Monday, August 24, 2009

Hot Organizing News!

My article on setting a bedtime routine for school is featured on Would you please tell Parents how much you like the article by rating it? Click here to read the article on the site.

Got electronics to recycle? WITS is sponsoring some upcoming recycling events. The first one is this Saturday, August 29 from noon until 5 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church in Kirkwood. Please visit the WITS site for a complete list of recycling events (click here). It is important to dispose of electronics responsibly. While many items can be disposed off without cost, there may be a nominal cost to dispose of televisions and monitors. Please visit for more information.

Rubbermaid’s Easy Find Lids System: Efficiency Meets Versatility

Earlier this summer I was asked to review Rubbermaid ‘s Easy Find Lids System. The company sent me a twenty-piece All-In-One sample pack of four different food storage containers: Easy Find Lids, Lock-its, Produce Saver and Premier containers. All summer-long I put these products to the test, and I have to say I am pleased with the products.

I am impressed by how neatly the pieces stack together. In my small kitchen efficient use of space is vital. The square bases stack together nicely. The lids stack together, and then the lids snap to the bottom of the base containers. The lids and bases are interchangeable because a lid fits bases of different sizes. Hmm, how much time is saved by eliminating “hide and go seek” with food container lids?

The most valuable thing the Produce Saver containers has saved is my nerves. You know how it is; you start to put together a recipe that uses the produce you picked up a couple of days ago, only to find out it is has started to go bad. I hate that! But the produce I kept in the Produce Saver containers did last longer, so I didn’t have to worry about the state of my dinner ingredients…or my frustration level.

The Premier containers end another one of my frustrations: stained food containers. We like spaghetti. I usually make enough for leftovers, and usually it’s easy to spot which containers are used to store the spaghetti. They’re the ones that are an interesting shade of orange. The clear bases of the Premier containers did not stain, and they remained nice and clear after repeated use.

Another tough challenge is the transportation of soup to a potluck. Would the Lock-its lid stay on the base without leaking - despite being jumbled about? Yes, it did! The lid snapped on the base easily but stayed securely in place until it was snapped off. Happily, I did not need the strength of a weight lifter to get the lid on or off the base of the Lock-its – or any of the other products, for that matter.

The bases for all of the containers provide a good degree of visibility so it’s easy to identify their contents. I like to use a water-soluble marker to date the sides of the containers so I don’t have to guess the age of the contents. The marker quickly wipes off without staining the container.

If your house is like my house, food containers are used for a lot more that storing food. These containers store craft supplies very nicely. I put pony beads in one container, string in second container, plus scissors and needles in a third container. Then I snapped all three containers together, which made it easy to carry them to a scout meeting. Lock-its containers keep play clay pliable for a long time and did not leak the ooze that we created from starch and borax. I especially like the added visibility the Premier lid’s transparent panel provides.

Efficient space-use, durable, easy-to-use, versatile and effective – I believe that the Rubbermaid containers meet every need I could possible have in a container. Oh, did I mention they are affordable? In fact, if you visit you can get a coupon for your purchase.
The Rubbermaid site ( has all sorts of great product information, online shopping, and their “Adventures in Organizing” blog. Shop online to save yourself a trip to the store, and you’ll save10% on your new products when you enter coupon code 0902.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stump the Organizer! Organizing A Home Library

"What do you suggest for organizing books? I have a room that is stacked with books. I love my books so don't suggest that I get rid of any of them."

Why not dedicate the room to your own library, complete with comfy chair and reading lamp?

Let's address the stacks. It sounds like you need book shelves and lots of them. This may sound obvious to some, but countless times I've seen people struggling with how to get five bookshelves-worth of books into two bookshelves. Line the walls floor-to-ceiling with shelves, if need be.

The organization of a book collection should support browsing and the ability to access a specific volume quickly - which is how public libraries are organized. Libraries typically organize fiction by the author's last name and non-fiction by categories. You may want to do the same. Categorize the non-fiction books by topics that makes sense to you. Imposing the Dewey Decimal System or the Library of Congress Classification System on a home library is a little like shooting a fly with an elephant gun. Not to mention your classification may differ from the library classification systems. For example, the Dewey Decimal System classifies some of my organizing books as "home economics," others as "psychology," and some as "business." In my mind, they are all "organizing books."

Do you still have a lot of books within the sub-categories? Alphabetize non-fiction by author or title within the sub-categories. Only organize to the point where it's helpful in locating specific books and browsing, but no further. Dedicate a shelf or a few to each category. Labeling each shelf with a category name will make it easier find a specific book or an area to browse.

