When you get a new reference book (such as a cookbook or gardening manual),
attach a pocket inside the cover to store clippings, notes, or pictures about
Key Questions When Cleaning a Closet|
|As you weed out a closet, consider each item individually and ask
- Have I used this item in the past year? If the answer is yes, it’s worth
keeping another year. If no, discard it.
- Does this have either sentimental or monetary value to me? Yes? Then keep
- Might this come in handy someday? If you answer yes but have nothing
specific in mind, better put the article into a “throw-away,” “give-away,” or
“put-away” box unless you have ample attic or basement storage space. A yes
answer usually means that you’re hanging onto clutter.
To help keep track of gift-giving, use an inexpensive monthly planner
(purse- or pocket-size). On each special date, note the name of the person, the
occasion, and the gift given. Add sizes, color preferences, and any tips for
Have a secret shelf for gifts. When you find something on sale or have time
to shop, buy gifts in quantity and wrap and tag them for future giving.
Many household chores can be done during “in-between times”—in between
outings, appointments, or TV programs. Once you realize that it takes only 15
minutes to change the sheets, you can fit this and similar tasks into the
available time slots.
Sometimes all it takes to eliminate mess, clutter,
and confusion are a few
hooks here, a basket or
two there, and a bit of reshuffling of items on a
Use drawstring pouches made from fabric as containers for baby’s blocks,
puzzle pieces, and other toys with dozens of parts.
Use a zippered mesh lingerie bag for storing bath toys. Tie with a string,
and hang it over the showerhead so toys can drip dry.
When moving to a new home, order extra labels of your new address. Enclose
one of your personalized labels along with each change of address card you send
to your friends. Then they can stick the label right in their address books.
If you conduct a lot of business by mail (like paying bills, sending for
free offers, or ordering merchandise), enter each transaction on a large wall
calendar in the kitchen and check it periodically. This is especially helpful to
verify a payment that may have gotten lost or if too much time has elapsed since
placing an order.
If you cannot find time to do what you want, here is how to make time:
- Delegate some of the household work to other family members.
- Eliminate some of the work entirely. (You don’t have to iron certain items.)
- Make sure that all your children contribute to running the household.
- Use small amounts of time (five to ten minutes) to your best advantage.
- Carefully plan the use of leisure time. Concentrate on doing those
activities that give you real pleasure.
- Leave yourself some open-ended time for a spurof-the-moment activity. Do not
cram your appointment book full.
Do you seem to have a lot of spare time or have trouble making good use of
your spare time? You might consider learning a new skill or cultivating a new
friendship. Check your local newspaper to find some groups you could attend that
would interest you, or become a volunteer somewhere.
Write the names in ink and use a pencil to write phone numbers and addresses
in your address book. If someone moves, you can easily make the necessary change
without messing up your book.
To keep track of your credit cards, lay them out and photocopy them. All the
info is on one sheet.
It is not what you get that makes you successful; it is what you are
continuing to do with what you’ve got.
Remember: Your goal is to get organized so that you can work toward your
mission in life.
I practice a 45/15 rule that really helps me. After every 45minute work
cycle, I take a 15-minute break and do something different—take a short walk, go
outside for some fresh air, call someone on the phone, get a drink of water.
This rule keeps me renewed and fresh.
It’s not what you are that holds you back;
it’s what you think you are
I have kept a mini-notebook for several years which I call “The Lord
Provides.” In it I’ve listed everything that has been given to us as gifts and
from whom. Also listed are things we have found and items donated to us. It’s
beautiful to see how the Lord leads others to meet our needs and desires.
Having more than one phone can be a frustration as well as a convenience, so
I keep a list of frequently called numbers beside each of the phones. Emergency
numbers and those of close relatives are a must if you live alone, even if you
normally remember the numbers. In a stressful situation you may forget.
Color code your files for a real time-saver. The red folders can be for
“hot” items, for example. Use bright colors— they are more cheerful.
I had so much data and information around the house that I became a slave to
recording and keeping track of everything. A friend of mine urged me to look
into a small home computer. At first I balked, but I am so glad I listened to
him. Now that I have one, I can’t believe how valuable the computer has become.
It’s a real time-saver.
Whenever I receive an invitation, I attach it to my kitchen calendar in the
month the event will take place. I also write the event on the calendar on the
appropriate day. I keep the invitations clipped to the calendar in one stack in
chronological order. After each event has taken place, I remove the invitation.
Keeping the invitations handy saves me from searching for the time, the place,
and especially the spelling of people’s names.
It’s important to look professional and not weighted down when making
customer calls. I have one leather briefcase that holds my wallet, makeup,
calendar, and other business-related files. If I go to lunch and don’t want to
take my briefcase, I simply take my wallet and go. No more fumbling with
briefcase, purse, keys, etc.
