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I Did it with MS. Simplicity - Organizing Fargo

I enter with no judgment; I leave with no stories. Professional Organizer, Fargo, North Dakota

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January 2011

CLASSES, CLASSES, CLASSES

Want to get a jump start on your New Year's Resolutions? I have a Solution for your Resolution. Here is a fun format for you to lunch and learn and then go back to your life and implement your newly learned skills. Registration is limited and on a first come first serve basis. Email me at melissa@ididit-fargo.com to register.

When: January 19, 12:00 to 1:00
Where:
Eco Chic

Topic: All about Closet Organizing
Cost: $15 if paid in advance and $20 if paid the day of. Cost includes a bag lunch from Mosaic Catering and materials.

When: January 26, 12:00 to 1:00
Where:
Eco Chic
Topic: All about Office Organizing
Cost: $15 if paid in advance and $20 if paid the day of. Cost includes a bag lunch from Mosaic Catering and materials.

CLEVER CONTAINER JANUARY CUSTOMER SPECIAL

Qualify to earn a set of CAR HOOKS for FREE when you purchase $50 or more in regularly priced merchandise! These are one of my very best selling items! Create useful space in your car with these clever hooks.

Installation is easily done by sliding the hooks around any standard headrest post. We find these to be perfect for bags, purses, backpacks, dog leashes, dry cleaning and headphones. Dimensions are 5 1/2 x 1. (Reg. $11.95. Limit one per customer).

Visit my brand new website to place an order online.

CLEVER CONTAINER JANUARY HOSTESS SPECIAL

AND TO ALL MY HOSTESSES!!:

YOU EARN AN EXTRA $10.00 IN FREE MERCHANDISE WHEN YOU HOST A SHOW IN JANUARY AND YOUR SALES REACH $250!!!

This deal is in addition to the fabulous hostess incentives we already have in place. So, all of my hostesses that hold a Clever Container in their home can earn up to

$50 (FIFTY!!) before even taking the party sales numbers into account!

CLEVER CONTAINER WORKSHOPS


Over 90% of people have a goal of becoming more organized. Now is the time to gather your friends and have a "Resolutions Solutions" Clever Container workshop in your home. Learn ways to implement your New Year's Resolutions now before the month of January disappears and with it so goes the momentum of change.

February is the month that the new Clever Container catalog is released. We will be losing some of our items in our current catalog. So if there is something that you have had your eye on, now is the time to act. But if you want to be the first in the area to have a workshop with the new catalog, please email me at
melissa@ididit-fargo.com for open dates.



BLOG


I have been writing daily in my I Did it blog many tips and tricks for preparing for the holidays. I was also asked to write for the Area Voices section of our local newspaper. On January 1, I started a new blog called 365 Clever Cookbooks. Won't you join me in the journey of discovering new cookbooks and new recipes?

SOCIAL MEDIA

QUICK TIP

We all have old towels that are never used. Maybe they have a bleach stain on them, maybe they are just too thin to do their job, or maybe you got a set of towels from Aunt Madge and you still haven't used them. But how do you get rid of old towels without adding to the stuff in the landfill? The important thing to remember is that if you aren't using them and they are just taking up space in your house, try to find a purpose for them. So here are a few ideas to think about.

  1. I have been telling my clients for years now to look at your local animal shelter as a source for those towels. They make a nice little bed for a puppy or kitty to snuggle up in while waiting for their forever home.

  2. A second idea is to cut them into 12 by 12 squares and use them as rags.

  3. If you have towels that are still in good shape but they just aren't your style, how about taking them to a shelter? Someone needing to start over always needs a nice set of towels to get their new start.

  4. Put them on the floor for kids to take off their muddy, dirty, wet and snowy clothes. Then gather the mess up and throw in the washer

  5. Lay them in the back seat of the car for above mentioned muddy, dirty, wet and snow covered kids.

  6. Keep them in the car for when you pet goes for a ride in your car to help keep the pet hair under control.

  7. Give to hubby for towels to dry off the car after they have been washed.

For more ideas and inspiration visit my blog.

CENTS OF PEACE

CLEAN OUT YOUR FREEZER: TURN IT INTO A GAME

BY: MS Simplicity

After the holidays everything needs to be purged in my house.....including the kitchen. The fridge and pantry have been bursting at the seams for weeks now and it is time for them to get back in shape for the new year. My freezer is bursting the most and needs attention desperately. I have a side by side fridge/freezer and that is all. No deep freeze or extra freezer in use. We have limited freezer space and it fills up way to quickly. What I have been doing with my family is to try really hard to not go to the grocery store until we have most of the stuff cleaned out. In the last week I have spent under $20 at the grocery store. This is unheard of in my family of huge grocery bills. But sometimes it is good to try to make do with what you have. Why should you do this? It is good for your budget, it is good for your kitchen to be cleaned out, it is good for your imagination to try to make something out of what you have and it is good for your kids to be told "no". Here are some examples of what I have found:

  • Last night for supper I had found BBQ's that I had previously frozen this past fall....time to go in the crock pot. Yesterday for lunch it was grilled cheese to get rid of all the bread in the house.

  • Today I will make a ravioli bake as when I pulled out the frozen BBQ's I found a bag of frozen ravioli.....score! Dump some tomato sauce on top, sprinkle with some Parmesan cheese, bake and viola, supper is served.

  • For me, it has been nights of frozen fish roulette, cod, talipia and salmon. You see, I buy fish and forget it....my intentions are good. So in the oven with some olive oil, fresh lemon juice and seasoning goes my fish for dinner this week.

  • Middle son and youngest son fought over the frozen corn I had found as the side dish for last night's supper.

  • Youngest son has said to me, "it is ok to throw out the ice cream as nobody is going to eat it". Perfect as I need that bucket for a recipe that I want to make.

  • I remind my middle son that there are frozen breakfast sandwiches that he can eat.....as he comes into my room at 11:59 pm and tells us he is starving. You see, he is 15 and eats every 2 hours....kind of like a baby.


December 2010

December 2010


CLEVER CONTAINER DECEMBER CUSTOMER SPECIAL

Qualify to purchase the Neat Seat for only $12.00 when you purchase $35.00 or more in regularly priced Clever Container merchandise. Visit my brand new website to place an order online.

CLEVER CONTAINER WORKSHOPS


I am now booking January workshops as December dates are all filled up. Thank you to all my great customers and hostesses for making this so much fun for me!

Purse organizing workshops are a fun way to get your girlfriends together for some laughs and learning all at the same time. This workshop was featured in
"The Fargo Forum's" November 29, 2010 issue. You will find some tips for getting those purses organized as well as why we carry purses and what is most often found in the purse.

Want to work on those New Year's Resolutions? 90% of people have a resolution that includes organizing. January is a great time to have a Clever Container workshop to help you and your friends get a jump start on those goals!


BLOG


I have been writing daily in my blog tips and tricks for preparing for Christmas. I was also asked to write for the Area Voices section of our local newspaper. I was also very excited to learn that my blog was also picked up by my hometown paper as well. I am everywhere you turn!

SOCIAL MEDIA

QUICK TIP

Did you know that today is "Pay it Forward Day"? I say everyday should be pay it forward day. Buy someone a cup of coffee, hold the door open, drop some change in the Salvation Army kettle, smile when you look someone in the eyes, bake someone some cookies, etc. I know you all can think of many other ways to pay it forward. Don't let today pass without doing something, and then don't stop at today, keep going. What would happen if even a small percentage of people participated? I think miracles would happen everywhere, I just know it!

For more ideas and inspiration visit my blog.

CENTS OF PEACE

HAVING HOUSE GUESTS: SIMPLIFY AND ENJOY THE HOLIDAY SEASON

BY: MS Simplicity

This is a lesson that I repeat over and over again. When having friends or family over to your home, don't sweat it. Here is your game plan to not be so stressed and to spend your time with your friends and family. Make memories!

Pay attention to the areas of your house that will get the most eye contact from your guests. Often times it is the entry way, the room where the party is going to be held and the guest bathroom. Focus 80% of your cleaning time in these three areas and spend the other 20% on the rest of your living space. Remember it is okay to shut doors to the chaos that may be lurking in some of those rooms! In our home, it is our master bedroom walk in closet that holds all of our secrets. In goes the extra clutter from the kitchen counters, my paperwork from current projects I am working on (my kitchen is also my home office), as well as back up supplies for the party.

Many people are so embarrassed by their home they don't even want to have people stop in. What I have found that life is too short, have those friends over, put on that kettle of tea. If your house is clean, most people overlook the clutter that you see. If it bothers you enough, hire a professional organizer...you would be surprised how much letting someone help you through that clutter becomes a life changing freeing experience


November 2010

November 2010


CLEVER CONTAINER NOVEMBER CUSTOMER SPECIAL

Qualify to purchase the black CARD CUBBY for only $16.00 when you purchase $35.00 or more in regularly priced Clever Container merchandise. These roomy little organizers are not only great for business cards but for gift cards, coupons, library cards... any kind of card at all! Makes a GREAT GIFT!! Gift idea: Put a gift card in with it!

WOMEN'S HEALTH FAIR

Stop in and vist me at my booth on November 12 from 11:00 to 6:00 is the Women's Health Fair. This fair is located at Ramada Plaza Suites and will be filled with booth's concerning women's health and interests.

SOCIAL MEDIA

QUICK TIP

Every day we are given a card that we think is important but it just gets lost in the shuffle of everyday papers. We eat at a restaurant and they give you a punch card, chances are you lose it by the time you go back. You get a gift card for a store, you put it somewhere in the junk drawer in your house. When you are at the store, you then remember you have a gift card to use.....but where is it? Businesses love to sell gift certificates. Why? Because so many of them remain unused. It becomes free money for the businesses. I now use my "Card Cubby" to organize all of those cards, that were before just floating around my house, my purse or in my car. Now they are all in one place where I know I can find them.

For more ideas and inspiration visit my blog.

CENTS OF PEACE

SIMPLIFY AND ENJOY THE HOLIDAY SEASON

BY: MS Simplicity

(This is an article that I wrote last year for the Winter "On the Minds of Moms" magazine)

Oftentimes, by the week before Christmas, many of us feel more like Scrooge and less like someone full of holiday cheer. It doesn't need to be like that! By simplifying a number of things on the holiday "to do" list, you can keep the holiday spirit and free yourself from the stress that the holidays can bring about. Start now by implementing some of the simple strategies below, and frayed holiday nerves will be a thing of the past. With mindfulness and a little planning ahead, you can make this holiday season more about friends and family and less about stress and trying to impress.

1.Start gathering addresses of friends, family, co-workers - anyone you intend to send a holiday card to - and enter the info into your address book or database. When it comes time to mail off your cards, you won't spend time rushing around trying to track down Aunt Meredith's new address.

2.Get your holiday cards ready now. If you plan to send a family photo, schedule a time now for getting photos taken. Maybe this year's card is a collage of the great things your family accomplished this year. There are many user-friendly online services that enable you to create a collage or card with your photos. Have fun with your creative side.

3.Sort toys that your children no longer play with. In order to bring more toys into your home, you need to get rid of some to make room. If you have a child who has a hard time getting rid of toys, talk to him/her about setting some used toys out for Santa to take back to the North Pole for repair and giving out to other children.

4.Keep three areas of you home clean: the entry, guest bathroom and kitchen. If you have last-minute visitors, you won't be stressed out about having the entire house clean. Focus on those three areas as they are the places that your guests most often see.

5.Think about giving consumables as gifts this year: coffee shop gift cards, baking mixes, candles, bottles of wine and lotions. A consumable is something that the gift recipient will use within a couple of months, and the gift does not become clutter!

6.Give gifts that are experiences: concert tickets, a stay at a hotel, spa services or a "gift certificate" for watching your sister's kids for the weekend so she and her husband can have a getaway.

7.Start to bake things that can be frozen. Dough balls, bars and quick breads always freeze well. Just make sure that they are wrapped carefully to prevent freezer burn. When those unexpected guests stop by, you can have fresh cookies coming out of the oven in a flash.

8.Check your wrapping paper supply. Too often people buy new wrapping paper when they already have more than enough on hand. A related tip is to wrap gifts as you purchase them.

9.Decorate with what you truly love. Simplify: decorate your home with things that make you happy. Maybe it is a small tree with only the decorations your children have made over the years. Or it could be the wreath that you made with your grandma.

10.Take time to enjoy your family and friends. If you are doing something that doesn't truly make you happy, ask yourself why you are even doing it. If making a 10-course Christmas dinner gives you the sweats and causes insomnia, why do you do it? Remember that less is more ... and besides, no one will miss cranberries prepared three different ways.


October 2010

October 2010

WORKSHOPS, CLASSES AND VENDOR FAIRS

CLEVER CONTAINER

Since joining Clever Container this Spring I have been so impressed with the products as well as the company as a whole. They offer affordable, unique and quality products, all things I love. If you are thinking about hosting a workshop in October, I am sorry to say that my workshops are full for but I do have some dates in November that are still open.

MEAL PLANNING FOR BUSY FAMILIES

In conjunction with Moorhead Community Ed I am pleased to offer the popular class "Meal Planning for Busy Families". This class is scheduled for October 6, 7:00-8:30 at the lovely Showplace Kitchens in South Fargo. Register online with Moorhead Community Ed, but hurry as of last week, there were only a few spots remaining.

VENDOR FAIR

Be one of the first in the Fargo-Moorhead area to see of these great new products from World Ventures, ManCave, Body by Vi Challenge, Clever Container and Jockey P2P. October 12, 4:00-7:00 at the Wingate Inn in Fargo.

Time = Money: Getting More of Both!

