The Problem with Paper

The problem with paper isn’t just that there is so much of it. The problem with paper isn’t just that it’s coming into our homes from every direction. The problem with paper isn’t just that there is so much unsolicited paper. The problem with paper is all of these things on top of which we put… not dealing with the paper.

If you take a typical, non-pandemic week during the school year here is just a sampling of what kinds of papers are in a typical home with school-aged children. Junk mail, letters, bills, home work, school announcements, permission slips, craft projects, more junk mail, church bulletins, Sunday School papers, magazines, paper crafts, grocery lists, doodles, sweet notes, drawings, the list could go on.

The way to solve the paper problem is to deal with it. I typically have 2 routes I go with paper. The first is to deal with it right away. The second is to wait until a specific day to deal with it all. Either way, you will be doing just about the same thing.

TIP: Take the time to decide which mailings you want to unsubscribe from. It will be worth it to stop having to deal with those mailings that you just put straight into the trash. Not all mailings can be unsubscribed to but a lot can.

If you are dealing with your papers right away, you will sort into these categories every day. You may choose to also deal with all of your “to do” and “file” papers on the same day as well. Or you may choose to deal with all of those once a week.

If you are dealing with your papers once a week just be sure that nothing that will come into your home has a pressing deadline. Other than that, you will want a place that all paper that comes into the home goes. A bin marked “mail” or “papers” will do nicely. Each and every piece of paper that comes into the home goes there until it is time to be dealt with. Mail? In the bin. School folder papers? In the bin. Worship Guide? In the bin. Receipts? In the bin. Then on the selected day, all the paper comes out and it dealt with. See the categories below.

  1. Trash.
    This is both the easiest and the hardest part of dealing with paper. It’s the easiest because you will be throwing away obvious junk. That packet of coupons you never use, for example. The hardest part is when you have to decide which (if any) of the seven pieces of scribbled on paper you want to keep. Here’s one quick question for you to ask: do I have something that is just about the same or represents the same stage of life?
  2. Shred.
    This is anything that has sensitive information that needs to leave your house. The trash won’t cut it (haha!) it needs to be shredded. This is up to you and your comfort level.
  3. To do.
    Any piece of paper that needs a response (bill, letter, permission slip, homework, etc) goes into this pile.
  4. File.
    Some papers will end up in this pile right away because it just needs to be filed but nothing else needs to be done with it. Other papers will need to be dealt with then filed.

Here’s what it might look like to go through your papers. Sort pile of papers into the 4 categories (trash, shred, to do, file). Put trash in the trash can if not already done. Shred papers to be shred. Work through your to do pile adding papers to the file pile as necessary. File papers. Done! The more often you do this, the less time it will take (depending on the amount of papers, of course) as less papers will have accumulated. Once a week is a good way to do it all at once by making a plan to have time to deal with the “to do” items.

If you are dealing with a large pile or multiple boxes of papers you will do the same sorting and working. Just keep in mind that you will need to set aside time to work on it and get it done. You can do it!

From Here to There: Moving Tips

‘Tis the season for moving! So I thought I would offer up some of my top moving tips. It’s not an exhaustive list but should still be really helpful.

Moving Basket
This little guy is your answer to what do you do with the thing that you need to have on hand the actual day that you move. You may realize you didn’t label that box or the couch legs do need to be removed in order for it to get through the door.

Here are some good items to put in the moving basket:
– scissors
– tape
– paper
– pen, pencil, sharpie
– mini tool kit (tape measure, hammer, phillips and flat head screwdrivers)
– mini first aid kit (bandaids, alcohol wipes, first aid ointment)
– toilet paper (one roll for each new bathroom)
– hand soap
– paper towels
– flashlight
– batteries
– all screws for disassembled furniture (labeled, in baggies)
– rope
– water, water, water, and snacks

Weekend Bags
One of the reasons moving can be stressful is that we think everything needs to be in it’s forever home as soon as you get to your house. That simply is just not realistic in most cases. Giving each person in your home a weekend bag frees up some of that time and sense of urgency. Pack the weekend bag as if you were going away for a weekend and only had those items to access. This way every person will have their most important things within reach and enough clothes to last until either clothes are put in drawers and closets or until you can get a load of laundry done. Remember too that you are going to an empty home, not a hotel. Keep in mind what you will need to keep your kids (whatever age) occupied as well whether they need to be helping with the move (elementary and up) or away from the action (babies – preschoolers).

