As much as I love December — snow is still exciting, listening to Christmas music all the time is socially acceptable, there’s time for vacation and visiting with family — it is an incredibly busy month for most people.  When January rolls around, I’m usually relieved to have a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  The weather seemingly always turns a little (or a lot) colder.  It’s in the teens in DC today and very windy, which means I had to break out the long underwear and I got to test out my warmest hand knit gear!

The colder weather forces us to slow down and maybe stay inside a bit more.  It’s the perfect time to reflect on the year that’s passed and the year that’s ahead of you and set some intentions (or resolutions, if you will) for yourself.

Here’s some tips to help you set and keep those intentions for 2014.

  • Think about the upcoming year.

It may sound easy enough, but we all know how hard it can be to give yourself some time to just think quietly.  Try taking a coffee or tea break away from the computer and your phone.  If you’re like me, bring along a pen and scrap of paper and jot down some ideas.  What life changes came in 2013? Have you adjusted your routine to accommodate these changes – or are you still struggling to keep up?  What changes do you want to make for yourself in the upcoming months and year?

Here’s my list so far:

  1. Establish routine for working on my organizing business.
  2. Establish routine for working on this blog.
  3. Keep all shopping intentional and planned.
  4. Continue daily walks – adding weekend walks!
  • Start Small.

The idea here is that you want to set yourself up for success.  By starting with something small, you’re more likely to achieve the goal.   I read an article that suggested changing the goal of exercising more to putting on your running shoes each morning.  Once you’ve accomplished something small, move onto something bigger!  No one says you can’t revise intentions during the year.

Here’s the changes I’ll make to my list of intentions:

  1. Block off 6 hours (minimum) weekly to business work. [One could argue that goal this isn’t small enough. I’ll acknowledge that and move on b/c I’ve got work to do! :) ]
  2. Work on the blog once a week: brainstorm, write a rough draft, or finalize a post.
  3. If I find something I like, wait a full day before actually making a purchase.
  4. Walk somewhere either Friday night, Saturday or Sunday every weekend.
  • Acknowledge your successes

We started small for a reason – so you could feel success sooner rather than later.  Once you do something on your list, even just once, acknowledge it!  Mark it in your calendar as completed.  Tell your mom, or BFF, or someone who likes you.  Say “Woot! I’m awesome”.  Put on a song and dance around to it.  Do not be embarrassed.  It’s a big deal when you do something you set out to do.

  • Get a support system

I got this idea from my knitting group.  We all put up our personal knitting plans in a forum post so we can cheer each other on during the year.  I think accountability is a great thing.  I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I put some things up on my blog just so you all can hold me accountable for plans and goals I’ve declared.  Remember that support systems should be about supporting you – not putting you down.  Let’s keep things positive!

  • Keep it going.

We’ve all heard that it takes n days to make a habit a routine.  Whatever that magical number of days is, an important thing to remember about New Year’s resolutions is that you made them so that you would make a change to your life – not just to your life during the month of January.  Create a reminder for the first of every month of 2014.  On those days spend 5 minutes reviewing your intentions for the year.  If you’ve stopped working on them, acknowledge that fact and start again. Make changes where you need to.

Happy New Year!  Feel free to share your personal resolutions in the comments.  I promise you’ll feel more committed to them!

FallLeavesNow that’s its mid-October, the weather seams to be seriously thinking about turning to fall here in DC-land, which got me thinking about changing up my wardrobe.  Not buying up the new trends, but revisiting my closet and doing a targeted review of what’s in there.

Along the vein of thinking about less, my main goal for this seasonal closet review was to reduce the amount of clothes in my closet.  To achieve this goal, I kept two ideas in mind while sorting through everything:

  1. I will keep only the clothes I need for fall in my closet.  My clothes for other seasons I’ll place into a storage bin that lives in a different closet.
  2. I will only own clothes that I love, that fit me well, and that I actually wear.  If I don’t feel great about myself in an article of clothing, it gets donated or tossed.

My approach to my closet review was inspired not just by the changing season, but also by Project 333.  In Project 333 you choose 33 articles of clothing and wear only those for 3 months.  The rest of your clothing goes into storage.  After 3 months you switch up your wardrobe for the new season.

What I like about Project 333 is that the creator is not pushing the number 33 or even the number 3.  She’s really just asking you to be more mindful about how many clothes you need in your closet to dress well.  It’s this second point that drew me in.

