November Tip of the Month

Not only is your home one of your greatest investments, but it’s also your safe place to relax and regroup at the end of a busy day. Our grandparents had it right – changing our interiors with the seasons created a magical place of cozy warmth in harsh winters and cool relief in the hot Baltimore summers. In today’s world, people don’t have time to seasonally change the house around as our grandparents may have done. However, we still get out the blankets, flannel sheets and downy jackets setting the stage for winter’s coming. Making your home cozy and welcoming for winter can be a start of the new season and remind us to remove the used and unwanted things that clutter up our living space. (We can help!) You will enjoy the fireplace so much more if you can actually see it from your cozy chair!

Organizing October – It’s Never Too Late!

Now’s the time to establish good organizational habits for you and your entire family. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a calm start to the day – everyone enjoying a nice breakfast in clean clothes – not scrambling to complete homework or pack lunches?

Then start the day before to ensure a smooth morning tomorrow. Homework should be completed and in backpacks before bedtime. Laying out clothes makes groggy mornings easier to handle. Set the breakfast table and pack lunches the night before. Then rally the whole family to take a few minutes to straighten up the house before bedtime. Being proactive the day before is the key.

The best part, going to bed knowing that you did your part today and tomorrow will take care of itself.

September Tip of the Month

September feels like the month of fresh beginnings. The weather is starting to break and children are back in session, rested from a play-filled summer. It’s possible that you’re spending more time in the car – driving carpool, dropping off and picking up from play practice, sports, choir practice, and play dates. With that in mind, why not start off the school year by organizing and tuning up your car. Collect all the trash, clean out the gunk, vacuum, wash and generally neaten up the space that carries you and your family about town. Then have the oil changed, the tire pressure checked, the brake pads replaced and treat your car to a once-over. After that, make a point to daily clean out the trash and extraneous items not needed in the car. Then, in the style of Marie Kondo, thank your car for keeping you and your family safe while you drive.

August 2016 Tip Of The Month – Back-To-School Preparation

The end of summer is drawing near, but we are going to soak up every ounce of sun-saturated joy that remains! Savor the garden tomatoes that are only here this time of year and revel in the long days and warm nights. At the same time, start thinking about preparing for the school year ahead. Mark Maryland’s tax-free shopping days on your calendar (August 14-20) for the annual trip to stock up on school clothes and supplies. Unearth the backpacks and clean out the pencil shavings inside. As they come in, add special dates to the calendar, such as parent’s night, game dates, practices, tutoring appointments, and other important events for the upcoming year. These small preparations won’t take long and will help the whole family transition gently into the coming school year.

July 2016 Tip Of The Month – Organize Your Closets

When it’s hot outside and you feel overwhelmed by all your clutter inside, here’s a suggestion to clear a path to order, peace and calm in your life. Organize your linen closets. Yes, you read that right! Most of us rarely think about the importance of our linens, but your sheets and towels are central to providing a good quality of life. From that perspective, it’s fitting that they be treated with the respect they deserve. Shoving your sheets into a pile in your closet does not honor their importance in your life. Plus, the jumbled mess takes up more room than those properly sorted and put away.

First, gather all your sheets, towels, hand towels, washclothes, pillowcases, summer spreads, mattress pads, blankets, quilts and hall-closet stuff together in one location. Clean off the shelves and let them air out a bit.

Now, look at each item critically. Make sure everything you want to keep is in first-rate condition. Eliminate sheets with soil marks that are not going to come out and blankets that haven’t been used for years.

Next, ask yourself if you really need more than 2 sets of sheets for each bed? This is the time to sort through and donate the bedding, towels and junk that has been shoved in those recesses silently creating chaos in your closets and your life.

Finally, neatly fold up and carefully shelve what you plan to keep. You will be pleased every time you open your closet door. By treating these little thought-of possessions with care, you’ll be creating an environment of peace and serenity.

Sleep well tonight!

Donate Your Unwanted Furniture to Second Chance

The patio is calling and so are all kinds of opportunities! This year, as you get out the patio furniture, inspect each piece carefully. Consider renting a power sprayer to get them clean – especially if your patio furniture is wicker. To give the entire patio a fresh look, update your chair cushions. As long as they are not shredded by mice, donate the tired cushions to Second Chance – a store/training center/emporium of amazing things located in South Baltimore at 1700 Ridgely Street.

