What To Do When the To-Do List Is Done

March 3, 2014

pajama diaries 3.3.14I always enjoy The Pajama Diaries by Terri Libenson.  Maybe it’s because I have a home-based-business and have a couple of daughters just like Jill (oh her name starts with J too), but I feel that I have often been in her shoes, and know that much of her humor is from real life.

But you don’t need to own a home-based-business, have a couple of daughters, and be named J….. to relate to today’s comic strip.  Jill has met all her deadlines early in the day, and has some available free time to catch up on other things.  She actually has many other things she could do—a personal to-do list—but cannot decide what to do.  Consequently, she freezes up, and accomplishes nothing.

Whether it is a To-Do List for work, or a personal To-Do List, when everything is crossed off there is a feeling of euphoria that you have x number of hours to do whatever you want….and that list is long as well.  So how do you decide what to do?

Do you even have a To-Do List?  If not, then create one, it can be on your smart phone, on your computer, or written down.  The items that you put on the list are up to you, but each day, or each week, you should plan for what you want to accomplish.  Those items, in turn, should be tasks that are in concert with your overall goals.  Jill (above) had some deadlines for her clients and you may have the same; these obviously take priority.  Once completed you could choose to work on items that have been on the back burner while the deadlines were met, or on other tasks that will ease things for you for the rest of the week.  Keeping in mind your primary work goals will help guide you.

The same rules apply to the the personal list.  Did you have a New Year’s Resolution to exercise more often, devote more time to a hobby or organize an area of your home?  With no focus of a goal, or Resolution, many individuals become overwhelmed (like Jill), and fail to accomplish anything.

When you are deciding what to do next, consider your own rhythms.  Are you more creative and focused in the morning?  Is there a time of day that you slow down mentally, and need to work on tasks that are less challenging?  Plan tasks accordingly and your time will be spent much more efficiently.  Unfortunately, we tend to procrastinate more on those tasks that are not as enjoyable as others.  Again, let your goals be your guide.

Finally, dedicate blocks of time to various tasks, and devote yourself only to the task at hand.  If you decide to make some changes to your web-site, and need to do some research, setting a timer and/or reminding yourself to stay focused will keep you from getting lost in cyberspace.  Or if you decide to start organizing the kitchen with no set stopping point, you could potentially have created a bigger mess when it is time to make dinner.

I hope you built in time for relaxation too…..

Thanks for reading,


Controlling Computer Clutter

February 10, 2014

clean out your computerOne area for which we have had a number of questions is organizing information on a computer.  Like a file drawer, the information contained in your computer should be easily accessible when you need it.  So in honor of Clean Out Your Computer Day, here are a few tips.

First, all of the documents and other information in your computer should be filed into “folders” in the same manner that you would file similar information in a filing cabinet or drawer.  Ideally, the categories and sub- categories should be the same in both locales.  For example, ‘paid bills’ if you pay bills on line and want to keep receipts, or folders for various special interests or hobbies.  If they are mirrored like this, then you will spend less time searching for information in each place.  You will also not need to print out everything you save digitally, as you know it will be saved in one of only two locales.

Management of your e-mails can also be organized in a similar manner.  The folders could be within the e-mail program you use, or saved as a document in another program’s folder.  As always, we advise that the naming of the folders you use makes sense to you.  Think about how you will look for something the next time you need it…that will be the name of the folder.

Do you search the internet for information?  Those web sites that you wish to return to, or use at a later time can be also be organized with the bookmarks of your browser, or by saving them and utilizing the folders you have established.  We have found that a program like Evernote is an excellent tool for saving all of the above information, and can be accessible from your computer, tablet or smart phone.

Organization of digital photos has also elicited many questions.  Again, we suggest that the manner in which you organize these photos be done in a way that makes sense to you.  This could be chronologically, by events or by individual.  You could create your own system or use a program like Picasa or Flickr.  Tag photos or name the folders when they are initially saved and delete photos that you do not wish to keep.  Which photos you wish to print is a matter of personal choice.  Are they going to be framed, used for scrap-booking, or stored in a box….never to be seen again?  There are many alternatives now available to create books, slide shows or other products.

Finally, if you go to the trouble of saving information, then you need to protect it from loss.  This can be done with copying to CDs, a USB, an external back-up or cloud technology like Dropbox or Carbonite.

