Sort It ~ Professional Organizing for the Toronto Area

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? 😉


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?

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?

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?

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”.

Fire, Fire, Fire!

Late last night, when we were all in bed, old lady Leary lit a lantern in the shed and when the cow kicked it over, she winked her eye and said “it’ll be a hot time, in the old town, tonight. Fire! Fire! Fire!”

Firetruck at my church

This song is one that I often sing with my Brownie unit. However, this past week, it has taken on a whole new meaning to me. Last weekend, we had a fire at our church (thank God no one was hurt, as it happened in the evening). When I first saw the picture of the firetruck outside our church (seen above), I thought “Oh dear, the fire alarm went off, yet again, for a false alarm.” I then heard somewhere, through the ever reliable grapevine, that there had been a small fire. Again, I had a remarkable lack of concern. However, unfortunately, this was not the case. Turns out there was extensive damage, causing the lower level to be closed for 6 months, and our upper level for 5 weeks (hopefully).

Most of the damage affected our day care, requiring us to dispose of about 90% of the belongings – smoke and water damaged items. The day care has been operating for 22 years, so unfortunately, there was a lot of stuff that had to be thrown out. But it was amazing. As we were going through the supplies, resources, toys, and other miscellaneous items, we came to realize just how much would be actually missed – and the answer was that it was less than you would think.

Midway through the process (I was privileged enough to help with the clearout – in a Tyvek suit and N95 face mask), I came home to my husband, and I said to him, “you don’t realize how much you can live without, until you’re forced to throw it out”. Looking around our home, I know that there are a few items that I would be disappointed if they weren’t salvageable, but for most of the items, we wouldn’t miss them all that much.

I would like to point out, though, that some of the items we were able to save were those that were in sealed plastic bins – this helped to keep out the smoke. I know that I’ll be moving over some of our belongings out of their cardboard box into these waterproof containers.

Fire can have a cleansing effect. It is difficult though. Many years of love, creativity, and memories could not be kept. However, it has made room for 22 more years of fun and adventure. I have no doubt that something beautiful will come out of all of this (and we’ve already seen many blessings). He has a bigger plan.

Have you ever had to throw something out because it was too damaged? How did you feel about the process?

5 Easy Ways to Make Your House Look Neater

Here are 5 easy and relatively quick ways to make your home look tidy 🙂

1. Make Your Bed – You don’t have to make your bed to pass a military inspection, but tidy up the sheets and pull the cover over. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your bedroom will look neater.

2. Do The Dishes – I know what you’re thinking. “I hate doing dishes.” But, to be perfectly honest, I perpetually forget how quickly I can do dishes (provided they’ve been soaked, and there’s no caked on food), and then how much better I feel when my kitchen is rid of those dirty dishes! If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, do the dishes right after you’ve finished eating – then you won’t have to worry about the caked on part – usually 🙂 *Note: Load your dishwasher as you use the dishes – get those dishes out of your sight!

3. Put Papers in their Place – Recycle last week’s flyers (put them right in the recycling bin). Take the mail you’ve received and recycle all the non-essentials (envelopes, inserts, etc.) then make a pile to file with the remnants. Try to file your papers once a week. If you let it accumulate, you’ll feel overwhelmed, and you won’t even want to considering filing them away.

4. Pick Up Your Clothes – If you’re in the habit of walking out of your clothes at night, and leaving them on the floor, try to curb that habit and either put them away or directly into the laundry. You’ll feel better about not having to do the sniff test in the morning 😉 Also, look around the rest of your house for stray clothing. You already know where it goes, so it’s just a matter of putting it there!

5. Launder Your Laundry – Do a load of laundry while you’re watching TV, or anything else for that matter. Putting clothes in the laundry should take you all of 2 minutes (if you’ve presorted it – have a dark laundry basket and a white one, to make separating your laundry easy), and then moving it from the washer to the dryer, another minute. Folding can be a different story, though. We put our laundry on our bed after it’s been washed, so that we have to fold it before we go to bed.  Again, it won’t take you as long as you think 🙂

Checking these 5 items off your “to do” list will take less time than you think. Who knows? Maybe checking these items off will give you that motivational push to tackle the tougher items! What “easy chores” do you like to check off your “to do” list?

Where Did The Time Go?

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost all track of time? You have a list of items you want to get done, but then you start putting them off? I have a dirty little secret. Even though I got married nearly 3 years ago (our anniversary is in June), we still haven’t submitted our photo selection, so we have yet to order our professional wedding photos. Horrible, right? Yes! My husband and I just kept on putting it off, and now, here we are, 3 years later, sans wedding photos.

But why do we do this? When someone asks of us, “Hey, did you forward me that email?” we often, inevitably, say “Sorry, I just haven’t had the time.” But really, when we finally get around to doing most of these tasks, it takes us far less time than we anticipated (can anyone say “Dishes”?), and we feel better for having been able to check it off our list. Not only that, but we often waste a lot of our time. We get sucked in to social media websites (yes, I’m a sucker for Facebook, and updating myself on what’s on everyone’s mind), and TV, where we can easily spend 2-3 hours and not even realize it.

So, what are we to do? I suggest that we start off by setting realistic goals. If you make a list of 100 things to accomplish on a Saturday, you probably won’t finish it. And those items that you don’t get around to will simply be put off to another (unspecified) time. Next, delegate a little extra time to each “to do”, so that you don’t find yourself running behind, and if you do, you’ll be able to make it up in other areas.

Also, don’t expect someone else to do it. If you’re creating a lengthy “Honey Do” list, yet your significant other has other plans, you’ll be disappointed. So, make your list, but work together. Explain that you can’t do everything yourself, and that you need help to get things done. When they take on the responsibility themselves (rather than being told to do something), they’ll be much more willing to participate.

Lastly, reward yourself. Perhaps when you’re halfway through your list, watch one program on TV, or update your status (to announce to the world your accomplishments). But keep an eye on the clock! Make sure you limit yourself, and get right back to your “to dos” before you lose track of time. You’ll feel much better when you’re finished, and will be able to relish in the fact that you’ve done all that you set out to do that day.

Now, I’m off to clean the kitchen, the bathroom, order wedding photos, fold laundry…