Sort It ~ Professional Organizing for the Toronto Area


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Planning category.

I Don’t Like Shopping

I don’t like shopping. There, I’ve said it. I have many friends, and clients, who enjoy a little (or a lot of) retail therapy here and there, but I just can’t quite seem to wrap my head around it. I can still distinctly remember my last impulse buy, 3 years ago. We had family staying with us, and they had given us some money to contribute toward their share of the groceries. Money doesn’t tend to burn a hole in my pocket, by any means, but as I went out shopping that day, I saw it: Guitar Hero: Aerosmith Edition, on sale for nearly the same amount as I had been given. It was screaming at me, “DEAL! DEAL!” and so I bought it. When I got back, I told my husband, and he nearly fell over. He was just saying to the others that of the 3 of us who went out, I would be the least likely to buy anything (and it’s true!). So, did I use the game? A bit. But it’s collecting dust now… And I was completely disappointed in myself.

I asked him if we should return it. He asked me if I thought I would use it, and enjoy it, and I insisted that I would, so he encouraged me to keep it. But I still felt bad. You see, we are currently debt free (YAY!). When we got married we had some debt, and we wanted to get out from under it. You’ve heard me mention Dave Ramsey before, and we used his methods to snowball ourselves out of the comparatively small mess we were in. This purchase set us back a bit, but I realized then that I really don’t enjoy shopping.

Clothing? Nope. I have a “shapely” figure, so it makes it difficult for me to find jeans that will fit my hips. Toys/Games? Not really. I get bored easily, and I hate to spend money on something that I just won’t use long term. Makeup? I don’t wear any, except for maybe twice a year. Food? Well, that one I don’t mind as much, but I find myself getting frustrated at the quickly inflating prices. Jewelry? Again, I rarely wear it. Gifts? Oh! Don’t even get me started! This last Christmas I found myself calling my Mom in a panic, not knowing what to buy anyone (and only wanting to purchase useful items, instead of dust collectors).

You see, the only time I even enter a mall is when I have a specific purchase in mind. I make a beeline for the store that will likely have what I’m looking for, walk straight to my desired purchase, cash out, and leave. I can physically feel myself getting anxious as I walk in. Perhaps it’s the number of people (although I’m pretty outgoing). Perhaps it’s the frustration of seeing so many families inside on a beautiful day. But I think, largely, it’s the fact that people spend money simply to waste time (double waste, really). I was about to go on a tangent about ethical shopping practices, and how our consumerist society is spurring on poverty in other countries, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Today, I will say this: I don’t like shopping, and I’m okay with that. Generally, it means that I have more cash in the bank, and I spend my time doing other things that I enjoy, and that will give me longer lasting rewards (reading, gardening, spending time with the hubby, saving for retirement).

Do you like shopping? What do you like shopping for?

P.S. Anyone in Toronto looking to purchase a slightly used Wii Guitar Hero Game? 😉

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It’s Planner Time!

I’m just over the 6 month mark of using my first Quo Vadis planner, and I thought I would give you all an update from my earlier post Keeping The Calendar.

I have always been a planner-aholic. All throughout junior and high school, as well as university, I would be the first one with my planner out, making sure all of my life events were scheduled out. First, let me confess that I used two other planners last year. My first was a small, very thin, planner that cost quite close to $1. If you’ve been an avid reader of mine, than you’ll know that this is not uncommon for me, as I tend to be on the thrifty side. I used this planner (which I got for Christmas 2010) for about 7 months, but I really wasn’t fully satisfied with it. The style had 3 days on the left page, 2 days (plus a small weekend section) on the right. Also, the times slots that it gave were sparse, at best (7 & 10 a.m., 1, 4 & 7 p.m.). I guess those “in between” hours didn’t really matter to them. But, I made due, thinking that all planners are created equal. Then, I moved up a step. Someone gave me their daily Brownline planner, because they didn’t like the style (that should have been a flag, no?). I wasn’t a huge fan either, as each day had its own page, and it was very bulky and heavy. Although, I could include a lot of detail, which was nice. I will admit that I am probably busier than most, but I was never busy enough to have to put in 10 back to back appointments. I used that planner until November 30th.

