It is officially summer and today was the very last day of school for my girls! Usually organization is a topic for back to school or for the New Year but I actually like to take a little time at the beginning of summer to get organized. I feel like once things are in order in our lives, I can actually sit back and enjoy summer with my family. I was thrilled to partner with Staples on this sponsored post with tons of ideas to help you get organized as well.
If you want to purchase some of the organizational items mentioned below, Staples is offering 30% off regular priced purchases of Staples brand products from 6/5-6/11 to celebrate the 30th Anniversary. Staples brand products are a good value and make it very easy to get organized!
Ultimately I believe getting organized is about the discipline to take little steps each day. Taking a little time each night to purge, put things away and tidy is ultimately the secret to an organized life.
Here are some specific ideas to get started:
1. Paper Clutter/Avoid the Pileup. This is always one of the first tips for getting organized- dealing with all your paper clutter. A stack of random papers and bills on the kitchen counter or your desk is a surefire way to forget appointments and have late payments. I try to deal with papers immediately- pay bills as they arrive, sign permission slips the same day and put them right back in backpacks, RSVP immediately and add the party on our calendar and so on. You will be amazed at what a difference dealing with papers immediately makes in staying organized and avoiding overwhelm.
2. One Touch/Mail. A big part of managing paper clutter is dealing with mail and magazines immediately. I like to sort the mail as I am walking into the house- toss all junk, I have a magazine file for periodicals, bills and checks are put on my desk/my husband’s desk to deal with quickly. One touch for all papers is an excellent goal and a perfect way to stay on top of things.
3. Meal Planning. Meal planning is a non negotiable in our house as it is so important to eating well and avoiding the stress of 5pm “What’s for Dinner?” or rushing to the store constantly to grab one more thing. I take 30 minutes on the weekend and plan our meals, write them on a chalkboard so everyone knows what to expect and make the grocery list. There are many weeks I just don’t feel like doing this and having at least 10 simple meals that you can fall back on is a great way to quickly push through menu planning.
4. Meal Prep. This is relatively new for me and has made a huge difference in eating well and saving time throughout the week. I prep fresh fruit and veggies for snacks and meals on Sunday night. You can get more details about this process here.
5. Money Management. Implementing a money management program is a great way to stay organized financially. You can keep track of bills, payments, balance accounts, budgets and more via software or free online programs.
6. Automate. If you can automate as many payments as possible each month, it can be a great time saver and can eliminate the paper clutter coming in and out of your home as well. We automate every payment possible. If finances are a little tight, you can use an app from your money management software to get daily updates on bank balances.
7. Create a Budget (and stick to it!). I can’t talk about organization without delving a little deeper into financial management. Now might be a great time to create a budget with your spouse based on fixed expenses and variable expenses. Check the last three months of spending to see what you are really spending (not what you think you spend) and see where things might be cut or where you might want to increase the budget. Maybe you can cut back on dining out and instead pop a little extra money into the kid’s college fund. In our home we have bi-monthly budget meetings. All the bank accounts are reconciled and my husband and I quickly go through what we spent and cross check that to what the budget is for that category to be sure we are on track with spending. Having unorganized finances is a recipe for disaster.
8. Shred/Purge Papers. And on that same note, purging the papers you don’t absolutely need is a great way to reduce clutter and feel more organized. We have a Staples Brand Products shredder that fits right over a trash can to shred important financial documents. I purge the vast majority of the papers that come into our house. Electronic manuals, banking documents, payroll stubs and so on can usually be found online so really consider if what you are holding onto is necessary.
9. Declutter the Closet. Keeping on top of closets and dressers can go a long way in saving time getting dressed each morning. Purge the closet at least twice a year to donate or toss old/worn items, items you don’t like and items that don’t fit. Surround yourself with things that you love and that look great on you. The rest needs to go.
10. Camera on Your Phone. The camera on your phone can be a lifesaver in organizing. I use mine all the time to snap photos in stores of gift ideas, parking lot location at the mall or airport, in a pinch I snap a photo of the fridge before racing to the grocery store, things I see that I want to make at home, books I want to read and tons and tons more. Just remember to regularly delete your photos or file them into folders. I have a recipes folder for foods I want to recreate, blog ideas folder for things that inspire me, a travel folder for trip ideas and so on.