About Second Chance

Second Chance is an amazing outlet for people to find great buys for their homes at affordable prices Plus, Second Chanceis an employment vehicle for those in need. The mission of Second Chance is to employ the unemployed in Baltimore City. They teach job skills and hire the people they train.

So, while you are getting the cushions together for Second Chance, think about including distressed furniture that you know you’ll never refinish. It’s a win-win-win for you and for others in our community! You will rid yourself of a looming project and create more positive energy in your home. Someone will be able to afford “new” something for the home. And you’ll help create job opportunities for those willing to learn a new trade.

5 Daily Organization Tricks To Keep Clutter At Bay

“Sorry about the mess, but we live here.”

The sign’s words are so true—a tidy home can become a cluttered mess in less than 24 hours, simply because you live there!

But before you embrace the mess and buy the sign to mount on your wall, we have some trade secrets to share. The following daily organization tricks will help you keep things neat and clutter-free so you can show it off to whoever drops on by.

Keep items in plain sight

When things are tucked away or buried deep in a drawer or chest, it’s easy to lose track of what we have. To avoid buying duplicates or making a mess trying to find something, store items in an assigned, yeteasily accessible, space.

When you open a drawer or cabinet, have everything laid out in plain sight. This will enable you to keep better inventory of your belongings and prevent future clutter.

Surround yourself with what you love

Throughout the day, take a moment to consciously think about the items you find yourself handling. Are they among your treasured possessions? Would it matter if you tossed them or donated them to charity? If the answer is “no,” then recycle, donate or throw them away so you can start cutting back on clutter a little bit each day.

Put things back as your work

This is an especially helpful technique to use while cooking. As you use each teaspoon, bowl, fork, etc., wash it up and put it back in its rightful home. In the end, you won’t have a sink full of dishes to worry about, and you’ll digest the meal better!

Make time to organize

Set aside a few minutes each day—either in the morning or at night—to clean up. This is a form of organization. Use the time to tidy up areas of your home. Pretty soon you’ll be able to start on bigger de-cluttering projects you’ve been meaning to get to. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in just a few weeks.

Hire help for what you don’t like to do

Overwhelmed by the thought of tackling that messy garage, dirty attic or jam-packed basement? Maybe it’s time to bring in reinforcements. Next Step Baltimore can help you with any organization project—no job is too big or too small! Give us a call today to get started.

How to Help and Encourage an Elderly Relative to Downsize

The time may come when you need to move an aging parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle from their long-time home into a more suitable living arrangement. When this happens, you’ll find yourself standing in the middle of their home asking, “What the heck are we going to do with all this stuff?”

Seniors usually acquire years upon years of things that need to be sorted, discarded, packed away, and/or organized before a big move—it’s an enormous project that requires a lot of time and energy.

To make matters worse, leaving a family home filled with memories is difficult for anyone. The process is even more difficult for seniors, who feel a loss of independence along with sadness knowing the move is generally due to age. There is a necessary grieving process that seniors are often not given the time or opportunity to go through!

While we’re here to assist with any senior move, there are some steps you can take now to prepare.

The following list will show you how to help and encourage an elderly relative to downsize—before the time comes to move!

Make it a positive experience

The best thing you can do in any downsizing project is to have a positive and upbeat attitude. Here are a few ways to put a positive spin on the process:

  • Offer to stop by your relative’s home more often to help them go through their things. Bring a meal or snacks with you to make it feel more like a get-together than a project.
  • Explain how you can use this opportunity to learn more about the family’s history. Schedule a day to go through old photos and precious hand-me-downs—make sure you have enough time set aside to hear all the old stories.
  • Before eliminating anything, focus on keeping the things they absolutely love and cannot live without. Once they know they’ll be hanging onto the things that are the most precious, the rest of process will be much easier.
  • Suggest putting a “memory” book together with them, and include pictures of them now.