Why November 30th, you ask? Well, let me tell you. I attended a Professional Organizers in Canada conference at the beginning of November, last year. We had about 5 different sessions, and they were all, for the most part, fabulous. I was incredibly fortunate to also take part in a LinkedIn session, conducted by Margarita Ibbott. Much to my excitement (perhaps over excitement to some), there awaiting me, like a beacon in the night, was a green, medium sized, Minister 2012 Quo Vadis planner. (Actually, I think that it may have been black, and a size up, but I stealthily swapped for one in my company colour 😀 ). Did my eyes deceive me? An actual, quality planner? Just for me? Sweet!

This particular model, so to speak, is fantastic and perfect for me for three reasons:

  1. It has a whole week on 2 pages. When I get into a daily situation, I lose sight of the big picture, plus it would probably triple the thickness of it. Remember: Less is more.
  2. It has a notes section – for each week! Five medium sized boxes to jot down to-dos, or in my situation, driving instructions (no, I don’t have a GPS – I have a love affair with Google Maps, because I’m a visual person). Looking back, there has only been one week when I haven’t used that handy section.
  3. It fits in my purse. Granted I’m not carrying around a clutch, but it is a great size to fit into any medium sized purse.
  4. BONUS: It’s green! Did I mention that I love green? And next year, I only have to order the refill. I don’t have to purchase a new exterior 🙂 Less waste is always a good thing.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m a busy gal. To recap from my previous post, I have a colour coded system that I use to keep myself straight:

Blue ~ Toronto Willowdale Aquarium Society (Blue = water 🙂 )

Brown ~ Tutoring

Orange ~ Brownies (Their uniform colour is now orange, not brown)

Green ~ Sort It appointments  (My business colour)

Pink ~ Personal

Purple ~ Church events

To do this, I utilize my Pilot Frixion Pens, which are erasable. Yes folks, erasable colour pens. And not like the ones we had back in high school, that would only take a layer off, but you could still read it. No, these erase fully, which is incredibly useful when a client cancels or changes the time to get together. I have too much going on in my mind to occupy it with trying to remember dates and times. I also hate double booking myself, as I try to be a woman of my word.

So, in short, would I recommend a Quo Vadis planner? Absolutely. It’s cute, and it’s easy to maintain. I will certainly be purchasing a refill for next year, if I don’t happen to “come across” one in the meantime 😉

What quality do you look for most in a planner/agenda?


My 3rd guest blog post for the Girl Guides of Canada. What have your experiences been when camping with kids?

GirlGuidesCANBlog

As we are preparing for our annual spring camp, I can’t help but think back to the first time I went to Brownie Camp as a leader. I was a Junior Leader in our Unit for two years before I became a full-fledged leader. When the two main leaders left for university before the start of the year, and then the third leader moved for work a month in, I found myself and my best friend looking at each other saying “We can do this!” And we did, but it was a learning experience to say the least.

Now, this post is meant to be about organizing or cleaning, and I will get to that, but I just wanted to share a couple of “learned tips & tricks” for Brownie level camping:

1. Always bring an extra (or two, or three) pair(s) of mittens and hats. Inevitably, one girl will…

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Eat, Drink and Be Merry

The other day, I was packing up a couple for an upcoming move. What got me was that I was packing liquor bottles with only a little bit left in them. Now, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Nearly every home I pack has nearly finished something or others lying around. Even when my husband and I toured the home we now live in, we were astounded by the amount of liquor on display (to be fair, they had a bar in the basement, which led to many, many gifts of alcohol). It seems like a waste of effort to move nearly empty bottles, so I got to thinking, how could one remedy this situation?

And then it hit me – have a party! Now, I’m not saying that you should have a throw back to your college days, with people lying all over the house in the morning, but try to use up what you have.

So, here are my rules for a Potluck Pantry Party:

1. You can only bring an item that you have made out of items you already have (excluding items you need to buy fresh like fruit or vegetables) . Don’t forget to check the chest freezer!  This is also helpful to use up items in the basement before they pass their best before date.

