My New Juggling Act

The office reorganization continues…..

As I was going through all of the items in my office, I came across a lot of things that didn’t belong there….empty picture frames, a broken camera, a record (really, a record). All of these things need to leave my office immediately. As I was compiling my box of things that need a new home, I came across a set of 3 juggling balls. Why, might you ask, do I have juggling balls? Well, I used to have them at my desk when I did corporate sales for Borders Books (sadly this company didn’t make it through the economic downturn!). I used to juggle a little every day just for something different to focus on for a few minutes.

I almost put them in the ‘go away’ box and then realized how much they had helped me in that job. It gave me a break, I learned a new skill, it was entertaining to other people in the office and it was fun. I was going to put them in a drawer and then realized they’ve been in the drawer for 1 1/2 years and I never used them.  From this realization grew an increasing number of baby realizations. Here are a few:

-If I am going to use these, they need to be front and center. But what other fantastic, helpful or fun items am I missing out on because they aren’t out where I can easily see and access them. I realized I needed several other items to be easily reached so that I would use them. One of these is my shredder. It has been sitting on the floor so instead of shredding everything immediately, I put papers in a box to shred later. What a waste of time and space! I am moving the shredder upward and getting rid of the ‘To Shred’ box!

-I also realized that juggling was a metaphor for the way I think and work. It is really a simple concept and so streamlined and efficient. You have to be aware of numerous things that are going on, but you have to hyper focus on the next ball you are going to catch. I noticed that this is how I need to work. I need to be aware of the many things I need to do, but I need to focus on the task at hand. I’m a multi tasker by nature, but it often defeats me and I end up overwhelmed. I now know that my main office organization goal is to have a clean desktop so that I can think clearly and focus on one thing at a time.

Several lessons learned today:

1) When you are organizing, focus on how the space will work best for you and what you need. Organization is not a cookie cutter business and one solution will not work for everyone.

2) Inspiration can be found in unlikely places or objects :)

3) Do not underestimate the power of having something fun or beautiful or whimsical if it makes you more productive.

Now I just have to learn to juggle with these, which I bought a set of about 6 years ago.

No seriously, I actually bought some.

More office updates to come!

~Erin

My junk drawer

Well, if I’m going to be a professional organizer, I better get organized! I have tons of systems in place to keep me organized, but some areas of my home are horrendous! Case in point…my home office. Our office is a place that is not used nearly as often as it should be. Even though we work from home, we have two young kids, so often we just bring our laptop downstairs to work. This created multiple problems:

-When we are working downstairs, we are much less productive.

-We bring papers, files, calculators, staplers, etc downstairs and they end up on our kitchen counter for WAY TOO LONG!

-When we put stuff back in the office, it often doesn’t go into an organized place.

Add to all of this that I recently decided to clean out our pantry and since I didn’t want to invest a lot in containers, I “borrowed” some organizers from my office just to see how they would work. They worked out great in the pantry, but I just threw all of their original contents on my desk. My office looked like this:

Yikes!

I’m super embarrassed to even post this picture (you cannot even see one inch of the desktop!), but I am looking at it as an opportunity.

-First, if I show the world what it looks like in it’s worst state, it makes me want to improve it.

-Second, if nothing else, it proves that even though I like to organize, there are places in my life that need a lot of help and attention.

-Third, it will allow me to get a sense of how long it will take to reorganize a home office. As an organizer, I will need to make time estimates for projects. What better place to start than my own house?

So first I looked at everything in the office and made some notes on what I liked, what I didn’t, what I needed, and how I wanted this space to function. Right now the office looks like this:

I can see the desk!

It’s far from finished, but I’m getting a better sense of what I need from this space. And what I need is NOT for it to be the world’s biggest junk drawer! I will post more progress tomorrow!

~Erin

Organize this!

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to start an organizing business. I thrive on cleaning out closets, organizing files, and the constant purge of stuff that’s going on around our house. Cleaning something out organizes a space, but also my mind and my outlook. I am constantly trying to find ways to streamline my life and make processes more efficient, from financial spreadsheets to medicine cabinets. I have put off the actual start of an organizing business for the following reasons:

-I already have a job. My husband and I are part of a family business and work from home, so a huge portion of my time is taken up with work.

-I have 2 young kids. These two little boys are amazing and fun and a whole lot of work.

The Boys!

-We have 3 dogs with a lot of energy and a lot of demands for our time and attention.

-My husband and I like to do road trips and travel, so a lot of time is taken up by either planning or going on trips. These range from day trips to full on vacations.

