Letting Go of Paper

Having many interests and hobbies can lead to the overwhelming desire to collect and catalog paperwork. I often observe a fear of letting go of facts, information sheets, articles that one hasn’t had a chance to read and ideas, recipes and other inspirations that the person never has time to go back to and follow through on. In an effort to keep the paperwork, they often devise complex systems to catalog it that become so overwhelming to follow in its intricacies that they end up with piles of information they can neither access easily nor remember they even have. Suddenly the paper takes up space in their home and fails to provide any utility in their lives. But letting go of it is an option they will not face for fear of losing something valuable or useful.

Here are five ways that you can help establish the boundaries you need to keep a reasonable amount of paperwork and find more joy out of your resources.

1. Cut down on magazine subscriptions and e-mail newsletters. If the information is not coming to your door, you won’t be compelled to keep it. While there is a wealth of information to be gained from professional journals and magazines, it is a difficult goal to set for yourself to get through so many each month. If you find you are 2 months or more behind on the majority of your subscriptions or that you are deleting e-mail newsletters more then reading them, it is time to unsubscribe and take the pressure off.

2. Pick the interests that are the highest priority to you and commit to them. I personally love doing crafts in my spare time and would do as many as I could if I had the time. But I know that I don’t, so I committed wholeheartedly to one, knitting. With any hobby or interest, it is easy to want to know about everything and try it all, but if you can focus in on the ones that are most important to you it is much easier to identify which information is worth saving and what is not. You must be ruthless in your decisions or you will continue to fall into the same pattern of filling more drawers, file cabinets and flat surfaces.

3. Keep your storage system simple. When filing paperwork be careful about making too many categories. I often see people making their filing systems so complicated and detailed they can’t remember where they put something. Try to keep you categories general, like Travel, Boating, Photography, etc. If you must make sub-folders to find information, make those general too. When you start labeling folders by the title of the articles you are filing, you may find that filing is arduous and ineffective.

4. Schedule time to read and file. Often if we don’t make the time filing and reading, they will be the last tasks we would ever choose to do. I tell my clients to schedule tasks they often procrastinate. It is also a good lesson in understanding the reality of your schedule. If you can’t find time on your schedule to sit and read a magazine, you will have a better understanding of how many pieces of paper you should be holding on to. It can be freeing when you can just say, “I don’t have time, I can let this go.”

5. Take a computer class. For those who are uncomfortable with the computer, taking a class may help you find away to harness information without filling up your house. The advantages of using a computer for information gathering are numerous if you can avoid the temptation to continue hitting print to save paperwork. Being open-minded to this technology can open new doors. Check your local newspapers, adult-ed and community college listings to find a class that can help you feel more comfortable storing information on the computer.

Kristin Mastromarino is a professional organizer and owner of Livable Solutions Professional Organizing (www.livablesolutions.com) and The Organized Lifestyle online retail store (www.theoganizedlifestylestore.com). You can e-mail her your questions at kristin@livablesolutions.com)

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Product of the Week: Mesh Shoe Shelf

The Fall is an excellent time to clean out those closet as you transition your wardrobe into the winter months.  These Mesh Shoe Shelves are our most popular item, and for good reason. They are extremely versatile and can be used for any closet organization project or really any other organization project in your home!  This metal rack is not only stackable, it can also fold flat for stowing away or for easy portability. You’ll be able to organize your shoes anywhere in the home! This shoe rack can hold up to four pairs of adult shoes per shelf (depending on how big they are!). This is also a great shoe rack for a child’s room or makes a great makeshift shelf in any closet or room in the house.

Product of the Month: Hanging Shoe Organizer

This hanging shoe organizer is anything but ordinary. While designed for organizing your shoes it can become so much more than that! Make it a holder for cleaning supplies, organizer for your medications, linen closet savior, pantry perfector or a place for all those loose tools in the garage.

Click here to start organizing any room in your home with this hanging organizer today.

