Organizing

Preparing to Move: Part 1 – CLEANING HOUSE

If you’ve ever lived in an apartment, you know that the number one thing that a complex will ding you for post move-out is cleaning fees. Especially carpets. Unfortunately, these fees are basically unavoidable. My mom told me that right after she and my dad got married, they lived in a condo for a year. They scrubbed the place from top-to-bottom, to the point that my mom said it was cleaner when they left than when they moved in, and, yet, the complex still charged them a major cleaning fee. My mom said that was the last time they rented an apartment or condo – ever.

So, while you will probably get charged for something after you leave your rented small space, there are a few things that you can do to avoid the larger end of the fee spectrum.

The first time I ever rented an apartment on my own, I was desperate for a place to live that would take my dog, and ended up renting a cheap 2 bedroom on a whim. The entire apartment was carpet, save for the bathroom and small kitchen area. Having never rented a place on my own before, it did not occur to me that having a dog in a 99% carpeted home would not be the smartest decision. And THEN I ended up getting a puppy. HINT: do NOT get a brand new puppy when you are living in a rental. It is NOT smart. If you are dying to get a dog, adopt one that is already house-broken.

When my lease was finally up, I was so fed up with my complex and so eager to leave that I literally just packed everything and left. I didn’t even attempt to clean a single centimeter of the place. Well, it cost me. A LOT. Even with my initial deposit, I still ended up having to pay $1700 on top of that. Because I got a puppy that chewed up and peed and pooped on the carpet, they had to rip up ALL of the carpet in the ENTIRE apartment, along with the pad underneath, and then replace it all with brand new pads and carpeting. THAT was where my biggest costs came from. TIP NUMBER 2: if you absolutely HAVE to rent an apartment, find one that has as little carpet as possible. It will save you LOADS of money. And, on that note, if you are stuck with any sort of carpeted area, I highly HIGHLY recommend investing in a steam cleaner. I purchased one for my current apartment (which is only carpeted in my bedroom), and it has worked WONDERS on stains left from shoes (and the occasional puke from one of my dogs – even when they are housebroken, they STILL find ways to stain your carpet!).

Okay so back to moving out – you should DEFINITELY try and clean your space before you leave it. The cleaner it is when you move, the less they can charge you for to clean it themselves. That said, even a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment takes A LOT of work to clean. Things you don’t think about (fan blades, baseboards, refrigerator, etc.) have to be taken care of, otherwise you will get charged. The best tactic I’ve found for preparing to move is to take a portion of the space every weekend (or whenever you have a day off) and work on cleaning that. For example, a couple of weeks ago I was in one of my deep-cleaning modes – I went to work on the entire place like I normally do, I cleaned the kitchen counters and floors, the entire bathroom, and perfumed, vacuumed, and steam-cleaned my carpet. This time, though, I noticed that my baseboards and the fan blades were abnormally disgusting – and so I ended up cleaning those as well. My point to this story is.. If you start cleaning portions of your home ahead of time, there will be less dust and grime accumulated by the time you are getting ready to leave. Once you get your furniture moved, the cleaning process will be much less painstaking because you’ve already done the initial preparations. To that point, my lease is up at the end of September – I’ve already started my cleaning prep, and will probably do another round before my final move-out deep clean.

Sidenote: make sure you take a really good, hard look at every single corner, every inch, every nook-and-cranny of the rented space to make sure you tally up everything that needs to be cleaned. I noticed the other day that my doors are really dirty from fingerprints and from my dogs tapping on them to be let in or out. Doors are also sneaky places that carry dust so be sure to check for that if your doors have “fancy” indentations on them.

Another thing to remember: if your complex has a maintenance team, be SURE to have them see to any problems you may be having before move-out, and also be sure to note if they have caused any issues in trying to fix something you’ve called about. For example, my washing machine hose has had a leak for about 5 months now. About twice a month it floods the poor man’s apartment below mine, and maintenance has to come and replace the hose (well, SUPPOSEDLY they fix the hose). Just last week they came again because the man’s apartment was flooding – turns out they HADN’T fixed the hose properly (shocker!), and while trying to maneuver my washer and drier so that they could access the hose, they busted the machines and created all these dents. I guarantee you they didn’t make a note of that, so now I have to call the complex and be sure to tell them that maintenance broke my washer, NOT ME.

