Friday, November 30, 2007

How to make the most of small spaces

I wrote this post for the Clutter Control Freak blog ---->> and I'm reposting it here, partly because of the wonderful tips in the comment. Thanks, Lyn (I should get you to guest blog :)

A reader emailed…

"We live in a tiny house with no storage and have to rent so we can't structurally change anything. I would love any advice on making the most of small spaces. I declutter almost daily, but it's still crazy!"
Since she already declutters daily, I can't use that one :)

I do have a couple of other ideas however:

1. Make every piece of furniture do double duty:
Use bookcases as room dividers. Buy ottomans with storage space inside.

2. Go vertical:
Use your walls, especially in the kitchen and bedrooms.

3. Get rid of knick-knacks:
Cutesy items make your space feel even smaller. Choose one or two quality pieces instead.

4. Live simply:
Instead of having 20 t-shirts, choose the best 10 and donate the rest. The less stuff you have, the less storage you need!

What other ideas do you have for our reader?

Now here's what Lyn wrote:

From Lynda, September 20 2007

1. Thin your stuff and make sure what you use everyday is stored where it's easy to get at. A good trick is to empty the shelf or drawer into a box. When you use something, take it out of the box and put it back in the drawer or on the shelf. At the end of the week, remaining items can be tossed or stored in a less convenient location.

2. Instead of knick-knacks, find beautiful versions of what you need to use.
Living room: Decorative box for remotes, a set of pretty coasters, a warm throw, and candles.
Bathroom: Decorative containers for bathroom toiletries, towels rolled and stuffed in a wine rack, Attractive hooks for towels and robes.
Kitchen: Keep often used utensils in a pretty pitcher by the stove, use seasonal potholders and towels, store fruit, in a decorative bowl or colander

3. Shelves and wall hooks are your friend. For example, we use a small board with 6 hooks by our front door for hats, coats, and purses and another in our bathroom for towels. Glass shelves in the bathroom hold q-tips, etc.

4. More on double-duty and hidden storage: Out of season clothes under the bed, craft or spare office supplies under the sofa, extra sheets between your mattress and box springs, skirted side tables, ottomans with trays on top for side tables or paired instead of a coffee table.

5. If you're really pinched for space in the kitchen, try using one plate, set of silverware, cup, and glass per person. Store spares for dinner parties.

Aren't those ideas great? What other ideas do you have?

Finally - 7 easy steps to organise your office

Work through the steps from 1 to 7, or tackle your problem area first.
You will learn how to
{ set up your office area
{ determine your organising style
{ control the clutter
{ set up filing systems so YOU can find things
{ align your physical and electronic documents
{ get control of your inbox
{ deal with the mail
{ organise your finances
{ prevent overwhelm
{ make your favourite office tools work for you

In this e-book, I show you, step-by-step, how to organise your office.

The system has been tested for both a home and business office and works just as well for both. I also include plenty of worksheets and tell you exactly how to set up your Office Notebook (if you don’t already have one).

Don't stop with only organising your office.Make sure your business is maximizing its internet presence with the right website hosting service.

Finally - an e-book that helps me organize in a way that works with my style!

Marcia addresses the different learning styles and personalities with organizing tips that work for each of them. So many other organization tools focus on one "right" way or one "perfect" system to organize with but this e-book presented different strategies that work for different people.

Practical, useful tips and great worksheets make it easy to apply as well.

I'm already saving time and feeling more organized!

Michelle Shaeffer

I also give you a sneak peek into my own office set-up to spark your ideas. More than that however, I empower you to make your office work for you. After all, you’re the one who has to work there!

Marcia, I really enjoyed the 7 Steps e-book! The comments, strategies and worksheets were really helpful and I could easily implement your ideas to fit me.

I really loved the organizing personality section. I had never thought about that - I am clearly a visual learner and that made a lot of sense.

Your details about handling electronic information and clutter were super helpful. I liked how you gave examples of what you do/what folders you use. That helped me think about my needs and how I could incorporate the information into my life.

I love all of the planning pages you put at the end. They are awesome - I printed them out and can’t wait to start using them.

Thank you for putting together this e-book. I got A LOT out of it!!!
Mary Anne Hutcherson


Thursday, November 29, 2007

How to deal with mail clutter

One of the things people most often ask me is how to deal with all the mail.

I know it's hectic; we go through the same thing. I noticed when we visited Australia that many people have signs on their letter boxes saying "no junk mail". Aussie readers - do those signs work? I'd love it if that would work in South Africa but somehow, I just don't think so :)

I do have some good news - you can take control of your mail with just a few quick and easy steps.