Once you have organized your space, keep it organized by maintaining the
space on a regular basis. I find that maintenance is the most important aspect
It takes time for change to be assimilated.
Assign convenient permanent locations for small, “restless” items that would
otherwise end up on a tabletop or be mislaid. For example, place a hook near the
door for keys that you always take when you go out, a small dish on the bureau
top to collect loose change or earrings, a mug on the desk to hold pens and
If messy housemates are a problem, toss their out-of-place belongings into a
big cardboard box. When asked where you put an item, point to the box.
Some of the most valued “records” that you have are probably personal
letters, photographs, and such mementos as newspaper clippings, diplomas, and
graduation programs. Don’t feel guilty about saving these, but don’t be overly
sentimental either. Throw out the scraps that will mean little as time passes.
To protect valuable mementos and records from fire or flood (and to keep
them all in one place, as well) store them in a metal strongbox or small
Make sure that you have copies of all birth, marriage, divorce, and death
certificates. These records are filed permanently either in a state vital
statistics office or in a city, county, or other local office.
To get copies of a birth certificate, write to the appropriate office of the
capital of the state where the birth took place. The office may be listed in the
phone book under “Vital Statistics” or “Health Department.”
When storing keepsakes or clothing, number your boxes 1, 2, 3, and so on.
Make out 3" x 5" cards and list on each what you’re storing in the numbered
boxes. Put your 3"x 5" cards in a file box. When you need to look for an item,
simply go to your file box and find the card with the item listed. Check the
card number and get the corresponding box. The item is found in minutes!
Use a kitchen silverware tray to store art supplies, children’s crayons,
Use colored plastic rings to color code your keys. It makes it much easier
to locate them. Store keys in one central location so everyone in the family
knows where all of them are.
You might consider a trade-off system. Whenever you add a new item to the
household inventory, discard an old one. This works great for wardrobe items.
Caution! Do not throw out someone else’s things unless they ask you to do
so. Suggest and encourage, but don’t take over. This applies to your parents,
spouse, and any children over four years old.
Prime Rules of Organization |
- Use a single notebook for notes and basic written information.
- Jot down five areas of your life that need straightening out. Concentrate on
- Isolate these basic five areas. You must learn to focus on the part and not
- Divide up difficult problems into instant tasks.
- When you see a problem area like a messy refrigerator, don’t see the whole
mess, but start with one area of the whole. Clean one shelf or drawer at a time.
- If the whole is too large to do in one day, take two to three days to do the
task. You will feel so relieved and proud when you finish.
- Prioritize your projects.
- Rank them according to importance. Don’t get bogged down in this process.
Don’t worry about ranking each one exactly.
- Choose a regular time to organize work.
- We do much better when we are specific in this area.
- This regular time will soon become a habit.
- Block out one longer amount of time or several shorter spans of
- The important element is to start.
- Even if it’s the wrong spot, begin.
- The most important step is to identify the problem. Then you can analyze the
solution, prioritize what needs to be done, and finally get started.
- Remember, these are firm appointments to be kept.
- Reward yourself for beginning with:
- A walk on the beach.
- A new blouse.
- A new CD.
Be ruthless with your own possessions. Discard all unused junk. When in
doubt, throw it out. It takes up space, and you’ll just wind up cleaning it and
moving it around.
When the enthusiasm strikes to clean, start from the outside in. Take care
of the clutter scattered around the room before digging into the closet.
Starting with the closet first makes a double mess.
To keep mess to a minimum, before you begin cleaning a closet arrange three
boxes nearby to categorize those things that shouldn’t go back in. Label them
“Give Away,” “Put Away,” and “Throw Away.”
Work on one small section of a closet at a time. Do not empty an entire
cluttered closet at once. The resulting chaos is sure to discourage you or put
you off entirely.
The most basic part of organization is knowing what to throw away. Invite an
objective friend over to help make those decisions. Less is better than more. It
saves you a lot of cleaning.
People don’t plan to be failures, but they do plan for success.
Keep items used together near one another (for example, tennis rackets,
balls, sneakers, and other tennis equipment). Store these related items at or
near the place where you use them.
Make the time to do what you want and need to make your life what you want
it to be.
Buy a handbag or tote bag large enough to hold a paperback book or magazine
(for waiting time) and a small notebook for list-making. Attach your keys to a
chain that clips to or loops around the strap. Tuck keys inside. Keep cosmetics
in a separate bag that closes to keep makeup from falling out. Wrap a rubber
band around pens and pencils. Always put your eyeglasses in the same
compartment. Remove notes, crumpled tissues, and deposit slips once a week,
maybe while you watch TV. Switch bags only when you dress up.
