of a science lab there is nothing to really tell you whether or not your product is still good.  Of course, now there is ‘an app for that’.

StillTasty.com allows you to type in the item in question and find out how long it will last opened or unopened.  They also offer an app for your iphone.

Now, how do you know long it has been in the freezer or refrigerator?  For items with a label use a permanent marker to write the date you purchased it.  Once you open a product, cross out that date and write the date you opened the container.

To get you started, take 30 minutes this weekend to pull out everything from the door of your refrigerator.  Be ruthless.

Happy organizing!

January (Attack your family room)

Declutter

  • Recycle old magazines & catalogs.
  • Separate photos into the good, bad and ugly.  Toss the bad and ugly. Share duplicates with family or friends.  Put the rest into acid-free boxes for now.  Sorting can be done at a later time.
  • Go through CDs, videos and books.  Separate into keep / loan-return / donate / sell
  • Sort through games and toys; collect missing pieces and put them into their corresponding boxes.  Put them into three piles 1) donate; 2) toss; and 3) keep.  Determine where to keep them and store together.
  • Begin a household inventory.  Start with your electronics.  Write down the manufacturer, model & serial number for your homeowner’s insurance.   Keep a copy of your inventory in a fire-proof safe or off-site in the event of a fire or other disaster.

Clean

  • Dry-clean or launder drapes, throws and area rugs.  If possible, rotate drapes to minimize sun damage.
  • Spot-clean sofas; vacuum cushions and sofa base, flip and rotate cushions.  Dig down the sides for lost coins and pens.  Vacuum down the sides after pulling out any large objects.
  • Vacuum and clean floor, walls, bookshelves, entertainment centers, windowsills, mini blinds and ceiling fans.

Maintain

  • Choose a basket or box to hold on-loan tapes, books and videos.   Write return dates on calendar.
  • Choose a drawer or decorative box to store remotes.  For components that are infrequently used attach the remote to the unit with Velcro.
  • Spend 30 minutes each week (schedule time on your calendar) arranging your photos into meaningful sections (by family member, in chronological order, by event – or a combination thereof).   Put into acid-free photo boxes.
  • Schedule 5 minute cleanup with family members to keep them moving forward toward organizing their designated space in your family room.

Start off the New Year right.  Scheduling time to get a few items in order will set you up for success.

Below are a few ideas to get you started.

1.  It’s never to early to get organized (in 2011).   Set aside any clothes that are too large or 2 sizes too small.  Include anything you’ve not worn in over a year (with only a few exceptions for seasonal and dress clothes).  Choose a reputable charity and donate for a tax deduction (if you itemize).   See our list of local charities or check out Charity Navigator.

1.  Update your birthday calendar.  Copy special dates over from your current calendar to your new one.

2.  Pull together receipts and other tax documents and schedule an appointment with your accountant for tax preparation

3.  Transfer photos from your camera or smart phone to your computer.  Which brings me to my next point…

4.   If you haven’t already set up a system, back up your computer and/or laptop.   If you don’t have a lot of music or photos you can either use a thumb drive try Mozy.com’s free version.   If you do have a lot of family photos or collect audio files try either an external hard drive or a subscription backup service from Mozy.com or Carbonite.com.  For those that are not diligent in maintaining backups I recommend using an automated service such as Mozy or Carbonite.

7.   Set up new paper and electronic files for the new year.  If you use monthly files for receipts and bills consider creating revolving files.  Create files that simply have ‘January’, ‘February’ etc… without the year.  When you prepare for your taxes, pull out the months receipts and place into a manila envelope.

8.   If you are a planner, check our 2011 Organizing Schedule.  We’ll layout recommendations for each month that will keep you working toward your organizing goal.

Have you begun the mad dash to get all your holiday shopping complete?   Do you have younger children in your life? Can you see the deluge of toys that will invade you home Christmas morning?

This is a fantastic time to bring in the spirit of the holidays and introduce your children to donating.  Although parting with their loved toys can be difficult they can be  involved by choosing toys they played with when they were ‘little’.

There are several places you can look to donated gently used toys.

1) The usual suspects: Goodwill and The Salvation Army

2) Preschools, elementary schools, early childhood programs and daycare centers may accept toys

3) Homeless shelters or domestic violence shelters

4)  There are several ways to donate at your church; the church nursery, give them to missionaries traveling to poor countries or speak to someone there about donating to a family in need that is known to them

5) Ask around your neighborhood

Children often have so many toys because they are more affordable than ever and with the prevalence of advertising it seems that what is hot today is old news tomorrow.   This often leads to nearly new toys being relegated to the back of the closet or under the bed.

The most important part of this process is involving your child/children.   The experience of giving will give them the opportunity to see that they are blessed and the joy that comes from helping others.   And although that is more than enough reason to clear out toys and added benefit is that you’ll have the opportunity to get the remainder of their toys organized and make room for the new ones that are sure to be under the tree.

Best wishes and Merry Christmas!