Creating a Life Free From Chaos

June is Organizing Personal Papers Month at Modern Simplicity!

Do you have piles of paper laying around? Could you easily find your Social Security card, your family’s birth certificates, or insurance papers in an emergency? Do you lose track of bills or other important mail? Do you find yourself picking through piles to find your favorite chinese take-out menu, then going through the whole ordeal again the next day looking for a receipt to return that ill-fitting shirt?

This is a big one in my house right now. I used to be good at it. But two kids and a full-time job later, I’m too tired to deal with all the papers on a regular basis. And they’re piling up. It’s driving me absolutely bonkers. So for the month of June (with one week off for a much-needed, kid-free vacation), I’m going to sorting and filing until it’s all done. It sounds overwhelming now, but breaking it down will make it a much more palpable task.

This Week: The Big Sort

First, I set aside an hour a week that is now my “office time” — it’s blocked out on the family calendar that every week I will get an hour uninterrupted in our home office to work on this project. I chose Tuesday nights after the baby goes to bed, so my husband only has to deal with the preschooler for bedtime. But I will be working on this project any spare chance I get, not just Tuesdays.

I’m going to start by bring ALL the various piles of paper to one location and doing a quick sort of everything. Receipts in one box, paid bills in another, kids’ artwork, medical records, photos, magazines, papers to read, etc. There’s so much in there, I don’t know how many categories I’ll end up with. I will not spend time reading every piece of paper, but will scan it long enough to see if it’s really worth keeping. It’s good to have a shredding box and a recycling bin handy and use them liberally. I will not be stopping to actually file anything right now, just sorting and chucking.

My office will look much worse before it gets better. Once The Big Sort is done, we can move on to filing, one of my least favorite organizing chores ever, but a necessary one. I’ll be back with tips and tricks to make filing a little less dreary.

Simplify Your Dining Room

Simplify Your Dining RoomThis week’s clean-up project is the dining room. Eating together as a family is a great way to reconnect, and whether you have a formal dining room, eat-in kitchen or both, a streamlined, pretty dining area will make the experience even more special. Here are some guidelines to help you organize and simplify your eating space.

  • Decide what functions take place in your dining room. Is it strictly for eating, or is it also used for office work, kids’ art projects, homework, entertaining, crafts? Remove everything that isn’t directly related to those functions.
  • Now clear off the table. You can’t do any of the functions listed above if you can’t find the table.
  • If you have storage pieces in your dining room, such as built-ins, curio cabinets or bookcases, clean them out so they only contain items related to the functions of your dining room. It’s great to store extra dishes, entertaining pieces, placemats and tablecloths in the dining room. It is not great to store extra toilet paper, bed linens or toys in the dining room.
  • If you use the dining table as an office space, find a place to store your office supplies and files so they aren’t always on the table. A rolling file cabinet, some baskets or a pretty box can hide office paraphernalia so you can enjoy your dinner.
  • Some people like to keep the table set for a meal all the time as decor. I have cats and kids, so I don’t do that. But I do like my table clear, with a simple centerpiece of candles or flowers, so I’m ready to set as soon as we’re ready to eat.
  • If you have kids and upholstered chairs, consider throwing together some simple seat protectors to protect your seating.
  • Dust off your light fixture, and if you can, add a dimmer to your overhead lighting to instantly add ambiance to any meal.
  • After every meal, clean the table. It’s annoying to find crusty sauce and milk splatters on the table hours after your last meal. Check under the table too for spills and crumbs.
  • Don’t forget to decorate. A few pictures on the wall, some simple curtains and a couple of candles can make the dining area feel more cozy and welcoming.

Kill More Energy Vampires: Save Energy Easily with This Tip

You already know to plug your electronics, cell phone chargers, and the like into power strips and turn them off when you’re not home.

You already know to power down computers and unplug your toaster when you’re not using them.

You already know to adjust your thermostat 2 degrees to save on heating/cooling or to use a programmable thermostat to control the temps when you’re not home.

Here’s a tip for conserving even more vampire energy. Do you have rechargeable batteries, electric toothbrushes, Dustbusters or other small appliances that need to recharge between uses? Are you leaving them plugged in all the time between uses? You don’t have to!

I have a Sonicare toothbrush that I used to leave plugged in all time — the brush stayed on its charging base the entire 23 hours 55 minutes a day I wasn’t using it. Then one day, I unplugged it. The brush still worked. The next day, the brush still worked. A week later, the brush was fine. TWO WEEKS LATER, I finally plugged the base back in for a few hours just because I was *sure* the toothbrush was going to die soon.

I started unplugging my Dustbuster too, and only plug the base back in when the vacuum starts to sound a little weak. Try it. You might be surprised how long those items can really hold their charge!

Happy Earth Day!