Tips for Moving to London

Moving to a foreign country is probably one of the most difficult organizing challenges that you can face, especially when you are in a time crunch to get there before the school year begins. Since this is to be a temporary move for you and your family, packing the essentials is the priority.  Below, find some areas of your families life to focus on as you prepare for the move.:

1.  FAMILY FILING SYSTEM:  Your family filing system.  This will be key to keeping track of your important documents like passports, visas, social security cards etc..  Wendy, I know you file everything electronically, so a back up of your electronic records is important.  Be sure to have a scanner and a computer at your new location so you can continue to retain the most essential documents for your family.  Scanning essential family recipes, entering important phone numbers and other data into your electronic database will allow you to pack less and have quick access to important information at home.

2.  BANKING:  Setting up your banking accounts and ensuring ease of access to your money while you are abroad is important.  Remember anything can be replaced or re-bought that you forget to ship or pack,  but without easy access to foreign currency, credit cards and cash it will be much harder to get what you need quickly.

3.  CARETAKER FOR CT HOME:  Having a person that you trust to maintain your current residence while your gone is important.  Create a list of current household service vendors, make copies of keys, list important family contacts as well as a schedule of maintenance for the caretaker to follow throughout the year to take the burden off of you while you are gone.

4.  PREPPING YOUR NEW LIVING SPACE:  Surely you have a location picked out by now for your family to reside while you are abroad.  Understand the amenities that the new home will provide, what storage space you will have, what activities and resources and retailers are near by.  This will help you be more educated about what you will actually need to pack for the new location.

5. CLOTHING:  Clothing for a family of six can be more expensive to replace if your are not smart about packing for the seasons.  Research weather conditions for London year round and decide what year round essentials will make up each family members wardrobe.  Also consider whether sporting equipment for the kids will be necessary at their new school, or if skiiing and snowsuit apparel will be a necessary item for your families planned activities while abroad.  Anything you can leave behind that will be non-essential will save money and space.

Also, I wanted to add a link to a blog devoted to preparing for a move to London.  Hopefully you will find some other great ideas at this site.

http://moove2london.co.uk/wordpress/2009/12/14/packing-tips-for-moving/

Kristin Mastromarino is a professional organizer and the owner of Livable Solutions Professional Organizing and The Organized Lifestyle online retail store.  E-mail her your organizing questions at Kristin@livablesolutions.com.

A Crazy American Mom Moves her Family to London

All my married life we had considered a move. We discussed moving to California. We discussed moving to Texas. We even discussed moving to Fairfield County. My husband deserves an award. He has been traveling the globe in an effort to keep his family happy and keep me close to my family. Now it is time for us to support him, so we made a family decision to temporary relocate to London so he doesn’t have to travel and can focus on building the company he is with.

True to my personality, we decided this last week…with  school starting on August 21st. This  leaves me about 15 days to get the kids enrolled in a school that follows the American curriculum, find a house, get someone situated in my home to watch the pets, get Visa’s, tie up any loose ends, FIND and return library books, banking, bill paying, returns, cancel subscriptions, and last but not least pack. Am I nervous? Hell yeah. I told me husband this morning that my anxiety is sitting in the back of my throat. Am I excited? YES!!! This is an adventure and I need to treat it that way.

One of my decisions is whether to pack comfortable provisions or just decide to take the basics. I know what life is like with possessions. They own me, I don’t own them. I know what life is like to clean multiple rooms, weed garden, vac pools, and run all the families activities. I was thinking about living in an apartment, taking minimal things, and making an attempt to live simply. Now that to me is an adventure. Going to unknown places, meeting strange faces, and doing things that I would never consider here at home.

Each day I will give you a quick update as to my progress and whether or not I can pull this off.  I will let you know how it feels to live simply. I will take you to my first English pub and I will share the ups and downs to living abroad.  I will also reach out to  Professional Organizer, Kristin Mastromarino, @ livablesolutions.com  for her advice on how to handle this move. Stay posted and if anyone has any tips on living in England, I would love to hear from you!

Tips for Organizing Your Recipes

Organizing and collecting recipes can be a full time job for those who love to cook.  When you have a love for food and a desire to constantly try new dishes, the piles of cookbooks, cut out recipes, boxes, binders and folders can get so overwhelming that finding a recipe becomes a chore.