Join me on October 14 at the Buzz, located within Shortprinter.com where I will teach you how to find more time in your day which can then translate to having more time to make money. We will discuss how your home or work office is configured as well as how you organize the papers in your office. Visit www.bocksoffice.com to register.

WOMEN'S SHOWCASE

October 16 at the Fargodome from 9:00 to 5:00 where I will have a presence with Clever Container as well as speaking at 3:00 on the topic of "Top 10 Organizing Supplies". There are many interesting speakers and cooking demonstrations throughout the day as well as the hundreds of vendor booths.

WOMEN'S HEALTH FAIR

Looking ahead to November 12 from 11:00 to 6:00 is the Women's Health Fair. This fair is located at Ramada Plaza Suites and will be filled with booth's concerning women's health and interests.

SOCIAL MEDIA

ASK THE ORGANIZER

I was wondering if you could share a few organizing ideas for my kids photo albums? They are at camp this weekend and I thought it would be a great chance to get started again. I'd like to start at the baby or preschool age, because I have those printed out already and some of the most current I'd need to print from the computer. Thanks Melissa for any ideas.


When faced with a stack of photos and a limited time to get it done I have found the method that works the best is to limit yourself on the number of photos. So often we feel that we need to document every picture.

One album I recently created was for my son from preschool through elementary school. I decided each year was just going to be represented by 4 pages. Once I had a game plan, it was much easier to move forward. I then collected pictures and schoolwork to represent the best of that year. The school photo was always on the first page then followed by the class photo. Some artwork was simply too large to fit on the page so I had it color copied and shrunk down to fit on a quarter of the page. Another option would be to take a photo of the artwork and then scrap book the photo.

I also did this with one of my son's baby albums. I decided that each year was going to be represented by a certain number of pages and then I selected the photos to be represented on each page.

Creative Memories has a great system called Power layouts. I have been using this for years and it has allowed me to get so many more albums done. Here is the link to the
system What I love about this system is that you have each plastic page represent an actual page. You put your pictures, layout ideas, papers, stickers all on that page and then move on the next one. When you have the album all laid out, you then stack the plastic pages all up in order and place them in the box. Then when you have time to scrap book you take one or two pages out at a times and get your album done. The beauty is that you already have all your pictures, papers and embellishments all one the page ready to go.

Another road block is the idea that we have to scrap book chronologically. What would happen if you just created an album of people you love, or places you go, or things that made you smile?I have also found freedom in having an album for each trip that we go on. I also did a mini album of our dog. It is nice to get these smaller albums done as a sense of accomplishment. My next project is going to be a small album for each activity my kids are involved in. Since my oldest is a year away from graduating I better get a move on this!

(Doyouhave a question for Ask the Organizer? No question is too small or crazy, ask away and I will protect your identity. What a great way to get free advice and solve your problem! Email me today!)

For more ideas and inspiration visit my blog.

CENTS OF PEACE

HOARDING

BY: MS Simplicity

The media and TV shows seem to fixate on the issue of hoarding much more frequently than years past. Does this mean that people are hoarding more than ever or is this simply an issue of the media inflating hoarding as it appears people are fascinated with the subject? TLC has a show on hoarding as does A&E. What is our fascination with hoarding? I think it is because we realize that compared to these people, our clutter looks pretty good. What I appreciate from the show is that it is getting people to speak about the issue of disorganization and asking for help. When people learn what I do for a living, they usually follow up with the question, "have you seen the show Hoarders?". I have to admit, I watched one episode, and it made me sick and I have not watched it since. There is also that infamous hoarding show on Oprah from 2007. It took a team of 100 people 8 weeks to complete that project for a total of 2,500 man hours, or if the client was charged about $100,000. They sold many of the possession and about $13,000 but 75% of the furniture had to be destroyed because of black mold.

Hoarding was also in the news as recently as August 2010 when a woman was found dead in her home in Las Vegas because her trash had fallen on her. They had been looking for her for four months. In case you think this is an isolated case in today's society, think not. There is the infamous hoarding case from the 1940's of the Collyer brothers in New York. Police found one brother dead from a heart attack brought on by starvation and then began the painstaking task of looking for the other brother. The second brother was found dead only 10 feet away, ironically crushed by one of the many booby traps he had in the house. It took the authorities 3 weeks to find his body as they had to clear the clutter out one room at a time working from the top of the house to the bottom.

So do you think you know someone who is a hoarder? Chances are you do. Recent studies show that between 2 and 5 percent of our population are hoarders. In the book "Stuff" authors Dr. Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee try to give us some insight into why people have a hard time letting go of things. The authors found three themes that hoarders tend to have in common; 1. Fear of waste, 2. The allure of opportunity (something is on sale or free) and 3. The comfort and safety provided by objects. If you were to think that people who hoard are lacking in intelligence, that could not be further from the truth. Most hoarders are very intelligent and for each object that they are attached to it is complete with rich details.

Dr. Frost has written hundreds of articles on the topic of hoarding. He has found that hoarders and non-hoarders save things for the same reasons, "People save things for three basic reasons. Some objects have sentimental value, usually through a connection to important life events. Other objects have instrumental value; that is we need them to fulfill some tangible purpose or to complete an activity. Still other things may have little sentimental or instrumental value, but we simply like them intrinsically. People who hoard use these same reasons for saving; they simply apply them to more things.

While compulsive hoarding is not officially recognized as a diagnosis in the mental health field, it is often treated as a mental illness by the mental health community. As a professional organizer, the guru of hoarding and chronic disorganization is Judith Kolberg. She defines compulsive hoarding as "the acquisition (buying, picking up free things) of a large number of possessions that appear to be of limited value; failure to discard possessions (e.g., difficulty making critical decisions about whether to keep or discard); and clutter that precludes activities for which living spaces were designed (e.g., inability to cook in the kitchen, eat in the dining room, sleep in the bedroom, move through the home, etc.)".

So what do you do if you are a hoarder or you know and love someone that is one? Start with a good referral to a mental health provider who specializes in chronic disorganization or hoarding. Only then should you contact a professional organizer for help. When you look for one for help, make sure you know if they specialize in this area. It takes a special organizer to work with hoarding clients and not everyone will be a good fit. Ask them for their education on the topic or any classes taken or certification that they have earned.

Today, more and more people are aging in the homes that they raised their children in. They are choosing to stay in those homes as long as they are physically able to. The home becomes a collection of memories. Start boxing up those memories and give them to your children to store in their homes. Let your children decide what is worth holding onto and what they want to get rid of. The catch here is you cannot ask them what they kept. Because, chances are they will only keep a very small percentage of what you have been holding onto for 30 years.

Not quite a hoarder but concerned that you may be getting close here are a few steps that you can take today. Try to stop the problem from escalating by no longer buying things. If you do buy something, make sure something leaves your house. For example, you buy a new pair of shoes, get rid of an old pair. Take one small area at a time. Start with the areas that will have the most impact on your life, for example your kitchen, family room or bedroom. If you are paralyzed by the fact that someone may stop over unannounced, think about what it would take to welcome people into your home without having a panic attack. If you never have people over, schedule a party and don't cancel it. This gives you a deadline to get things done. If you have a deadline, chances are you will reach your goals.


September 2010

September 2010

WORKSHOPS, WORKSHOPS AND WORKSHOPS

CLEVER CONTAINER

Since joining Clever Container this Spring I have been so impressed with the products as well as the company as a whole. They offer affordable, unique and quality products, all things I love. I want to share in the love of these products, so as a special incentive to my upcoming hostesses, I am offering a one hour organizing session with all workshops booked in September, October and November. This offer is valued at $50. When booking your workshop mention "I am Clever" to get your free hour of organizing!

MEAL PLANNING FOR BUSY FAMILIES

In conjunction with Moorhead Community Ed I am pleased to offer the popular class "Meal Planning for Busy Families". This class is scheduled for October 6, 7:00-8:30 at the lovely Showplace Kitchens in South Fargo. Register online with Moorhead Community Ed, but hurry as this will fill fast.

Time = Money: Getting More of Both!

Join me on October 14 at the Buzz, located within Shortprinter.com when I will teach you how to find more time in your day which can then translate to having more time to make money. Visit www.bocksoffice.com to register.

SOCIAL MEDIA

ASK THE ORGANIZER

Inspired by three kids running in three different directions during family meal time, I needed help in finding ways to feed everyone without being a short order cook. So this month I turned the tables and asked my Facebook fans for their favorite ways to save time with cooking and here is what they came up with.

Me: Double a batch of Sloppy Joes. One batch for tonight in the crockpot and one batch in the freezer for a meal next week. My kids love having the buns toasted with butter to give a little crunch to the sandwich.

Kristi: taco meat.......can be used for salads, over baked chips, soft shells, or hard shells. Easy and always eaten!

Brenda: just plain hamburger. Fry, rinse and freeze in 1lb packs. Great to pull out for BBQs, Tacos, casseroles, saves on prep time.

Melanie: Meatballs! Cook & freeze on a baking sheet. After frozen, put in freezer bags. Take out as needed & mix w/cream of mushroom + cream of chicken + milk & bake.

Beth: Lasagna - freeze individual pieces for lunches and 1/2 pans for baking/heating for meals later!

Angie: I have been doing frozen chicken breasts in the crockpot with a little chicken broth....cook on low until you can shred with a fork....i double this and use half for a chicken pot pie and put the rest in the fridge for chicken tacos,enchiladas or nachos and then the other half for tortilla chicken soup a couple days later.

(Do you have a question for Ask the Organizer? No question is too small or crazy, ask away and I will protect your identity. What a great way to get free advice and solve your problem! Email me today!)

For more ideas and inspiration visit my blog.

CENTS OF PEACE

Simplify for the Fall

BY: MS Simplicity

These are a few of the things that I try to get done in the fall since a little prevention can save money down the road.
· Wash the inside and outside windows of the house. Two easy tips: find a cloudy day to complete your task and use newspapers to dry the windows. They don't leave lint behind and tend to result in streak-free windows. Also hose off the screens and store them for winter. Hosing screens is an activity that kids enjoy as they have fun getting rid of the dust and dirt with the hose.
· Winterize the lawn mower and wash and clean it for winter storage. By keeping your mower nice and clean - and its blade sharp - you'll help extend the life of the mower.
· Give the grill a good cleaning and make sure it is stored in a proper place for winter. That may mean disconnecting the propane tank, or it may mean disposing of the old charcoal in a safe manner. I love using Soft Scrub to clean my grill as it cuts through the grease with minimal effort.
· Get your lawn ready for winter. For me that means putting down the last round of fertilizer, getting the yard aerated and mowing the lawn short. I have found that if my lawn is short, it tends to discourage winter rodent guests from taking refuge in my grass.
· Flip the mattresses. A great way to extend the life of a mattress is to make sure that it gets even wear and tear by flipping it. Doing so ensures that your bed doesn't all of a sudden become one where you always roll into the middle.
· Check the smoke detectors. What could be easier and have the potential to save a life?
· Change or clean your furnace filter. Some filters need to be replaced monthly and some less frequently. Save money on your heating and cooling costs by making sure you have a clean filter; your furnace and air conditioner will run more efficiently.
· Have the kids try on their winter clothing now. Take the time to assess what fits and what needs to be purchased. If you have kids in elementary school, it is always a good idea to have two pairs of snow pants, one for at home and one to be kept at school. Watch for sales at local department stores and purchase now while the selection is best. I always buy each child a good pair of gloves that they wear when they are playing outside for hours on end and need those fingers to stay nice and toasty. I also buy several pairs of inexpensive gloves that they take to school as these gloves seem to always lose a mate or two before the snow season is over.
· As the leaves fall off of the trees, remember to take a look at your gutters. Keep them clean of debris so that you have good flow of moisture off of the house, which prevents water from being forced into the eaves.
· Make sure to unhook and dry out all hoses that are attached to your house to prevent them from freezing and ultimately backing up the damage into your water lines.
· Clear out the summer clothes and shoes in order to make room for the winter ones. And as you know, winter clothes and gear take up a lot of room, so be diligent when making room so that everything isn't packed so tight that it is easier to leave clothes on the floor rather than hang them up. Do you have kids who never hang their stuff up? Make sure that you have hooks at their level to encourage them to be responsible with their belongings. As for snow boots, think about purchasing a shoe mat with a lip on it to hold the water from snow melting off boots.
· Schedule the carpets to be cleaned. Summer has come to an end, and the chances of muddy bare feet running through the house are slim. Did you know that you can extend the life of your carpet by having your guests take off their shoes when they enter your home? Of course there are exceptions, so be polite about it. If you could just get your immediate family to do that it would be a huge help! My family members take their shoes off in the garage so that they don't all get dumped in the entry of our home.
· Clean out the garage. Hose off bikes and lawn furniture before storing them away. Pick a sunny day so that they can dry before bringing them back into the garage. To inhibit mold growth, double check and make sure all cushions are dry before packing away. Think about putting a dryer sheet in between each cushion as you pack them. Look at your garage ceiling or walls for storage opportunities for bikes. Think about storage between your ceiling in the garage and the garage door.
· Freeze tomatoes. This is a new tip that I recently learned: simply place whole tomatoes in freezer storage bags. This works great for those winter soups and stews that call for tomatoes. The skins come off easily as the tomatoes defrost.


August 2010
AUGUST 2010

EVENTS
Does the start of the school year mean you shove everything in the back pack and push the kids out the door? Do your kids look for a matching pair of shoes and miss the bus? Learn how to make the transition to school year go much easier. Put systems in place so that homework gets done, papers get brought home, permission slips get signed, lunches get packed, clean clothes are worn to school and so much more. Professional Organizer Melissa Schmalenberger (aka MS. Simplicity) will share tips and tricks as well as show you some innovative products to help this school year begin on the right foot. Please join me for a free event at Eco Chic Boutique on getting ready for back to school on August 11starting at 6:30.