Chip away at the project over time

Years of purchases can create a layered effect to possessions as new things pile on top and older items sink further to the bottom. Like an excavation project, you’ll want to go slow (if you have the luxury of time) and do a little bit each day or week. Start with items that have little sentimental value, setting aside items that do. Be sure that you are letting your relative make those hard decisions. You’ll be surprised at how much can get accomplished this way, and the process will be much less arduous on your relative.

Appraise the value of any items

While it’s unusual to find antique treasures in an elderly relative’s home, you should absolutely have professional appraiser take a look at any item you think might be valuable. Not only will this give you the confidence you need to discard items based on their value, but it will also make it a fun and interesting experience for your relative.

Bring the whole family in on the project

Your relative may want to throw something away thatwill be of sentimental value to a younger cousin or sibling. When downsizing, be sure to bring in family members so they can ask to keep certain items that would otherwise be discarded. If the family is scattered all over the country, sharing pictures via email and text is a great way to let other family members “weigh in.”

Of course, if at any point you need to speed up the process helping an elderly relative to downsize or need to bring in an objective third party, always remember we are here to help. We can do as much or as little as you’d like. Our goal is to make downsizing a positive experience for everyone.

Baltimore’s Best Nomination…

Two months ago I received a very unexpected phone call – the Editor of Baltimore Magazine was calling to inform me that my company, Next Step Baltimore, had been nominated as the “best senior move management company” in Baltimore! Prior to this year, Baltimore Magazine did not even have this category, so I was surprised and thrilled to be considered. As I gathered my composure, the editor asked me a series of questions and for a list of references before hanging up. I was told that I would hear the results sometime in early July…

The nomination got me thinking about how Next Step Baltimore started. As many of you know, I founded NSB almost fifteen years ago. At the time, this was a very new kind of venture. There were virtually no companies in the Baltimore area involved in senior move management, but there was a growing need. In founding NSB, I was able to combine the business and negotiating skills I had learned from commercial real estate with my strong organizational skills, along with the compassion, ethical standards, and plain hard work that every senior move manager needs. We have helped hundreds of clients over the past fifteen years, and in the process we have learned, adapted, and grown, both as individuals and as a company. We have come such a long way – from operating out of my dining room to being nominated the “Best in Baltimore!”

Because this is a new category, some of you may be wondering what we actually do as senior move managers? As seniors face the prospect of leaving a family home filled with memories and cherished possessions, they can quickly become overwhelmed. The first questions they ask are almost always, “Where do I begin? How am I going to fit everything I love?” This is where a senior move manager comes in. We look at the pending transition through our clients’ eyes so we can put together a plan just for them, tailoring it according to their needs and wants. We provide them with the information they need to make informed decisions, along with manpower, levity, and old-fashioned common sense! This enables them to take the next step with confidence.

We encourage our clients to leave the details to us. One elderly client had two small dogs she could no longer keep, but her son (in Beirut) wanted them. So “Ziggy” and “Rasta” lived with my family for three months as I coordinated plane reservations, veterinarian trips, and visits to the Embassy in D.C. Needless to say, they arrived in Beirut happy and tails wagging. When we tell our clients to leave the “worry” to us, we really mean it!

Another client, Mrs. Virginia Stuelpnagel, moved recently and wrote, “It was a shock to realize that we had sold our five-bedroom house, and I was moving to a two-bedroom apartment! Fortunately, I heard of Sally McCabe from a number of happy clients and she saved my sanity. Next Step Baltimore with Sally is downsizing made easy… Sally was able to help me donate items that were no longer needed, sell some things my family could not use, and make a floor plan for the apartment!  She was there on moving day to help with everything, including lunch! I could not have done it without her and we finished the job as good friends.”

Another dear client writes: “Sally was recommended to me by a number of friends. It was quite a complicated move but Sally and her crew were up to the job!  Since moving, Sally has continued to help me with various jobs over the years. She is always there when you need her!”

So the happy ending to the call from Baltimore Magazine is… we wonNext Step Baltimore has officially been named “Baltimore’s Best Senior Move Management Company!” So thank you to all who have become friends and passed our name on to others! We wouldn’t be here without you. Everyone at Next Step Baltimore is grateful for your confidence and trust.

As we look forward to the next fifteen years, we invite you to call often – even if only for a bagel and coffee!