All-in-all, just BE SMART about moving out. Think about the place as if YOU were renting it to a tenant. If you had to come in after someone moved out, how would YOU want the place to look? Would you want to deal with having someone clean it and then having to charge the tenant more money because they left in a rush?

DO NOT, by any means, think that this will get you out of paying fees. IT PROBABLY WON’T. Unless you paid some humongous deposit that would no doubt cover any and all cleaning fees, you should probably expect to pay a little something. But just take heed, do a little bit of work every time you have a couple of free hours, it will save you time and money in the end.

HINT ON CLEANING PRODUCTS: I am a psycho clean freak, and I feel it is completely necessary to have at least one of every cleaning product. For example, I like Windex for some things, and I like a product called Glass Cleaner for other things. Both work effectively for glass and mirrors, however, they can also work great for cleaning surfaces. I have all kitchen and bathroom spray cleaners, as well as powder bleach for tubs and sinks. I always cross-over products and use whatever works best. Accumulate as many products as you can – every single one will come in handy!

Advertisements

Move It Or Lose It.

Move. Movement. Moving. Moves. I Like The Way You Move – Moving Onward, Upward, Forward, Over.. Moving OUT.

The basis of this word defines each and every one of our lives, every single day.

Most of us just move forward. Most of us just go through the day-to-day motions of going to work, exercising, eating, sleeping, etc. Occasionally something comes across our path that forces us to move upward or over, forces us to then move onward. Whatever the case may be, we are always moving.

In a more literal sense, some of us are actually MOVING – as in, moving to a new location.

This is soon to be one of my more recent realities.

The ongoing battle of having large dogs whose breed has deemed them “aggressive” is that it’s near impossible to find places to live. In Sacramento, at least.

Apartments are out of the question. With so many people in a condensed environment, having a dog that might POSSIBLY bite somebody (you know, because small dogs are so sweet and calm..) is a definitely no-no. And if you want to live on your own, making slightly less than a teacher’s salary (sorry.. No offense to any teachers out there – I think you deserve more considering you have to put up with everyone’s ADHD children for 8 hours a day), you are basically forced to find an apartment because houses are generally too expensive for one person. I tell you, the struggle is REAL!

BUT, once you have secured a place to live, the real fun starts (fun for me at least).

When you move into a new place, you have a completely clean slate to work with. For me, this means a bunch of new furniture arrangement options, new decor, and the opportunity to clean house (as in, cleaning out my closet, getting rid of junk, etc.).

Since I’m not one to leave everything until the last minute, I’ve already started to organize my life, despite the fact that I won’t be moving for another month-and-a-half. I already went through my closet and cleaned out clothing. I’m bringing boxes home from work so when the time gets closer I’ll have plenty of places to pack knick-knacks, books, and other things of that sort (I’m not a huge collector.. I generally just hold on to books).

In the next few weeks, I will be posting helpful moving tips to make moving a little bit smoother. Stay tuned!

Conquer Your Closet

Fall.

Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Pumpkin scones. Leaves changing color. Key indicators that a new season is upon us. And what else does it mean? It’s time to rotate your closet. Out with the skimpy and in with the cozy. Ah, yes, the oh-so-daunting task of moving your clothes around. Most of us just avoid this step into fall altogether. Instead, we choose to spend six months of the year reaching blindly into the back of our closet, discarding our “no’s” onto the floor, and then screaming in frustration when we can’t find something to wear because it’s in that mountain of clean clothes.

Sound familiar?

It’s time to take control of your wardrobe. You should be enjoying every aspect of fall!

First things first: LAUNDRY. Every single item of clothing you own should be cleaned and put where you normally keep it. We do not want anything to go unaccounted for during this process. Next, pull all of your folded summer clothes out of the closet (aka the things that aren’t hanging – shorts, summer pants, bathing suits, etc.). Lay everything on your bed (which should be made up all nicely so that you have room to do this!), and grab a few empty bags – I use old shopping bags from places like Nordstrom or Victoria’s Secret, but you can use garbage bags or any others that suit you. Start going through your clothes based on type: again – shorts, bathing suits, skirts, pants, blah blah blah, and so on. Toss anything that you truly, from the depths of your soul, know you won’t wear again. Even if you’ve gained a few pounds since fall started, and your spring incentive to get thin will be to fit into that cute pair of high-waisted shorts again – get rid of it! You can buy a new pair when you’re back in shape next summer. The key here is to make more room and to stop holding on to things you don’t need.