SOCIAL MEDIA

ASK THE ORGANIZER
Inspired by the recent issue of Real Simple, this month I turned the tables and asked my Facebook fans for their favorite three ingredient recipes and here is what they came up with. The key is to stay with quality fresh ingredients. Some are kind of fun and some are not so healthy for you.
Me: Beets, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar
Kris: Chocolate, Caramel and Peanut Butter
Cindy: Sausage, Zucchini and Spaghetti Sauce
Cindy: Smoked Salmon, Cheese and a flour tortilla
Colleen: Cheese, crackers and fruit
Kate: Beer, burger and beer
Sheila: Feta, artichokes and olive oil
Kristi: BBQ sauce, chicken breasts and buns (put the chicken breasts in the crock pot with the BBQ sauce)
Me: 6 Hershey bars melted, cool whip and graham cracker crust (combine first two and put in crust and chill)
Todd: Tomatoes, Mozzarella and olive oil

As

k
the Organizer
Do you have a question for Ask the Organizer? No question is too small or crazy, ask away and I will protect your identity. What a great way to get free advice and solve your problem! Email me today!
For more ideas and inspiration visit my blog.
CENTS OF PEACE

Family Launch Pad

BY: MS Simplicity

Does your family struggle with getting out the door on time and with everything that they will need for the day? If so, you need to create an area in your home where everything is stored and organized.....many people call this concept a launch pad, basically where your family takes off every morning.The concept is simple and once implemented will cut down on those mornings filled with anxiety and panic.The idea is to have everything ready and organized by the door when you leave the house for the day.I have a launch pad in my house in my front entry.What I have is a tall bench with hooks and baskets all built in.This is an example of the typ of bench that I have (mine was a second hand find).

The things to look for when creating your launch pad:

·How many members of your family will need it?Make sure you have a separate area for each member of the family.

·Do you need shoe storage?In our family shoes are kept in the garage so we don't need shoe storage.If you need to have shoe storage in the entry way try to encourage each family member to have only a few pairs in the entry at a time.Keep the shoes out of sight in a closet or closed area such as a basket or bench.Did you know that a majority of household dust is caused by people wearing shows in the house?Be even more proactive and have them slip off the shoes before they enter the house.

·Is there a place to hang up coats, purses and back packs?Install decorative hooks on the wall or over the door hooks.Make sure the hooks are at a level that each member of the family can reach.The hooks may need to be reinforced if hanging heavy items from them.

·Have a system in place for back packs being emptied and filled back up.For example, have you child empty the back pack when they get home from school and pack it before they go to bed at night and hang it back up on the hook by the door so that they can easily grab it in the morning.

·Do you have an area to place the seasonal items such as hats and gloves?Baskets under an entry table would work or a hanging system in the closet will also work.

·Do you have a message center?One option is to use a magnetic board that you can leave messages on or clip papers to.I use clothes pins and clip it to each person's basket in the bench storage system

·Do you have an area for the car keys?Have one standard area that all the keys are kept in.This really becomes important once more than mom and dad are driving.

·Have a basket that is just for errands.Put movies that need to be returned, items that need to be taken back to a store, packages that need to be mailed, etc.This way when you walk out the door, you just grab the basket and go.


July 2010

JULY 2010

CLEVER CONTAINER OPEN HOUSE

As many of you know, I joined the company Clever Container in May as I was looking for a product line that would compliment my organizing business. Their products have two things that I have been looking for....quality and value!

I will be having an open house to introduce you to the great line of products on Monday July 12 from 6:00 to 8:00. Of course there will be some food, beverages door prizes! You are invited, but please RSVP as I need to plan for the right amount of food.

If you are unable to attend and would like to still order, just send me an email and I will get you taken care of.

Each month there is a customer special and for July it is the "Crinkle Can" Qualify to purchase the Crinkle Can when you purchase $35 in regularly priced merchandise. This is one of our top sellers because it has so many uses! The 100% cotton canvas has a laminated liner which is easy to wipe clean. Flattens when not in use. Available in black bird or brown dot. (17 X 25) Reg. $29.95

July Customer Special

If you would like to host a workshop in July or August, please send me an email as I just have 2 dates in July left and about 4 left in August.

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IN THE NEWS!

Did you see the article in The Examiner by Kelly Yanke Delterner where she did an interview on how I became a professional organizer and how I work with my clients....thanks Kelly!

SOCIAL MEDIA

ASK THE ORGANIZER

This month I asked my Facebook fans for their questions. Here are bits and pieces of some of the ones that I received:

Summer is here and how do I organize my lawn tools?

Lawn tools fall into two categories....large and small. The small lawn tools I would grab a large bucket or lawn tool bag and put all of your frquently used tools in it. I found a lovely bag at Target three years ago, it looks something like this garden tote. I also love the huge buckets that have a pocket organizer in them as well.

For large lawn tools think on the wall or on the floor. DO you have wall space or do you have space on the floor or your garage to store the tools? Then count how many items that you need to organize. Once you have that number then look for the perfect tool, such as this tool rack with wheels or this organizer that hangs on the wall.

Whatever you decide on, be creative in your solutions. For example, if you have large empty garbage cans, put the lawn tools in there, handle side down. Just make sure there is a wall to lean it against so it doesn't tip over.

How do I organize all of my creative projects that I am working on?

Many people who are creative flow from project to project to project. But in order to keep the art flowing, the organization needs to be in place. If you have many small projects, I would simply put them in small rubbermaid shoe boxes or baskets organized by project. When the artistic itch needs to be scratched, just grab the box or basket that has the project you want to work on and get to work. Laundry baskets would also work great for this. You want something that is quick and easy and does not take away from those creative juices.

Another tip that I have is to clean up every project at the end of the day. For example, when I go away to scrap book I take 5 minutes and tidy my table at the end of each night so when I get to work again in the morning, I am inspired to work right away, not clean first.

How do I keep my car organized so that it doesn't look like I am living out of my car?

Many of us either work from our car or are running the local taxi service over the summer and our cars look like we are living our of our cars....which is sometimes true. The direct sales company that I work with Clever Container has many car organizing solutions, from seat organizers to cup organizers to grocery bag holders and grocery bag storage.

I also subscribe to the idea of cleaning out your car daily. Have a garbage and recycling bins near where you park your car, and as you get out, throw out.

Keeping a large basket in your car to keep your daily errands in also helps keep the mess at bay. While I run those errands, I put what I am picking up in the basket. When I get home, I simply grab my basket and head into the house.

Ask the Organizer

Do you have a question for Ask the Organizer? No question is too small or crazy, ask away and I will protect your identity. What a great way to get free advice and solve your problem! Email me today!

For more ideas and inspiration visit my blog.

CENTS OF PEACE

Organizing Papers

BY: MS Simplicity

This is a struggle that everyone has....an abundance of paper and a fear of what to throw out and what to keep. I will give a very brief visit to how to organize papers, but realize that books can and are written about this topic. This is my very abreviated verson of organizing papers.

First why does it seem that the kitchen or the office desk is the gathering space for so much of the paper? Because it is often the largest flat surface of your home and it just begs to be filled up with junk and papers. First line of defense is to stop the papers before they get there.

1. On-line: Can you receive your statements on line? Many banks ofer this as a free service to their clients. If you are computer savy, you can do all of your bill paying on-line. Feel comfortable with reading your bank statements on-line. Banks have better security than you or I do, so often that is a better palce to store that information.

2. Opt-Out: There are many services that you can use to get your name taken off of mailing lists. Some cost money and some don't. Do a little research to get your name off of as many mailing lists as your can. Often you will simply have to call or email each individual company to get your name off the list.

3. Surveys: Stop taking surveys as that is a way that many businesses gather names and addresses

4. Accountant: Make a call to your accountant and ask him/her what you should keep and for how long. I can give you a general guide but with the IRS guidelines changing frequently, ask the expert on this one. You could also read IRS Publication 552 if you are so inclined

5. Manuals: So many of my clients are bogged down with manuals that come with every gadget and every toy. Once again, if you are computer savy, ditch the manuals after you verify that it can be found on-line. I advise my clients to keep only the manuals for high end items are for items they are likely to resell.

6. Garbage/Shred: Try to throw out or shred as much you can as soon as you can. Many organizing experts will tell you to only touch the paper once....I can't do that, so how can I tell you to do that? But I can tell you to try to eliminate as much of the papers as you can as soon as you can.

So now what to do with all of the papers that are left? Sort all the remaining papers into piles of like papers. For example, all the credit card statements that you need for tax purposes go in one pile, all the papers to do with your home or car go into another file. I then create files for each of the categories and I have them stored in four different areas based on how often I use or need them:

1. Daily Use: These are papers that I use and refer to often. They could be recipes that I want to try, current school year for the kids or bills that need to be paid. I keep all of those papers near me in the kitchen in a decorative file box on my kitchen counter.

2. Monthly Use: Here is where all the papers get filed once a month or where I only need to visit monthly. Bills that have been paid but need to be used for taxes go in this file box. I have a health file where I put any health information for any family member in this file. Car manitance has a file here as well. This file box is steps away from my kitchen, but still within an easy access point.

3. Cold Storage: Yearly papers would go in here such as your tax returns. Put those papers that you do not need to get to very often but you need to keep, just in case. For example, at the end of each school year for my kids, I put their completed school year into cold storage.

4. Forever and ever: These would be real estate papers, marriage licenses, birth certificates and special memorbilla (such as the receipt to your wedding ring...or the bill from the hosptial from your baby) Keep these papers in a water and fire proof safe or a safety deposit box.

Have any great paper storage ideas, send me an email or send me a message on , I would love for you to share your ideas with others!


June 2010

JUNE 2010

WORKSHOPS, WORKSHOPS and more WORKSHOPS!

MS.Simplicity is excited to announce two workshops being sponsored by Showplace Kitchens located at the corner of 32nd Ave. and 25th St. in South Fargo and Mosaic Foods Register early as these classes will fill fast! Email mosaicfoods@aol.com to register

Summertime Salads (June 17)

All About the Grill (June 24)

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GIRLS NIGHT OUT ORGANIZING WORKSHOPS

I joined the company Clever Container last month as I was looking for a product line that would compliment my organizing business. Their products have two things that I have been looking for....quality and value!

I have booked up quickly with these workshops and I am now booking into July! If you would like to host a workshop of your own in the Fargo area, please contact me and let's get you and your friends organized!

I would like to welcome Laurie Thompson of Bismarck to my team. If you would like to host a workshop in the Bismarck area, contact her and she will make sure you have a fun workshop. I am looking to expand my team and if you live in the Grand Forks, Jamestown, Dickinson or Minot areas contact me for more information.

Each month there is a customer special and for June it is the "Zip Vac Starter Pack" Qualify to purchase the Zip Vac Starter Pack when you purchase $35 in regularly priced merchandise. Save money and time when you seal in the freshness of whatever you choose to store in these bags. Perfect for camping and boating too! Includes one manual hand pump, six quart-sized bags, six gallon-sized bags, two jumbo (two gallon) sized bags and two utility bags. Reg. $28.95 Available for $18.00.

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IN THE NEWS!

Did you see the article in The Forum on making Salsa with Mara Trygstad? That was one of the classes that I organized last month at Showplace Kitchens. Make the avocado salsa as that was so yummy!

SOCIAL MEDIA

ASK THE ORGANIZER

This month I asked my Facebook fans for their questions. Here are bits and pieces of some of the ones that I received:

Now that the end of the school year is here, how do I organize all of those school papers and school supplies that my child brings home?

For your student's papers I use the "does it bring a tear to my eye" test. While looking at those papers do you feel sentimental? I usually keep the ones that my child used their imagination and creativity in. I also keep the papers that show their growth in an area. For example, if your child struggles in math and they get 100% on a math test, that would be a keeper for me.

Create a simple filing system for each grade. Put the papers in the file that meet the above stated test and file away. Additional things to place in that file are classroom photos, school awards and report cards.

For artwork, some artwork will fit in this file but others may not. For oversized artwork, art portfolios work or better yet is to take a picture of the art and get rid of the original (I know, the horror of it).

Also create a file for standardized tests. Having them all in one place is a good idea in order to reference for any learning disability or gifted services questions that may come up.

Every Fall kids buy new school supplies, but what to do with the old ones? Many Sunday school programs or classroom teachers would love to take school supplies that are still in good shape. Don't give pencils without erasers or broken crayons.

Now that my kids are home now, what are some fun things to do with them?

Check out the local library for ideas.They usually have a theme for the summer that you could expand upon. Plus many library offer incentives for kids who read for a certain amount of minutes are attend activities.

When was the last time you explored your local parks. Find a city map and see how many different parks you can go to over the summer.

Do you always go to the same pool? Try some new pools or other swimming opportunities in your area. Is there a local lake or river to explore?

Find cookbooks from around the world and "travel" to those countries for a week. Find the country on a map, learn some of their words, explore their culture and prepare some of their food.

What do I do with all of those photos that I am sent? From Christmas photos, graduation pictures and many others. I feel horrible if I throw them away. Help!

Create a file called "People I love" and a file called "Places I go". In these files place all of the photos that meet that criteria. If they are not people you love, it is ok to get rid of the photo. Your college roommates daughter graduated from high school and you never met her....get rid of the photo. Your mother's cousins kids send you a Christmas photo every year but you haven't seen them in 10 years....get rid of the photo. So if you don't love the person, get rid of the photo....I give you permission.

I love the idea of "Place I go" file. So if your friend snaps a picture of you while out on their boat, you have a place to put that photo. As you collect the photos it is cool to look back to the fun times you had.