Just like the physical files that you have, the computer files should be reviewed periodically with the goal of deleting information that you no longer find useful. If searching for something that you saved on your computer will take longer than actually finding the information from another source, then you should question why your are saving it.  There is a wealth of information available to us, and just like physical hoarding, there is also digital hoarding.  For more information on this subject, check out a Wall Street Journal article Drowning in Email.

Thanks for reading,

JoEllen & Muffy

Keeping Track of Important Information

February 3, 2014

In addition to the monthly bills, we know that you receive and must keep track of a variety of other information that comes your way.  Here is some advice on how to store other important documents that are separate from the ‘running of the household’ type files.

  • First, you should keep and store all information related to your checking, savings and investment accounts in a secure location.  This could be a dedicated drawer in a filing cabinet or in a three ring binder.  The information for previous years is not something that you need to access on a daily basis, so it can be further away from your desk or bill paying area.
  • Secondly, are the documents you may wish to save about your health.  These could be organized by family member, physician name or chronologically.  We find that the amount of information that people save is usually based upon personal preference.  Keep in mind that more and more of this type of information is becoming available on line.  You may decide to merely keep track of dates of important tests and procedures.
  • Finally, we recommend that you save ALL of your tax returns from previous years.  Check with your accountant to determine how long you need to keep any supporting documents that were filed with the return.  All of these returns can be stored in a more out of the way place, since you will rarely need to access them.  We find that cardboard banker’s boxes work well, as do plastic storage tubs.

As you prepare your taxes this year, think about some ways that you can make this information more accessible next year.

Happy Organizing,

JoEllen & Muffy

Where Can I Find It?©
An article in the Wall Street Journal stated “The important records of most people’s lives are too often hard to find when you need them.  Some are on paper, scattered in folders, drawers or boxes in homes and offices.  Others are in digital files on one or more computers.”  The article also emphasized the “…bonus to be able to find everything in one place.” If an emergency prevented you from paying your bills on time would a trusted relative be able to take over this task for you?  Would they know which doctor to call, where you board your pet or whom to contact to make any needed financial arrangements?Created by the Organizing 4 U, LLC team, Where Can I Find It?© is an important book for you and your family.  It will:

  • Help you set up your personal filing system
  • Identify the important documents you possess and reveal what may be missing
  • Serve as a road-map for relatives and advisers in the event of an emergency

Where Can I Find It?© is available from our web site in either a hard copy ($19.95)

or as a download for a new low price of only $4.95.

Think of others in your family who could also benefit from recording this type of information.   Where Can I Find It?© makes a great gift and is a good way to start what many feel are ‘difficult conversations.

Keys to Staying on Top of the Mail

January 27, 2014

Have you ever paid a bill after the due date and been charged an outrageous late fee?  Gone to pay your bills and you can’t find them all?  We would like to change that by offering you some easy tips on how to organize your bills.  Given Muffy’s financial background, we believe these tips are the most important we can provide for our customers.

All of us are deluged with mail each and every day.  Having a bill caught amidst the junk mail can happen pretty easily, so we have some simple suggestions on how to avoid that!

  • When you bring in the mail each day, have a designated spot where it goes.  If you are able to process your mail right away, this is even better!
  • Sort the mail into a few categories, such as bills to pay, things to read, and follow up phone calls to be made (RSVPs to party invitations, doctor’s appointments. etc.).
  • Place the follow-up items in an action file to attend to promptly.
  • Reading material can go next to your favorite chair.
  • All junk mail should be put into your recycling bag or the trash can immediately! This is the first step to eliminating the piles of mail!
  • Once your bills have been identified, find a place which will be your bill paying/mail center.  Try a container where you can keep the bills, stamps, return address labels and the checkbook – all together so you can be efficient when it is time to pay the bills!  Write the due date of the bill on the envelope so that you can glance at it and know when it needs to be paid.

The new year is a great time to start a new system.  These simple ideas should help you to pay all of your bills on time and to find them when you need to pay them!

Happy Organizing,

Muffy & JoEllen

Finding Extra Storage

January 23, 2014

Are you still searching for extra storage space?

Bookshelves and stacking storage bins are simple ways to maximize vertical space.  But, in the many homes that we enter, we find that the most under-utilized areas are over our heads.  The simple addition of an extra shelf in a closet can work wonders for storing items that you do not need to access on a day-to-day basis.  These shelves can be used for off-season clothing, rarely used appliances, and memorabilia.

There are many vertical solutions now available for garages to store your gardening supplies, sports equipment, and tools.  There are even systems that suspend from the ceilings that would be perfect for storage tubs containing your holiday decorations.  For ideas in these areas, be sure to check out our Pinterest pages for Organizing for the Garden, Organizing the Workshop, and Garage Organizing Ideas.

