Since school has begun, I have been keeping busy. I substitute in our school district and have been helping the mother of a friend sort through 40 years of life in her former home. She moved out of the house a few years ago and is ready to move on. It is not an easy process to purge one's life. She must decide what she needs and what she wants and what must be passed on to others. I do not envy her position, but in order to peacefully move on to the next phase of her life, it must be done.
I continue to be amazed how "things" seem to accumulate. We must train ourselves to prevent things from piling up and becoming clutter. It is easy to toss mail or the children's school papers on the counter and think, "I will go through those later." Later doesn't always come as soon as it should and bills are left unpaid, permission slips left unsigned and the stack gets higher. Instead, plant the seed of action in your brain. 5 minutes is all that is needed to quickly go through the mail and separate the important from the junk; to see what papers need to go back to school with your signature and which go on the refirgerator. As those things enter your home, just take those few minutes to take care of them. Soon it will become a habit and you won't have days of mail and papers waiting for you to sort through. A good thing to help you along is to set up a space on your desk or near where you pay bills or whatever space you designate as your "office." Use that space to place your bills and other important papers with separate categorized slots. If you aren't sure how to get an office space set up, I'll be glad to come to your home and create one with you.
Magazines and catalogs have a way of amassing. Ones you read, ones you intend to read or browse through and ones you are not sure why they are still showing up in your mailbox. Take the time to review those glossies. Decide which you read regularly or purchase items from. Cancel subscriptions to magazines that seem to just pile up and never get read. Register with a mail preference service to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. Or call the company sending you the catalogs to have your name removed from their mailing list. Here is the Federal Trade Commission's web-site to start that process. It includes information on telemarketing and e-mail as well. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt063.shtm
If your household is like mine, books fill shelves in your home. As my daughters have gotten older, I have encouraged regular trips to the library. Rather than buy every book that interests them (and myself), books that can be checked out and returned are a great way to go. It saves space and money! We still buy books, but not as many as we did when they were much younger. Children's books take up less space than the thicker young adult and adult books. Every once in a while, we purge the bookshelves and donate books to the library for their annual sale.
Taking the time to reduce the amount of "stuff" around your house will keep the clutter down and relieve you from the stress that inevitably crops up when surveying your domain. Not seeing piles of papers on your counters, desk or coffee table creates a great feeling. Knowing you don't have to battle a clutter monster, zapping your time and energy, is so rewarding. Don't you feel your tense muscles relaxing already?
My dream was to have boulders as steps leading down this steep hill to our backyard, but the cost was way over my budget. So I decided to look around our property to see what I could find. The stones are not huge, but heavy enough and big enough for steps. It turned out pretty well and blends in with our woodsy, natural landscape. It is also much better getting down that slope. My husband is not fond of cutting the grass around the steps. There is almost always a trade-off though, right?
For each step, I custom dug the hole, filled in small stones and placed the stone. Then I "shimmed" each step using more small stones to secure the step for a wobble-less tread. I don't know about anyone else, but my ankles and knees thank me every time I walk down the steps!
A small garden went in in spring, my older daughter worked at camp and has had quite a few babysitting jobs and my younger daughter has kept up practicing her flute and learning to play tennis. We were also lucky enough to take the time to head back to the Midwest to visit our families and friends and celebrate.
For the first event, my older brother put together an open house celebration for our parents' 40th wedding anniversary. Not only did all 6 of us make it back to KC, but all of the grandchildren and several relatives we had never met were there. Many other former neighbors and church friends showed up as well. It was a great way to celebrate 40 years of marriage.
The next big event was my class reunion. It has been 20 short years since I graduated high school. We had 3 functions over a Friday evening to Saturday night. Other than now having jobs and families to show the passage of time, it felt as if we had only parted ways 5 years ago, not 20. Everyone seemed at ease and had a great time together.
Later, I will post pictures of the garden and tell you about my summer projects. I had a couple this year that turned out pretty well.
You hear it on the news, you hear people talking about it. TV shows and magazine articles are sharing tips on how to do it. It seems as if it's on everyone's mind. What is it? How to cut costs.
This is nothing new. It is just at the front of everyone's minds right now given the current economic circumstances. Preparing for the worst-case scenario is a priority according to many economic experts and advisors appearing on news shows and in magazines. Job security is not what it was and neither is investing in the stock market.
As an organizer, it is my job not just to organize closets and rooms, but to show clients how living an organized lifestyle frees up time and money. It is my goal to change a client's way of life, not just how things are put away. Doing so leads to less stress and worry and more time and money.