2. You can only drink items you already have (not only alcohol, this includes pop and frozen cans of concentrate, too). Get creative with your mixed drinks, and try to only make items using bottles that are only 1/4 full. Imagine all the money you’ll get when you return those empties 😛

3. Light candles. We all have tons of them, but we never use them. Honestly, how many tea light candles can one house need?

4. Get creative and have fun! *Please be responsible. Don’t drink and drive.*

5. Send home the leftovers in your mismatched tupperware. If you have oddball items that you aren’t particularly attached to, make sure everyone leaves with one filled with lunch for Monday. Four birds with one stone.

 

Would you consider hosting a Potluck Pantry Party? What types of things could you create from the depths of your pantry?


Keeping The Calendar

I love my physical, paper planner. I think it’s fantastic. I received this one courtesy of Quo Vadis through a LinkedIn seminar held by Margarita Ibbott. I love that it’s a week at a glance, and that it breaks up my day into half hour segments (although, you could consider it to be 1/4 hour segments, if you’re picky). I, personally, need a physical agenda. I know of plenty of people who use an online calendar (my husband, for one). I also know plenty of people who utilize the calendar on their cell phones (some of which may also be linked up to an online calendar, I know). However, I must have my paper planner! I love the creativity you can add to it using different writing techniques and doodles. I love the accessibility of it (you don’t have to wait for it to load). I love the fact that I don’t have to worry about charging it every night to ensure I’ll be able to use it the next day. Here is my planner:

Okay, I’m not really that lame. I do have plenty of activities during the week. I’ve posted a week for April, so that’s why it isn’t too busy yet. However, you will note that I have colour coded my entries. I find it much easier to figure out how/where I’m spending my time when I’ve associated a colour with it. So, here’s my colour coded breakdown:

Blue ~ Toronto Willowdale Aquarium Society (Blue = water 🙂 )

Brown ~ Tutoring

Orange ~ Brownies (Their uniform colour is now orange, not brown)

Green ~ My business (My business colour)

Pink ~ Personal

Purple ~ Church events

One of the reasons I chose these colours was because the pens that I use (Pilot Frixon) came in those colours. These pens are fantastic because they write smoothly, and they’re erasable! (No, I’m not getting paid to promote these products, I just love them that much). Now, I’ve also been able to transfer this system onto my wall 4-month at a time calendar:

 

I know that this image is a little difficult to see, so here’s a close up of March:

As you can see, I’ve been able to transfer the same colour coded system to my wall calendar as well.

I am a firm believer that every household needs to have a calendar that everyone has access to. If I’m trying to make plans, I can easily check our calendar and have a sense of what might be happening that day and vice versa for my husband.

But what happens when two worlds collide? My husband primarily uses his Google calendar to schedule things, and I’m an avid paper user. Our compromise? I have access to his Google calendar, so I can keep him up to date as to my plans, and he will put his commitments on our wall calendar. The other essential key? Communication. We regularly discuss what we’re doing, and how it might impact the other. This was particularly important when we were sharing one car, however we continue to do so today.

It is a matter of respect to the other people who share your life to inform them of your commitments. Writing everything out is also a great opportunity to visualize how you’re spending your time, and where your time may be used more wisely. Time is precious, we can never get it back.

Are you an electronic or paper calendar person?


A Suggestion Before Your Open House

A couple of months ago, I was speaking to our community association about downsizing. I went through the basics of downsizing and preparing your home to go on the market. Many people don’t know that Professional Organizers also assist with moving, and some also do staging. Anyway, one of my main points was that you need to depersonalize your home when you are getting ready to list it. If you will be having people come through your home, you want to protect your identity and the identity of your family.

After the meeting one of the members of the audience came up and spoke with me. She politely thanked me for my talk, and proceeded to tell me a story. When she was looking at homes a few years ago, she went to an open house. While viewing the home, she was surprised to find out it was her boss’ home that she was touring. She felt as though she was invading his privacy, and felt a bit awkward. To make matters worse, she became rather embarrassed to find out that he and his wife had a water bed – too much information. No, she did not buy that home.