The files work perfect for people who are and are not scrapbookers. Because even if you don't scrapbook, it still is great to be organized.

Ask the Organizer

Do you have a question for Ask the Organizer? No question is too small or crazy, ask away and I will protect your identity. What a great way to get free advice and solve your problem! Email me today!

For more ideas and inspiration visit my blog.

CENTS OF PEACE

Summer Meal Planning for Kids

BY: MS Simplicity

This really was a need of mine that I had to figure out. Every summer I struggle to feed my three boys lunches without breaking our food budget and without making me tied to the kitchen as a short order cook. Another issue I have is having kids needing to eat at different times. One child needs lunch at 11:00, another 1:30 while still another needs to pack a lunch for the day. So I sent out a plea for help and got such great ideas from friends on facebook. I tweaked them a bit and this is what I came up with.

Find a container (think shoe box without a lid) for each meal type. Then find several different lunch options that your children enjoy. Place each meal option in the box and place in the fridge.

1. Sandwiches: Get together all of the fixings for sandwiches. This would include deli meat, sliced cheese, bread and condiments. Change the bread options out weekly. One week it could be buns, then sub rolls, then maybe croissants.

2. Bagel pizzas: Gather the bagels, cheese, toppings and sauce. They make sauce in a squeeze bottle that is perfect for this meal. Kids can either heat them up in the microwave or the oven. Vary the toppings from week to week, chopped green peppers, mushrooms, olives, pepperoni, diced ham, and cooked Italian sausage.

3. Tacos: Fry up taco meat or chicken seasoned with taco seasoning. Add tortillas, cheese, lettuce, hot sauce, sour cream and put in the taco bin. Kids could also make nachos, hard shell tacos, soft shell tacos or taco salads.

4. Wraps: Who doesn't love to each a sandwich in a flour tortilla? Gather that lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, sliced chicken, deli meat, cheese and some flavored cream cheese to act as the glue. Maybe some Cesar dressing to add some more flavor.

5. Pasta: Precook pasta and toss with some cooking spray to keep from sticking. Shorts noodles would work best for this. There are so many fun shapes of noodles, so have fun! Have jars of different flavored sauces and toppings to add in. Shredded cheese, ground (cooked) Italian sausage, cooked shredded chicken and precooked meatballs (you know, the kind that you get at Sam's Club). Kids simply grab some pasta, add the sauce and toppings and place in the microwave to heat up for an easy lunch.

6. Snacks: Place all the snack options for the fridge in one bin. When they need a snack the kids can quickly grab the bin and close the door to the fridge or freezer. No more will you find starving kids staring blankly at the open door of the fridge. Some good snacks could be string cheese, yogurt, sliced fruit, pudding cups and cut vegetables with individual ranch dressing packets.

Now my kids can simply go to the fridge, grab the bin for what they want to make and make themselves lunch. Now to figure out the next hard question "What's for Dinner"!

Have any great meal ideas, send me an email or send me a message on , I would love for you to share your ideas with others!


May 2010

MAY 2010

WORKSHOPS, WORKSHOPS and more WORKSHOPS!

MS.Simplicity is excited to announce two workshops being sponsored by Showplace Kitchens located at the corner of 32nd Ave. and 25th St. in South Fargo. Register early as these classes will fill fast! The cost of each class is $15 and is limited to 10 participants. Call Showplace Kitchen today to register, 701-365-4455.

Grow Your Own Herbal Tea Blend (May 6, 2010 7:00-8:30pm)

Do you love herbal teas? Learn how to select and grow herbs to create your own special blends. You'll discuss which plants to grow, how to care for them, and how to harvest, store and prepare these fragrant herbs. Sample some herbal tea blends and goodies with the tea with Master Gardener Mara Trygstad ThatHerbWoman.com

Growing a great Salsa Garden (May 13, 2010 7:00-8:30pm)

Learn about growing tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, basil, cilantro, tomatillos and more. Sample some salsa recipes and learn how easy it is to grow and create your own salsa garden with Master Gardener Mara Trygstad ThatHerbWoman.com

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GIRLS NIGHT OUT ORGANIZING WORKSHOPS

I joined the company Clever Container this month as I was looking for a product line that would compliment my organizing business. Their products have two things that I have been looking for....quality and value!

I have booked up quickly with these workshops as I am the only one in North Dakota! If you would like to host a workshop of your own, please contact me and let's get you and your friends organized!

Each month there is a customer special and for May it is the Bottlebag Plus. Transport all of your essentials from water or wine to a towel, flip flops and sun block! Features six spacious pockets, a secure zipper top and is water resistant. Carry by the handles or over your shoulder. (15 x 14 1/2 x 5) Reg. $41.95 Available for $25.00 with a $35.00 order

CONTEST

Thanks to all of you who became a fan of MS. Simplicity on facebook and participated in the contest. I am almost at 300 fans and I am growing everyday!

Please join me on facebook where I give daily tips, quotes are interesting articles about getting organized.

ASK THE ORGANIZER

This month I was asked by a reporter for the Cass County Reporter for tips and ideas for graduation. I sent her several ideas that she included in her article. I hope if you are planning a graduation that you can simplify the process and enjoy the day with your graduate.

Tips for planning a graduation party:

·Keep it simple.

·Focus on what you enjoy. For example if you hate to cook, enlist some friends and family to help or if the budget allows, hire a caterer.

·If you are stressed about your house not being "picture perfect" focus on these areas; the kitchen, entry way, guest bathroom and whatever room the party is going to be held. Now is not a time to clean out your closets and organize your medicine cabinet. If you are having the party in the garage sweep the garage and hang up sheets to hide the messy areas.

·Keep the beverages simple, bottled water and maybe 2 soda choices, one diet and one caffeine free.

·Don't have your party be weather dependant, have a backup plan!

·Ask for friends to serve as hosts at the party for you. Put a friend in charge of food, one in charge of drinks and one in charge of garbage. You need to enjoy the party too!

·I have seen a lot of graduation open house invitations on Facebook this year, what a great and easy way to send out the invites to friends. Most family still expect a paper invitation.

Unique memorabilia:

·Have a framed and matted 8 x 10 of the graduate and have a pen available for the guests to sign the mat. This is a great keepsake for the graduate. I have seen these in Target in the frame aisle (they usually have a wedding couple in the picture)

·Poster board with fun pictures of the graduate through their life are fun to look at. Once again, keep it simple and find a friend who loves to scrap book, they could finish this project for you in a couple of hours. Tip, scan the pictures into a computer or make copies before cropping as some of the photos may be one of a kind.

·Display all of the grade school pictures and display them in chronological order. It is fun to see the progression of the graduate.

·A graduation party I attended last year had a book that was assembled on line by the dad with the child's quotes and pictures throughout his life. You do not need to tell the life story, just a few humorous stories here and there. For example, maybe they had a favorite shirt that they wore all through 3rd grade, or maybe the graduate hated math in elementary school and now they want to be a math teacher. Make it personal.

Trendy graduation food:

·Anything that is a finger food and easy to eat.

·Pick a theme with the food, such as Mexican and stick with it. For example, have a salsa bar with different kind of chips and salsa. And a walking taco is always a good choice. What is the graduates favorite type of food? Maybe Italian, then you could have a pasta bar with garlic bread and different pastas and sauces.

·Anything on a stick is always fun to eat. Think fruit kabobs with dip.

·Cupcakes instead of cake. Cupcakes are easier to eat, no cutting required and no utensils. Have the cupcakes in different flavors...what is the graduates favorite cake flavor?

Favors:

·I like the idea of candy in the school colors as centerpieces. M and M's come in so many colors, place the school color M and M's in candy dishes, or simply scatter them down the table on a white tablecloth.

Ask the Organizer

Do you have a question for Ask the Organizer? No question is too small or crazy, ask away and I will protect your identity. What a great way to get free advice and solve your problem! Email me today!

For more ideas and inspiration visit my blog.

CENTS OF PEACE

Get rid of 50 things in the garage

BY: MS Simplicity

Focus this month on getting rid of 50 things in your garage. Ten items on 5 different days and by the end of the month you will have 50 less items in your garage. This does not mean to buy 50 new items however. This project is meant to be done quickly in 5 minute segments.

1.Construction supplies: Do you have leftover wood from that home improvement project that is now complete? There are organizations that will take left over construction supplies in good shape. Call your local Habitat for Humanity chapter for ideas.

2. Tools: Did you get a new set of screwdrivers for Christmas only to put them with your old ones? Go through your tool supply and look at the duplicates and keep only the ones that are in good condition.

3. Car Cleaning Supplies: Many people have cleaning supplies in the garage for their vehicle. Do you still hand wash your car? With the advent of greener cleaners, many of us no longer use our old cleaners containing chemicals. Keep only the ones that you use and safely dispose of the old ones.

4. Paint: Do you have every large paint can for every home project from the last 10 years still in your garage? Rubbermaid makes a great product for you to store paint in for touch ups so that you can get rid of the can. Contact your local garbage collection to see how they would like you to dispose of old paint cans.

5. Shoes: We keep all of the kids sports shoes in the garage. Many sports shoes simply do not wear out by the time our kids outgrow them. So find a friend who wants them or find a second hand sports store who will buy them. If the shoes can not be worn by another person and they must be thrown, check out Nike as they have a great reuse a shoe program.

6. Sports Equipment: If you have kids you realize how quickly these items can get out of control. I ask myself why do I have 6 basketballs but they only play with 1? Or 4 baseball gloves that are too small. Or maybe even supplies from a sport they no longer play. Time to take a look and keep only what they are using.

7. Yard equipment: Do you have three rakes and only one that does have a working handle? Why do we hold onto those broken items? Either fix them or get rid of them.

8. Snow Removal equipment: I live in the Midwest where this is needed more months than I care to count. If you have some shovels, ice melting chemicals or old snow blowers that you no longer use, get them out of your garage.

9. Chemicals: Garages are the place that chemicals to kill the bugs, pests and other things are stored. Do you still use these or have you found other ways to take care of those pests? Make sure you dispose of them properly, pouring them down the drain is not an option.

10. Lawn watering supplies: Hoses and sprinklers. Everyone seems to have a leaky hose, take the time to fix it now or dispose of it. Don't keep things that are broken. Did you get a sprinkler system and you don't even use hoses anymore? Why are you keeping them?

Whew, what a list. Do you think you can do it? I am willing to put money on it. Before you start, grab a basket or box to place the items in that you can donate. Once you have your 50 items, go and donate in one trip.


April 2010

APRIL 2010

WORKSHOPS, WORKSHOPS and more WORKSHOPS!

MS.Simplicity is excited to announce four workshops being sponsored by Showplace Kitchens located at the corner of 32nd Ave. and 25th St. in South Fargo. Register early as these classes will fill fast! The cost of each class is $15 and is limited to 10 participants. Call Showplace Kitchen today to register, 701-365-4455.

Plant an herb garden (April 15, 2010 7:00-8:30pm)

Come and learn what are some new and interesting herbs to plant as well as some favorites.Sample unique recipes made with some of the herbs with with Master Gardener Mara Trygstad ThatHerbWoman.com

Summer Grilling Ideas (April 20, 2010 7:00-8:30pm)

Tired of cooking the same old things on the grill?Come and learn some easy main meals to feed your hungry family by MS. Simplicty. Meat is provided by "Meats by John and Wayne" located at 1801 45th St. SW.

Grow Your Own Herbal Tea Blend (May 6, 2010 7:00-8:30pm)

Do you love herbal teas? Learn how to select and grow herbs to create your own special blends. You'll discuss which plants to grow, how to care for them, and how to harvest, store and prepare these fragrant herbs. Sample some herbal tea blends and goodies with the tea with Master Gardener Mara Trygstad ThatHerbWoman.com

Growing a great Salsa Garden (May 13, 2010 7:00-8:30pm)

Learn about growing tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, basil, cilantro, tomatillos and more. Sample some salsa recipes and learn how easy it is to grow and create your own salsa garden with Master Gardener Mara Trygstad ThatHerbWoman.com

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GIRLS NIGHT OUT ORGANIZING WORKSHOPS

I am excited to launch my "Girls' Night Out Organizing Workshops". I have two workshops I can lead us in, "Organize Your Purse" or "Busy Moms". Both workshops last about 90 minutes in length.

The cost for the participants is $25. Hostess attends for free! If you have over 10 guests the hostesses can pick a small area of their home for a hands on organization.

Most home parties the guests leave spending a lot more than $25 and your guests will see the value in the materials and knowledge they receive. This is a workshop where your friends and family will learn how to save time

I bring the handouts, the door prize and the fun! Be one of the first in the area to host this exciting event!

CONTEST

Become a Fan of MS. Simplicity on Facebook and you could win a $100 Amazon gift card

For every 100 fans MS. Simplicity is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card. The more fans, the higher the gift card. There are already over 200 fans, so the gfit card is at $20. Please help spread the word by becoming a fan and suggesting that your friends become fans too. How do you do that? Look for the MS. Simplicity logo on the top of the fan page and locate the line that says "suggest to friends".

Contest expires April 15, 2010 or when the fans reach 1,000, whichever occurs first.

ASK THE ORGANIZER

Dear MS. Simplicity,

I read magazine article after magazine article where they go in and organize a basement or bathroom just transforming it. My question is what do they do with all those odd shaped pieces that we all have hidden in our homes? I'm taking the Christmas trees we no longer have the box for or the 8 Easter baskets or the scarecrows that go in my yard in the fall? Where do people store the sleeping bags and big packs for the mountain camping trips you take once every 3 years? Right now all this is in a room and I'm not sure how to organize them so they don't look a mess and are easily accessible. Much of this just doesn't fit in a tote and gets separated from the rest of the holiday items.