Here are some good items to pack in the weekend bags:
– enough outfits for 2-3 days (think daytime, nighttime, outerwear, underwear, socks, shoes)
– medications
– lovies (favorite stuffed animals, toys, books, etc)
– toiletries
– makeup
– sheet set, pillow, blanket
– towel, washcloth (and shower liner!)
– alarm clock
– night light

Packing, Moving Day, and Unpacking Tips
1. Use a garbage bag to move hanging clothes. While the clothes are hanging, pull the garbage bag from the bottom up to the top where the hangers are, enclosing the hanging clothes. Tie a bow (resist doing a knot) around the base of the hooks. When you get to your new home, hang the clothes in the bag, untie the bow, and pull down the bag. The bags can be reused as their original purpose of trash bags. No waste! So much time and energy saved!

2. Keep your folded clothes in the drawers. BUT remove the drawers from the dressers before moving the dressers. For those delicate items that you’d rather your friends or movers not see? Put a towel over them or but them in a garbage bag and back into the drawer. The dresser goes to the moving van, the drawers get reinserted. When it’s time to move the dresser from the moving van, take the drawers out again and move the dressers to their rooms. When the dressers are in place, put the drawers back in the dressers. So much time and energy saved!

3. Use dish towels to wrap dishes. Both of these items live in the same room so you can pack them together and unpack them together. You probably don’t have enough dish towels to wrap all your dishes but it does help to use what you have.

4. Inventory any items going to storage. Have a list of things that are in storage including a list of what is in each box. This can be as detailed or general as you would like depending on how you will need to access those items.

5. Label each box with what room they are going to. Then label each room with the same label. Boxes need to go in a place that they will not block furniture.

6. Have one person in charge of directing movers (furniture and boxes) at the new house. Together with the room and box labels, having one person who is in charge of directing traffic and nothing else will go a long way. Be sure this person knows where furniture goes as well. This person should go to the house early to hang signs.

7. Set up beds right away. Use your movers if possible. This allows you and your family to have a place to sleep comfortably from the first night. Good sleep will go a long way in unpacking and settling in.

8. Choose the most important room and unpack it fully first. The kitchen is usually where most people start but choose the room that makes the most sense for your family. Then move one room by room unpacking each room fully until the house is unpacked. Do your best. Put things in places that make sense right now knowing that you have the freedom to move things if it makes more sense later.

9. Don’t rush out to buy things to fill space. Take your time making decisions on pieces that will serve your household. Check prices, quality, and “grow with me” details as well.

10. Put boxes out for FREE porch pick up. List them l social media or just put them on the curb, whichever works best in your area. One of the most important parts of moving is finishing. Part of that means getting your moving supplies out of your house. If you plan to move again in a few years, decided whether or not it is worth hanging on to boxes or if you can just grab some from someone else when the time comes.

Kid Tips
What do you do with your kiddos while you are loading and unloading the moving van? While a lot depends on their ages, here are a few ideas.
– get a sitter
– let them help
– let them color on boxes with crayons (as long as this doesn’t deter from the room label)
– paint with water
– play in the backyard
– hand out waters and snacks
– write notes (thank you notes to movers and helpers, notes to friends they are moving from or toward)
– be sure they have snacks and drinks at the ready

What tips do YOU have? I love learning and although I have moved a ton as an adult each move has brought different learning experiences!

How Many Should I Have?

There are direct questions and there are underlying issues. I get this question as both multiple times a month. Someone will directly ask, “how many bath towels does my family need?” I will also open a linen closet and see bath towels shoved here, there, and everywhere just begging the question, “how many bath towels does this family need?”

Each household runs different. Many times, each individual in a household has different needs. There are even different ways that we may define the word “need.” There are all kinds of needs: physical, emotional, spiritual just to name a few. In this article I will give some questions to ask to help you determine how many of several different kinds of items you may need in your home.

I have a list of general questions that I will sprinkle throughout these specific groups of items. You may see a question under “Movies and Music” that actually helps you with “Towels” or other items.

1. How often do you do laundry? How often would you like to do laundry?
2. How many outfits do you wear between laundry loads?
3. What type of clothing do you need (casual, formal, work, athletic, etc)?
Perhaps… you’d like to pair down your clothing and rewear pieces between washes that aren’t yet dirty.

Undergarments and Socks
1. How often do you do laundry? How often would you like to do laundry?
2. How often do you need a new pair of these items?
Perhaps… you’d like to have a pair for each day between laundry plus a couple of extras.