Many people (myself included!) like shopping and finding new clothes to wear.  Sometimes we buy things for the wrong reasons though.  Maybe they don’t fit exactly right – but oh so close to being right.  Maybe the style isn’t quite me, but it’s a version of me I want to be. Maybe I just feel like I need to buy something.  Buying for these reasons is not being mindful about your wardrobe.
Everything in your closet should be something that you love and that fits you well.  You deserve to feel great about yourself in your  clothing.  All of your clothing.  Any clothes that give you a negative feeling are not worth holding onto.

The Process

As I mentioned before, this was a targeted review of my closet, so I did not take everything out and reorganize my closet and dresser completely.  For more details on doing a full review of your wardrobe, see my tips on getting started here.

Here’s how I approached my closet refresher:

Summer clothes

  1. From your closet, pull out all items that don’t fit the fall weather: summer dresses and skirts, bathing suits, light weight tanks and shirts, summer workout clothes and pajamas.  If you wore these items this past summer, they go into storage.  If you didn’t wear them, put them in a donate pile or the trash if they’re worn out or stained.
  2. From your closet, pull out any articles you’re unsure of – anything you don’t love anymore, are not sure how it fits, or have negative feelings about.  None of us have the time to feel bad about something hanging in our closets.  If you’re unsure how something fits, try it on and decide whether or not it’s worth keeping.  If you are still hesitant about any item in this pile, put aside in a box for 1 month or more.  If after that time you haven’t looked for it or thought of it, let it go for real.
  3. From storage, take out any items you’ll wear in the next couple of months.  I took out some sweaters and heavier workout clothes as well as some light scarves and hats I knitted. Most of my other fall clothes were already in my (pretty full) closet.  I’ll do another closet review in mid-December when (maybe) winter has arrived.  Then I’ll take out any additional sweaters or winter gear I need for the new season.

The End Result

This was a good first effort on my part to clear some space in my closet.  I did a large, full scale review of all of my clothes this past spring where I gave up a lot of items I had been holding onto for years for some unknown reason.  In this closet review, although it was more targeted, I still found a number of items that I was keeping for the wrong reasons.

My Fall Closet - improved, but not yet complete.

My Fall Closet – improved, but not yet complete.

This time around I was able to let those items go and place them in my donate pile.  My closet is still pretty full and although I wasn’t aiming to hit anywhere near the 33 item limit like in Project 333, I still see a lot of room for improvement in the number of items I keep in my wardrobe rotation.  I’m doing very well on the “love everything in your closet” guideline but I’m doing less well in the seasonal items only area.  Hopefully once fall fully settles in I’ll be ready to pack away a few more of those summer and spring tops and share an update of my even emptier closet with you!

 

This is second installment of my extensive, two-part series on organizing my CDs and DVDs. Today I’ll be sharing my organizing process for my DVDs.

For me, one of the keys to a successful organizing project is first understanding how you use/interact with whatever you’re trying to organize.  Once I’ve got a clear picture of this, then I move on to how I’m actually going to do the organizing!  Starting with the WHY, rather than the HOW or WHAT for the project.  <I try to be selective when it comes to actually adopting what I call “business-speak”.  This  idea, though, is a keeper>

On to the DVDs! Those discs won’t organize themselves, will they?

The DVDs

A big difference between my CDs and my DVDs is how often I need access to them.  With my CDs pretty much never.  With my DVDs, I  still need the physical disc whenever I want to watch the tv show or movie.  I am a repeat watcher of both tv shows and movies.  Don’t even make me admit how many times I’ve watched Sex and the City or Clueless or 10 Things I Hate About You.  Or Greys Anatomy for that matter.  Actually, I stand by my Clueless viewings.  It allowed me to do super well on this quiz.

Oh, we were talking about organizing?  Okay, back to that.

On the one hand, using a CD binder for my DVDs would have worked – it holds round shiny discs just fine.  On the other hand, I don’t think looking at one of those on my shelf all the time is much of an improvement over the DVD cases themselves.  So, I decided to search for a different solution.  This lead to a lot of clicking on Amazon.

The (many many) Product Choices

To save you some precious time, here’s a summary of what I found.