Utah’s National Parks

-We have made a couple of investments in the last couple of years (including a cross country move) so I haven’t exactly had the start up capital for a home based business.

Keep in mind that none of these things have changed recently. However, I actually don’t see them changing anytime soon. I have realized that I might never find the “perfect” time to start this business. So I decided to just go for it and plug on through as best I can. I’m going to focus on the blog first. My goal is to give people advice, tips, lessons from my own mistakes and hopefully a little inspiration.

So please join me in my journey. I can’t wait to see what lays ahead!

Survey Sunday Begins!!!!

 

Copy of a Copy

I am borderline paranoid about losing my digital pictures. Seriously….I have them on my computer, I print them, I have a backup drive, and I upload them to a photo site. I know it’s good to backup your digital photos, but I might, just might, take it to an extreme. However, I do think it’s smart to consider various options when backing up photos and to have them in at least 2-3 places. Here are some of the things I do in more detail:

-Leave them on my computer

Now a lot of people leave photos on their computer because that’s where they download them and stay in the dubious ‘To Sort’ Folder. However, I know that those ‘To Sort’ folders are often never sorted or gone through. I absolutely love looking at my pictures so they are kind of ridiculously organized. Here’s the breakdown:

~By Year

~Within Each year, I have the following categories: Animals, Events, Hanging Out, Holidays and Birthdays, Misc, and Vacations

~Then I break things down by either month or event.

Some people might not like to leave organized folders of their pictures on their computer because they take up so much space. However, I have a decent amount of memory space on my computer and I am constantly going through old pictures, making prints, etc so I like to have them on there.

-Copy them to a back up Hard Drive

I try to back up my entire computer once a month so I have an updated back up file. I don’t always make it on time, but I’m pretty good about it. I use the ‘WD My Passport’ and I love it. It is easy to use, there are version for PC and Mac, and mine has a Terabyte of storage. It was not long ago that if you said the word Terabyte to me, this is what would come to mind:

However, that is a Trilobite. Yes, a Trilobite. Not Terabyte. A Terabyte is 1000 Gigabytes. So I have a lot of storage for my pictures and files.

-Upload them to a photo site

I try to upload all of my favorite pictures and any I might want to share to a photo site. I use Phanfare. Again, it is easy to navigate, with my subscription I get unlimited storage, and the albums are nice looking and customizable. It does cost $99/ year so it’s not for everyone. However, not only do I get unlimited storage, but when I share the albums with my friends and family, they can download the hi res version of any of the photos for free. You can also add music to your album slideshows and order prints, books and gifts right from the site.

However, there are lot of free upload sites too, like Shutterfly and Flickr. They also have a lot of features, I just like the fact that, on Phanfare, all of my photos are hi resolution.

-Print them

How old fashioned of me!!! Yes, I like actual, hold-them-in-my-hand prints. I like to scrapbook, but I’m about 5 years behind so I really just have boxes of prints. That is an organization project and post in the making. Keep an eye out for it!

Other than the standard prints though, I LOVE photo books. I use Blurb photo books because there are so many customizations, but again, there are a ton of sites that offer photo book design.

These books are great keepsakes, but you can also bet the farm that at least one person I know will get one of these as a gift every year. Is that cheating, to essentially give the same gift every year? I don’t think so!

Ok, so those are the main ways I back up my pictures. I also email them to people and send prints so that other people have copies. And I usually leave the pics on my camera until I’ve at least done a back up on the hard drive. So it might be overkill on the copy of the copy, but it helps me sleep at night! How do you back up and preserve your photos?

~Erin

 

What’s in a Name?

So here is a secret obsession of mine just waiting to burst forth into the world…labeling. I love labels! They make things so much more organized, easy to find and easy to store. For years I have had an automatic label machine that I could use to print labels for all kinds of things. However, the look of them was a little sterile, boring, blah. I have recently jumped into the world of customizing my labels and am starting with my pantry. I have been working on organizing the pantry for a while because it bothers me. It’s one of the few places that even when it’s actually organized, it can look cluttered. So I have been shifting things around, buying bins, baskets and shelves and rearranging like a crazy woman.

I am nowhere near finished, but I have it to a manageable state now. Someday in the future, when the pantry is pretty as a picture, I’ll do a post on the total transformation. For now, let’s focus on the labels…

So far I have 12 bins and canisters which I have organized and labeled. I used the 2″ round labels from Avery (whose products I love, but that’s a different story). These are print to the edge labels and you can use one of their existing designs on the Avery website or you can design your own from scratch. I don’t pride myself on my graphic design capabilities so I used an existing template. Here are my canisters before the labels:

Pantry Storage Jars: Before

And here are the canisters after I added the labels:

Pantry Storage Jars: After

 

Pantry Storage Jar: Close up

I LOVE THEM! I also added labels to 8 storage bins to help keep things organized.