11. Cleaning Schedule. Developing some sort of cleaning schedule is a great idea- especially if you have kids. We have one schedule for school and a more extensive schedule for summer vacation.
12. 20 Minutes Nighttime Routine. If you can dedicate 10-20 minutes at night to tidying you might find the house feels so much cleaner and more organized. I like to turn on music after school and the kids and I spend three songs (about 10 minutes) racing around the house picking up as many items as possible and putting them where they belong. In 10 minutes we can get a lot done and then before bed I spend another 10 minutes just loading the dishwasher, running the vacuum or getting piles of laundry sorted for the morning. Doing a little each day makes a big difference!
13. Empty and clean your purse and car. Nothing makes me feel worse than a purse that is crammed full of tons of junk. I absolutely hate rifling through a messy bag to try and dig out my ATM card or the receipt I really need to find. Make it a regular habit to clean your wallet and your purse of papers, wrappers, toys and other assorted items that can accumulate. While you are at it, why not try and have a weekly car cleaning? With children, a car can turn into a garbage can on wheels really quickly so staying on top of emptying and vacuuming the car every week can eliminate the need for a massive deep clean.
14. Immediately put items in their place. Finding a place where every single item in your home belongs is a great gift to give yourself and your family. Magazines don’t belong on the kitchen counter and tape measures and bags of broken crayons don’t belong in a junk drawer. Find an actual spot to keep your things and then make a habit of putting items where they belong. When I come home with a bag of groceries, a stack of mail, my camera and jacket, I don’t plop it all on the counter and walk away. It only takes a minute to actually put each item where it belongs. You will save yourself a ton of time in the long run by not constantly searching for items you misplaced.
15. Central Calendar. A central calendar to keep track of everything is so important. Some families like to sync Google Calendar or other apps to keep on top of commitments and schedules. I prefer an old fashioned calendar right on the kitchen wall. We note all the children’s activities, travel, events etc.. It never fails that the few times I forget to note things on the calendar, we forget and miss the event. Always. So find a system and stick with it to keep everyone on the same page.
16. Get Something/Give Something. It can be incredibly difficult to stay on top of all the children’s books, toys, clothes and random treasures. If left to their own devices, my children would not be able to open the door to their closets. I regularly go through their rooms with bags for donation and we have a rule- if something comes into the house, something needs to go out. My daughter just came home with several new toys for her birthday so no surprise, we went through her toybox and got rid of an equal number of items to make room for the new things. The same goes for me. If I come home with three new shirts, I go through the closet and try to find at least three things that are worn or no longer suit me and donate them to make space.
17. Organize Photos. I know many of us have countless photos of the family. I easily have thousands. I try to create one photo book per year of the highlights and one book for any major events or travel. For all other photos I try to go through my camera and phone at least once a month and delete away and just keep the best. The best go into files that are sorted by month or by event. For example: 2016-June or I might do activities like 2016- June- Father’s Day. Keeping the files fairly specific makes it so much easier to sort later. I do have pictures on an external drive and it is a really great idea to have a backup of that drive. I have an external hard drive that was about $100 but it holds tons and tons and tons of pictures. For smaller numbers of photos a flash drive is cheap and a very easy way to store photos.
18. Delegating. Delegating things makes life so much easier doesn’t it? I could not possibly work full time, stay on top of the endless activities for my children, manage my own schedule, cook, clean and basically do it all myself. No way. Whether it is hiring help, enlisting your spouse and kids or just saying no to more obligations, you might consider taking some things off your own plate. I always want to do everything myself but I know at the end of the day I just can’t and delegating certain tasks to others really ensures all the plates keep spinning in the air.
19. Fun List. Many of us are so busy, compiling a fun list is a great way to maximize those precious hours of down time. I have a pinterest board for children’s crafts and travel ideas and I have simple Staples Brand Products file folders with inspiration that I file away. We subscribe to some local magazines and if I see a restaurant review that looks interesting, I tear the page out. If I see a fun destination or activity, I tear it out. I keep all the inspiration on hand for quick reference. On the rare occasion we have an evening free, pulling out a file ensures we don’t spend the time arguing back and forth about where to go. I can pull the file out and immediately see several restaurants that I want to check out and we are on our way. You might also consider a bucket list of activities. We do this every summer and fall but why not have one for year round? Things like go to the drive in movies, catch fireflies, visit a local museum, pick strawberries… whatever it is that strikes you make a note of it. When you do have a weekend or day that is free, you can quickly skim the list and find all sorts of ideas to create an amazing day.