1. If you have a choice between getting an account in the mail or via email, choose email.

2. When you bring in the mail from your letterbox, walk directly to a wastepaper basket and open your mail over it.

this is my wicker wastepaper basket next to my entrance hall table

When I walk into our house every day, I throw away all the pamphlets, brochures, flyers, newspapers, credit card offers, etc. I then remove the actual letter and throw away the envelopes too.

A whole stack of paper reduced to just three pages - lovely :)

3. Decide on NEXT ACTIONS there and then.

I circle the payment date on any accounts and quickly sort in date order so that I can diarise these in my planner.

4. Then file.

I only (!) file once a week or every two weeks if there's not much and it literally takes me 5 minutes.

I go into a lot more detail about paper and paper clutter in my new book, 7 easy steps to organise your office, which you can get for just R150 (divide by 7 for US$).

Do you have any cool ideas on dealing with mail clutter?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tackling bedside table and to-do list

Remember to check my main blog page for your discount on my new 7 easy steps to Organise your Office book
Tackle It Tuesday Meme

Last night I wrote my to-do list for today and when I was putting my planner on the pile mountain of books, I grabbed it again to add "tidy bedside table".

The things on my bedside table have been multiplying slowly over the last week because I've been spending such a lot of time in bed. I used to only have the one basket before but I have so much stuff - notepads and stuff - that I brought one of these pink baskets out to contain the extra stuff. It helped a lot because I didn't have to stretch for a long time to find things; I just grab the basket and find what I need.

Here's the before, just after I finished my muesli and yoghurt this morning.

and here's the after

And here's the pile of books that went back to my bookshelf. I need to finish that time management one before I get the goals one!

What else am I tackling today?

Because I have to be sedentary, I made a master to-do list of 19 computer things I want to do (some of them, like writing a new e-course, has multiple parts, so is going slowly) and so far (yesterday and this morning) I've done 6). I'll keep you updated.

What does your to-do list look like?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Menu Plan Monday - 26 Nov 2007

If you battle with paper and office organising, please get your blog discount code and check out 7 easy steps to organise your office.

Hi everybody

I'm back! Thank you to those of you who emailed me checking on me - much appreciated :)

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was having surgery on 16th November. Well, that happened and thank God, was better than I expected (shorter surgery and one less day in the hospital). Initially the doctor said I'd probably be off for 2 weeks but they'd better be able to tell at my one-week check-up.

Well, that happened on Friday. I'm now booked off for FOUR WHOLE WEEKS and I'm going stir crazy!

I'm FLYING through books at a rate of one per day, watching my daily dose of Oprah and doing lots of computer work. You see, I'm restricted to sedentary activities so it's not like I can give the house a good clean. I'm so glad I went crazy at that book sale! Also, I started writing out my Christmas cards yesterday.

I've been revamping all my products and I'll be removing some from the store, making combos of some of them, using some only to support my coaching clients, and of course, working on new stuff.

Last week we played it by ear because Dion did most of the cooking but that spontaneous stuff doesn't work for me - I realised anew that I like to know what's happening :) so yesterday, I checked the freezer and pantry, and made a no-fuss menu plan.

Baked potato and sausage casserole

Spaghetti and lentil bolognaise sauce (veggie version of normal bolognaise)

Chicken steaks, mashed potato and carrots

Chilli con carne, rice and pumpkin

Fish, chips and salad

For more menus, please visit Laura's site. By the way, has anybody else noticed a decrease in traffic since MPM's gotten so big? I said to Laura, seems like everyone else feels just as overwhelmed as I do, or am I the only one? :)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Favourite organising tools #10 - baskets (2)

I really do love baskets. Remember I blogged about it last week?

Here is part 1 in case you missed it.

This time, I'm showing more kitchen and pantry pictures.

this is a cupboard right next to my stove - that basket holds some extra spices that don't fit on my spice rack

this is in my pantry - the packages (red kidney beans if you're interested) take up less space like this than if I lay them down
baking stuff and extra chocolate in the back that I got on sale
extra cleaning supplies
If you use baskets in your kitchen/ pantry area, please blog them and come leave the link in the comments so we can all come visit and see :)
This is also my Works for me Wednesday post - working smarter, not harder :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Organising library books

We are BIG readers in this house. I bribe the librarians with donated books so they let me take more than the standard 6 at a time. Now you know there's nothing I won't do for books.

