Sunday, August 29, 2004

Keeping the Car Organized

Tip of the Week, August 22, 2004

Cars can often become one of the last frontiers as far as organizing goes, especially for those of us who use them often, have families, or simply have a lot of stuff we keep with us when we're on the road.

The glove compartment is a great place to start, as it tends to be a catch-all for any bits of paper or random items that might enter the car. Try this trick (from the most recent issue of Martha Stewart Living): use a check organizer or other small accordion file to store registration and insurance info, auto club information and numbers, the car's owner's manual, maps, and directions. You may also want to file the records pertaining to the car's latest check-ups and oil changes.

In addition to an accordion file, I recommend keeping in the glove compartment a tire pressure gauge, a pen or two, a few moist towelettes, and an unmeltable energy bar or granola bar; a Ziploc bag will keep these things together and prevent them from migrating throughout the glove compartment.

There are a wide range of products designed to help you maintain organization in the rest of your car, from dividers that attach to seat backs to those that strap to sun visors to flexible seat-top bins. You can find many of these products at your local hardware or department store, or try an online store like Stacks and Stacks.

Finally, keep your trunk in order with a trunk organizer. Again, there are many to choose from, so you can select one that's small enough to fit in your trunk and large enough to hold what you need. The one I use tucks easily into a corner, features a strip of velcro on one side (to help it stick to the trunk liner) and a strip of reflective tape on the other (so it can be used to help others see me if I break down at night), and came packed with car-care basics, including flares, jumper cables, fix-a-flat, and a well-stocked first aid kit.

Spend some time this week cleaning out your car and getting it organized; in less than an hour, you can make sure your chariot has everything you need to get where you're going.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Winning the Battle Against Paper

Tip of the Week, August 8 & 15, 2004

One of the most consistently challenging aspects of getting organized is dealing with paper--bills, mail, magazines, and the scores of other things that come into our lives each week. Despite the best of intentions, it's often far too easy to misplace papers we need to file or follow up on, which leads to late bills, misplaced documents, and a general sense of being controlled by paper.

There isn't a single system that works for everyone, but one option is to use something called a tickler system (so named because it's meant to "tickle" your memory about the things you need to do). A tickler system is basically a set of 31 file folders, one for each day of the month. (Obviously, you won't use all of them each month.) Into the numbered folder for each day, you place the papers you need to deal with on that day.

For example, if you receive a bill that's due on the 17th of the month, place it in the folder for the 11th or 12th so you can be sure to pay it and get it in the mail on time. If you've been saving articles from magazines or newspapers to read, put them in the folder of a weekend day, or a day you know you'll have some free time.

You can also use a tickler system to remind you of appointments; simply put a Post-It note or a other small reminder in the folder for the relevant day with information about the appointment, or a cross-reference to your calendar or scheduling tool.

The most important thing to remember about using a tickler system is that it needs to become a habit. For the system to work, you need to remember both to file things in it and to check the day's folder, well, daily. As with any good habit, a few weeks of commitment to setting up and using a tickler system may well pay dividends--in this case, a victory in the battle against paper.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Storing Kitchen Pots, Pans, and Lids

Tip of the Week, August 1, 2004

Anyone with more than two pots in the kitchen is probably familiar with the challenge of keeping cookware and lids neatly and efficiently stored. If you don't have space for a ceiling- or wall-mounted rack, you likely rely on cupboards to store your pots and pans.

Stacked cookware doesn't need to cause chaos in your cupboards. An inexpensive wooden peg rack (essentially two horizontal strips of wood with vertical dowels of various lengths attached) is a convenient way to store lids; simply line them up by size, and keep the rack accessible in a cupboard.

Pots and pans can easily be nested, but it's worth taking a simple precaution to protect them. Place a layer or two of coffee filters or soft paper towels between each pot to prevent nicks and dings. (You can also use felt circles cut to fit each pot.)

Finally, you can increase the efficiency of your cabinet storage space by installing a slide out tray in the cupboard you use for pots and pans. Rather than having to reach behind stacks of other cookware to reach the pans in the back of the cupboard, simply slide the tray out and grab what you need.

Monday, August 02, 2004

"But I Might Need It Someday!"

Tip of the Week, July 25, 2004

"But I might need it someday!" These six words entice many people to keep things they aren't using, don't have room for, and might not even remember they have. What do you do about the stuff--often in perfectly good shape, and possibly even of some value--that you've been keeping around because you might need it someday?

I encourage my clients, when faced with a pile of "might-need-its," to ask themselves these questions about each object:

  • When was the last time I used it?
  • What might I need it for? When might I need it?
  • If I did need this object again after I got rid of it, how easy would it be to get another one like it?
  • Which is more valuable: knowing that I have this object on hand should I ever need it, or creating a living/working space that's free of clutter and of things I don't use on a regular basis?

These questions can be deceptively difficult, but they're often useful in terms of providing some perspective on the benefits of getting rid of the things you don't often (or ever) use, even if they might come in handy someday.