Signed,

Size does matter

Dear Size does matter,

Too often articles written in magazines have a crew of many and a stylist to make the room look so perfect. The television shows do an even worse job of presenting reality. They show the room makeovers being done in a 24 or 48 hour period. That is next to impossible unless you have super human speed and strength or a crew of 20.

I recently had an article published in our local paper on junk drawers. There were before and after photos of the junk drawer, and the most common question I received was "where did the hammer go?". The answer is simple, the hammer was too big for the drawer as well as it's real home was in the toolbox in the garage. So on those shows, many items are simply "housed" elsewhere, outside of where the photo is taken so it looks like a really clutter free room.

To get to the heart of your question, where should you store big oversized items? Here is a checklist to go through to help you with this task:

  • Do I really use the items? Would the holiday mean anything less if I don't have the huge inflatable family of snowman outside?

  • Are the items in good shape? If you have a ratty looking glow in the dark Halloween pumpkin with holes in it, is it time to say goodbye to it?

  • Are you holding on to the items for a reason other than use? For example, did you spend a lot of money on that artificial silver Christmas tree, so there is no way you could get rid of it.

  • Can you store it in an unlikely place, such as an attic? There is often hidden storage that can be used above garage doors. Here is an example of a ready made system, you just need to provide the plywood.

  • Stay away from offsite storage. Once you take it away from your home, chances are you would forget about it and never go back to the storage unit, but you would continue paying the rental payments on it.

  • How about under a bed? Some organizing styles shy away from storage under a bed, but sometimes it really is the only solution.

  • The best answer is to stop buying things. Stay away from clearance sales and end of the season holiday sales. There is a reason that stuff is marked off 75%, because no one wants it! Before you buy something, ask yourself the question, "where am I going to store this at?". If you don't have an area in mind, don't buy it.

  • How about sharing seldom used items with friends and family. Let them know that you have certain items that you are willing to borrow. They in turn may also have things for you to borrow. That way when your old camping stove breaks, you can simply borrow one from the Johnson's instead of buying a new one. That way the Johnson's store it and you don't have to!

Ask the Organizer

Do you have a question for Ask the Organizer? No question is too small or crazy, ask away and I will protect your identity. What a great way to get free advice and solve your problem! Email me today!

For more ideas and inspiration visit my blog.

CENTS OF PEACE

Get rid of 100 things

BY: MS Simplicity

Focus this month on getting rid of 100 things. Ten items on 10 different days and by the end of the month you will have 100 less items in your house. This does not mean to buy 100 new items however. This project is meant to be done quickly in 5 minute segments.

1.CD's and Videos: Do you still have VHS copies of movies but no VHS player? Do you get all of your music downloaded now. Maybe you bought a movie and really didn't care for it. Time to get rid of the outdated. Local libraries gladly take these donations.

2. Spices: Spices really do have a shelf life. If you still have the spices that you bought when you were first married or came in a tin, I think it is time to get rid of them. If you have not used that mace since the 1980's, say goodbye.

3. Cleaning Supplies: With the advent of greener cleaners, many of us no longer use our old cleaners containing chemicals. Keep only the ones that you use and safely dispose of the old ones.

4. Items in the Pantry: Did you buy 6 cans of creamed corn when they were on sale only to find out nobody in your family likes creamed corn. Find a local food pantry to take those no longer needed items. Check for expiration dates as I am sure that you could easily find 10 expired items as well.

5. Shoes: Well just admit it, you probably have more than 10 pairs you could get rid of don't you? OK, maybe that is just me! In Fargo there are shoe drop boxes at some of the grocery stores, or Nike has a great reuse a shoe program.

6. Utensils: Go into your kitchen utensil drawer and pull our all the broken and cracked utensils. While you are at it grab the one that you haven't used in over 6 months. I bet you have at least 10!

7. Items in the Fridge: Look in the fridge and find 10 things that you know you will never use or have expired. Look for that block of moldy cheese, it is back there somewhere hiding behind the yogurt.

8. Toiletries: Do you still have some blue eyeshadow in your makeup drawer that you are hoping makes a resurgence? Do you know the shelf life of makeup?

9. Socks and Underwear: We all have that pile of socks that are missing their mate. Now is the time to rid yourself of that stash. Look through your drawer and find those underwear that have seen better days. Remember what your mom always said about nice underwear?

10. Books: Gasp, I can't believe I just wrote that. I am a lover of books, but I am learning to let go just a little bit. Now when I borrow a book to someone that I have read, I tell them to pass it along to someone else. When was the last time a read a book twice. Honestly, I don't think ever unless it was for school!

Whew, what a list. Do you think you can do it? I am willing to put money on it. Before you start, grab a basket or box to place the items in that you can donate. Once you have your 100 items, go and donate in one trip.


March 2010

MARCH 2010

Procrastination Week (Second Week of March)

....or is it the third week in March? Never mind what week it is, don't celebrate this holiday, rather laugh in its face and get your to do list done today! Take action and get it done. If you need someone to help you take action, please contact me today and we will get your game plan ready.

If you live outside the Fargo area and are interested in having me help you reach your organizing goals, I am able to do phone coaching as well as helping you via Skype. Contact me for these exciting new ways to get you organized. My hourly rates would be the same but we would probably work in smaller blocks of time.

March is National Frozen Food Month

Last week I taught a class on "Meal Planning for Busy Families" through Moorhead Community Education. One of the best ways to make meal time easier is to prepare meals ahead of time and place them in the freezer. It could be as simple as marinating chicken breasts and placing them in a freezer bag to doubling a meal and putting half in the freezer. I have included some other tips for meal planning in my Cents of Peace article which you can find further down in this newsletter. Look for ways to earn a free giveaway in this article.

In the News

It has been a busy month for MS. Simplicity in the news. In February Tammy Swift wrote a great article (if I do say so myself) on organizing the junk drawer which was published on February 13, 2010. And this month my article was featured in NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) newsletter. My topic that I wrote about was "Staying Legal With Copyrighted Items: It's Harder than it Looks". This was a huge honor to be selected to write an article for my industry with thousands of members. I will be placing these articles on my website later in the month, so please check back read them in their entirety.

Also visit my website to join the MS. Simplicity facebook fan page to get tips and updates.

Ask the Organizer

I am excited to announce the launch of a new program: Ask the Organizer. I will be taking questions from you and answering them in my blog. No question is too small or crazy, ask away and I will protect your identity. What a great way to get free advice and solve your problem! Email me today!

QUICK TIP

"Conquering Chronic Disorganization"

I love to read and learn. I love to read books that make me go, why didn't I think of that. A treasure trove of ideas is what I found in Judith Kolberg's book "Conquering Chronic Disorganization". Judith is the expert that all of the Professional Organizers turn to for ideas and inspiration. This is an easy to read book with many helpful hints!

Do you think you are Chronically Disorganized? There is hope and here are some of Judith's nuggets of information:

  • "Chronic disorganization is disorganization that has a long history, undermines one's quality of life on a daily basis, and recurs." You need all of these in order to be seen as chronically disorganized. Missing one or two, ? Then you are not chronically disorganized.

  • "....chronically disorganized people are not conventional. They think, learn, and organize in ways that are unconventional." You may be one of those people who no matter how hard you try, you just can't get organized. Your mind just does not work the same in trying to get organized, and that is okay.

  • "Chronic disorganization can be conquered. It cannot be cured because it is not a disease." Try to get to the root of the problem and find a system that works for you. Every person has a different approach to getting organized. Just because your spouse can work for 15 minutes and have all of the papers organized, does not mean that you can. You need to find out what would conquer clutter once and for all for you.

For more ideas and inspiration visit my blog.

CENTS OF PEACE

Meal Planning for Busy Families

BY: MS Simplicity

Tips, Tricks and other things to think about

  • Sunday is no longer a day of rest

:Have Sunday be your day to plan, search, shop and bake.By spending a few hours on Sunday, it will free up the week night frantic search for what is for dinner.Make at least 3 complete main dishes and double one to be put in the freezer for the following week.

  • Pizza night:Plan to have at least one night be pizza night or go out to eat.

  • Make staples of chicken, meatloaf, meatballs and roast (beef or chicken) on Sunday:Use these staples to supplement your weeknight cooking.

  • Three types of meals:1.Freeze 2.Crock pot 3. Make in under 30 minutes from start to table

  • A recent Columbia University study showed the importance of having family meals together to keep kids healthy and away from bad influences.

  • Have dinner conversation about concerns or challenges of the day:Do not take this time to discipline.Keep the conversation light and engaging.We play the game high/low where each person goes over their high points of the day and their low points of the day.

  • Introduce new foods:Family meals are a great time to introduce new foods.Kids need to be introduced to things numerous times before they try a new food.Despite broccoli being on my table many times a week, I am holding out hope that my 14 year old will someday eat it!

  • Leftover "buffet":Plan on having leftovers at least one night a week to empty out the fridge.Good idea to do this the day before garbage day so that whatever doesn't make it to the table or to the freezer, goes out to the garbage.Make leftovers more exciting by having a child in the family create a "menu" for leftovers by using templates from a Print shop program.

  • Gather your 21:Most family cooks make the same 21 things every month.Gather all of your 21 in one spot to make it easier to menu plan.

  • Eat by candlelight:By reducing the light in the room you can hide small cut up vegetables in the meal without the suspecting eye of the vegetable police securitizing every bite.You would be surprised how much more relaxed you become once the lights are turned off the candles are lit.

  • Leave instructions:Leaving simple instructions for children or significant others to start a portion of the meal will make week night meals go faster.Maybe it is as simple as prepare a salad or set the table.This could even be to start the rice in the rice cooker.

  • When in a rush grab a rotisserie chicken: Fairly healthy, moist, and easy to turn into favorite dishes. Just think of the many options you have when using this as your base.

Email me today and I will send you a free meal planning template to make your meal planning easier!


February 2010
February 2010
Groundhog Day
February 2 is Groundhog Day. You know what that means, Punxsutawney Phil will let us know how many more weeks until Spring! I say instead of relying on what a tired groundhog has to say, you take control and make Spring come faster, at least in your home and life. Read my article further down on being prepared for any Spring flooding. Don't be a groundhog trying to burrow down for a few more weeks, take action today!
Clean out Your Computer Day
This little known holiday is celebrated the second Monday of February. While many offices are going paperless, the clutter often finds a home not on the desk, but on the desktop. When was the last time you organized the files on your computer? How about backing all of your documents up onto an external hard drive? What about all of those unread emails. Set a daily goal of how many a day you are going to go through and get them read with purpose of an empty inbox. Even taking time to get the dust off of the keyboard and clean the screen itself.
Valentines Day
Every year this holiday rolls around and you can hear the collective groan of men everywhere as they have to go out and buy overpriced flowers. What about a gift of organizing. Send your loved ones a "subtle" email stating that you would love the gift of organizing and give them my contact information and I will take care of the rest! The flowers may die in a week, but the gift of organizing will keep on giving. (Note to my husband.....I still want flowers, you are not off the hook!)
QUICK TIP
Clean out the Fridge Door
So I purchased a new refrigerator about a year and a half about and since then, how many times do you think I have cleaned out the door to my refrigerator? If you guessed 5x you would be living in a fantasy world that I am not a part of. If you guessed not at all, you would be right! How embarrassing is that? Looking at it right now, I can see 4 things that need to be thrown out. So I challenge you this week to clean out the door to your fridge along with me by following these easy steps:
  • Pull everything out.
  • Clean all of the shelves with warm soapy water.
  • Sort everything by if you think you are going to use it in the next couple of months (right now I know there is some salad dressing that I bought last week that tasted gross, keeping it in the fridge is not going to make me use it, it is only going to make me mad that I wasted the money on it. I am going to throw it out!)
  • Check the expiration dates on all of the items and only place back the items that have not expired.
  • Place like items together when you return them into the fridge. For example, put all condiments together, or how about all of the salad dressings on one shelf.
  • Do not store anything in the door that needs to be kept very cold. I have found that milk does not keep in the door without spoiling very quickly.
  • Clean out all of the containers that you are not keeping and recycle the glass and plastic containers as well as the metal lids.
For more ideas and inspiration visit my blog.
CENTS OF PEACE
Prepare Now
BY: MS Simplicity
I wrote this original article back in 2009 as the Red River Valley was recovering from a record flood. In the last week, the news has been warning us of a 90% chance of major flooding. While we may be powerless against mother nature and what she has in store for us, we do have power over how prepared we are. I am not a glass half full type of person and worried about the flood. But I am the type of person who like to be ready in the face of disaster. So take the time now, to get ready. If nothing happens, all the better, but if disaster strikes you know that what you treasure most will be kept safe.
  • Take the time to go through your possessions now. Do you need to keep everything? This process will take some time, invest in the time now! Do not expect this to take an afternoon and do not be hard on yourself for getting everything back in its place now.
  • Do you need to buy flood insurance? Most polices need to be in place 30 days before any flooding in order to be in effect. Even renewals need to be in place 30 days before the expiration date.
  • Take a picture or video of your house and all of its contents, put it in a safe place such as a water proof safe. You may need this for insurance purposes later on. It is much easier proving the contents of your home with documentation in place now, then sitting down after the fact and trying to remember what were in the contents of every drawer.
  • Grab a friend and do both of your organizing projects together. It is always best to get a fresh set of eyes, and especially when those eyes do not see the sentimental attachment to what is being sorted.
  • Donate what you think other people would find useful. Don't just donate items to get it out of your house. Donate with purpose. Maybe you have an extra coffee pot that a family who have been displaced would appreciate.
  • Place your items in plastic bins and totes. If you ever had to carry wet boxes you suddenly realize how heavy water can be. A favorite to use is Space Bags. These cool organizing products take large items like clothing, blankets and stuffed animals and literally sucks the air right out of them and compresses them to 1/10 of the size in a water proof container. Be warned that they sometimes will leak, so do not use these as your only means of water protection.
  • Look at your items and really decide if you use it or if you are just holding on to it for sentimental reasons. A good rule of thumb, if you haven't looked at it or used it in 6 months, it is time to get rid of the item as you are only holding on to it for sentimental reasons.
  • Place all of the items you can't live without in an easy to grab location, so if you do have to evacuate, you or your family know exactly where the items are and can grab them in an emergency. Some things to think about are medications and cell phone chargers. Maybe get some back up ones in place.
  • Have a family emergency plan. Does your family know where to meet if the roads to your house are not accessible? Do you have a friend's or families house where you can stay at?
  • Photos need some special attention. Scan those priceless one of a kind photos into your computer and save them on an outside server such as Snapfish, so that they can be accessible from wherever, whenever. A teenager in your household can easily take on this project.
  • Many of us are now lost without our computers. Make sure that you have a plan for your computer. If you have a large, cumbersome desktop computer, invest in an external hard drive. Save all important documents on a regular basis so that if you need to leave your home quickly, you can grab that external hard drive as you leave the house without the fear of losing any important information.
  • Last year my advice was to label all of your drainplugs. Are your drainplugs all ready to go? So if the mayor ever tells you to plug your drains, you can simply grab the bag of drain plugs and quickly get the job done.