  1. Regular Binders – I already mentioned these, but there are special inserts for DVDs so that you can store your DVD cover or booklet along with the DVD.  Why DVD cases aren’t the same as CDs I do not know.
  2. Nicer looking bindersThese are designed to not look like they’re holding discs at all.  They look like traditional hard cover book or photo albums from the side.  These just weren’t my style.  Also, they were going to be a bit pricier than I wanted to spend on this project.
  3. Photo box – With these boxes, you can keep the DVDs in their original cases.  The original purpose of this project was to downsize, so this wasn’t going to work for me.  However, if you’re attached to the cases but not how they look on your shelf, this is a good option.  Be prepared to need lots of boxes though!
  4. Photo box with individual sleeves – There’s lots of options in this category.  I have some of these boxes from IKEA that I store actual photos in.  Here is one option and one box I was seriously considering.  This second box, I love the look of!  However, in order for this system to work, I would also need to choose a sleeve style for the discs (yes, there were many options of these as well!).  That’s the main reason I didn’t go with this system.  Also, I thought if all of the discs were in the one box, I might get annoyed about flipping through the discs to find the one I wanted.  I could see this system working well to store computer-related discs.  For example, backups of your OS and digital photos.
  5. Mini bindersThis is the product I ultimately went with.  They look good, they hold a lot of discs and the price was right.  Additionally, there are four separate books which can help you order and ultimately find a particular disc quickly.  The small colored ovals on the spine of each binder is actually a piece of paper, so you can label what is in each binder.

The Process

DVDCollage

My DVDs before; In the process of loading the cases and trimming some DVD covers; the final product (From left to right)

Filling up the mini binders was super quick.  I grouped movies together, followed by tv shows. Most of the discs were labeled with the movie/show name, so I discarded the entire case – doing my best to separate anything recyclable from the rest.  There were just a few movies that only had their name in very very small print around the center of the disc.  For these I saved the paper cover of the movie, trimmed it to CD case size (again, why this isn’t the default size, I do not know) and slid it in behind the disc.  A little extra work, but I’m glad I did this extra step.

I ended up having to order a second case.  Greys Anatomy sure does take up a lot of those sleeves!! There is plenty of room in the second set.  I could definitely fit all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in there if one day I decide I need to watch the series AGAIN.  Another added feature that I discovered is that the cases of the mini binders are stackable.  There are little grooves on the tops and bottoms to help keep the cases in place on your shelf.

The End Result

Again, I’m super happy with the end result!  The DVDs take up so much less space in our living room, but the discs are just as easy to access as they were before.  In the case of Mad Men, they’re even easier to access.  (Please let me know if you know what I’m talking about!) I did need to spend a lot of time searching for the right container for the discs.  That is pretty typical for me, so I hope by sharing my work with you, I’ll save you some time in the future!

Also, if there’s any organizing projects you’re thinking of doing (or have been avoiding doing), please share them in the comments!  I’ll use these for future organizing posts.

 

When we moved from Wisconsin to D.C., there were a lot of decluttering/downsizing projects I wanted to complete before the move. A lot. Pretty much everything we owned needed to be looked at and assessed.  In my next two posts, I’ll share two of those projects – dealing with my CD and DVD collections.  In my life, these are two distinct collections that needed to be handled differently, so I wanted to share both projects as two examples of how to organize physical media collections.  Hopefully one of my solutions will work for you next time you’re thinking of downsizing any kind of disc-shaped collection you may have.

The CDs

I use my CDs differently than my DVDs.  In fact, I don’t actually use the physical CDs to listen to music anymore.  Around 8 years back I uploaded all the music I owned a physical copy of onto my computer (using itunes) and now I almost exclusively buy digital copies of new albums and songs.  So for the majority of the past decade, I haven’t used my cds for actual music listening.  They’ve sat on a shelf, or more recently, in a crate, stored away.  You would think I would be ready to be rid of all of those cds completely, but honestly, I wasn’t.  It’s not just that I spent good money on those CDs; there are a lot of memories tied into them from high school and college.  I compromised with my uncluttering self and decided to do away with all of the plastic cases and consolidate the discs into a single large CD binder.  The decision to go with the large black binder was pretty straight forward for me because I knew I only had a few requirements for my storage solution:

  1. I don’t need access to the discs often.
  2. I wanted something that was easy to store away.
  3. I wanted the discs to be protected from dust and dirt.
  4. I wanted all discs to be together, in some sort of order.