Sally

Enjoying the Next 50 Years: One Way to Control Your Life

As people, we naturally want to control the world around us, at least to some degree. We want order in our homes, we want to avoid disasters, we want kindness from peers. Unfortunately, we can’t control what life has in store for us, but we can often determine what life will hold for others.

This spring, we invite you to join us in our effort to make Baltimore a more giving place. Pause and think of one thing that you wish someone would do for you, like stocking the break room at work with healthy snacks, surprising you with your favorite bottle of wine, or even letting you cut in front of them on the highway during rush hour traffic. While you can’t control whether or not these things happen to you, you can control whether or not they happen for someone you love.

To give you some inspiration, you can see who we’ve helped in our community here.

Enjoying Your Next 50 Years– Guestroom How To

It’s that time of year again—the time of year when we really put our guestrooms to good use. If you want to enjoy the holidays when they arrive, we recommend preparing the house for guests now. Here are some great tips for converting a hum-drum bedroom into a beautiful guestroom.

  1. Shower Essentials Basket—Don’t leave your guests awkwardly searching for the linen closet. Instead leave a nice basket in their room filled with clean towels, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, disposable razors, a new toothbrush, and toothpaste.
  2. Entertainment— Your guests’ eating and sleeping schedule may be different from yours. Leave some snacks in a basket for them in case they get the late-night munchies or wake up long before you plan to make breakfast. If they’re early risers they may find themselves bored in the morning, not wanting to wake you with the TV; add some magazines and puzzle books to the mix to keep them occupied.
  3. Keurig—If your guests stay up later or wake up earlier than you, they’ll appreciate being able to have a hot cup of coffee or tea without disturbing anyone.
  4. Beautiful Bed—Make the bed with “hospital corners.” This style of tucking the sheets looks professional and allows guests to slip under the covers easily. Add an arrangement of decorative and functional pillows for style. Be sure to provide both soft and firm pillows to suit your guests’ preference.
  5. Outlets—Leave at least two outlets free for guests’ cell phone chargers and other gadgets.

If you’re having trouble converting a child’s old room into a guestroom this season, check out our pages on staging and organization.

The New York Times gets it!

We recommend that everyone read the article “Moving to a Smaller Home, and Decluttering a Lifetime of Belongings” from the New York Times.

The most important advice in this article may be “Don’t Wait.” If your life plan involves moving from your large family home to a smaller place or a retirement community, start now. Go through the boxes of children’s belongings in your attic and offer them to grandchildren or donate to schools, churches or Goodwill, “gift” valuables and collectibles to relatives. If you haven’t used something in a year, or if you don’t even know what’s in that box, chances are you don’t need it.

New Blog: Organizing for Travel

Organizing for travel can be challenging! While trying to get your hand lotion into 3 ounce bottles and keeping the luggage below 50 pounds, in the back of your mind you are worried the luggage will be lost…. But there are some tips that can help. First, pack what you think you will need – and then put half of it back – seriously. Pack clothes of colors that blend so you can mix and match. With a scarf or fun piece of jewelry you can dress up (or down) that simple black dress and it takes a lot less room than taking the 3 dresses you laid out to go. Same goes with pants and tops. You may be sick of the clothes by the time you get home but it makes the travel easy. Be sure any valuable items you take are insured and take a picture of each with your smart phone. Also, take a picture the label on any medications as well. This will simplify the process if your luggage is lost…Most people carry their smart phones on them so you will have a record of your loss readily available. SAFE TRAVELS!!!

Organize to Live..Don’t Live to Organize!

“I can’t have anyone in my house. It’s a mess! I’d be so embarrassed…”

Does this sound like something you have thought or said recently as you gaze at stacks of papers, gym shorts in your office, empty cans and dirty dishes everywhere and laundry filling spaces you didn’t even know you had? And how often have you thought to yourself I have to get organized?
Don’t fret – you have lots of company. Most of us have an inflated image about “being organized.” In fact, “organized” is a word that intimidates some and outright scares others. It is a goal that few know how to get to – much less maintain.