Before you buy something, ask yourself, “Where am I going to put it?” and
make sure that you have a clearly defined place in mind.
If the phone encroaches on your efficiency, unplug it or let it ring. Can’t
bear that? An answering machine or service will take your messages and let you
return calls at your convenience.
Keep a pad and pen next to your bed and in your bathroom to jot down ideas,
things to do, and supplies and makeup you need.
Allow time for making beds and tidying the kitchen before leaving the house
in the morning. It makes coming home much more pleasant—and sets an example for
others in the household.
If you can’t get all your housework done in a reasonable amount of time,
hire someone to help you. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can
accomplish with someone helping out just three hours every week!
If you can’t afford professional help, be creative. Possible sources of
assistance include schoolchildren, college students, and neighbors who might be
willing to take over one or two jobs, such as housecleaning, ironing, or grocery
shopping— and for considerably less than it costs to hire a professional.
Don’t keep an address book for home use. Instead, buy a small 3" x 5" file
box. Use 3" x 5" cards to list names alphabetically and file them in the box.
You’ll never lose the box or spend money replacing old address books. When
someone moves or changes a phone number, just replace the card. Add cards when
needed. On the back of the card you can write important information about that
person: directions to home, favorite colors, names of family members, birthdays,
favorite foods, etc. This will give you a great source of information about that
Using Bits of Time |
Most small chores can be accomplished in bits and pieces of time. For
instance, while you’re waiting in a doctor’s office, you can pay bills; while
riding the bus, write out your shopping list. The following lists may give you
some ideas of what you can do with small chunks of time.
What you can do in 5 minutes
Make an appointment.
Make out a party guest list.
tickets for a concert or a ball game.
Sew a button on.
What you can do in 10 minutes
Write a short letter or
Pick out a birthday card.
Repot a plant.
Straighten your desktop.
What you can do in 30 minutes
Go through backed-up magazines
Work on a craft project.
Polish silver and
Vacuum three or four rooms.
Weed a flower bed.
Make it a habit to return everything to its proper place and remind others
to do so. If you do this daily, it takes less time than waiting until the
situation is out of control. An even bigger bonus is that you won’t need to
spend time looking for out-of-place objects.
Do small chores as needed so that they occupy little time. For example,
laundry left until the weekend can consume the weekend; instead, start a load
before breakfast, put it in the dryer after breakfast, and it’s done.
Use labor-saving gadgets or appliances whenever they will really save time.
But don’t overdo it. Chopping an onion with a knife may take no longer than
using a food processor and then having to take the machine apart and wash and
Leave some slack in your day for surprises, interruptions, or emergencies.
Some activities will take longer than expected, no matter how carefully you plan
or allow for delays.
Think before you act—even before you do routine jobs. The way you perform
simple, basic tasks is usually the result of habit, not logic. There may be a
Why does a half-hour job often take twice as long as you thought it would?
Probably because you estimated only the actual working time and didn’t take into
account the preparation (getting out and putting away tools, for instance).
Install telephone jacks all around the house or get a cordless phone so that
you can talk wherever you are in and around your home.
Establish a message center in your home. It needn’t be elaborate—it can be
on the refrigerator or on a bulletin board or a door. Encourage everyone in the
household to use the message center to list plans, needs for the next shopping
trip, and (especially important) all telephone messages.
Keep the message center current. Throw away outdated notes. Take care of as
many items as you can each day, or enter them in your notebook for action later.
To save time and frustration, whenever possible use the telephone instead of
making a trip. Phone to confirm appointments, to check if a store has the item
you want, to learn business hours, and so on.
Learn how to cut off time-consuming calls without hurting people’s feelings.
For example, it’s quite all right to say, “This is a terrible time for me, may I
call you back?” (Of course, do call back later.)
Sometimes a phone call is more timesaving and effective than a letter. Even
a long-distance call may be cheaper, especially when you consider how long it
takes to write a letter and how much your time is worth.
Group your errands so that you can accomplish several in a single trip. Try
to find a convenient shopping center that has all or most of the stores,
offices, and services that you need.
Whenever possible, do errands when traffic is light and lines are
short—usually between 10 A.M. and 3 P.M. on
weekdays, in the evenings, and all day Sunday.
If you have appointments or errands at several locations, schedule them so
that you can go from one to the next with a minimum of wasted time and travel.
Eliminate additional trips by making back-to-back doctor or dentist
appointments for family members (or at least for all the kids).
Try to get the first appointment of the morning so that you won’t be delayed
by someone ahead of you and you’ll still have most of the day left when you
Take your weekly “to do” list with you whenever you go on errands. You may
be able to fit in something that you scheduled for later in the week.
Excerpted from Emilie’s Creative Home Organizer by Emilie
Barnes. Copyright © 2005 by Harvest House Publishers. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.