Summer sizzles with organization

Today we welcome a guest post from certified professional organizer Bonnie Joy Dewkett, who runs The Joyful Organizer in western Connecticut, and her wonderful advice on summer preparations.

The summer months are almost here for those of us in the northern hemisphere! By taking a few moments now to get organized, and plan for your summer, you will be able to make better use of the free time you have while the weather is warm and the sun is shining.

  1. Start by making summer plans now. Planning your vacations, organizing projects and home improvement endeavors now will help ensure that they get done. Planning and putting events on your calendar will help you find the time to purchase supplies and get the work done. Also, planning vacations ahead of time can save you money as prices are often less expensive the earlier you book.
  2. At the end of the school year, have your kids go through their backpacks and get rid of any junk. Put important papers, such as report cards, in a file. Toss all the trash, recycle papers, and store scissors and other supplies that can be used next year. If the backpack is not going to be used again next year, consider donating it to someone less fortunate.
  3. This is a great time of year to buy new sun block and bug spray. The ones you have from last year may be almost empty, and you run the risk of running out when you need it most. Sun block in particular loses its effectiveness over time.
  4. Create a “to-go” bag for swimming, or the beach. Put frequently used items like towels, goggles, and pools passes in the bag and keep it by the door or in the trunk of your car. Throw in an extra bathing suit and towel for when you have the opportunity to take a dip!
  5. If you are taking a vacation, start doing research now. Visit the city’s chamber of commerce website and look for deals and coupons. If you are an AAA member, contact them in advance for free maps in your destination. Find out if your AAA discount can apply to your lodging, or any of your trip expenses.
  6. Flip flops can easily add clutter to an entryway. Use large drink tubs, or baskets to toss summer shoes in. Or, you can hang them on hooks to make sure you can always view your options, and they are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
  7. This is a good time of year to update your car’s first aid kit. If you don’t have one, now is a great time to get one. Many discount stores sell pre-packaged first aid kits that are under $10. Make sure all medicines are up to date and that band-aids still have adhesive.
  8. Life jackets need to fit properly in order to be effective. Have your kids try theirs on at the beginning of the season to see if you need to purchase a new size. Don’t put your child’s life in danger with a life jacket that is either too big or too small.
  9. Summer sports equipment such as soccer cleats, baseball gloves, and basketball shoes should be tried on before the summer season begins. This will ensure you have plenty of time to purchase new ones if your child has grown from the previous year. Shopping early will help you have the best chance of finding their size in the style they desire.
  10. If your kids are going away to camp, call the camp now to request a list of required items. Start shopping with your weekly errands to avoid a large time commitment or expense all at once.

Get moving: A checklist for an organized move

Today we welcome Bonnie Joy Dewkett as a guest post author on Unclutterer. She is a professional organizer (The Joyful Organizer) based out of southwest Connecticut. The following advice is based on her Guide to a Joyful Move.

Moving can be stressful, but it’s nothing to fear. These tips will help to make your transition less stressful, more organized, and an enjoyable new adventure for your family.

Before You Leave Your Old Home:

  1. If you have children, make sure each child has his own bag packed with any toys, blankets, or books that he will need to go to bed at night. These will help him feel comfortable during the transition.
  2. Purchase an expandable file folder and start gathering documents such as birth certificates, passports, and currency. These items should not be shipped with your household goods.
  3. Call your doctors to obtain written copies of the family’s medical records. Offices sometimes charge for these documents, so have a form of payment ready. Also, see if your doctor can refer you to a new doctor in your new location. If applicable, ask for copies of prescriptions in case you cannot see a doctor quickly in your new location. If you have remaining refills at a local pharmacy, call to see if they can transfer them to a new pharmacy where you are moving.
  4. Arrange for the home to be cleaned after all your furniture has been moved. Stay one night in a hotel and return to the home to clean, or hire a cleaning service to do the job for you while you are traveling to your new location. Keep in mind that many real estate contracts state that the home must be left in “broom clean condition.” Failure to do so could result in a fee or difficulty at closing.
  5. Call your utility companies to arrange for final readings. Give them your new address to have any remaining bills forwarded.
  6. If you are using a professional moving company, ask about insurance for your items while in transit. You should also contact your homeowner’s insurance company to inquire about the same.
  7. Send out change of address cards to friends and family.
  8. Fill out a change of address and mail forwarding forms with the Post Office. These forms can be filled out online as well.
  9. Pack irreplaceable or valuable items such as cameras, jewelry, wedding photos/videos, or family treasures to travel with your family. Also, keep in mind that most van lines are not climate controlled. Consider this when deciding to pack items like candles in with your other possessions.
  10. If you are packing yourself, color-code your boxes. (Blue for the kitchen, red for the bedroom, etc).
  11. Pack a kit of the following items for use while you are in transit, and for your first night in your new home:
    • Toilet paper
    • Shower curtain
    • Snacks and bottled water
    • Clean clothes
    • Cleaning products
    • Flashlight and/or night lights
    • First-aid kit and medicines needed by your family
    • Air Mattresses and sleeping bags (if you decide to spend your first night in your new home).