The real truth about “organizing” is that it is something everyone needs to identify and define according to how they live. Most of us are out there working, taking care of children and doing a zillion things. We LIVE OUR LIVES and, as a result, our environments are often not “organized” as defined by public thinking.
So what do we do? First, give up the image of the “perfect” home or office. Once you allow yourself to omit the word “perfect” from your vocabulary you can redefine what level of being organized works for you and what you need to do to maintain it. Some need to have color coded files for every category of papers or every every toy picked up 24 hours a day. If that is you – that is fine. But if that is NOT you… don’t sweat it! Realize that keeping the surroundings you live in basically clean enough to be healthy and uncluttered enough to be able to find your keys is how most people live.

If you feel the need to go further – “organizers” are there to help. But if you feel the need for help don’t waste energy being embarrassed that your home is not ready for a Martha Stewart inspection. People who help with organization are not judging you. They understand that life comes first. Helping to get your home to a place where you are happy and comfortable is all that organizers want for you.
So, when you are getting yourself in a snit over having the perfect home needing to organize this and clear out that, remember, there is help out there to do this with and for you. Having someone work with you to organize can bring fresh perspective. Your organizing consultant should be helpful and full of good ideas that are centered around the way YOU live.

So here is the bottom line:
1. Organize to the point where you feel good about spending time in your home or office.
2. Know that life will cause distractions and you may need help again or even on a continuing basis. If so, go for it.
3. Boldly cross out the word “embarrassed” in your dictionary!

Packing with Sally & the Crew

Spend the day with Sally McCabe and the team from Next Step Baltimore and you will learn a thing or two about efficient packing and moving. Recently they helped one busy couple move from a four-bedroom house in Timonium to their temporary residence at Silo Point in under a month.

Before most people put their home on the market, they have already spent weeks or months, sorting, packing and staging. When Terry and Carol decided they wanted to look for a new home on the water, they contacted their real estate agent to discuss strategies. Knowing that other homes in their neighborhood had been on the market for up to a year, they knew they would have time to prepare for the move while they searched for a new home. 

But that was not the case. Their agent was already working with a buyer, and she asked if Terry and Carol would be willing to show their home right away. The client decided on the home immediately. Great news for the sellers – they hadn’t had to do a thing to the house to “get it ready for market,” the bad news was that the couple had one month to organize their belongings and move from their large house to the smaller setting. Without the luxury of time, they realized that they needed help. 

Enter Sally McCabe and the next Step Baltimore team. Sally helped Terry sort through all their belongings, while Carol worked full time. They decided what items would go to Silo Point, what would go into storage, and what things could be donated or consigned. While this was being sorted out, the packing could begin.

When the Next Step Baltimore team packs a house, the client can be assured that everything arrives safely at its intended destination. Here are a few tips I learned from Sally.

• Organize items into categories. (In this case, storage, Silo Point, donations.)

• When possible, box items by location – for instance, dining room china cabinet, or basement bar area.

• Label every box carefully with contents and end destination – storage, new home, consignment, etc.

• Number boxes and keep a master list of everything inside each box. Sally used her ipad to keep a detailed list of the boxes going into storage and their contents, and where they came from in the house. In that way, if her clients need to retrieve something, they know exactly which box it is in.

• If an item is going to be wrapped in bubble wrap, add a layer of paper first, so that the plastic bubble wrap does not stick to surfaces.

• Pack your table lamps in boxes, (the movers will appreciate it, and it will save them time and you money). Remove the shade, harp and bulb. Wrap and place the lamp base into the box first. Fill the shade with paper so that it holds its shape, and place it upside down in the same box. Fill the empty spaces with loosely crumpled paper. Wrap the bulb and harp and tuck those on top of the shade. Voila, the lamp arrives undamaged and ready to reassemble!

• Pack fragile artwork in its own box with packing peanuts. If possible, transport that item yourself to ensure safe handling.

The most important thing I learned from Sally? If you don’t have the time or the desire to organize and pack your own home for a move, hire a professional!

Don’t Let Packing Intimidate You!

At last you’ve sorted through your possessions, throwing away, giving away, and organizing what’s left. Now the daunting task of packing what you are moving to your new home is at hand. Professional movers often offer packing services, as does Next Step Baltimore, but if you want to do it yourself, here are 10 tips that we’ve learned through experience and research that will help you tackle the packing.