Don’t want to reach so high?  Then consider under the bed storage solutions.  Most of us like to hide things under there bed risersanyway…why not containerize your items to keep them fresh and dust free.  There are many storage containers that will fit under the bed; some even have wheels and will serve as an extra drawer.  We recently worked with someone who used this system for storage under the living room sofas to store items used there.  If there is not enough room under the bed, then consider bed risers to adjust the height of the space you want to utilize.  These are available from Bed, Bath and Beyond, and similar stores.

pots and pans blendYou can also make the lower areas in the kitchen more accessible.  If your kitchen cupboards are deep, and you have trouble reaching everything in the back, then install roll out drawers and bring all the items in the back to the front with ease.  The photo on the left illustrates how we optimized storage with these drawers when we organized a home for Ladies Home Journal.  These are a breeze to install, just remember to measure first!  An alternative would be to use baskets or boxes to contain the items so you will not have to keep reaching all the way in the back.

We hope these tips will help,

JoEllen & Muffy

Holiday Planning Tips

December 3, 2013

snowflakeHappy December!  The snow is upon us and so is the hustle and bustle of the holiday season!  Stressed out this time of year?  Then read on for a few tips on how to manage the chaos…

In order for your January bills to be what you expected, make a list of all the people you need to buy gifts for and set a budget for each.  If you know what you are getting someone, put this on the list right away.  Experts say if you do this you are likely to avoid overbuying while in the stores.  Do your best to provide a well thought out gift – not necessarily an expensive one.  A special used book or item from a consignment store can mean more than a random gift bought hastily!  Use the sales on the internet and in stores to make these purchases even easier on your budget.

Time management is crucial this time of the year.  Use your gift list to plan your shopping locations, estimate the time required for each store, and put these blocks of time on your calendar.  “Mapping out” your shopping excursions over time will help you avoid the last minute rush.  Don’t forget to leave time for wrapping!

Schedule time on your calendar to do your food shopping and cooking.  Allow for extra time for the crowds at the store. Holiday parties and preparation can be fun if you plan ahead properly!

Decorating your home at the holidays?  Do a little at a time instead of trying to do it all in one day and you will find it is less exhausting and more fun.  The same goes for putting the decorations away – a less exciting task that seems to take longer than putting it out in the first place!  A little at a time and it will get done.  Set a goal of having everything put away by the end of January- be mindful of your neighbors if you have outdoor decorations.  A friend of mine lives on a street where candy canes were still in the yard at Easter!

January is “Get Organized Month” so think ahead about a project you have been dying to get done and put it on the calendar for January.  Planning ahead really does work!

Enjoy the season,

Muffy & JoEllen

Measuring Is Key!!!

November 19, 2013

Have you ever gotten home from the store only to find that the new storage item you bought does not fit in your closet?  Or the colorful new storage container will not hold everything you intended for it to hold?  Oops—– you must have forgotten to MEASURE FIRST!

Regardless of the project, measure the space before you buy organizing or re-modeling products.  Take these measurements to the store with you , and you will buy the right products the first time….

Let’s use a junk drawer as an example.  The drawer should be measured for height, width and depth.  Expandable inserts for organizing drawers are available in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors.  Our favorite is one is the The Everything Organizer,We like to call this the juk drawer for dummies

We like to call this “the junk drawer for dummies”

(available on Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond or The Container Store) which comes complete with stickers for each compartment – the perfect “junk drawer for dummies” helper.

Need a closet make-over?  Simple closet systems are available at do-it-yourself stores for those who are handy with tools.  Floor based systems are available through closet design companies and can range from plain wood to cherry finishes.  Measuring is once again the key to success!  Measure the amount of clothes you wish to have in the closet – be sure to separate longer items (dresses and pants) from shorter hanging items (blouses and jackets) so you have enough rod space.

Double your closet hanging space!

Double your closet hanging space!

Shorter items can be double-hung on two rods to maximize the use of space.  Check out the Closet Doubler photo.  Don’t forget to allow for shoes, shelves for sweaters, tie racks or other hooks you might wish to have in your new closet.  All of these items will factor into the design and help you determine where to measure for each type of clothing and the best fit.

Thanks for reading,

JoEllen & Muffy

PS  If you would a copy of our Top Ten Tips to help keep you focused, you can download them from our web site.  If you would like helpful organizing tips delivered to your inbox on a monthly basis you can sign up here.


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