Plan now and be prepared for the worst case scenario but hope that you never will come upon that scenario. Remember to really work on what is important to you and your family and you will soon realize that it is not your possessions, but it is your loved ones and as long as they are safe, you have everything you need in life.


January 2010
January 2010
Meet 2010 Resolutions During January's Get Organized Month!
Getting organized is at the top of so many of our New Year's resolutions. The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) has announced January as Get Organized Month, or GO Month.
MS Simplicity is a member of NAPO which has over 4,300 members nation wide. NAPO is a non-profit for professional organizers. A recent poll conducted by NAPO found that 71% of the people stated that their quality of life would improve if they were better organized
Statistics also show that in order to make something a habit you need to consistently do it for at least 21 days. Curious that many of us by February have already stopped working on resolutions and have in fact given up. What is the one thing that can improve your chances of success? Support! MS Simplicity is here to give you support if you want to GO this month!
MS Simplicity is forming Get Organized (GO) groups which will begin on Tuesday, January 12.
  • One group will meet at 9:00 and the other group will meet at noon.
  • Each group will meet for 5 weeks for one hour each week.
  • Some of the topics covered: Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Schedule, Organize your Cleaning Schedule, Organize your Priorities, Organize Your Personal Information, Organize your Finances and Organize Your Bill Paying System. Each week will build on the previous week and will help guide you towards organizing success.
  • Cost is $50 plus the cost of the workbook for a total of $65
  • Location will be determined by where attendees are located. Such as South Fargo or downtown Fargo.
  • A minimum of 5 attendees per group is required.
  • If you have a workplace or group of friends that would like to hold a separate GO group please contact MS Simplicity for available times.
  • Contact MS Simplicity for registration information or for further questions melissa@ididit-fargo.com
QUICK TIP
Our Love Affair with Stuff
This tip comes from a great writer Sarah Susanka in her book "the not so big life". In it she questions why we buy stuff.

When we own stuff, we have to maintain it. We also have to earn enough money to procure it, house it, protect it, keep it clean, and insure it against theft or loss. So every purchase has strings attached.
She goes on to show us how most purchases happen.
There's a subtle pressure, one we are typically unaware of, to meet the expectations of our peers and colleagues and families by keeping up with, or exceeding, their purchasing. We have unconsciously created a huge game in present-day consensus reality that entails accumulating sufficient wealth to purchase our way into perceived respectability and so, we assume, into significance. But it's a hollow dream. there's no meaning in all those acquisitions and no meaning in keeping up with the Joneses, other than sharing with them the frustration of feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task of keeping up.

As we come off of the holiday season look at your purchases and see if you were buying "stuff" to keep up with Joneses!
CENTS OF PEACE
Organize Those Holiday Decorations NOW
BY: MS Simplicity
  • NOW is a great time to only put away the decorations that you actually use. Donate or give to family members the ones that sit unused. If you don't use the decorations, there must be a reason why, and most often it is because you don't like them - so get rid of them NOW as they are taking up space.
  • NOW is a great time to buy those organizing totes to store the Christmas decorating supplies in. Make sure to buy clear totes or even ones with red lids to give you a visual cue as to them containing holiday decorations. This week many organizing supplies are on sale, so check your local adds.
  • NOW is a great time to make sure you label what is in each tote or bin.
  • NOW is a great time to test the lights as you take them off the tree and house. Either fix or toss any broken strings of lights in order to prevent a home fire. Why would you put away lights that don't work? Belive me, some people do!
  • NOW is a great time to make a list of any items you need to purchase at the beginning of the holiday season next year. Do you have enough wrapping papers for the next 5 years....then make sure you don't buy any next season. Are your ornament hooks a jumbled mess....make sure you buy some at the start of next season.
  • NOW is a great time to gather all of your holiday wrapping supplies in one space and dedicate them to a special area. If you need wrapping paper, NOW is a great time to take advantage of clearance sales.
  • NOW is a great time to update your address book with all of the new addresses that you received from friends and families holiday cards so that next year your address labels are ready to print.
Plan a bit NOW and save time LATER!

December 2009
CENTS OF PEACE
Simple Gift Ideas to Help Lead a More Organized Life
BY: MS Simplicity
When I was young and getting ready to head to college my mom always gave me practical gifts that would help prepare me as I entered the world outside of my hometown. Now as I get older and "wiser" I am a fan of those practical gifts once again as they tend to help in my quest for simplicity in my life. I have compiled a list of 5 practical gifts that would make anyone on your list happy and full of gratitude!
1. Amazon Kindle is an electronic book reader that I have become a huge fan of. I have had my Kindle for almost a year and I love it more and more every day. Some of the things that I love about it is the feature of downloading samples of books for free. This way I can try out a book before buying it. Another great feature is that when I want to purchase a book I can do it within 60 seconds. Great for when I am a passenger in the car on a road trip or about to get on a plane. And for the organizer in me, it cuts way down on the physical books that I purchase that take up room in my home as it can hold 100's of books in one small device. Most books cost under $10 when you download them. The device itself is a little pricey, coming in at $259 but it is an investment that will save you money over time!
2. Busy Body Book is my go to organizing system for my family. This portable grid calendar has a spot for each member of my family so that my children can each look at their day and see what is going on in their day. No more trying to squeeze 5 activities on one small square on my old wall calendar. No more color coding each of the kids activities. The Busy Body Book helps me keep it all together in a very full life! Better yet, this gem comes in under $15!
3. Overhead Ceiling Mounted Shelving is for the person who just needs a little more space in the garage. I am always telling my clients to use all the vertical space that they can. This product in ingenious in finding that vertical space. How great would it be to have your loved one putting this shelving up for you on Christmas Day! Cost is $75.95 and you do need to buy a piece of plywood to complete the project.
4. Chore Pad is for the parent who needs to get family chores assigned in a quick and efficient manner. Won't the kids be thrilled when they receive their checked off chore assignment for the week? This may not be a gift for the kids out there, but every mom would love a streamlined way of making sure the kids get their chores done! The pad has a checklist of common household chores and even has a check box for the ever important thank you! The Chore Pad comes in at the price of $5 for a fun stocking stuffer idea.
5. Password Log is something we should all have. How many of us have passwords written on sticky notes or on scraps of paper? I am not someone who can remember passwords so this little book is a godsend. All of your passwords in one little book.....genius and the cost is only $4!

November 2009
CENTS OF PEACE
Simplify and Enjoy the Holiday Season
BY: MS Simplicity
(This article was published in "On the Minds of Moms" Winter issue. You can find this publication now until they run out at any of the 6 Hornbacher's locations)

Oftentimes, by the week before Christmas, many of us feel more like Scrooge and less like someone full of holiday cheer. It doesn't need to be like that! By simplifying a number of things on the holiday "to do" list, you can keep the holiday spirit and free yourself from the stress that the holidays can bring about. Start now by implementing some of the simple strategies below, and frayed holiday nerves will be a thing of the past. With mindfulness and a little planning ahead, you can make this holiday season more about friends and family and less about stress and trying to impress.
1. Start gathering addresses of friends, family, co-workers - anyone you intend to send a holiday card to - and enter the info into your address book or database. When it comes time to mail off your cards, you won't spend time rushing around trying to track down Aunt Meredith's new address.
2. Get your holiday cards ready now. If you plan to send a family photo, schedule a time now for getting photos taken. Maybe this year's card is a collage of the great things your family accomplished this year. There are many user-friendly online services that enable you to create a collage or card with your photos. Have fun with your creative side.
3. Sort toys that your children no longer play with. In order to bring more toys into your home, you need to get rid of some to make room. If you have a child who has a hard time getting rid of toys, talk to him/her about setting some used toys out for Santa to take back to the North Pole for repair and giving out to other children.
4. Keep three areas of you home clean: the entry, guest bathroom and kitchen. If you have last-minute visitors, you won't be stressed out about having the entire house clean. Focus on those three areas as they are the places that your guests most often see.
5. Think about giving consumables as gifts this year: coffee shop gift cards, baking mixes, candles, bottles of wine and lotions. A consumable is something that the gift recipient will use within a couple of months, and the gift does not become clutter!
6. Give gifts that are experiences: concert tickets, a stay at a hotel, spa services or a "gift certificate" for watching your sister's kids for the weekend so she and her husband can have a getaway.
7. Start to bake things that can be frozen. Dough balls, bars and quick breads always freeze well. Just make sure that they are wrapped carefully to prevent freezer burn. When those unexpected guests stop by, you can have fresh cookies coming out of the oven in a flash.
8. Check your wrapping paper supply. Too often people buy new wrapping paper when they already have more than enough on hand. A related tip is to wrap gifts as you purchase them.
9. Decorate with what you truly love. Simplify: decorate your home with things that make you happy. Maybe it is a small tree with only the decorations your children have made over the years. Or it could be the wreath that you made with your grandma.
10. Take time to enjoy your family and friends. If you are doing something that doesn't truly make you happy, ask yourself why you are even doing it. If making a 10-course Christmas dinner gives you the sweats and causes insomnia, why do you do it? Remember that less is more ... and besides, no one will miss cranberries prepared three different ways.

October 2009

CENTS OF PEACE

Simplify for the Fall

BY: MS Simplicity
These are a few of the things that I try to get done in the fall since a little prevention can save money down the road.
· Wash the inside and outside windows of the house. Two easy tips: find a cloudy day to complete your task and use newspapers to dry the windows. They don't leave lint behind and tend to result in streak-free windows. Also hose off the screens and store them for winter. Hosing screens is an activity that kids enjoy as they have fun getting rid of the dust and dirt with the hose.
· Winterize the lawn mower and wash and clean it for winter storage. By keeping your mower nice and clean - and its blade sharp - you'll help extend the life of the mower.
· Give the grill a good cleaning and make sure it is stored in a proper place for winter. That may mean disconnecting the propane tank, or it may mean disposing of the old charcoal in a safe manner. I love using Soft Scrub to clean my grill as it cuts through the grease with minimal effort.
· Get your lawn ready for winter. For me that means putting down the last round of fertilizer, getting the yard aerated and mowing the lawn short. I have found that if my lawn is short, it tends to discourage winter rodent guests from taking refuge in my grass.
· Flip the mattresses. A great way to extend the life of a mattress is to make sure that it gets even wear and tear by flipping it. Doing so ensures that your bed doesn't all of a sudden become one where you always roll into the middle.
· Check the smoke detectors. What could be easier and have the potential to save a life?
· Change or clean your furnace filter. Some filters need to be replaced monthly and some less frequently. Save money on your heating and cooling costs by making sure you have a clean filter; your furnace and air conditioner will run more efficiently.
· Have the kids try on their winter clothing now. Take the time to assess what fits and what needs to be purchased. If you have kids in elementary school, it is always a good idea to have two pairs of snow pants, one for at home and one to be kept at school. Watch for sales at local department stores and purchase now while the selection is best. I always buy each child a good pair of gloves that they wear when they are playing outside for hours on end and need those fingers to stay nice and toasty. I also buy several pairs of inexpensive gloves that they take to school as these gloves seem to always lose a mate or two before the snow season is over.
· As the leaves fall off of the trees, remember to take a look at your gutters. Keep them clean of debris so that you have good flow of moisture off of the house, which prevents water from being forced into the eaves.
· Make sure to unhook and dry out all hoses that are attached to your house to prevent them from freezing and ultimately backing up the damage into your water lines.
· Clear out the summer clothes and shoes in order to make room for the winter ones. And as you know, winter clothes and gear take up a lot of room, so be diligent when making room so that everything isn't packed so tight that it is easier to leave clothes on the floor rather than hang them up. Do you have kids who never hang their stuff up? Make sure that you have hooks at their level to encourage them to be responsible with their belongings. As for snow boots, think about purchasing a shoe mat with a lip on it to hold the water from snow melting off boots.
· Schedule the carpets to be cleaned. Summer has come to an end, and the chances of muddy bare feet running through the house are slim. Did you know that you can extend the life of your carpet by having your guests take off their shoes when they enter your home? Of course there are exceptions, so be polite about it. If you could just get your immediate family to do that it would be a huge help! My family members take their shoes off in the garage so that they don't all get dumped in the entry of our home.
· Clean out the garage. Hose off bikes and lawn furniture before storing them away. Pick a sunny day so that they can dry before bringing them back into the garage. To inhibit mold growth, double check and make sure all cushions are dry before packing away. Think about putting a dryer sheet in between each cushion as you pack them. Look at your garage ceiling or walls for storage opportunities for bikes. Think about storage between your ceiling in the garage and the garage door.
· Freeze tomatoes. This is a new tip that I recently learned: simply place whole tomatoes in freezer storage bags. This works great for those winter soups and stews that call for tomatoes. The skins come off easily as the tomatoes defrost. Given my bounty of tomatoes this season, I know I am going to try this!