#1 Give yourself plenty of time.
If you’re doing your own packing, make sure you give yourself at least six weeks before your move date and plan carefully. Packing at the last minute tends to become a disorganized affair with items poorly packed into random boxes.

#2 Collect supplies.
Try to estimate what you’ll need and make sure you have enough on hand. Start collecting boxes from your place of work, from friends or from stores. Look on Craig’s List and Freecycle for free moving boxes, or purchase packing kits online or from moving companies.

#3 Create a proper work surface.
To eliminate back problems and overstraining your joints, the work surface should be just below waist height, which could include a dining room table, a portable work bench, a bedroom dresser or bed. The area needs to accommodate all your packing supplies, including paper and bubblewrap. A bed or kitchen table are both ideal heights and require very little bending or shifting.

#4 Pack non-essentials first. 
Start packing items you can do without. If you’re moving in the summer, pack all your winter clothes, sports equipment and heavy blankets.

#5 Label boxes. 
While you’re packing boxes, number them and label the top and sides of boxes with contents, location of contents in your house and if there are any special instructions, such as “fragile” or “open first”. This will assist the movers in putting the boxes in the correct room and will warn them of any fragile items. 

#6 Keep an inventory list. 
Keep a running inventory list of the numbered boxes to check off when the movers are unloading. This way, if a box goes missing, you can easily identify which number it is and what is contained within it. Insurance companies love this kind of detail.

#7 Pack fragile Items carefully.
Clothes, towels, linens, pillows can be used to keep fragile items safe. Just make sure you mark this on the box for when the box is unpacked. If the person who is unpacking the box is unaware that a crystal vase is wrapped inside a fleece blanket, they could easily unfurl the blanket sending the vase crashing to the floor. 

Make sure you properly wrap all fragile items in several layers of bubble wrap and pack them on their edge (plates, mirrors, picture frames, etc). This helps prevent breakage on the move. If the moving truck hits and unexpected pothole or bump, plates stacked on their sides are much less likely to break than those stacked one on top of the other.

#8 Keep box weight at a minimum.
To prevent injury to yourself, your family, friends or the movers, make sure your boxes are not too heavy to manage. Most boxes should weigh less than 50 pounds with an ideal weight being 40 pounds or less. If you have any overweight boxes, make sure you mark them clearly so that nobody gets injured.

#9 Seal the boxes.
Make sure all boxes can close properly and be sealed so the tops are flat. If you over-pack a box, you risk damage to the contents.

#10 Pack an “Essentials” box.
Before moving, everyone should prepare a box full of items you’ll need for your last few nights before you move and/or the first few nights in your new home. Some good things to include are:
– Toilet Paper
– Dish soap
– Dishtowel and dishcloth
– All-purpose cleaner (unopened)
– Instant coffee
– Toaster or small toaster oven
– An easy food item for one dinner and lunch
– Unopened small jar of jam/peanut butter
– Snacks
– Beverages
– Pet food and dishes
– Mug, plate, fork, knife, spoon for each member of the family
– All-purpose cutting knife
– Scissors or craft knife (to open the rest of your boxes)
– Small emergency kit
– Flashlight/candles/matches
– Shower curtain (nothing worse than forgetting this one!)
– Shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, floss, and paste
– A change of clothing and towel for each member of the family.
– Garbage bags
– Portable tool kit

Presumably, there’s a grocery or convenience store nearby, but just in case, include all essentials that you’ll need for at least 24 hours.

After you’ve prepared your Essentials Box, take it with you in the car or in the cab of the moving van if you’re moving yourself. Again, this will be the last box packed, and the first one you open!

15 Unusual Uses for Common Items

We’ve been finding lots of innovative uses for things that we all have around the house. Tips on materials to use for repair, ways to make your life easier, or simply an “aha!” moment upon discovering a new use for a common object. Here are some of our favorites that we think our clients could use.

#1 Place a rubber band vertically around an open paint can to wipe your brush on. This keeps paint off the side of the can.

#2 Rub a walnut on damaged wood furniture to cover up minor scratches and dings.