You never know who will be coming through your open house. Try to remove personal items that will allow people to identify who you are. It’s not only a matter of privacy, but also a matter of safety. Have you ever found something to be “out of place” while going through an open house?


Coupon Clutter

I enjoy saving money, as do most of us. I am more than happy to grab coupons on my way into the store (they often have a board by the front door), or cut them out of the mail or newspaper. I’ll print them online if it’s really worth it. However, I believe that coupons create clutter.

I am not referring to having piles of coupons scattered throughout the house (a lot of couponers have their coupons neatly organized in a binder, or accordion holder). Nor am I talking about having stacks and stacks of invalid, expired coupons (make sure you go through them at the beginning of the month, and check the expiry date). What I am referring to is the need to purchase items because they are on sale, or at a “discount”.

When I watch the “Extreme Couponing” programs on TV, I am astounded at the quantity of items they have stored in their homes. They have mini grocery stores in their basements. The participants have had to purchase shelving (presumably on sale, or with a coupon) in order to store all of their “finds”. Coupons will sometimes offer a “buy one, get one free” type of deal, or “buy one, get one half price”. Either way, they are promoting the idea of purchasing multiple items in order to get the best deal. On one of the blogs that I follow, one couponer purchased 36 packages of Advil Cold and Sinus, because they ended up being $.99 each (regularly $8.99). Sure, it’s a great deal, but honestly, unless you suffer from some serious immune system issues, there is no way you can use all that up before they expire. Sure, you can use them as stocking stuffers, but I still maintain that 36 seems a bit excessive.

Let’s establish some ground rules:

1. Only buy it if you would typically purchase it – even if the item is at a drastic discount. It’s only a discount if you’ll use it.

2. Only purchase a reasonable amount of the discounted product. If you can’t use it before it expires, don’t buy it.

3. Consider your space. Your space has value, so use it wisely. If you don’t have the space for the discounted item (say 400 rolls of toilet paper), then it will be more taxing on your stress level than your pocket book.

Do you use coupons?


5 Easy Steps to a Warmer Winter

For a mere $30, you can essentially shrink wrap your windows to keep out drafts and decrease your home heating bill. This is our second year doing this, and we have certainly noticed the difference. It is quite simple to do, and you can easily do it in an evening. Your kids can even help! Well, ages 8 and up at least 🙂 Here is a quick step by step tutorial to a warmer winter:

1. Measure the area you want to seal off. The rolls of plastic that we purchased were folded, so we didn’t have a problem with size. It will even comfortably cover patio doors. Make sure you allow for a little extra, just in case. Cut the plastic accordingly.

2. Put the provided double sided tape around the window. We have not had problems removing the tape (i.e. pulling off paint) 6 months later, but test a small area first, just to be sure. Make sure you create a seal by overlapping the tape at the corners.

3. Put up the plastic while trying to keep it as flat as possible. My husband did this by himself last year, so it is doable if you’re going solo, but it is certainly helpful to have a second pair of hands. Word of advice: do the top first, then slowly go down the sides. Don’t press too firmly until you are sure you’re happy with how it looks. Don’t worry if it isn’t flat, that will happen. When you are happy, press the plastic firmly to the tape. *Please note that when you put up the plastic, if you have  blinds, you won’t be able to adjust them until you remove the plastic. You will need to chose how you you would prefer to have them for the duration of the cold months. We chose open, because we have drapes to cover the window, as well.

4. Heat up the plastic using a hairdryer. As you heat up the plastic, you will notice it starting to become taut. As it stretches, you will start to notice ripples. Simply heat the area, and they will disappear. The more diligent you are in this step, the better the final outcome – you will barely even notice it there. When we had the plastic over our bedroom window last year, I repeated went to move the blinds so that I could look out to our backyard, but was stopped short. You honestly won’t notice it.

 

5. Lastly, simply trim off the excess plastic – it comes with a cutter, so this should be straightforward. Don’t get too close to the edge, though. As you can see, you can barely tell that there is anything over the window. Be sure to tell your children not to poke the plastic – if you get a hole in it, it will defeat the purpose.

 

Here’s to a warm winter, and a lower heating bill! Do you have any money saving tips that can be accomplished through simple home adjustments?