Once you’ve weeded out your non-hanging summer style, NEATLY fold the things you have remaining and set them aside.

Now, do the same thing with the things you have hanging. Don’t allow yourself to become emotionally attached to things. Clothes are replaceable, and fashion trends are always changing. (And, worst case scenario, if you REALLY want something back that you gave up, chances are you could find it on eBay). Once you’re finished with that, take your [now] empty hangers and hang them in the front of your closet. You will probably be needing them for all of the cute new fall items you’ll be purchasing.

Now, take your discarded items and remove the bags from your room. Get them out of your way and out of your sight. You have now officially parted with these items and there is no bringing them back into your closet (WILLPOWER! You can do it!). *Note: these items MUST go to Goodwill or be sold to a consignment store ASAP. The longer they linger, the more time you have to go back through them and wistfully imagine how cute you looked in something, and do you really want to part with it? YES, YOU DO. Someone less fortunate will appreciate these items MUCH more than you will – I guarantee it.

It is now time to move on to your winter wardrobe. First, bring your colder weather clothes to the front of the closet. Take a good look at everything you have and decide what you will be getting into the most. For example, I wear a LOT of sweaters, so I have my sweaters in the very front of my closet (color-coordinated of course). Once you’ve decided what you want to access the most, decide where you’re putting it and how you will organize it. Like I said, my clothes are all color-coordinated and hung according to sleeve size (this goes for t-shirts, long-sleeves, and tank tops). My wardrobe is also organized according to “type” (sweater, sweatshirt, jacket, blazer, vest, shirts, dresses, etc.). OBVIOUSLY I am slightly OCD when it comes to my closet, BUT I always know EXACTLY where everything is.

Put your closet together how it will best suit YOUR needs. After all, you are the only one who will be accessing it.

The next step is to stick your summer clothes back into the closet – and when I saw “back” I literally mean back into, and also into the back. Those adorable strapless maxi dresses won’t be making another appearance until at least April. Neither will your rompers. Just make sure you are putting these things back TIDILY. There is nothing worse than having to do this again in the spring, and your summer clothing is all over the place. It will be much easier when everything is, for the most part, already organized and ready to go.

You’re almost done!

Once your closet is organized and arranged in a way that you’re happy with, it’s time to take all of your “Donate” bags out to your vehicle. Holding on to them is A) clutter, and B) as I said before, giving you more time to argue with yourself about throwing something out. I promise once you rid yourself of these extra items, you will feel so much better.

And maybe, as a reward for going through this process, you can stop by a store on your way home from donating and grab a couple new items to add to your now downsized closet. See? There are perks to this whole clean-out process.

Paper Trails

I am notorious for not holding on to receipts. I can’t stand the clutter of all those tiny, useless pieces of paper. Receipts are so small and seemingly insignificant – every single day I find old ones shoved into little nooks and crannies in my kitchen, my clothes, my wallet – you name it. It drives me crazy! And I tend to keep everything that I purchase, so what’s the point of holding on to the receipt?

Well, to be honest, I still don’t really hold on to the little ones. A few groceries and household necessities from Walmart and I toss the receipt. But I DO hold on to the major ones. Receipts for monthly bills, car purchases, rentals, etc. Things that I may need to review or have in my records for some weird, crazy reason.

And, if you live in an apartment like I do, you don’t really have room for a desk or a gigantic file cabinet to hold everything. And so that brings me to step 1 in getting your blasted paperwork organized: finding something to NEATLY hold your loose papers (which won’t be loose anymore). I recently discovered these small storage boxes that are designed for files (you’ve probably seen them in your local stores, they aren’t a new invention or anything).

storage

I bought two of them, and it’s been more than enough space for the things that I keep. I found mine at Walmart and Target, but I’m sure that any other office supply store or home deco store will carry them.

The next thing to do when you’re trying to get your papers organized is to buy a box of file folders. I usually snag mine from my office, which are just basic, nude-colored files. I also have colored ones, but unless you are color-coordinating your categories, it really doesn’t make a difference which ones you use.