I find that my clients are relying more and more on the Internet to create their meals than their cookbook collections.  With so much free information and websites that will find recipes based on the ingredients you have on hand, it is much faster and takes up a lot less room in your kitchen.

Here are some quick ideas for managing your recipes:

1.  Create one binder, folder or box for your most treasured recipes.  Be very discriminating about what recipes make it in this place.  If you love the recipe keep it, if it was easily forgettable then it shouldn’t make the cut.

2.  Consider scanning your recipes into your computer.  You can keep an electronic database of all your favorite dishes and quickly search them without having to waste time categorizing them in files or binders.

3.  One of my favorite things to do is plan my meals around recipes in my monthly magazines.  For instance, each month I pick the recipes I want to try in Real Simple,  plan my grocery lists and schedule when I want to cook them.  When the month is done I throw out the magazine and try the recipes in the next issue.  It keeps my menu changing, takes the thinking out of meal planning and requires no storage, sorting or searching when I am planning a meal.

4.  Photocopy your favorite recipes out of your cookbooks and get rid of the book.  Many of us hang on to a cookbook because there are a few recipes that we like.  Then we take up valuable real estate on our shelves or kitchen cabinets.  If it is not a go to cookbook it shouldn’t be in our kitchen.

5.  One of my friends once told me that she found typing in the search terms “the best _______ recipe,” every time she wanted to make a specific dish got her incredible recipes and she found herself never looking at her cookbooks anymore.  Relying on the Internet is a great way to cook almost any meal.

Lastly, I want to leave you with a list of my favorite links for meal planning:

www.theorganizedlifestylestore.com:  Visit my site and download my free grocery list and menu planning templates under the tips and downloads link.

http://www.epicurious.com/:  A great site for searching delicious recipes and finding meals based on ingredients.  They also have a great Ap that is available for the IPad, IPhone, Android and other electronic devices.

http://allrecipes.com/ :  Another site similar to Epicurious.

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/index.html: There are great meal planning tools, quick and easy dinners and Aps available to help you meal plan.

Kristin Mastromarino is a Professional Organizer with Livable Solutions Professional Organizing (www.livablesolutions.com)  and the owner of The Organized Lifestyle online retail store (www.theorganizedlifestylestore.com).  Send organizing questions to her at Kristin@livablesolutions.com.

How do I organize my recipes?

Summer means drinking long, tall strawberry daiquiris by the pool, hanging out with close friends into long hours of the day, and barbecuing with herbs and sauces. I find myself going over my recipes again and again, wondering what I should cook next. Will it be barbecue pork ribs, beans, fresh fruit salads, burgers, chicken cooked in packets with vegetables, steaks, or stuffed potatoes wrapped in foil, and cooked on the grill? It means the best fruits, and the freshest vegetables, and I want to take make each and every recipe before this short season comes to an end. 

 

Some people collect trinkets. I collect recipes. Clipping away at all my magazines, I am stimulated by the colors and the creativity of each page. In the past, I would place them into laminated pouches and store them in three ring binders by category, i.e.; appetizers, breakfast foods, barbecue, dessert, meats, vegetables, salads, etc. In each binder lives a recipe collection composed of those I love, in addition to those I think I will love once I’ve tried them. When I open the book, I am entertained by an array of pictures that help me to visualize each enticing meal.

 

Recently, I started cutting out the recipes and filing them into a folder that I use in my weekly meal planning. It takes less time, and seems to make more sense. At the same time, I am starting to sort through years of collected material in my binders to question whether or not I will ever manage to make these new recipes. As a result, I now have enough recipes to wallpaper my entire kitchen.

 

This is a perfect project to get input from our friend the professional organizer, Kristin Mastromarino. Kristin, what is the most efficient way to organize all the recipes that have been passed down and treasured as well as those new ones I’ve clipped? Cooking for a family of six is hard enough never mind having to go through files to organize first. Should I sit down one time to meal plan for the entire week? Should I go back to my old-fashioned recipe box?  I would love to hear your thoughts.