New Year’s Priorities

Let me start off by wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! I hope that it is full of fun and laughter, and many blessings. I also hope that we will all see 2013 – I, personally, won’t be holding my breath on December 21 🙂

This time last year, I wrote my first blog post about… New Year’s Resolutions! Surprising, I know. And this year, I would like to touch on the same, but with a twist.

I was giving this a lot of thought yesterday, as I was thinking about my previous year’s resolutions, and why I hadn’t accomplished some of them to my satisfaction. The main one that came to mind, as I’m sure it does for many others, is weight loss. I would love to get back to my wedding day weight, but I just can’t quite seem to get there. I’ll fluctuate throughout the year, have a few great weeks, then fall off the proverbial wagon (Oh cheese, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Blue, brie, boursin…). However, I can’t quite seem to keep on the down and down (as opposed to the up and up). So, what’s the issue? Am I motivated? Well, I can be. I want to feel, and look, good. But one has to eat, it’s a necessity, and moderation is key, which can be tough. Also, there’s exercise. I know I need to develop a habit of exercising regularly, just like flossing – I floss on days with a “u” in them, and either SatUrday or SUnday 🙂 But it’s habits like these that are easily broken.

Which leads me to my first epiphany of the New Year – resolutions are nice, but priorities are better. If you make you goals for 2012 a priority, then you’ll be more likely to follow through. Two years ago, my husband and I decided to pay off our debts, and live debt free. A little over a year later, we had paid off our credit cards, our line of credit for our furniture, and our car – around $25,000. And why did it work? Because we made it a priority, so we worked our TAILS off to get there. So, this year, I’m making getting in shape a priority – and now that I’ve written it I have to follow through 🙂

What are your New Year’s Priorities this year? Put them on paper, and make a plan. Wise words to live by: “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.


If You’re Underwater, Start Kicking

Yesterday, I was listening to our local news station on the radio, and they said that consumers would be spending less this Christmas because they are not overly confident about our current economic situation, and they are instead opting to pay down debt. Great! I personally know how rewarding, and freeing, it is to be rid of debt, and I think that it’s fantastic that people are beginning to take a more serious approach. Little Jimmy might be upset that he’s not getting everything on his 40 item wish list, but reality has to set in sometime.

Then, I switched over to a news station that is broadcast from the U.S. They said that 30% of homeowners are currently underwater. (Underwater means that you owe more on the house than the house is worth, so if you sold your house and gave all that money over to the bank, you would still, technically, be indebted to them). As a homeowner, that must be an awful feeling. However, I want to offer you this piece of advice: If you’re underwater, start kicking!

Don’t give up. Your home will likely go up again as the markets recover. Don’t walk away. I’ve heard of people simply leaving their house key in the mailbox (usually when faced with foreclosure) – don’t do it! Start paying down your debt. Bring your costs down, and utilize the extra money to get those debt burdens off your back. Dave Ramsey, a popular financial consultant, suggests paying down the smallest debt first. This will give you the incentive to keep going, even when the going gets tough. He’s dubbed it the debt snowball.

Now, what in the world does this have to do with organizing? Lots.

First, if you can’t find it, you’ll buy another one. Don’t spend money on things you already own. If you have a system, you’ll be able to find things when you need them, instead of thinking that you need to buy more.

Second, you need to organize your finances. If you don’t keep track of your money, you will find yourself with more month left at the end of your money (Gail Vaz-Oxlade quote). There are plenty of great software options to help you keep track of your spending habits (we use Quicken). These programs allow you to sync with your various accounts, and keep track of them all in one place. You may come to realize that you are spending 30% of your money on food (eat out much?), 45% on your housing (including utilities), 25% on your car, and 15% on clothing. Quick math drill: add it up. 30+45+25+15=115% Too much? You betcha.

Third, being organized will help you to be more efficient. Rather than making three trips to the grocery store because you forgot this, that and the other thing, be prepared. Make a list, check it twice and shop once. Gas is too expensive to be wasting it on multiple trips to the grocery store. Also, try to streamline your errands. It will save you time, and money.

Do you find that staying organized helps you save money? How?