With your books physically arranged on shelves, half of your organizing project is complete. The important project of cataloging your collection is yet to be done. The benefits of cataloging are
  • having an inventory that is suitable for the insurance purposes (think about how much money have your spent on your collection),
  • reducing or eliminating duplicate purchases,
  • and making informed decisions regarding the management of the collection.
Software can definitely make the job of cataloging much easier than it would be if done manually. Book Collector ( and Readerware ( are two software options that automatically populate your inventory database with comprehensive information on each book. All you have to do is scan or swipe a book's barcode and the software uses the barcode to fetch the data from different websites. Additionally, these software applications will track book loans and download your inventory list to your iPhone so you can access it anywhere. The cost of these software applications is under $45.

If you don't mind a little manual entry, the website Library Thing ( provides a unique combination of cataloging with a virtual bookclub. Enter the book's author, the title or the ISBN and the website fetches comprehensive information about the book from different websites which is then used to populate your inventory. The website offers social networking with other site members so you can chat about your latest read or get recommendations for the next. Joining Library Thing is free but there is a $10 /year fee - or $25/ life - to catalog over 100 books. It's an amazing amount of functionality for the cost.

Books are well-loved by many, including myself. Loving something is a reason to keep it, but treat it like you love it. Give it a place of honor and take care of it. You can have more space and energy for the things that are important to you by letting go of the things that you no longer love and no longer serve you.

One post script: the sites and also have cataloging software for other collectibles such as music and dvds.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Organize Your Breakfast?

In keeping with the theme "Morning Zoom," I asked Angelina Bertani if she would kindly contribute a post on how to get a fast and nutritious breakfast together. At the end of the post you'll find more information on Angelina and her website, which you'll want to visit after you read her ideas.

Yes that’s right, here are a few tips from Angelina Bertani, CHHC.

Why eat Breakfast?

1. How you start your day affects how you feel and think all day long, essentially if you don’t eat, you will not get as much done in your day.
2. Breakfast is like setting the thermostat in our bodies
3. Breakfast will assist your weight loss and reduce binges and cravings in the afternoon

There are a few places that you might be in regards to breakfast…

1. You are ravenously hungry shortly after breakfast (within 1 ½ hours). You are not having a substantial breakfast. It also may not be the correct type of breakfast for you. Some people need more protein for breakfast and others do better with a more carbohydrate rich breakfast. A good quality breakfast or lack there of is making you hungry instead of satisfying you. A good breakfast will last you at least 2-3 hours

2. You throw something in your mouth on the way to work. Like a balance bar? You may feel like there’s little time to spare. When you plan out a substantial breakfast you’ll actually be more productive and focused thourout the day so that you get more done. It’s important to learn to make time for breakfast.

3. You are not usually hungry for breakfast. Many clients who report that they have no appetite before 11am have adrenal fatigue. To support the adrenal glands through food one of the things that will help is to eat a small breakfast despite your lack of hunger, over time it helps to rebalance the body and strengthen the adrenals.

4. You unsure of quick and healthy breakfast options, so you just don’t take the time. Don’t worry I have just the thing for you below…CHOICES!

5. You find yourself eating the same things over and over and you’d like to know some more exciting choices that are easy. Don’t worry I have just the thing for you too! Join me at an upcoming cooking class

Smart Breakfast Options …in less than 5 minutes

o Smoothies – use frozen fruit to make several smoothie concoctions at
once – put in fridge or freezer and use through the week

o Homemade muesli (see recipe at end of blog) or whole grain cereal

o Make a batch of oatmeal or steel cut oats for the week and just heat up

o Sprouted grain English muffins or Ezeckial bread with almond butter and banana

o Fast Scramble - scramble 2 eggs with some baby spinach, hand-crumbled
mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes

o Yogurt, fruit, and nuts – (Try Fage brand Greek yogurt)

o Hard-boiled eggs (make a few at a time and keep them in the fridge), plus
a piece of fruit – or with/on sprouted grain English muffin or bread

Angelina Bertani, Holistic Health Counselor, Anxiety Free Weight Loss Coach, Author, Speaker, and Founder of Pure Nourishment, LLC. If you're ready to jumpstart your health, get your F*R*E*E tips now at

Thank you so much Angelina!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Stump the Organizer! Backpack Organization

"What can I do to prevent my daughter's backpack from becoming a cluttered mess?"

The backpack's purpose is to carry study material, homework and extracurricular items to and from school. However, many people - not just students - regard backpacks as a permanent home for things. From this perspective a backpack's design must include many sections and pockets to properly house items and be "organized." Once an item is put in the backpack it is "put away," and nothing else needs to happen to it. The "permanent home" perspective results in a stuffed backpack and things being forgotten. But if you consider backpacks as transition tools, the backpack requirements are much simpler and there will be a greater likelihood for order.

  • Smaller is usually better. The backpack should be just big enough to carry what is needed in the next 24 hours and not the contents of the locker.
  • Keep the design simple. Often two pockets or sections are enough in a backpack. The smaller pocket holds the small stuff like the pencil case and the lunch bag, and the bigger pocket holds the books and binders. Adding more pockets than what is needed will result in items getting lost.
  • Empty daily. Once the contents are out of the backpack it's easy to see what needs to be done and what needs to be put away. As homework is being completed, put it in the backpack. Once at school, put items in the locker and hang up the backpack. If your child has difficulty remembering what to pack in her backpack, attach a small laminated checklist to the backpack with a binder ring.