I've shared before how I am weak when faced with book sales but for the most part, I buy non-fiction and get fiction from the library.

This little table is next to my main desk in the study.

My stuff is on the left and Dion's is on the right.

  1. When I get home from the library, I unpack the orange bag and stack all the books on the top.
  2. As I finish reading, the books go back in the orange bag. The idea is that by the time the books are due back, all of them are back in the orange bag, ready to go.
  3. Of course that never happens but at least I know immediately which ones I have to renew and which can be returned.
  4. This system works beautifully for me!

As for Dion's pile, I have no idea what his system is :) Incidentally, we bought his bookbag (folded under that blue book) at a bookstore called Collins at the Sydney airport for AUS $2.

Do you take books from the library? What do you do to organise your books?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tackling...blogging holiday photos

Tackle It Tuesday Meme
I have one and a half notebook pages full of computer stuff to do. While I don't strictly follow the GTD (Getting Things Done) system, I do like things sorted out (!) so I write my to-do lists by category - to blog, to phone, to do around the house, computer stuff, etc...
This week, I took all the 160 photos we took when we were in Cape Town a few weeks ago, compressed them and blogged them on our travel blog. You can see them all here.
We're going to Port Elizabeth in less than a month for 9 days so I needed to be up to date on that blog. By the way, if you're in PE and you want me to speak to your group or have a coaching/ organising session with you, let me know. I already have two bookings from some of my super-quick readers :)
Don't forget to come back tomorrow! I'm launching a new product to help you get control of your office. This is something that people have been asking me to do for MONTHS and I've finally caved in :)
What did you tackle this week?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Favourite organising tools #10 - baskets (1)

Baskets make really good organising tools for containing items. When you're organising, you always want to keep like items together and this is a great way to do just that.

It's much easier to pull a basket off a shelf, remove something and then put it back instead of feeling your way on the shelf, messing up everything. When the basket has a handle, it's also very easy to carry from room to room (like in the case of cleaning supplies).

They're cheap and you can easily re-purpose if you outgrow the basket or it no longer suits the original purpose.

To prepare for this post, I walked around my house taking pictures. Since I got 14 pictures without even trying, I'm going to have to split up this post otherwise you'll all get bored.

Here's how I use baskets in my kitchen. Pantry, bathroom and bedroom to follow!

1. to hold my cell phone charger and rechargeable batteries for my camera (this is on top of my extractor fan)
2. to hold our vitamins (the front one has the daily stuff and the back one has all the extra supplies)

to keep my recipe books next to the microwave (when I want to declutter, I pull this whole thing out and take it to the TV to work on - easy!)

to store cleaning things under the kitchen sink (notice how I write the date on the dishwashing liquid? I'm weird like that - I like to keep track to make sure we don't waste money)

How do you use baskets in your kitchen?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Our launch pad works for me

I have a 3-drawer wicker thing just inside our door.

1. Now it's summer here (south africa) so we have caps in there - the sun is potent and whenever we go outside I like to be protected - and of course, our individual umbrellas (they are the small ones).

In winter, I keep gloves, scarves and woolen caps.

One drawer each and an extra for miscellaneous of the same type (extra umbrella, or extra gloves).

I put the 2 gloves together and turn them inside out so they are little balls (hope this makes sense) so there's no hunting around for a missing glove.

2. I keep my church Bible on top of the wicker thing.

3. My office in a bag and our gym bags are also there, as well as any errands that have to be run.

So before I leave the house, I grab my handbag, work bag on the other side of that wall, and then anything else from this little station.

It definitely works for me!

How do you remember what to take with you?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Organising vitamins in the kitchen

We keep our vitamins in the kitchen because we take them after we have breakfast. I take 4 - a calcium magnesium supplement, evening primrose oil, a woman's multivitamin supplement and my favourite, vitamin C.

before - this is the mess when I unpacked it all. I returned medicines to the bathroom, put the extras in a separate container and organised the rest for easy use.

after - that green basket holds all the extra boxes. Clicks often has 3 for the price of 2 specials on vitamins and I stock up. In this picture, you can see how easy it is to take down the little green basket, take the vitamins and put it back.

after - this is what it looks like on my corner shelf. The flat plastic container to the left of the front green basket is what I keep in my lunch bag and take to work. There is just enough space for 5 of each for the week.

and this is the aerial view

1. Does this idea work for you?

2. Where do you keep your vitamins and how do you organise them?

For more tackles, visit 5 minutes for mom

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Organising your recipes & menu plan Monday - 12 Nov 2007

I wrote a post for Clutter Control Freak recently on organising your recipes. You can read it here - there's also a wonderful resource in the comments!