When You Arrive At your New Home:

  1. Start by sorting your boxes and bringing them to their appropriate rooms. (Red to the kitchen, etc).
  2. Evaluate if you will need to purchase any organizational supplies such as shelves, pot racks, closet systems, etc. Purchase these before you start to unpack. Not doing so will make unpacking more complicated.
  3. If you need assistance in getting unpacked, contact a professional organizer. She will help you determine the best organizational systems for your new home, have them installed, and unpack your possessions using the systems.
  4. Use labels and/or sticky notes to help everyone locate items in the kitchen cabinets or pantry. This will alleviate questions and frustration when trying to find items in their new locations.
  5. Allow kids to help unpack their rooms. If possible, allow them to decide where their bed will go, where they want their play area to be located, etc. This allows them to make the new room their own.
  6. Have a sleepover your first night in your new home. Set up air mattresses, play cards, or if you have the capability, watch a movie on a laptop or portable DVD player. Bring flashlights and snacks for the family. Spending your first night all together in one room helps kids with the new creaks and noises associated with a new home.
  7. Unpack every box. Even if you are not using everything in your new home, you should unpack everything to look for any missing or damaged items. Insurance often limits the amount of time you have to file a claim for missing or damaged items.
  8. Lay each piece of newspaper or bubble wrap flat after unwrapping an item to make sure that you completely unpacked everything from its wrapping.
  9. Call the newcomer services in your area. They will often provide you with a basket or package of coupons and offers for your new area. You will probably be eating out for a little while, so you might as well save some money!
  10. If you do eat out a few times be sure to ask for menus, coupons, and business cards. Create a three ring binder with the menus of the places you like, and make sure to circle the items your family enjoyed. This will come in handy on those busy nights when you just aren’t sure what to eat.
  11. After you have been in your new home for about a month, re-evaluate your organizational systems. What is working for your family and what is not? Are you still missing items? Are the items you use in your daily routine hard to find or use? If you did not hire a professional organizer when you first moved in, now is a great time to do so.

Preparing for holiday house guests

They are coming over for the holidays, and they are bringing more than just presents. That’s right, your relatives along with their kids, their stuff, and lots of stress! However, you can be prepared! The following tips will give you some simple ways to get yourself prepared ahead of time:

  1. Clean off your dining table today! I don’t mean the night before, do it today (or at least start). Start finding a permanent home for each item that has accumulated on your dining room table. Chances are the same items end up there again and again because they don’t have a permanent home within your home. Involve the whole family as most of the time, clutter on the dining table belongs to more than just one person. Once you have the table cleaned off, put a centerpiece on it, or something out of the ordinary to make sure it does not accumulate stuff before your dinner party.
  2. Get the dishes ready. If you need to borrow or use special serving dishes or holiday dishes, start taking them out now or borrowing them and get them washed. Use the dining room table as a staging ground to keep them until the holiday.
  3. Clean the house room by room. Pick a room each day or a few rooms each week. Or schedule a special session with your normal cleaning service.
    Don’t wait until the night before everyone arrives to start cleaning.
  4. Take inventory of your guest spaces. Can your guests sleep on your pull out couch or in your spare room comfortably? Does the room need to be cleaned? This is a great time to get your guest items organized, and to throw out and donate any unnecessary items that have found their way into your guest spaces.
  5. Create a friendly environment for your guests. Lay out guest towels, bathrobes, magazines, mints, maps (for your out of town guests), and water for your guests. Provide your guests with enough information so that they can enjoy your geographic area without assistance from you. Make sure they are familiar with phone and Internet access at your home as well.
  6. Be prepared to spend time with your relatives. Do your cleaning and preparation ahead of time so you can spend time relaxing and visiting, and not in the kitchen. If your relatives will be around for a number of days, consider making dinner reservations at a local restaurant so you can take a night and all relax together.
  7. Ask your guests if they have any special dietary needs before they arrive. This will help you avid any last minute trips to the grocery store.
  8. Have any gifts wrapped and ready to distribute before your guests arrive. They are lots of fun to shake and look at for the kids in your family. This will also allow you to spend time with your family instead of locked up in your bedroom wrapping presents.
  9. Remember to enjoy your company. Sharing your home can be stressful, but by cleaning and organizing in advance, you can have a relaxing time visiting with those you love!

Bonnie Joy Dewkett is the owner and operator of The Joyful Organizer. She offers professional organization services to help you organize your home and your life.