20. Homework Caddy. This is such a big help during the school year. I keep a small box that is toted to the kitchen table right after school. The box has a handful of supplies inside needed to do homework. It keeps everyone organized and on task and makes the entire process go much faster.
21. Children’s Art. Art and papers can be really overwhelming – especially when you kids are little. I like to really edit down what is most important for my children, file the items in a folder organized by year (i.e. Kindergarten or 3rd Grade) and by child. All the folders are placed in a simple plastic tub. I still have all the memories safely put away. If you prefer a digital file, you can always take photos of important art and school assignments and store them on your external hard drive or create photo books. Really important items I laminate with our Staples Brand Products Laminator before filing them away.
22. Write it Down. As my children get older our lives just seem to get busier and busier and busier. I love lists- lots and lots of lists. You might get a task management app or just sharpen your pencil and grab a fresh notepad. Ongoing lists of things to do, groceries to buy, people to call is a great way to be sure things don’t fall through the cracks.
23. Plan Ahead. If you can find a consistent time each week to jot down what you hope to accomplish that week. I tend to write out a daily to do list on Sunday for the upcoming week. I highlight the top three items each day that are the biggest priority. Those are the items I try to focus on first. You might also consider setting goals for the month or the quarter or even the entire year. I like to try and take stock of how things are progressing and if I am really focusing my time and energy on what is most important. I have a Staples Brand Products planner that has tons of room to fill in everything I want to accomplish.
24. Reduce Email. Email seems to take over my life some days. If you feel the same, consider reducing your email by spending an hour unsubscribing like crazy to junk newsletters. There are free programs online as well that help with this process.
25. Morning Prep. Even if you are a morning person, taking a few minutes at night to prep for the following day can be a huge help in reducing stress in the morning. Set out clothing, pack lunches, get backpacks and sports bags ready and consider making breakfast ahead of time.
26. Clear Your Desk. A clean desk is a great way to help with productivity during the day. Piles of papers, sticky notes, boxes and clutter make it so difficult to focus and have a clear mind.
27. Project Planning. Project planning works wonders for work but also for home life as well. Any major events like DIY home improvement or birthdays or big trips can be treated just like a project at work. Start listing out all the small steps for your project and tackling them one by one, leading up to your completion date. For a big trip you might list out planning the budget, making hotel/car and airplane reservations, packing, shopping, itinerary, scheduling a house sitter and so on. Creating a list with step by step activities turns an overwhelming project into bite size pieces. Don’t procrastinate on a big project just because it feels like too much. Try accomplishing just one tiny step toward your goal and see if that helps.
28. Bullet Journaling. Bullet journaling is a huge trend right now. Basically it involves picking up a simple journal and keeping everything in the world in that one spot. Lists of books to read, tasks you want to accomplish by month, project planning, workout schedules– whatever is in your brain can go into the journal. Nothing needs to be organized perfectly, you can create an index on the first page and just jot down things as you go. Everything in one spot and preferably in a compact journal that you can keep with you at all times.
29. Exercise/Rest. If you aren’t taking care of yourself physically, you really can’t give 100% during the day. Prioritizing proper nutrition, water, exercise and rest is key to having energy to accomplish all the things you want. When I skip a day at the gym and get careless with food, I immediately notice a difference in my overall mood and energy level.
30. Become a Morning Person. Are you a morning person? Studies show that those that wake early and go to bed early tend to be more productive and happier overall. Get some tips to shift from a night owl to a morning person here.
Whew! That is a lot but I hope some of these tips help inspire you to create the life that you want and get organized once and for all.
I’d love to hear YOUR tips for keeping all those balls in the air and staying organized. Please share in the comments below!
A big thank you to Staples for sponsoring this post. As always all opinions expressed are mine and mine alone. If you are feeling lucky shop Staples brand products in store and get a code to enter to win a trip to the hottest summer concert in LA. Sweepstakes runs from 6/6-6/25.