1. How often do you do laundry? How often would you like to do laundry?
2. How many baths or showers does each person in your household take between loads of laundry?
3. How many times is one towel used between washes?
Perhaps… you’d like to have a specific colored towel for each person in your home that they would be responsible for.

Toilet Paper
1. Do a little experiment. Write down when you start a roll of tp and then right down when that same roll is out. Do this for each place that uses tp. Using that information (or doing this for a few weeks or a month) you should be able to estimate how much tp you need to buy and how often.
Perhaps… you’d like to teach the little ones how much is an appropriate amount of tp to use.

1. What do you actually use? What do you like?
2. What keeps you from using the things that you keep around but don’t use?
Perhaps… you’d like to make up a travel kit ready for you to grab in an emergency to use up some of those items.

1. How many people eat at your house regularly? How often do you host those outside of your family for meals?
2. What dishes are used how often?
Perhaps… you’d like to borrow specific items that you would need for a larger gathering but don’t use regularly.

Sheet Sets
1. How many beds are in your home?
2. How often do you change the sheets on each bed? Do you have any children nighttime potty training?
Perhaps… you’d like to have one spare set of sheets for each bed. Perhaps for the potty training child you would like to have two spare sets of sheets.

1. What value do you put on reading and literacy?
2. Which books do you actually like and know you will read again?
Perhaps… you are ready to let go of the books you know you won’t read again.

Movies and Music
1. If you were to have to repurchase any, which would you repurchase?
2. Which movies do you enjoy watching over and over?
2. Are these same movies and albums available in other forms?
Perhaps… you’d like to take advantage of digital forms of music and movies to free up space on your shelves.

Games and Toys
1. What has your family outgrown?
2. How often are games being played?
Perhaps… you’d like to offer the games and toys that you no longer enjoy to someone else who would enjoy them now.

School Supplies and Office Supplies
1. Do you home school or have a home office?
2. How often do you go through tape, pens, etc? In a year, how many of each do you think you’ll use?
Perhaps… you can get rid of all the pens you don’t like because you only use 3 pens in an entire year instead of 50.

Craft Supplies and Hobby Supplies
1. How many hobbies do you have? How many can you keep up with? How many do you want to keep up with?
2. What supplies are worth keeping?
Perhaps… there are only a select amount of things that are worth keeping for your craft or hobby.

Baby Items
1. Does your family currently have or expecting a baby in the next few years?
2. If yes, how many bottle, blankets, teethers, pacifiers, etc are you using a day in between washes?
Perhaps… you would like to give or loan your baby gear to a friend who can use it now. Perhaps… you would prefer to only keep up with the items you actually use and not the excess.

1. Does each of your electronics have it’s cord with it?
2. Do these devices travel with you?
Perhaps… you would like to keep one extra charging cord for each device for travel while keep a charging station with “permanent” cords for each device.

As you can probably gather from the questions in specific areas, the main questions you can ask yourself are as follows.
1. How many of that items do you use?
2. Are these items useful at this time or in the near future?
3. What do you want to keep up with caring for (cleaning, storing, putting away)?
4. Would you buy this item again if it was lost or damaged?

While there is no magic number of any of these items, the questions provided above should help you make a decisions on a good number for your household.

Squatters or Residents: Why it can be so difficult to let things go

If you’ve been around for a while you’ve noticed that I like a good analogy. I find it easier for people to understand what you are saying if they have a category to put it in. As with any analogy, sometimes you can’t carry them over one-to-one but the spirit is what we’re going for. When helping people see that they get to choose what stays in their homes and what leaves their homes this might be a good way for you to think about it.

Are the items in your home Squatters or Residents?

A few months ago my family got a notice that there had been squatters on property near ours. No one knew them, they had just set up a temporary home and were living on property that didn’t belong to them without having any permission. We wouldn’t have even known they were there since they had set up camp in a location that we didn’t see. To our knowledge they weren’t doing any harm. But it is illegal so they had to go. As residents in the area, those who own property and houses, we belong there. We have a known purpose, are paying to be there, and are active in the community.

Items as Residents
This part is simple. The items in your home that belong there as residents have purpose, are beautiful or functional. You have chosen for them to take up space in your space. You know what they are, where they are, and how you use them.

Items as Squatters
You probably have a lot of stuff in your house that you don’t even know is there. It’s living in the back of cabinets behind another pile of things. It’s living under the bed or in a box that has started to fall apart. It’s in the bottom of your purse or sock drawer.

