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Tips for getting organized at home

Time management in any environment, whether in an office or at home, involves working both efficiently and effectively. You are working efficiently when you complete tasks in the best possible way. You are working effectively when you concentrate your efforts on the best possible tasks. What you do is considered more important than how you do it. When you get organized and work both efficiently and effectively, you are approaching excellence. Organization is our passport to productivity and time management is the vehicle that takes us there.

Here are several quick tips for keeping organized and saving time in the home. Check any that might be of interest.

  • Utilize space under beds by storing infrequently used items in low, long boxes on casters – or simply use cardboard boxes. (But if you never retrieve any of it within a year, consider getting rid of it.) When storing infrequently used items number the cartons and keep index cards listing the items in each carton. Store frequently used items where they are used. Keep a separate set of cleaning supplies in each bathroom to save steps.
  • In your refrigerator, keep similar types of foods in certain areas, such as all vegetables in crisper, all cheeses on the top shelf, sauces in the door compartments etc. so it’s easy to locate everything. Set up TV trays next to the refrigerator when cleaning it so you can keep the items close by as you empty the refrigerator.
  • Twenty percent of your possessions get 80 percent of the use, so store those frequently used items where they’re easy to reach. Stash the remaining 80 percent somewhere out of the way. This applies to files, clothes, tools, supplies and books, among other things.
  • Phone the doctor’s office before leaving for your appointment to see whether he/she is on schedule. You could probably utilize the waiting time more profitably at home. Do this before making a trip to stores for specific items as well to make sure they are in stock.
  • Put a follow-up note in your planner at a specific date each year as a reminder to change all the batteries in your clocks, TV and VCR remotes, travel alarms, flashlights etc. Do the same for daylight saving time.
  • Keep a record of family members’ clothing sizes and a list of loaned items and other personal information in a section of a home organizer book or 3-ring binder. Include other information that needs to be accessed on a regular basis such as babysitter instructions, medication information, emergency numbers and first aid etc. Include checklists for recurring activities, such as vacation, trips to the cottage, etc., so nothing will be overlooked. Include a form to record loaned items (date, to whom loaned) and check them off when returned. Record borrowed items as well to avoid embarrassment later.
  • Make the bed when you get up, tidy up the room before you leave it. The do it now habit saves time later! To simplify bed making, pull up the sheets and covers before you get out of bed.  This saves a lot of time running from one side of the bed to the other to get everything lined up. Consider switching from bedspreads to duvets to speed up bed making.
  • To keep socks together through the washing and drying process, use plastic discs or safety pins or a mesh bag that you can use for this purpose. Have laundry baskets for both light and dark clothes so you won’t have to separate them later.
  • Throw out those part bottles of sprays, ointments and medicines that have expired or that you can no longer identify – and do this on a regular basis. Photograph any bulky items that you have been keeping for nostalgic reasons before getting rid of them.
  • When cleaning out closets or storage rooms, label three cartons “Scrap”, “Give away”, and “Keep” for sorting as you go along. Keep it simple. Later you can break them down further by separating “Scrap” into “Recycle” and “Garbage” and “Give away” into “Church” and “Thrift shop” and “Friends & Relatives.”
  • Maintain a message centre and a perpetual shopping list – either magnetic on the refrigerator or corkboard on the wall. If you live alone, the messages are for yourself. Never rely on your memory. In fact, writing it down improves your memory. Reduce refrigerator surface clutter by laminating your grandchildren’s favourite art projects and using them as place mats.
  • If you clip coupons, highlight the expiration dates and keep them in an envelope marked “Coupons.” Keep them with things you use when you go shopping, such as a cloth shopping bag, bundle buggy or car keys.
  • Rinse the dishes and put them in the dishwasher directly from the table before the food dries on them. Similarly unpack groceries directly into the cupboards instead of unpacking them onto the cupboard.
  • Make up a spare set of keys, everything from car key and house key to locker, office and cottage and leave them with a close friend–one you don’t mind calling in the middle of the night. Photocopy or photograph birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, etc., and keep them in your files. You may also need to use the copies in an urgent situation.
  • Prepare for the next morning before you retire for the night by setting the breakfast table, selecting clothes to wear, packing your computer bag, etc. Near the front door, post a checklist of items to be purchased and errands to be completed the next day.
  • If you have different sized sheets, buy them in different colours or distinctive patterns for easy sorting. To prevent having to dig through the linen closet to retrieve matching sheets and pillowcases, store the folded flat sheet, fitted sheet and pillowcase inside the second pillowcase.
  • If you have a habit of misplacing frequently used items such as eyeglasses or keys, establish a home base for each of them, and get in the habit of returning each item to its home base when not in use. For example, a key rack on the wall, a holder for eyeglasses on the coffee table, etc.  It would also be a good idea to have spares of these items “just in case.” If you have a home with different keys for the front door, side door, storage shed etc. consider having a locksmith make them all uniform, then one key is all you need.
  • Have one junk drawer only. Use organizing trays in the other drawers to house specific items. Have a place for everything. Set up a home filing system. Keep one file for income tax receipts and other files on major categories, such as Family, Bank Accounts, Investments, Legal, Repairs, etc. Don’t put letters, bills etc. back in the envelopes once you have read them. Keep them unfolded, staple the pages together, and place them in an action tray.
  • Store empty clothes hangers to one side of the closet and use them as required. Don’t let them mix with used ones. Always have the season’s clothes dry cleaned before you store them away for the next season. Use cup hooks or picture hangers to hang necklaces and chains at the side of the closet. Use a pocket shoe rack that hangs from a door to store small items that you use frequently.
  • When cleaning house, tackle those important, high-traffic areas first. Attach an extension cord to your vacuum cleaner so you don’t have to continually change outlets. Keep several garbage bags at the bottom of your garbage can so you don’t have to look for fresh bags when you take out the garbage. Keep a radio in the bathroom or kitchen to catch up on the news while you’re cleaning or preparing for the day ahead. Buy a radio that is safe for the bathroom.
  • Remove clothes from the dryer as soon as it stops and hang or fold them to prevent wrinkling. (If you forget, throw a damp towel into the dryer and turn it on for another five minutes.) When you wash the bed sheets, return them to the same bed, rather than wash, fold and put them away. You also give the bed a chance to air out.