Here are a few ways organized living leads to saving time and money.
- Less time is spent searching for an item when it has its own "home." I assign a place for everything and put it in its place. I know it will be there when I need it.
- Less time is spent shopping for replacement items when I am unable to find what I am looking for.
- Less money is spent when I know what I have. No need to duplicate purchases.
- Less money is spent when I am able to buy in bulk. If I am organized, I have the storage space for bulk items. I compare the price per unit and if the larger size is a savings, then I will buy it.
- Less money is spent when I am not throwing out expired food or medicine. Just as stores keep the oldest perishable items at the front, having an organized kitchen results in less waste. How many times have you thrown out an expired container of sour cream or a container with what looks to be a science experiment inside? Less food down the disposal or in the trash is more money in your pocket.
- Less money is spent on gas driving to the store to pick up only one or two items. I plan my errands so I am completing them when I am already going to be in the area for something else, such as work. The stores I frequent are near the schools and our daughters orthodontist, places I go to often enough.
- Less time is also spent when errands are planned. We live in a rural area and if I didn't plan my trips "into town", I would be spending a lot of time in the car. That's time I would rather spend doing a myriad of other things.
- Less time is spent compiling a shopping list by keeping a list on the refrigerator or nearby. Items are jotted down as they are used up or needed.
There are other ways I save money on groceries. I buy meat only when it's on sale and freeze it. The store I prefer for meat usually has a great sale on different meats weekly. And the sale price for larger quantities is certainly worth the price per pound. So, I might be spending more one month because I am buying larger quantities, but the average spent over a year is less than when I was buying meat fresh as a I needed it.
When I buy meat, I will put a dinner's worth in a freezer bag, remove as much air as possible and flatten the bag out. Less time is needed for thawing when it's flattened out. I do this for chicken, pork and hamburger. Hamburger, though, I go a step further. I will season and shape for burgers, meatballs and meatloaf. The rest I put about a pound per bag in freezer bags. Sometimes I will add a marinade or dry rub to the bag before freezing. The meat then marinades (or absorbs the rub) as it thaws.
Other perishable items that can be bought in large amounts, such as vegetables, I will also freeze. I don't always use up peppers and onions as quickly as I should, but I still buy them in large quantities when they are on sale. Peppers and onions can be diced or cut into strips for soups, stews and stir frys and then frozen. When I need them, I just shake out the amount required. It's especially great when I am throwing things together for a crock pot meal before I leave the house for the day.
Another grocery cost saver is to scan the store circulars weekly and clip coupons. If you don't have the pantry or freezer space, plan your meals around what is on sale and the coupons you clipped. Coupons that are buy 2 or 3 to get the savings (such as cereal), use them when the item is on sale. You'll save even more. I clip coupons and scan ads during breaks at work or while waiting for an appointment, saving time.
More on coupons: Many manufacturers have on-line coupons. Check labels and ads for the web-site address. Sometimes the coupons are even better than those in the Sunday paper!
Here are a couple of web-sites to check out for more printable coupons:
www.couponsuzy.com Free coupons.
www.couponmom.com Membership required but free.
Coupons for other things such as eating out, movies, furniture, clothes, etc. are also available on-line. Using your favorite search engine, type in what you are looking for and you may be surprised at the savings available.
E-mail me if you would like to save money. I'll be glad to help you get organized and on your way to saving hundreds of dollars!
Maybe you have made resolutions. Perhaps you do need that flip to get you motivated. But what is it you need to keep you motivated? What is your encouragement? What is going to help you reach the goal you have resolved yourself to?
The first thing to keep in mind: Keep it real, baby! Set a realistic goal. Or set benchmarks, so you have results to look forward to in the short term. Setting a major goal (such as losing 50 pounds or completely clearing out that room that has been a catch-all for years so you can turn into a 5-star guest room) and then finding yourself not reaching it in the time you wanted can easily get you off track and maybe even cause you to give up on your goal completely. Make a chart, with benchmarks, and check each one you reach. When you break it down into smaller pieces, it is less intimidating and easier to reach your long-term goal.
Second: Get a resolution buddy. Find a friend or family member with the same or similar resolution. Keep each other on track and on sight. Sharing will turn a long journey into a short one. I enjoy my workouts more when I have a workout buddy with me. The time flies and I exercise harder and more efficiently.
Third: Surround yourself with supportive people. Just like a good bra, support from others can be uplifting!
Lastly: Reward yourself when you have reached your goal! A little (or big) reward at the end of the finish line is worth the effort!
What is your resolution for 2009?