But, it’s not doing any harm, right? Well, maybe not that you know of. But what if what you don’t know is there is actually something you could use and have been looking for. Harm might be a strong term or it might not be.

A few ways these squatter-items can bring harm.
1. Taking up valuable space that can be used for things you know and find useful or beautiful.
2. Taking up space in your mind or time in your thought process that can be spent on something else.
3. If it is something you could use but you don’t know it’s there, it is now time, money, and energy being spent looking for it or repurchasing it.

Are the things in your house squatters or residents? Do you know these items? Do they belong there? Do they serve a good purpose for you, your family, and the way you want your household to run?

You are the home owner so you get to decide if something is truly a squatter or resident. But until then, those items you don’t see and don’t know are there… they are just squatting on your property.

I hope you had fun with this analogy and that these terms helped you make a connection with letting go of things that don’t belong in your home.

Not Your Usual Suspects

During the month of April I ran a series on social media using #covidcleanout in which I posted a different area to focus on cleaning, decluttering, or organizing each weekday. They were not meant as a challenge but prompts for those who were looking to get some things done and just couldn’t figure out where to work next.

Instead of a month of prompts, I decided to do a list for you of things that you might not think to do or things that don’t get done very often. I divided them into categories for you. To clean, to repair, to change, and miscellaneous.

To Clean
trash cans – Bag up the trash and get right on in there. Sometimes a good garden hose can do the trick and sometimes you need to scrub it.
gutters – I did mine six weeks ago and they need cleaning out again already.
pots/pans – A little Bar Keeper’s Friend or something similar helps to shine up most pots and pans. Be sure to read all instructions for safety.
vacuum – If you have any hair in your home you’ll want to clean it out of your vacuum head. Grab a screw driver and some scissors because you might need to do some disassembling.
furniture – Vacuum, shampoo, spot clean.
walls & cabinets – A simple damp wipe will do most times.
ceiling fans – Whether you use a pillow case, a duster, or a vacuum, now is a great time to clean your ceiling fan blades and lights. While you’re at it, switch the direction for the summer.
oven – A lemon half and some baking soda make a quick and easy cleaner for an oven.
dishwasher – Get those crevices where gunk can build up.
washer and dryer – More crevices, get in there and clean them out.
your email – Create filters, unsubscribe, and delete, delete, delete.

To Repair
rug pulls – A needle and thread are going to be your best friend. Thread those pulls back into the rug if you can. Cut only if you can’t figure out a better way.
jewelry – Untangle knots with the help of a sewing needle, find a video to help you repair what you can DIY, and take the rest to the jeweler for professional help especially on those prized pieces.
clothes, throw pillows, bags, furniture, stuffed animals – replace buttons, tie up loose threads, repair holes, replace accessories and zippers
shoes – Re-glue soles, replace broken or worn out shoe laces, give a good shine, and take the others to the cobbler that you aren’t able to do on your own.

To Change
rekey your lockbox – It might be time to update that code for your lockbox. Make it memorable and give the new code to people who need it.
switch fan direction for summer – Counterclockwise for summer, pushing air down.
air filters, water filters, vacuum filters, any filters – Be sure to check on your not-often-changed filters to see if it’s time to change them.
smoke detector batteries – It’s a good idea to check these once a month and change them once or twice a year. A good time to do that is when we change the clocks. Go ahead and give your detectors a check.

trim and repot plants – Making sure to check the specific plants you are caring for, give them the proper care for this time of year.
tighten screws in door handles, drawer pulls, and face plates – Believe it or not, those screws that were perfectly tight when you installed them can loosen with use. Grab a screw driver and tighten them up.
level oven – I’ve lived at my home for years with an uneven oven. I think I tried to level it at one point but I couldn’t get it to work. So this might just be me. 😉
secure drawer liners and inserts – Drawer liners that do not have an adhesive can bunch up causing more frustration that they are worth. Be sure to secure them so that they can provide maximum protection and beauty.
shred – Plug up that shredder and go to town!
make a tax guide for 2020 based on 2019 tax filing – The IRS gave us an extension this year. Take some of that time to make a list of things that you need to keep up with for your 2020 taxes so that you aren’t scrambling next March to gather all your documents.
touch up paint – Grab your touch up paint and touch up!

What are some unusual things that you did with your free time during the pandemic?*

*I fully recognize that there were plenty of people who have the same amount of time or less time during the pandemic. Also, time does not equal capacity.