#3 Use a hanging shoe rack with clear pockets to store cleaning supplies and keep them away from the kids. (This is also a good storage method for mittens and hats in your coat closet.)

#4 Use a can opener to open those maddeningly difficult hard-plastic blister packs. This will save you time, frustration, and inevitable cuts when you try and use a knife or scissors. 

#5 Use nail polish to paint the tops of your keys to make them readily identifiable.

#6 To remove built-up residue on your showerhead, tie a baggie full of vinegar around the showerhead and leave on overnight. Voila! Clean.

#6 Use a muffin tin to serve condiments at a barbeque.

#7 Use a pants hanger hooked over a cupboard knob to create an inexpensive cookbook holder to keep your recipes off the counter and at eye-level while you cook.

#8 Use unscented dental floss to cut cakes, cheeses and other soft foods perfectly.

#9 Tired of having a box full of spare tangled computer cords? Put each one into an empty toilet paper or paper towel roll and store them upright in a box or bin so that you can easily identify and access them as needed.

#10 Drill holes in the bottom of your kitchen garbage can to make putting in and taking out bags much easier – no suction issues.

#11 Save your fingers! Use a spring-loaded clothespin to hold a nail while hammering.

#12 Freeze a saturated sponge in a zip lock baggie to create a no-drip icepack.

#13 When moving, pack heavy items like books in a rolling suitcase.

#14 Tie your extension cords together to stop them from unplugging from each other.

#15 Turn an empty cardboard six-pack holder into an outdoor dining kit to hold plastic utensils, salt and pepper and napkins.

What About My Papers? Advice from Sally

Organizing important papers can be vital for your families in the event of an accident or illness. It is important for families (or at least one person) to know where the safe deposit key is located, where the wills are kept, who has the insurance policies, the deeds and titles to houses and cars, etc. Equally as important is to update vital papers and documents from time to time.
You may want to consider giving the person who has access to your records a credit card with your account or even put them as a signatory on your checking account. If someone is hospitalized this can be critical.

Photographs, scrapbooks and VHS tapes
All of the above can be transferred to archival DVD’s. This will preserve the memories and history of your family. In addition, once done, you can have copies made for every member of your family so all can share. 

Photographs
It is generally advisable to take some time to do some sorting first. We all have taken 20 pictures of the same beautiful ocean sunset on a trip or the lovely forest – some with the trees tops cut off and with family or friends who are blurred or partially cut out of the picture. Go through and pick out one of the beautiful vista pictures, the best of the people and get rid of the rest. 

People are extremely hesitant to get rid of the photo albums. However, in the world today, and certainly that of our children tomorrow, they are more likely to put in a DVD to see the history than to sort through old albums. And, archival DVD’s will preserve the photo or paper better over many years.

E-mails
Help! I can’t find what I need when I want it! People aren’t responding to my emails! Why am I getting so much junk email?
1. Do NOT give out your e-mail address!!!!
2. Flag those e-mails that need action and delete all others
3. If you want to be seen, alert people on the subject line by starting with phrases such as “action required” or “needed today”. Add a verb to the subject line – for example, “Peter’s wedding” becomes Buy Peter’s wedding gift.

Organizing should make people’s lives easier – not more difficult. Be realistic about how much you want to accomplish and how long it will take. Once you get started your own systems will evolve. Stay open to being flexible because you WILL figure out the best way for you to keep clothes off the floor and crafts together in just one location. When you have a system that makes sense to you, and you begin to see what a difference it makes to your overall wellbeing – you will continue to follow and promote your program. You are going to feel accomplished when you can actually find that cinnamon instead of heading to the store for it one more time…

Where Should I Take it? Advice from Sally

You’ve started your process of organization, sorting through what to keep and what to get rid of – so what do you do with the items that you are not keeping?

Consign it. 

• Go to consignment stores and see what things are selling for. Most people believe that what they have is worth more than what the market price is. 

• Consignment store will set the price, and then lower it after 30 days if it has not sold. If it still has not sold after 60 days the store will usually donate the item but does not give the seller a donation receipt. 

• Many stores do allow the seller to retrieve their things. If the seller wants their items back, they must make it clear to the store, and keep track of the dates. 

