Liebster Blog Award

Thank you, thank you to Kelly at Cobwebs, Cupcakes and Crayons for nominating me for the Liebster Blog Award. This is a blog land award for new bloggers and helps to create a community of bloggers to share interests, passions and ideas.

Kelly’s blog is great for a lot of reasons. Here are few:

-She’s a super mom who is passionate about raising her little one with love, creativity and a little humility!

-She was a professional organizer and is as crazy about organizing as I am.

-She is striving to balance all of the passions in her life and make it work. Commendable and difficult, but doable! I particularly love here ongoing series called ‘Nap to It‘ where she details various projects she has done while her little Annabelle naps. It goes along with my 15 Minutes posts and shows that you don’t have to spend a whole day organizing to make a difference in your life.

Nominees are asked to nominate 5 other new bloggers and list 5 things about themselves.

Here are my nominees:

1) From Pinterest to Panache – This blog was born out of creativity and inspiration needing an outlet. I love her diaper caddy turned Crayon Caddy! I can’t wait to see what else she comes up with!

2) Making Life Simple – I couldn’t have put it better myself. Most people these days want to simplify and streamline. Each post on this blog is short and to the point, with a new Simplicity Tip each day. How….simple!

Now forgive me here. I am so new to the blogging world and am still building up the blogs I follow. Most of the ones I read daily are either not ‘new’ blogs or I can’t see how many followers or how new they are. So I’m only nominating 2 for now. However, I am slowly working on a blogroll for my sidebar so that I can feature my favorites!

Here are 5 facts about me:

1) I read A LOT. I read mostly non fiction, but I’ll throw in a fiction book every now and then. I was disappointed in both ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, but I did hop on the Hunger Games bandwagon and loved it. I’m currently reading a book called ‘Lasso the Wind’ by Timothy Egan.

2) I look at pictures on my computer all the time. I am definitely not one of those people who downloads my pics and forgets about them. I am constantly going through old pics, reorganizing, making albums, slideshows, etc. Love pictures!

3) If I could visit one place in the world, it would be Greece. Beautiful, historical, interesting. Someday…..

4) I have a ‘Life to Do list’ and some of the stranger ones are: swim with sharks, learn sign language and fly a kite (I seriously have never flown a kite).

5) My 3 year old son now asks me if we’re going to ‘organize something today’. Ha! Guess I’m rubbing off on him. 🙂

Anyways….thank you to Cobwebs, Cupcakes & Crayons for helping to support one of my dreams!

~Erin

Introducing ‘Things I Love Thursdays’

There are so many things that I love: people, food, gadgets, places, the list goes on and on. However, when it comes to Neatening the Nest, there are some that make a bigger impact than others. To start off the Things I Love series, I present to you:

Ode to My Shredder:

Oh shredder, gadget of plastic and razor sharp teeth!

How you simplify my life, how you clean off my desk!

Ok, I can’t continue with the Shakespearean feel for more than 2 lines with a straight face. But I do love my shredder. It is one investment that has made itself worthwhile again and again. Now it doesn’t actually save me money in the strictest sense, but it saves my peace of mind. And it could save me money if it helps to prevent people from stealing my identity.

Now data varies on how many identity thefts actually occur per year, but it’s no secret that there are a lot and the number is growing. While you can’t prevent every piece of personal information from falling into the wrong hands, it’s important to do what you can. That means keeping certain info out of your trash can, such as social security numbers, credit card #s and passwords. The way I do that is through shredding them.

Several shredder tips:

1) My number 1 tip is to get a cross cut shredder. This mean that the paper is not just cut into vertical strips, but it is also cut horizontally. That makes papers exponentially harder to put back together.

2) Get a decent shredder. It doesn’t have to be top of the line, but if you plan on using it, you should get one that will work hard for you. My shredder will do 6 pages at a time and I have had it for about 7 years. It’s still going strong!

3) Shred the obvious stuff (like items with your social and credit card #s). However, consider some of the other items that might not be so obvious. I shred every credit card offer I get. Though the only information they have on them is my name, the thought of someone using one of these applications to open an account in my name is enough to freak me out. I also shred old utility bills and anything else that has identifying information. I probably go overboard, but I don’t care. I have a shredder and I’m using it!

4) Keep it where you will use it. If you keep your shredder in the bottom of the closet, chances are you won’t be shredding as often as you should. If you have kept up with my posts this week, you will notice that I just moved my shredder from the office floor to the top of a file cabinet. I now can shred things the instant I realize they aren’t needed and they are out of my life and mind forever! Yeah!

Trust me, this is a worthwhile investment that can actually save you a lot of hassle in the long run. Happy Shredding!

~Erin

My life in plastic

When you have kids, everything changes. One big change I’ve noticed is that everything is plastic! Plastic tables and chairs, plastic toys, plastic bins, plastic trays. And it all gets dirty, dirty, dirty! Play-doh, crayons, food, mud, and all sorts of things I don’t want to mention.  And how do I clean up this assortment of messiness? Well, not with an assortment of cleaners, that’s for sure. Almost exclusively, I use plain old vinegar and water to clean. Now I have several other novelty cleaning products, but vinegar is my cleaner of choice. Here’s why:

-It’s a natural cleaning product, none of the harsh chemicals found in most cleansers. This is a great quality when you’re constantly cleaning kid’s items!

-It is also a natural disinfectant. It can be effectively used against bacterial, mold and mildew. While it won’t kill all bacteria (for certain areas, such as cutting boards used for meat, I still don’t use plain vinegar), it is extremely effective as a basic cleanser.

-It has so many other uses. How many of your other cleaning products can you use to soothe a sunburn AND make a baking soda volcano?

-It is oh-so-cheap, which I oh-so-love!