Finding a large CD binder is really easy.  The main requirement is knowing what size you need.  I estimated I had around 150 discs to store, so I went with 208 disc binder made by Case Logic.  Here is the actual one I ordered and here is one I just found that has a different ring system inside, and appears to have a nicer cover than the one I own (darn it!).  Nothing is very special about these cases, but they both cover all of my project requirements.   They hold CDs (all of them). They are compact and zip close.  They both allow you to open the binder rings and insert additional storage pages, if you need to.  I wasn’t very concerned with this because I rarely buy new CDs and I thought I would have plenty of extra space in the binder once I got all of my cds in there. (That was almost true)

The Process

Here’s a quick rundown of my organizing process:

  1. Take all of the CDs out of the crate. In any organizing project, the first step is to remove the items from their natural habitat.  It helps gives a new perspective on the items.
  2. Organize the CDs into piles.  I decided to put the discs into the binders in alphabetical order, so I made one pile for each letter of the alphabet.
  3. Starting with the first pile, remove the disc and the cd cover from the plastic case.  On a case by case basis I decided whether or not I wanted to keep the liner notes.  In some cases I kept the entire thing and in others I kept only the front cover, to help me recognize the disc.
  4. Separate the plastic cases from any paper covers.  The paper covers I could recycle myself; the plastic cases I knew I could not recycle in the normal fashion, so for now I put them to the side.
  5. Load up the binder!  I chose to switch to a new page with each letter of the alphabet.  This left few spots empty, which maybe I’ll use in the future if I ever buy another physical CD.
CDCollage

My previous storage solution; CDs sorted into piles; the finished product! (Images clockwise, starting at the top left)

 

CDRemainsOh and here’s the aftermath of the organizing project.  The pile on the left are all the paper covers and cases and are all recyclable.  The pile on the right is a bunch of hard plastic cases.  After some searching online, I found that the local children’s museum accepted CD cases for one of their hands on exhibits.  I was more than pumped to find out I didn’t just need to trash all of that plastic.  They also accepted things like corks and yarn, which I also needed to deal with before the move.  I’ve never been to this museum, but I imagine kids are bringing home a very fancy piece of junk – I mean recycled art work – at the end of that exhibit.

The End Result

Overall, I’m very happy with this project.  It wasn’t very hard to select a case to use.  It did take me a full afternoon to do the sorting and filling of the binder.  Sitting on the floor for that amount of time might not have been my best decision…  But the end result looks great!  I can find any CD easily and I’ve saved the CD covers that I liked the most.  The binder was easily packed away during our move and now lives in the back of our main closet.  I know where it is, but haven’t found the need to reach for it since arriving in DC.

Reflecting back, I know I wasn’t ready to get rid of the CDs for sentimental reasons.  For now, I am okay with that.  Music played a big part in my life during my teens and early twenties.  I have so many memories of seeing these bands, searching out these albums, and driving around Cleveland listening to this music.  Every once in awhile, I’d like to bring those memories back as I flip through the pages of the binder.  It’s almost like another kind of photo album for me.

Two weeks ago I challenged you all to pick an organizing project to complete in the near future.  I chose my spice shelf, which has been a total disaster since we moved to our new place in March.  My due date for this project was EOD Sunday August 4th and I succeeded!  Here’s a rundown of the organizing project.

The Before

spicesbefore1I chose our large corner cabinet near the sink to hold our spices. As with all corner cabinets, this shelf is DEEP!  On the one hand, this is great.  You can store lots o’ stuff in there.  On the other hand, since you can store lots and lots o’ stuff, it’s easy to lose track of everything that you’re storing in the cabinet and it can be hard to reach everything.  This was exactly my problem with the spice shelf.

The top shelf of this cabinet (which is too high for me to reach without a step stool) holds large bowls and serving platters.  Ones I use occasionally are toward the front and are easy enough to pull out (once I climb up there).  The second shelf stores our oils, vinegars, and baking liquids (vanilla, molasses, honey).  I bought a large OXO lazy suzan for these items and it works greats!  Everything has its place and is easy to reach.  I tried using the same lazy suzan for our spices, but it didn’t quite work.  There were still multiple rows of jars, most of which were the same height.  This meant I still couldn’t see what was what past the first row.  So I ignored the problem until this week.

The Process

Step One: Assess the situation.