Pantry Bin Labels

Now I know what your thinking, why in the world do you need to label food when you can already see what it is? Good question!!! Here’s why:

-It helps the whole family ensure that everything has a proper place

-It makes groceries easy to put away and ingredients easy to find

-It looks so darn pretty

Ooh! A quick tip for the canisters…since the packaging for these items is thrown away, I write the expiration date on a small piece of paper and tape it to the bottom of the canisters so I never have to worry about things expiring.

I can’t wait to expand on my ever increasing obsession with labels! (I can hear the universal groans of you all who think I’m crazy for being so excited about labels). But…it’s the little things in life people. :)

Happy Labeling!

~Erin

Who gets the credit?

A couple of years ago, I got a call from Visa asking me if I just purchased 20 tires in Georgia. Um, no I did not. Not only did I not buy 20 tires in Georgia, but I was at my sister’s house in Connecticut. It turns out that someone had skimmed my credit card number and created a fake card for their tire shopping extravaganza. Luckily, the purchase of 20 tires alerted a clerk who was on the ball and they reported it to Visa. I was refunded for the tires and my card was canceled.

About 6 months ago, I tried to buy gas and my card had been deactivated. It turns out a grocery store in my area had their computers hacked into and hundreds of credit card numbers were stolen. I quickly called the credit card company and the verdict?…another fake card fabricated for someone’s personal shopping spree in Florida. Again, no I did NOT try to spend $200 at the Build-A-Bear Workshop. Seriously? Who steals a credit card so they can buy 15 talking stuffed animals. Weird.

Not My Kind of Shopping Spree!

The point is that you never know who is gaining access to your personal information. It is super important to stay on top of these things as much as possible. Clearly you can’t prevent every Build a Bear or tire enthusiast from skimming your info, but there are certain things you can do to make sure your personal information and credit are staying intact.

One of the most important things you can do is check your credit through the 3 credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. There is so much information out there about how to check your credit. From years of research, here is what I know: There is only ONE authorized and free place to check your credit. https://www.annualcreditreport.com. This site is endorsed by the Federal Trade Commission, whose main mission is to maintain fair business practices for consumers.

From https://www.annualcreditreport.com, you can process each of the 3 reports one time per year. You can get them all at once or you can spread them out throughout the year. I choose to pull mine every four months. In January, I pull Equifax. In May, I pull Experian. In September, I pull TransUnion.  That way, I get a more consistent idea of what is going on with my financial security.

Keep in mind that this service does not provide your actual credit score (called a FICO score). This is the number that lenders look at to determine eligibility for a loan.  If you are considering applying for a loan or would like your FICO score, Equifax can process reports from all 3 credit agencies for a fee.

However, if you’re not in the market for a loan, you probably don’t need to obtain this number every 4 months. What the free reports from www.annualcreditreport.com will get you is a TON of information, including open accounts, accounts in bad standing or collections, flags on your account, previous names and addresses you have used, and much more. Once you are able to review all of this information, you have the right to dispute anything you feel is incorrect. It’s just a smart and free way to keep track of your accounts and also see what lenders may be reviewing regarding your financial history.

Here is my warning: Do NOT trust the commercials and websites that promise you free credit reports, such as freecreditreport.com. Most of these sites will either make you sign up for an ongoing service that you have to pay for (they say you can easily cancel, but are counting on you to forget) or they inundate you with credit card offers because they are actually gathering your information for marketing purposes. Plus, they have super annoying commercials with songs that haunt your dreams. Just remember…the songs will fill your head, the credit card offers will fill your inbox and the monthly charges will fill your credit card bill. Don’t do it!

Only use https://www.annualcreditreport.com to pull your credit if you want to keep your information safe and have the service free of charge.

Now what does this have to do with Neatening Your Nest? Lots of things, my friend. Financial stability is one of the hallmarks of an organized and stress free home. You owe it to yourself and your family to ensure you are doing whatever you can to maintain control of what is yours. It also gives you a clearer sense of where your money is going, allows you to get a big picture of money you may currently owe, makes you follow up on accounts you have closed, and lets you make sure that no one has opened any unauthorized accounts. It’s also easy and free, so why wouldn’t you do it. I just pulled my Experian report and it took me less than 15 minutes to obtain and review it.

So, who should get the credit for YOUR credit. YOU should! :)

~Erin