At the moment, I'm scheduled for surgery on Friday (minor female stuff) which means I've been cooking because I'm not sure how quickly I'll be mobile ;) I'm booked off for two weeks afterwards and then he's said to "take it easy" for 6 weeks in total, so no exercise - YAY! (Have to look on the bright side, right?!)

Menu for the week
Marcia - out
Dion - fasting

Chilli con carne, rice and carrots

Baked potatoes with spicy lentil sauce (food from freezer - taking with me to work as I'm going straight to another talk)

Fish, chips and salad (carried over from last week)

probably hospital food - yuck! (on the bright side, weight loss!)
Dion can pick from the freezer :)

*** I discovered a healthy snack this week - julienned carrots! I take a small container (about 50g) and keep it next to the computer so when I snack, I snack healthy and I find I like the crunchiness. Now here's the thing - without saying a thing, I saw Dion doing the same yesterday. Isn't that cool?!
Visit Laura for some great menu ideas.

If you're interested in joining my research and development team, email me!

Thanks for reading! Come back tomorrow to see how I organise my vitamins.
Oh, and PS, I'd love to read about some of your small, simple pleasures in life!

Friday, November 09, 2007

I need your help!

Edited to add:
I now have 6 people and I'm looking to double that. I need people who buy e-books, e-courses and so on. Is that you?

I'm putting together a Research & Development team and I'm looking for about 10 people who fulfill these requirements:

1. honest and people of integrity
2. can give good, constructive feedback
3. communicate well (either written or verbal)
4. a keen interest in goal-setting, time management, organising and success
5. someone who reads other people's stuff and buys e-products now and again
6. Must click with me. This sounds very airy-fairy but if we're going to be working together, then we need to be like-minded, right?

Optional, but nice-to-have
1. On my mailing list at
2. Read my blogs regularly
3. Previous buyer of one of my products
4. Previous coaching/ organising client, or workshop attendee

What is required
1. If I select you to be on my team, I will ask you to subscribe to my mailing list because I need you to get THE WHOLE ME and that includes my entire marketing message.
2. I will also ask you to read my blogs (this one and the other one ---->>) on a weekly basis.
3. I need you to give me written feedback on my products, offerings and such. So if you write well, then that's a bonus!

What's in it for you
1. A first look at any new products! For free!!!
2. An opportunity to learn from me.
3. You get an inside look at how I do things.
4. 10% discount off all products, coaching, organising, etc, effective immediately.
5. Access to a new network of like-minded people

How it all works
1. Email me and tell me why you're interested.
2. I'll send you a quick list of questions
3. Depending on your answers in 2 above, we'll have a quick chat on Skype or in my chat room
4. If you're selected, I'll give you access to a special members-only blog I've already set up and we can get cracking!

I'm very excited and looking forward to working with some of you!

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

My best 4 ways to tame the magazine monster

For someone who does not own a single magazine subscription, I sure do manage to accumulate a lot of magazines.

For this picture, I went around the house and collected everything in sight!

1. I keep them mainly in the bathrooms (ahem) because that's where they mostly get read. When I find something good, I tear it out there and then so I don't waste time looking for a recipe later. Because of course then I'd get sidetracked and look at all the gorgeous pictures again :)

2. The only time I get through a lot of magazines quickly is when I get my car washed. I take 3 - 4 magazines with me and use the waiting time to read, tear out articles and declutter.

3. I also like taking magazines with me when I'm taking a long plane trip, about 8 hours or more. It's nice because when I'm done, I offer it to the passengers who look like they need something else other than in-flight entertainment. I'm helpful like that :) And the best is I can leave them right there on the aircraft!

4. When I go through magazines, my motto is always less is more. So I try very hard not to keep anything I know deep down I'm not going to need or use. I know myself and even though a recipe might look delicious, it's not likely to be something I try and cook/ bake if it's in the least bit complicated :)

Of course, once I have the 2 - 3 pages per magazine, I use my beloved flipfiles/ display folders to organise them. And since Barb wrote about her great ideas notebook, I started a Gorgeous Things flipfile too with beautiful furniture, houses I like, etc. It's good to dream.