I followed the same process I use when starting pretty much any organizing project, which I wrote about last week.  I first removed everything from the shelf and took stock of what was buried in the back, taking a few notes as I went.  As I took a look at each spice jar, I kept in mind a few questions to keep me on track.

  1. What spices don’t use?  Toss them. Toss them right now before you start feeling guilty about wasting. Again. Just like you did when you packed this spice in Wisconsin.
  2. What spices do I want to keep?  Name a recipe (or two) that uses this spice that you actually cook.  Quick!  If you can’t think of anything, put it in the toss pile.
  3. What spices am I low on and want to replace?  Start making a list right now.
  4. What additional spices do I need?  First and foremost, you need a specific purpose for each spice on this list.  Some spices I ran out of recently and some I needed to start cooking out of our new Indian cookbook. (Side note – so excited for this!  I’ll let you know how this works out for us!)

Step Two: Sorting and Categorizing

I cook a lot, so after going through all of the spices, I still had a fair number that were going to remain in my kitchen.  If I wanted to be able to find the spices quickly when they were back in my cabinet, I needed to establish an order before they were put away.  Only you (and whoever else cooks in your house) needs to understand the order.  What makes sense to me, might not work well for you or anyone else.  Here’s some ideas for categorizing your spices.

  1. Alphabetical
  2. Type – peppers, baking spices, seeds, savory spices, etc.
  3. Popularity – most used in the front, least used toward the back.
  4. Container size – small guys in front, larger ones in back, so everyone can be seen.

I used a combo of #2 and #3 (and #4 actually).  There are some spices I use every week and others only occasionally.  I wanted those more popular spices in the front of the shelf, so I could grab them quickly.  For me keeping similar spices close together made the most sense.  All the red peppers will be close together, so I can decide which one I want in a particular dish, on the fly.  Keep the oregano and basil next to each other, and so on.  Finally, most of my containers are the small, squat Libbey vibe jars.  I have some Penzeys containers, which are much taller, so it made sense to put those toward the back, so they didn’t block any of the Libbey jars.  Keeping the Libbeys close together makes me feel instantly more organized, so I wanted to keep that feeling going.

Step Three: Actually Organizing the Shelf.

I still needed to answer the question, “How to create organization in a large, deep shelf?”TieredSpices

A 3-tiered shelf organizer was my solution, which I picked up for less than $20 at The Container store.  They had several options, but I was a bit limited since my Libbey glass jars are a bit wide at the base.  What fit best was an expandable shelf, made mostly of white plastic, with grey grippy stuff on the shelf.  I’m not a big fan of using plastic, but that was what was going to work best in this situation, so I went with it.

Tip: Sometimes, no matter how much pondering you do about a project, you won’t know how a new product will work for you until you’ve lived with it for a couple of weeks.  So, whenever I buy something to help me organize, I keep the stickers and tags on it until I’m sure it works for me.  That way, I have no trouble returning it!  The Container Store is especially good about returns becuase they understand that you need to get a product into your space to really decide about it.  The downside is that if you end up keeping the product, you will have to eventually get those stickers off!

The After

FinishedSpices

Our most popular spices are on the ground level.  Its a coincidence that these are all red and yellow, but they sure do look nice color coordinated as well!  Next, I grouped our baking and chai spices on the left hand side of the shelf, with the larger Penzeys jars on the top shelf.  For the remaining spices, I kept similar spices together (including containers that still need to be filled – that trip will have to wait until next weekend!).  Seeds stayed together and powders in another group, again keeping the spices I use more toward the front.

I’m really happy how this shelf turned out!  Active organizing time was probably about an hour; total project time around 2, including my trip to the store.  This was time very well spent!  Now not only can I find my spices I need, I won’t groan at the sight of my spice jars.  Plus, you can really see how cute all of the jars are!

A Final Note on Labels

This project actually has one final step for me – labeling each glass jar.  Some of the spices are actually labeled.  I started the project back in Madison.  In the middle of it, my printer ran out of ink, so a lot of the labels aren’t dark enough to see and a lot of the jars didn’t even get labels to begin with!  We are currently living without a printer, so until I get access to one that will print my labels, I’m going to use a homemade grid I typed up quickly in Excel on the inside door.  The grid lets me know what I have and where it lives on the shelf.  Although, if all works out as planned, I’ll barely need to look at the list!

SpiceGrid2Here’s the file if you’d like to make your own chart.  It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. SpiceChart