Dedicating the backpack to transporting items rather than housing them reduces clutter and lightens the load the student must carry. The student's back will thank you. Parents, as a twist read this article again substituting "briefcase" for "backpack" and "office" for "locker."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Morning Zoom

Are you always running late in the morning? Adopting a few organizing and time management strategies can help you start your day in good time.

Look ahead: Check the next’s day’s agenda at night and do as much as you can to prepare for the day.
• Pack what is needed for the next day in the backpack or briefcase and put the bag by the door.
• Choose an outfit and make sure it is in a wearable state. You may be spared a wardrobe malfunction in the morning.
• Pack the lunchboxes and make put them ready-to-go in the fridge. Consider getting a coffee maker with a timer. Waking up to a brewed pot of coffee is wonderfully motivating.

Eliminate distractions. Focus on getting ready and eliminate anything that prevents you from leaving on time and in good spirits.
• Don’t answer the phone. If you are concerned that the message will have immediate impact on your day, then you can always check voicemail before you leave.
• The computer and the TV are notorious for holding people’s attention hostage. Turn the TV off and get the news from the radio.
• If checking email is a must then use a timer by the computer to keep the session brief. Actually, you can use a timer with any activity to prevent time from getting away from you.
• Checklists are also useful for keeping you focused. A checklist posted on the door at eye level can help you remember what you need to take and what needs to be done to secure your house.

Simplify. Make things as easy as possible, and develop a morning routine that gets you and your family ready while leaving the home in a reasonable state.
• Put things away when you are finished with them. If you feel too rushed to put things away then wake up ten minutes earlier.
• Collect fast and nutritious breakfast items together in one spot. Skipping breakfast is not a time saver. Your plummeting blood sugar will interfere with your work.
• Streamline the morning shower by gathering the personal care items that you use daily into one basket.

The morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. Starting the day in a calm and prepared manner will empower you for the rest of the day.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Stump the Organizer! Organizing A Lot Of Information

I can tell we are truly in the frenzied "Back to School" mode. There were no questions for the Stump the Organizer! post this week.

But visitors to my booth at the Spirit Seeker Summer Expo had some very good questions for me. Here is one of the more thought-provoking questions:

"I collect information. My interests are very diverse. How can I organize my information so I can find it?" In this gentleman's case, almost all of his information is paper.

Many people are naturally curious and collect information like this gentleman; however, we are living in a time when information is increasing in an exponential rate. In other words, information goes stale - or becomes misinformation - very quickly. "Simplify" is the best organizing principle to apply to the situation. Eliminate the paper that is a likely candidate for becoming obsolete soon.

Think of the billions of resources that are available on the internet. A well-constructed search can retrieve more information than we could possibly acquire in our own physical sphere. Google is one of the most popular search engines. To search scholarly works you can use Google Scholar.

That being said, sometimes there are unique and irreplaceable documents that are part of a collection and need they need organizing. Another organizing principle to apply: store items according to how they are used and accessed. The salient question to ask yourself is "What am I going to think about when I need this particular piece of information?" The answer to the question points you to the "keywords" that you would use to do a search on the internet for the information.

The keyword concept can be applied to the physical world as well. For each document think of several keywords to describe it. Build an index that assigns a file number to the document's title and captures the relevant keywords as well. Use your favorite spreadsheet software to create the index (Excel or Google Docs, for example). Make sure that you create a "Date" column as well so you can enter the document's date of printing. Label the physical file with the file number and put it in the file cabinet.

When you want to access all of your documents that contain a particular key word, refer to the index that you created and you will find the pertinent file numbers to retrieve from your file cabinet. The files are loading into the file drawer in sequential order by file number. Organizing the physical files by file number makes it easy to add files - just go to the next file number in the sequence - and delete files - just leave a hole in the file number sequence. But you will not be able to find specific files without the index.

A word about the date column. It's good to know how old the information is. After all, if a document is really old, you may want to question the validity of its information. Additionally, the date column can be useful in identifying very old files when it's time for a file-purging project. I like to format date as "YYYYMMDD." This format allows me to search for dates less than a chosen date. For example, if I want to locate all the files that are older than ten years I would search the spreadsheet column for dates less than "19990808."

For those of you who do not want to create your own index, there is a software solution: "Paper Tiger." Paper Tiger is highly regarded as an excellent organizing tool. You can find it at I could write another page listing the benefits of Paper Tiger, but I'll let you just visit their site.

In the next few days I will be posting some information for getting your students ready for school. Two local papers recently printed articles I wrote for "Back to School." Your can either pick up the Java Journal and the Spirit Seeker at your favorite establishment or visit them online at and, respectively.