By the way, the short flights to PE and CT don't work for magazines. That's strictly e-book time. I finished 150 pages of reading on this last trip down to Cape Town in between the eating and chatting. I use a plastic book bag like this which works very, very well.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Organising with health problems

I'm working smart today and making this my Works for me Wednesday post!

Jo has left a new comment on your post "Fall Y'all bloggy giveaway - a virtual organising ...":

My organizing question is- how does a mom of three, who has cancer and health problems, become good at organzing despite her Adult ADD? Tough one I know but one I battle constantly. WANT to organize, exhausted all the time, start something and never finish. I just want to get things done for once.

Here's what I sent Jo in an email but I'd love you all to also pitch in with your ideas.

Hello again and thanks for your great question.
  1. If you know HOW to organize (have systems and so forth), then I’d get some highschoolers in, pay them minimum wage and get them to do it according to your specifications.

  2. Can your relatives help?

  3. Advertise on your blog for someone good at organising/ professional organiser to come in and help you – maybe do an hour or two free and you can do a nice testimonial for them.
The main thing is that once the systems are there, you can get anyone to “follow your rules” even if you physically can’t do so.

Readers - please share your ideas in the comments! Thanks.

If you want to answer some more questions :), visit

Monday, November 05, 2007

And the winner is...

Remember last week's giveaway?

Thank you so much to all of you who participated - I LOVED all the great questions. And wow - such a lot of questions on paper which just happens to be my favourite thing to organise.

I wish I could give EACH and EVERY ONE of you a free virtual organising session because I would love to help all of you.

But - good news! I've decided to give all the commenters 10% discount off a virtual organising session - the normal cost is R150 but you get 10% off. Please use coupon code virtual to see your discount at checkout! Offer valid until 16 November. That means you must have paid for it - I can do your session after that, no problem.

Here's the link to the store and to the other organising goodies

And the winner is....

Mary (Anonymous commenter) with yahoo address, who said...

My biggest organization problem is paper! I get overwhelmed with it and don't know what to do about it. Thank you.

Congratulations to you, Mary. Please email me so we can set up your session and get you organised :)

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Menu planning & planning for busy weeks - 5 Nov 2007

I knew we'd be back late last night from Cape Town (see previous post) so I cooked extra last week so I could have some freezer meals for Mon and Tues.

I'm using the time I would have been cooking to write a quick newsletter for Wed's mailing and catch-up with emails. Although, my email box is not looking bad at all. I'm impressed :) And of course, preparation for my talk on Wed.

Anyway, so here's my menu for the week.

Stirfried sausage, chickpeas and veggies with rice

Spaghetti chicken casserole

Something quick - doing a talk, how to manage your time and take back your life for a group and will only eat around 8pm

Grilled fish and chips (95% fat-free) with salad

Eating with friends

How do you plan for busy weeks?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I'm back!

Just checking in to say that I'm back and will post more tomorrow.
However, I thought I'd leave you with a few pictures - the view from my window on the 'plane as we were descending into Jhb earlier this evening.

look at the gorgeous grey skies over the wing of the aircraft - these beautiful clouds unfortunately resulted in a fair bit of turbulence and I'm just getting over the queasiness now, two hours later

this view always makes me think of a patchwork quilt :)

And now, I'm off to make a mug of green tea, which I'll drink while making my to-do list for tomorrow. Then I'm jumping into bed.

And yes, the draws for the 3 giveaways are already on my list!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Favourite organising tools #9 - Office in a bag

As many of you know, I work a full-time job, run the business after work and on weekends, and I do ministry work at my church.

With all these things going on, I have to be quite portable because there's nothing worse than not having something you need. Or having it, but in the wrong location!

So I have an "office in a bag".

1. I use one of these book bags for my business & personal stuff to and fro work.

2. The pictures below show the one I use for the ministry work.

It has two pockets. You can slip paper and larger items into the big one and smaller items like keys and smaller notebooks into the front pocket which then has a plastic zipper.

I love this thing because of the handles. You can't see them very well because when I bring it back home, I store it on its side with the handles folded over so it fits nicely into my launch pad. (Just realised I've never posted my launch pad - okay, made a note and will do so)

What I keep inside

  1. Forms for doing the assessment
  2. Ministry details
  3. Notebook (Disney one) because so many people don't keep paper with them
  4. Pencil bag with mini stapler, mini staple remover, pens, highlighter, paper clips, etc)
  5. I used to have office keys but since we moved to the new church building, I do the assessments at a coffee shop so we are really portable now.

What do you use for your "office in a bag"?