• Commissions range from 35-50%. 

• Most stores have pickup and delivery available for $150.00 each way.

Sell on Craig’s List or Ebay.

Selling online can take time and patience. There are local companies who can provide this service for you. Here are some tips if you decide to do it yourself:

• Provide clear photographs of your item.

• Write a concise description, including measurements and materials

• Look at similar items to see what they are selling for to help determine your price.

• Always review the guidelines of any online resale site before posting.

Donate it.

• Items they should be in clean and unbroken condition. Donation centers are reselling these items. 

• Before taking anything out of your house check all clothing pockets, open and inspect suitcases and flip through all books. You never know what you might find.

• Check books. You should also see if they are first editions. You can go to ABE.com to help determine if your book has value or not.

• Get a receipt. The IRS, Salvation Army and Goodwill all post lists of suggested values for your donations on their websites. If you have a higher value item, such as designer clothing, take a digital picture of the item and the label to document it. Donations worth more than the IRS limit would require a formal appraisal.

• Some items that are not accepted for donation even if in perfect condition include: metal file cabinets, sofa beds, mattresses and box springs (there can be exceptions for these), Nordic track machines and treadmills.

• Post your item on Freecycle, a free website where people give things away, no strings attached. http://www.freecycle.org/ 

Throw it away.

Some items are simply too old or broken to be consigned or donated. These will have to be thrown out. 

• Small items can be placed in garbage bags and cans for regular trash pickup. 

• Consider leaving large items curbside or in the alley with “Free to Good Home” sign attached. Your trash might be someone else’s treasure. If it is not gone in a few days, then you will have to dispose of it yourself. Take it to the dump, or call for bulk pickup. 

Start to Organize: Advice from Sally

Have you ever gone to the store to buy something – cinnamon for instance – only to come back and find you already have four in your cupboard? How about making a list of things to organize and adding a few extra items just so you can have the satisfaction of crossing them off the list?

At some point we come to the realization that we need to get going on projects – take a fresh look at things, weed out the old, eliminate clutter and give ourselves space to breath. Many might argue that they have no problem with having a lot of “stuff” around. It makes us feel cozy.

Organizing is not a “one size fits all” proposition. It becomes a matter of personal taste. Whether it is your kitchen, your office or your e-mails, organizing has to be done in a way that makes sense to you. No one else can dictate how it HAS to be done. If they do, and it does not make sense to you it will not last. You will find yourself back to the same situation and circumstances as they were when you started.

Organizing is a Process. It tends to happens over a period of time. You need to think about the end result – what is your goal? The goal can change once you begin, and often does. Don’t be afraid to change as you move forward in your project.

The hardest part is to just get started. Because of this, it may prove easier to do it with someone. Remember, not everything has to be perfect – you just have to get it done.

But be realistic. Most people cannot organize their entire kitchen in a day. Give yourself time, and follow these three steps to start the process:

1. Get rid of the clutter. Clutter includes anything that you are not using or that you do not want. As soon as you have identified the things that can leave your life get them out of the house…The spaces that are opened up will make you feel like you are on the road to success.

2. Put aside things that you absolutely cannot get live without. Things like the red shoes you traipsed through Paris wearing, the children’s blocks that your father made, etc. Use colored stickers to identify each as you are going through the area you are working on. Plan for these items to go in the back of the closet, in the attic or in storage. These are things that you want to keep but you will not likely need access to. However, they do take up space. Get small boxes – these are easy to carry – and label them with the contents, then put them out of sight.

3. Give away what you can. The third and last step is the most difficult one. These are the things that are hard to make decisions about. If you find yourself waffling about keeping an item, put it aside and move on. Better yet, have some larger boxes and put them in plain sight so you can walk by them every day and see what is in them. You will eventually come back and be able to cope with the harder decisions. It may be one thing at a time and that particular item may go into the “I cannot live without it” group or be sent to a new home in the “I really don’t need to keep this anymore group.” With time, it gets easier to decide what to do.

Keep in mind that you will probably not think about the items you send to a new home once they are gone. Think of how much joy your treasures are going to bring to someone else.

Coming up: Part 2. I am ready to get rid of stuff. Where should I take it?