September 2009

CENTS OF PEACE

Organizing Your Digital Photos

BY: Kathi Salvevold www.photographybykathi.com
How many of you can relate to one or more of the following:
o I have uploaded 983 photos of my daughter blowing out the candles on her birthday cake. Hmm...just a thought, but I don't think I need THAT many candle pictures.
o I know I have this really cool picture on my computer from the family reunion...just need to find it here. Is it IMG00879.jpg? No. Okay, maybe it's IMG00880.jpg? Nope. Who named these, anyway?
o I haven't printed a picture since February...February of 2007 that is!
o My computer just crashed...I can still get my photos off there, right?


Okay, so you know why it needs to be done, but the question really is how do you start the daunting task of organizing the photos on your computer? There are so many programs you can use to organize and edit your photos, and I have used many: iPhoto, Picasa, Bridge, Lightroom and more. Whether you use software designated for photos or not, I have found myself using a few universal steps to help de-clutter, organize and back-up the photos on my computer.


Tip 1: Organize pictures right away after uploading them.
This may seem like an obvious tip, but how many of you actually do this? The key to staying organized is to do the work up-front. You will find it really pays off in the end! If you absolutely do not have time to rename and organize your pictures after uploading them, I suggest creating a folder (aka album) titled "unsorted" to TEMPORARILY store your uploaded photos. Don't import your next batch of photos until your "unsorted" folder is empty from your previous upload.


Tip 2: Use logical names and be consistent.
Naming your photos is essential to staying organized. With the hundred of photos we take of events, there is no way you will be efficient sorting through photos that have the default name assigned by your camera. Here are some suggestions for logically naming your files:
· Use event names with a sequential number. For example: anderson_wedding_01, anderson_wedding_02, etc.
· Include the date with your names. For example: 2009-06-17_florida01, 2009-06-17_florida02, etc.
· If you have multiple children, use their names. For example: 2009-09-01_adam_football01, 2009-09-01_adam_football02, etc.
*Note: no two files can have the same name; therefore, using a sequential numbering system (01, 02, etc.) will eliminate that problem.
The naming scheme that you use for your pictures really is a personal choice. Once you decide how you are going to name your photos, be consistent. Consistency helps make the search for past photos a quick one.
One step further: If you are using a photo program and want to rename a bunch of photos you've already uploaded, many of the programs will have a "batch" feature. This is very convenient. You simply select all of your photos you want renamed, type in your naming scheme, and with a click of a button, all of your photos will be automatically renamed.


Tip 3: Use a rating system.
Are you a shutter-happy photographer? If so, you need to take the time to dump the 30 extra shots you took of the same thing (like the aforementioned candle blowing). After all, having 25 of your best, most fantastic photos of something is going to be much more memorable than 200 repeat photos of the same event.
My quick fix for dumping the extra photos has been to come up with a rating system. Here's how it works: My best, absolute favorite photos get a five-star rating. My okay, possible fixer-upper photos get a three-star rating. Finally, any pictures that aren't good enough to get a three or five star rating are deleted. Most programs have "ratings" that you can apply to your photos either in the form of stars or flags. If you don't have this feature, many times you can color code your files, so go ahead and use colors instead of stars.
Again, sort and delete your photos right away, and this will pay off big time when you come back a year or two later looking for a quick photo from an event!


Tip 4: Create folders (aka albums).
Once you have applied understandable names to your photos, you can organize them even more by sorting them into folders. Again, apply logic when coming up with the names for your folders and the folder structure. Personally, I like to make folders based on events, and I also like the idea of having a folder for each person in my family. For example, I have the following "event" folders: Chicago Vacation 2008, Halloween 2008, Holidays 2008, Summer 2009 and so on.
Once you have your folders created, go ahead and sort your pictures as you like. Most programs that have an album feature will allow you to add a photo to as many albums as you like. If you find this doesn't work when using folders, just duplicate the photo (or copy and paste) and then add each duplicate to the appropriate folders.
In addition to my event folders, I also have folders titled "Greg", "Addie", "Kathi", "Grandparents", and folders for other extended family members. Each person can get the photos that apply to them. I like that I can give all of us a copy of the same photo, too, eliminating the fight over who gets what pictures. Once I have the pictures organized into our folders, I can then burn a CD for each of us. Isn't that great?

Tip 5: Print/make projects from your best photos.
Here's the really cool part about taking the extra time to organize your photos: you may find yourself following through and printing those digital pictures! Just click on one of your folders, pick your best shots (remember, they'll be the ones with five stars) and print your pictures. Ordering from an online website is convenient because your prints will come right to you in the mail.
Even though people are printing less of their photos and just storing them digitally, I think it's still so important to print a few of your photos. You just can't replace the color, dimension and feel of a printed photograph!In addition to prints, you can quickly use your organized folders or five star photos to make books, slideshows, cards, and so on.
One step further: Some programs have a feature called a "smart" album, which is like applying a filter to your regular albums. You can edit the criteria for smart albums to be just about anything you want. Below is one example of how I like to use this feature.
Criteria I choose for my smart album:
1. picture must have a five star rating
2. picture must be in the date range of 1-1-2009 to 12-31-2009
3. picture must be from "Addie" folder
I apply my criteria, wait a couple of seconds for the program to create the folder and "wa-lah"...I have a folder that has my favorite pictures of my daughter from 2009 (which took all of 20 seconds to create). Now I can make a quick book or a slideshow for her titled "Addie: 2009", and she has something to keep, watch, page through, etc. The best part: her photos aren't just an anonymous file on my computer! Even better, I love that my smart album really is smart! As I upload and add star ratings to new pictures, they will automatically filter into that album.

Tip 6: Backing up your photos
Finally, I don't know that this is as much of a tip as it is a very important reminder. Anytime you work with digital photos, you need to treat your files as your negatives. While it's important to organize your photos, backing up your files is a MUST! There are many different ways you can backup photos. The important thing is to ensure that you have multiple copies of your pictures in case your computer crashes. Options for backing up could include burning to a CD or DVD, saving to an external hard drive, or using an online back-up service.
By following these tips, you'll have your digital photos organized before you know it. Get started today!


August 2009

CENTS OF PEACE

Taking the Chaos out of "Back to School" Time

BY: MS Simplicity


The start of school is right around the corner. For many families, it can be a chaotic time of year. It doesn't need to be! Here are five easy steps for getting kids organized for school:
1. School supplies: The stores are now stocked with all the school supplies they'll be getting in for the season.
a. When to go: Now is the time to go while the selection is the greatest and the sales are hot. Avoid - at all costs - shopping on weekends or weeknights during the supper hour. The best time to go is an hour before the store closes. This forces you to get in and get your shopping done without the hassle of crowds. Another great time to shop is right when the store opens. If you have a kid who must have the latest and greatest, you have to go now - do not delay! Try breaking your child of the habit of always having the latest and greatest because if they always receive the latest and greatest, they come to always expect it. Here's an idea: how about buying their school folders and notebooks in their favorite color instead of what is trendy?
b. Backpacks: I buy good quality backpacks for my kids at Lands' End (www.landsend.com), and they last for three to four years. Granted, I have boys, and they don't always require the hippest trends, but the backpacks I bought for $40 each haven't cost me anything for the past four years because...get this...the backpacks don't fall apart, they aren't trendy, and they're built with good back support.
2. School clothes: When I was a kid, I got my yearly clothes budget at the beginning of the school year, and that was it. I had to make it last unless I picked up extra money babysitting. Now kids are inundated with clothes year around: Christmas, birthdays, Easter, fall clothes, winter clothes, summer clothes...clothes, clothes, clothes! My best advice is to not buy any new pants until at least October. With the way kids grow, you want to make those pants last as long as possible. Until October, most kids can still wear shorts or skirts to school. Buy a handful of new shirts that gives them the feeling of getting new clothes. By waiting to do the majority of your clothes shopping until October, you'll be able to find those "post back to school" bargains that the stores are trying to get rid of in order to make room for...you guessed...more clothes.
3. Create a system for the paper clutter now: Do you know where you are going to put the lunch menu, papers you want to keep for their memorabilia box or put in a scrapbook? How about ALL those cute art projects?
a. School menus, treat schedules, team practices and other schedules: Tape them on the inside of a kitchen cupboard. This allows easy access without the clutter on the fridge.
b. Memorabilia box: Purchase a large Rubbermaid container that either can contain one year's worth of papers or all of the elementary years' worth of papers. When the keepers come home, you now will know exactly where to put them.
c. Art projects: Have an area of your house where you display the art projects. Keep them on display for a few weeks, and then "rotate" them out, putting in new ones. What to do with the old ones? Either place them in a memorabilia box or purchase a large art portfolio to place them in. Another great idea is to create your own art portfolio out of tagboard with three of the ends taped shut. You could create one for every year.
d. Worksheets and tests: Use this easy test to determine if you should keep the daily papers that your child brings home: if it brings a tear to your eye, keep it; if not, toss it. For example: your child gets an A+ on a spelling test after he/she has been struggling all year to learn the spelling words. This is a keeper! Your child brings home coloring sheets or other busy work that is assigned; toss it. The first time he/she wrote his/her name: that is a keeper. The good news is that by the time they enter middle school, the paper clutter dwindles to a trickle, and then by high school it suddenly becomes nonexistent... and then you wonder if your child is really going to school each day or hanging out at the mall.
4. Establish a homework zone: Where does your child best study at? As a kid, I liked doing my homework in front of the TV. My mom did not understand that, and we battled constantly on that issue. If your child gets good grades and doesn't struggle in school, let him/her do homework in front of the TV. Maybe your child needs absolute silence to study. Find a quiet place in the home where homework can be completed without the distractions of siblings and other family members. Maybe your child needs to be moving all the time. Find a good rocking chair or stability ball for him/her to have movement while completing school tasks. Just remember that each child is different, and just because it works for one child does not mean it will work for another. Be flexible and patient so that both you and the child can have a good school year.
5. Set expectations: Let you kids know now that when they walk in the door, they should hang their coat and backpack up and bring you all of the papers to sort. Do you have a child who needs to do homework as the first thing upon arriving home? How about the child that needs to eat as it seems like school lunches were not that appetizing that day? There is also the child who just needs to let his/her brain unwind by doing nothing but veggin' in front of the TV. I heard there is also the child who comes in and practices his/her musical instrument every day....I have not seen such a child so I do not believe this to be true. Some children do better waking up early and getting the homework done or practicing the musical instrument in the morning. The key is to figure out what works best for each of your children and then communicate what you expect so that the routine can begin as quickly - and run as smoothly - as possible.


July 2009

CENTS OF PEACE
Family Car Trip and Packing Philosophy
BY: MS Simplicity
Nostalgia cluttered my thinking with memories of those car rides we reminisce about with friends. You know the ones I am talking about: the one where your brother rode in the back window and your sister slept on the hump on the floor......or the trip where your aunt threw up in your Barbie case. You know, the ones where you opened the window and arm wrestled with the wind as your dad chain-smoked all the way to California. The one where you just piled in the car and headed west...... the vacation where no motel reservations were made, and you had to sleep in the car...I call the back window!
For the past two summers we have taken long car trips with our boys. Last summer it was 2,700 miles in a Corolla with the 5 of us. This summer it was 2,200 miles in an Explorer with 4 of us. Last year in order to take the Corolla; I really had to have a method to my packing madness. I carefully thought about what to bring along, especially clothes as they take up so much room. During both of these experiences I developed a method to my packing madness:

1. I packed by day and put everyone's clothes for that particular day in one bag. When we made our stops, I didn't have to bring in our entire luggage, just what we needed for that day's stop. For example, if our first stay was at a hotel for just one day, I packed one bag with our clothes for the next day in it, and nothing extra. So when we checked into the hotel, we grabbed that day's bag. If we checked into a hotel for 3 days, I had 3 days worth of clothes packed in one bag.
2. I really packed only what we needed, nothing extra.
3. We always do laundry half way through our stay. Most hotels have multiple washers and dryers available and for about $10 you can complete 3 loads of laundry in about 90 minutes. You may want to call ahead to your hotel and check if this is an amenity offered at your hotel. Often we will stay at family and friends and they don't mind if you do a couple of loads of laundry. Just think of all of the time you will save when you come home and half of the clothes you unpack are already clean!
4. A separate bag for pajamas. This works really well as it stops the searching through the entire luggage for those missing pajamas. I only pack one pair for each of us and the pajamas also get washed at some point during our trip.
5. A bag with coats and pants. This bag did not come out of the car at all because we enjoyed warm temperatures our whole trip. Coats and long pants are bulky and take up a lot of room in luggage.
6. A bag for swim gear. Not every stop required swim gear, so we left this bag in the car until we needed it. Sunscreen, goggles and empty plastic bags for wet swim suits should also be placed in this bag. Make sure that you pack at least one towel so if you go to a water park you can have at least one towel to share (remember it is hot out and you will dry off quickly and multiple towels won't be necessary.
7. A sleeping bag and pillow in case someone needs to sleep on a hotel floor or wants to snuggle in the car to take a nap.
8. A collapsible cooler, to keep our day's supply of water cold.
9. One bag with everyone's toiletries (okay, so in traveling with four "men," I was the only one with toiletries; they had toothbrushes. This bag came in with us at every stop for obvious reasons.
10. Snacks purchased at the grocery store before we left so that when we were gassing up the car, we didn't add to the cost with high-priced junk food.
11. A portable DVD player with an adapter enabling it to play throughout the car (especially nice so that we could all listen to the sound of light sabers slicing through the air as we drove through arid Wyoming)
12. Small games and books that travel well. We have a box packed with various games such as mad lib's, card games, car bingo and of course for us the infamous Nintendo DS complete with car charger.
13. Individual MP3 players are also a great thing to pack as it gives the kids a break from what mom and dad are listening to on the radio.
14. I had bag that I kept all of our electronics and chargers in. This bag often went into the hotels with us so that we could make sure that everything became properly charged before the next days adventures.
15. Hubby and I even bring our laptops; there are free wireless connections everywhere these days except for business hotels where they charge an arm and a leg for internet usage.
16. If you are counting we probably pack on average of 10 small back packs or duffel bags, not huge suitcases. Because of the size of the bags they are easy to wedge in small spaces in trunks and even under seats.