Anyways, I keep a bottle of vinegar in my kitchen and also in my bathroom for daily upkeep. It works great on all those plastic kid’s items so I always keep it full!

Speaking of plastic…if you have small children, chances are you are familiar with these:

My kitchen looks like Rainbow Bright swooped in and swapped most of my ‘real’ dishes with hers. So many small pieces can cause an organizational headache. So I decided to re-organize my kids dish cabinet. Here is the before:

Kid’s Dish Cabinet – Before

Now it wasn’t completely horrible before. I could still get to everything. But there were certain things about it that were so inefficient and I hate that! I also have a baby who is just about to start on bottles, so I needed to be able to access bottle stuff AND toddler dishes. So here is what I did:

-I got rid of stuff I didn’t use. Now this seems obvious, but there were a few things I couldn’t let go of for the longest time, like that cute cup with the kid’s name printed on it (but leaked when you actually used it) or the spoon that was part of an adorable gift set, but that was completely flat, so it couldn’t be used as an actual spoon (it was really more of a cute stick).

-I put hooks on the cabinet door for bibs.

-Instead of a silverware basket, I switched to a cup as a silverware holder. Well, it’s technically a can covered in scrapbook paper. (idea from http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.com/)

-I then just did a basic organization of everything that was left.

Here is the after:

Not only can I get to stuff for both crazy kids, but it looks nicer, uses the whole space well, and I got the bibs out of my ‘dish towel drawer’! This took about 30 minutes to do and has such a great impact already!

Lessons Learned:

-It’s not always necessary to keep things just because they were gifts. If they are not functional or you don’t like them, then dig deep and find strength to get rid of them!

-Organize up! Maximizing vertical space creates more places for things. For example, when I got rid of the basket of silverware and switched to a can, I created space for teething rings and pacifiers.

-Small projects can make a room so much more functional. By concentrating on a small area that you use a lot, you can create a much more organized environment without investing a lot of time.

My life in plastic is so much nicer now!

~Erin

Let’s get personal

I have always kept my personal files in my bedroom. There are several reasons:

-I felt it was a safe place to keep them away from tiny kiddos.

-I have never had a home office that was  structured to handle both work and personal files

-I didn’t want to put anything else in the office. I think this was because my office wasn’t a pleasant place to be before I started this organization. Who wants to try to work and sort in a cluttered, frustrating environment?

Now, technically none of this made any sense.

-My kids are in my closet a lot more than they are in my office.

-And my home office is definitely big enough to accommodate both work and personal things.

-It doesn’t make sense to have all files in different places. They should all be where the envelopes, pens, stamps, etc.are.

-If I had organized my office a long time ago, it would have been a great place to work and be from the beginning!

-When I kept my personal files in my closet, I would go through the mail in the kitchen, then I would put ‘stuff to file’ on the stairs for when I went to my room. Then I would put other papers in the ‘to shred’ box for when I finally got around to that. Then I would have a ‘to do’ file on my kitchen counter. Way too many steps, right? So incredibly inefficient and very time-consuming.

So as the ‘Great Office Organization’ continues, I have consolidated everything into the office!

Here is a picture of my file box in my bedroom before:

These are not clothes…So why are they in my closet???

Notice the pile of papers on top that I had yet to file. Oh, and the box on top of the papers, which I thought I might use as a ‘to file’ box. Not anymore friends! Time to downsize!

I have moved the files upstairs and put them into a file cabinet. This file cabinet has been my only purchase in the office reorganization and cost less than $40. The bottom half of the cabinet is personal files and the top half will be for my Neaten Your Nest organization business. I already had a file cabinet for my regular work files. Is this all confusing enough for everyone!

So here’s the wrap up.

-I was able to get my files OUT of my closet. I feel the calm coming back to my room already.

-Not only are my personal files upstairs, but all of my office supplies are too. This makes it so easy to go through mail there. I open everything and put it in piles: Recycle, shred, file, pay or take other action. Since I also put my shredder on top of the file cabinet, I can do every single one of those things within minutes. No more boxes, no more piles on the stairs, no more waiting. So, so easy breezy!

Lessons learned:

-When organizing, efficiency is key. Removing steps from a process can save time, money and sanity.

-Sometimes you have to be selective when making purchases for organizing. But it’s important to consider what will make the most impact. Buying one file cabinet helped me consolidate files, save time, it makes going through mail easier, elevates the shredder, and looks nice.

-Organizing something that needs it soooo much can bring a lot of calm to your life. I can’t tell you how much of a difference this change has already made in my life.

Sunday Survey time!

~Erin

Charge it please!

I know that charging stations have been the ‘it’ gadget holder for numerous years now. I just never ‘pulled the plug’. Ha, ha. Plug.

Anyways, I knew that I needed somewhere to store 2 phone chargers, along with camera batteries, a USB cable and a charger for my new Kindle (which I love!). However, I didn’t want to invest the money in one, so I decided to re-purpose a storage box I already had. Now I might cut holes in the back to make it an official charging station, but for right now, I’m just using it to store my cords. The good thing about this little project is that I moved a bunch of other clutter that was on my kitchen counter and now the cord box is really the only thing that gets to stay (aside from a small basket for the actual phones). Here is what my kitchen counter looked like before: 

I took all of that stuff away and replaced it with one smaller box. And here’s what’s inside!

I love how compact it is and that every cord has it’s own place. And nothing else is allowed in the box! Now we always know where the cords are and they don’t get tangled or lost. It’s perfect! I’ve seen charging stations for well over $100. Maybe someday I will invest in a nice wooden one for my cords, but right now, the compartmentalized box (that I originally only paid $7.00 for) works great and it didn’t cost me a thing to re-purpose it. Sometimes organizing solutions are right under your nose and you just have to think outside the (charging) box. Was that the second bad pun in this post? I think it was.

~Erin

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