I want these vacations for one reason: my family. Be it good or bad, this is a trip that we will always remember. The boys will be forever saying that the car was too small; really, it wasn't...well, maybe the back seat was. But is there a back seat big enough when traveling with three kids?

I challenge you to instead of reminiscing about the memories we had as kids, make your own memories with your kids. Become a road warrior in your own way: from traveling to small destinations within 100 miles of your town to taking a trip across the country. What will your kids remember in 20 years? I know what we will still be talking about!


June 2009

CENTS OF PEACE
Summer Organizing with the Kids in Mind
BY: MS Simplicity
Stuffed animals: What is the number one gift that children love and parents strongly dislike....that would be stuffed animals. Stuffed animals are often large and bulky and are difficult to store. When that organizing bug hits you, your first instinct may be to donate them all while your children are not watching, but hold on and try some other ideas.

One way to get your kids involved and to take ownership in paring down their supply of stuffed animals and other out grown or unused toys would be to hold a Neighborhood Carnival. Think of some fun games with the prizes being stuffed animals, small toys or gently used books. Invite the neighbors and let the festivities begin.

Another idea to rid your house of these items is to find a soldier overseas who would be willing to receive a box of the toys and distribute them to the local children. Consider churches who collect items in order to take toys on mission trips.

Swim bag: Gather all of your swimming odds and ends in one location. Grab that sunscreen, goggles, beach balls, flippers, life jackets, towels and sand toys and place them all in one large bag or even a laundry basket. This will save time and frustration on trying to round those items up at the last minute as your kids are begging you to go to the pool or the lake.

Visit your library: Instead of buying the kids new books this summer, make a visit to your local library. Create a reading center in your home where all of the library books are kept. Many libraries offer summer reading incentives that are free to participate in. Libraries are not just for books anymore. They offer CD's, DVD's , video games, books on tape/CD, internet access and magazines among other things.

Plant a Garden: It is still not too late to plant a garden. A garden will save you money on fresh produce as well as the trips to the store. If you don't have space for a garden, think about planting a container garden of tomatoes, fresh herbs or even strawberries. It might even introduce your child to a new found favorite fruit or vegetable.

Trips to the park: Ride or drive to neighborhood parks to give the kids a place to get rid of all of that energy. Challenge the kids to see if you can visit all of the parks in your city. You may even discover some hidden out of the way treasures.


May 2009

Garage Sale Organization

BY: Diana Wilberscheid

Blue Skies

701-371-7508

diana.wilberscheid@vodencorp.com

Spring is in the air, and that can only mean one thing - - it’s garage sale time! Garage sales can be a great way to de-clutter your home and put a little extra cash in your pocket.So here are a few tips for holding a successful garage sale. And it’s organized in a step-by-step chronological check-list.

TWO MONTHS BEFORE THE SALE:

  • Set the date for your sale.This gives you a specific goal on the calendar to work towards.I find that Friday is the best day as it attracts the serious garage sale customers.You can also have a “Plan B” in the event that the day of your sale is rainy or has poor traffic, you might be able to hold the sale on Saturday morning too.

  • Consider a joint sale with friends or family.This allows you to share the work, offer more items for sale and makes the event fun.Plus, it is great to have multiple people available to work the day of the sale; someone to man the check-out and cash box, someone to help customers find things or test items, someone who continually “merchandises” your items, etc.You’ll also have a lot more traffic at your sale if it is a neighborhood event.

  • Bags needed. Start saving your grocery shopping bags and small boxes as you’ll be amazed at how many you’ll need on the day of the sale for bagging your customer’s sales.

  • Print price tags. Print out price tags using your computer and printer labels.You’ll need lots of price tags!If you’re doing a joint sale, also include your initials on the labels.I don’t price anything lower than 25 cents, and keep prices rounded to the nearest dollar.Makes the check-out of customers much easier. Every item should be priced and clearly marked.

  • Create a garage sale holding area. Ideally, this holding area is where the sale will be held – in the garage.This eliminates moving garage sale items numerous times prior to your sale.Once you’ve filled a box or Rubbermaid tote with priced items, you’ll be able to move it out to the holding area and it will be ready to sell.

  • Decide what to sell. I like to make a list of every room in the house, and schedule a day on the calendar to sort through that room.Bigger rooms with many items to sort may require 2 days or more. Scheduling these rooms for de-cluttering and pricing, ensures that you’ll get through everything prior to your sale. Plus it breaks down the job of getting ready for the sale into smaller, more manageable projects. And you can also prioritize rooms.Rooms that are in desperate need of de-cluttering, typically have the most items for your garage sale.

  • Get your kids (and spouse) involved. A garage sale deadline is the perfect incentive to get your kids to sort through their toys, clothes and other personal items.By sorting through their items, they can easily determine what items they no longer use or like.And as an added incentive, I let my kids keep the money that they get from the sale of their items.When I print up my price tags, I print labels for each of my kids too.As they clean their rooms out, they can immediately price their items and put them in a box for the garage sale.

ONE MONTH BEFORE THE SALE:

  • Sort and price. Keep on task and follow your plan for de-cluttering each room. An easy way to do this is to have the right supplies ready to go.Here is what you’ll need to sort and price in each room:

    • Price tags

    • Garbage can

    • Recycling bin

    • Boxes marked for garage sale items

    • Box marked“Move to Another Room”

    • Box marked “Fix”

    • Masking tape and\or safety pins (great for putting small items together so that they don’t get separated prior to the sale.You can also use Ziploc bags.)

    • Permanent marker (you may want to write additional notes on your sale tags such as; 2-piece set, used only once, etc.)

Then start de-cluttering the room, working from left to right.If there are drawers or closets, empty them completely.As you identify items to sell, put price tags on them right away and put them in your garage sale boxes.If you have items that you want to sell that need cleaning or fixing, put them in the “Fix” box. You’ll price them after they are in tip-top shape. By eliminating those items that you no longer use, don’t fit, are out-of-date or broken, you’ll discover you have a lot more space in your rooms for the things that you really do use. Do not wait until the night before your sale to start pricing!

  • Advertise your sale. The key to a profitable sale is to make sure that you have a lot of customers at your sale.So spend the money to place a classified ad in your local newspaper.I run my ad the day prior to and the day of the sale.You can also send an email to your friends promoting your sale, and encourage them to forward the message onto their friends.Be sure to advertise your unique or big-ticket items, as these are often what attracts customers to your sale.Include the date, time and location of your sale in the ad.

  • Donate left-over items: Schedule a date and time for one of the local thrift stores to come and pick-up your left over garage sale items. Don’t let unsold items go back into your house or remain in your garage. I like to schedule this for the Saturday afternoon immediately after my sale, as this ensures that your garage is cleaned out. And to me this is the true measurement of success of your garage sale – you’ve de-cluttered (and hopefully made some extra money too)!

ONE WEEK BEFORE THE SALE:

  • Signage.Make your garage sale signs that you’ll put up the day before your sale. Be sure to include the date of your sale, your address and the sale hours.Spend some money to make signs big enough for drive-by traffic to easily read.Also determine how many signs you need.You can make smaller directional signs to post on primary streets to direct customers to your sale.

  • Change box.Go to the bank and get cash so that you can make change for your customers. Put this money in a cash box that you can use during the sale.And decide ahead of time whether or not you want to accept checks.

  • Display gear.Track down folding tables, clothing racks, shelves, etc. that you can use for displaying your garage sale items. You want to have these in your garage and ready to go prior to the night before the sale, as this will make your pre-sale setup go much faster.You can even use a clothesline stretched across your garage to display your hanging items.

NIGHT BEFORE THE SALE:

  • Prepare the sale area.Remove everything from the garage that you don’t want to sell or cover the items with a sheet or drop cloth.

  • Display your items with style:Take some time to organize your items and display them in an interesting and easy-to-view format.Merchandising is key. Use clothing racks (you may want to even rent some) to hang clothing items, so that they are easier to see.

  • Organize the items: Put like items together and take the time to place signs in your garage so that your customers can easily find what they are looking for.If you have lots and lots of children’s clothes, separate them by size and make simple signs to hang above the tables. Signs to create; Books, Housewares, Kitchen Items, Girls Clothing (sizes 7 to 12), etc.

DAY OF THE SALE:

  • Promote the sale.Get up early and put out your garage sale signs.You can also use balloons to attract customers.

  • Check out table. Setup a sturdy table to use as your check-out counter; you can even put up a sign so that your customers know where to go to pay for their items.The check-out table items should include; your change box, a calculator, a notebook for recording sales per participant, clipboards so that you can easily put price tags from one customer on them to tally their sales, markers, garbage bags for customer sales, trash can for garbage and tape measure. It’s also a nice touch to have a radio and have music playing during your sale.

  • Assign jobs.It works best if you have assigned jobs for everyone helping out with the sale.You’ll need 1 to 2 people at the check-out table and someone else to keep your displays straightened throughout the day and answer customer’s questions. Switch jobs throughout the day.

  • Security. If you have expensive items that you are selling, display them near your check-out table.Never leave your cash box unattended, and remove the large bills and move them to a safe location in your home throughout the day.

AFTER THE SALE:

  • Clean-up.Don’t forget to take down your garage sale signs when the sale is over.If you have purchased laminated garage sale signs, save them for next year.

  • Celebrate!Count out your money and divide up the profits.Don’t forget to subtract shared expenses (ad costs, signage, table rentals, etc.) and deduct your starting cash box balance.

  • Pack-up.Pack up the leftover items so that they are ready to be picked up the next day by one of the local charitable organizations.


March 2009
Cash in Your Closet (or Garage, or Shed…..)

By Teresa Bernstein, Financial Advisor

When faced with challenging economic times, such as we are now, one thing stands out:Less is more!Many of us have adjusted our personal budgets bracing for the unknown in the job markets, etc.It’s time for a healthy purging!Our spending should be more conservative and we should be spending on things we truly need such as replacing clothes the kids have outgrown, necessities for personal care, etc.

This is a great time to find cash in our closets.There is definitely a little planning involved in this, but it will feel great when you’ve cleaned out those unused items and turned them into cash!

Prior to spring melting, look ahead to cleaning out spring and summer clothing.You always want to be AHEAD of the season as this is the time used clothing stores are getting out their spring and summer items.In our area, try consignment shops for your adult clothing or ones that pay for your clothing outright, such as Plato’s Closet.Children’s items can be sold at Once Upon A Child, which is a national franchise located in many cities.As you’re thinking of replacing your children’s clothing for new sizes, check out these shops to purchase items.You may be able to trade your used items for gently used larger children’s sizes without exchanging cash.Toys, cribs, and play equipment may also be sold to these places.

Sporting goods can be sold or consigned at used shops.March and April are the time of year that shops are marking down winter items and making way for spring and summer sport gear.Baseball shoes, soccer items, Frisbees, water sports items can add up to cash used for summer fun for your family.Fishing gear and boating items are in hot demand especially for people that are “experimenting” with the sport and don’t want to spend a lot of money on new equipment.

Books are one of the most exchanged items on the internet.There are many websites that buy books.Check your local area to see if there is a book store or book exchange that buys books.Unless you need the book as a reference item or it hold’s a special place in your life, purge the used books.The longer the book remains on your shelf, the less you will get for it when you resell it.It is easier for book exchanges to resell the book the closer they buy it from it’s publishing date.Collectible and Cook Books are always in demand by book resellers.

Yard equipment is one of my favorite things to get rid of if it is not going to be used.That old lawnmower with a “few issues” can be sold or repaired for sale at a local small engine repair shop.Ask the repair tech to purchase it for parts or to repair it for you to sell on a regional website.Also in this category is used lawn furniture (you may need to paint or repair it), used play equipment, birdbaths, and anything that takes up space in your garage or storage shed and is not in use.

Furniture is an easy sell.As long as it is clean and in good shape, this is an item that once listed should move quickly.If you are in a community with a college or university, the best time to advertise is one month prior to fall classes beginning.Try a used furniture store or an antique dealer depending on the age of the item.When selling these items to another store, bring a cushion in good shape and a picture of the item.Lamps and accessory decor can be sold to some used furniture stores.

Sometimes a little creativity can go a long way.You can always try “bundling”.This is an idea where you advertise based on a category.An example of this would be “A COLLEGE KIDS KITCHEN”- used dishes, appliances, and cookware.Another idea is “COMPLETE LIVING ROOM MAKEOVER”- Couch, end tables, lamps, tasteful accessories.Whoever said, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure” knew what they were talking about!

Both customers and potential customers are interested in what's happening at your company. This page is easier and faster to update than a traditional printed newsletter--and it will save you money. Use the Web Parts and zones to break it up into topical sections as we have done here.