The most important step is to LABEL YOUR FILES. For example, mine are labeled according to content: Bella & Roca, Wells Fargo, Health Insurance, Auto Insurance, and-so-on-and-so-forth. I have a general utilities file, but if you feel you need to sort your papers even further, you can make individual ones according to gas, electricity, cable, Wi-Fi, etc.

organizing folders

I am über organized, so all of my folders are alphabetized, and also organized in each box according to how often I need access to the folder. My main box holds the files for my insurance, monthly bills, and my dogs. Obviously, your folders of importance will probably differ from mine, so organize it in a way that suits you and will make it easiest for you when you need to grab a folder or file something away.

The final step in this process is to find a NOT SO OBVIOUS place to store your boxes. This means, do not leave them on your kitchen counter. If someone was to break in, and found a file with your social security info and birth certificate just sitting and waiting, you’d be screwed. If you live in a small, rented space like me, this is limiting because you can’t sink a safe into the ground or anything like that; however, I keep mine in my bedroom, somewhat hidden, but easy enough for me to get to. If you know you’ll be getting into your boxes on a regular basis, DO NOT store them somewhere that is difficult to get to. It will keep you from staying organized and that pile of receipts will just start to build up again.

It’s not that difficult to stay organized! Just don’t be lazy – and if you have a busy schedule and don’t have the time to store your bills and receipts every day, then set aside 30 or so minutes at the end of every week to get everything organized and put away. It will save you a lot of stress and (if you happen to have a need for a bill or receipt) a lot of time and energy as well.

*Word to the wise, any papers you are throwing out that have ANY sort of personal information on them should be shredded. Believe it or not, there are creeps that actually dig through garbage just to see if someone is careless enough to discard the blueprints of their entire life. Also, if you come across something that you don’t know if you’ll need again but don’t feel good about throwing out, stick it in a miscellaneous folder. I have one, and every few months or so I go through it and clean out the things that I realize I no longer need.

Penciling YOURSELF In

We all love fall. The slight cooling of the weather that inspires women to break out their Ugg boots, beanies, and scarves; not to mention an even more reasonable excuse to start every morning with a hot latte. But, as much as we love and appreciate the gorgeous changes taking place above our heads as the leaves turn from green to red, we cannot deny that waking up early for work or class now means rising before the sun – a habit that I, myself, am not at all happy about. Due to the fact that I am employed full-time AND in school full time, my high-energy Dobermans and I get up at 6 every weekday to fit in our exercise regime. *For anyone that’s been considering bringing a Doberman into their life, you won’t regret it! However, they are extremely high energy, so unless you have an active lifestyle, or at least an hour to dedicate to their exercise every day, I wouldn’t recommend adopting one.

I think we can all agree that a six am wake-up-call is not nearly as difficult when the sun is up and there is already a definite warmth to the air. In these early days of fall, the comfort of our beds and the heat from our comforter are far more appealing than stepping outside into a pitch black chill in the wee hours of the morning. There are some rare mornings where my alarm so rudely and shrilly awakes me, and I just hit that lovely “snooze” button and burrow right back under the covers. The key word in that sentence is “rare.” When you have two dogs, you quickly learn that they thrive on a scheduled and organized life. It is also rare that I ever need an alarm to wake me up. Generally, somewhere in the fifteen minutes between 5:45 and 6:00 am, a gigantic Dobie paw will land squarely on my face – in the Doberman world, this means “It’s time to get up!”

It was during my run with my crazy Dobermans this morning that I began to think about the importance of living a structured life (one of the few perks of running your dogs so early in the morning is that there is no one else around, and so your mind does not need to be so intensely occupied with keeping track of your animals and their proximity to others). Dogs tend to be happier and more balanced when they have a set schedule. Once they’re fed and exercised, they’re content. Who’s to say it can’t be the same for humans? IT CAN.

I hate to use my boyfriend as an example again, but, alas, I must. He is the epitome of someone who “flies by the seat of his pants.” He has no set schedule, and I’ve never, in the 2 years I’ve known him, seen him on time for anything. Not once. He never remembers if he has doctors appointments or what time his meetings are because he doesn’t write things down or keep a calendar.

I’ve found, in my more recent adult years, that if I write things down either A) in a calendar, or B) on a piece of paper in the form of a list, I tend to get a lot more done. I need the my entire day/week/month laid out before me in order to get everything I need accomplished. This is not to say that calendars and lists will work for every single person. Maybe you’re more comfortable with your smart phone (another great thing about technology – handheld calendar access whenever you need it!). If that’s the case then more power to you! No need to lug around a notebook-sized calendar that practically lays out every hour of every day for you.

If you’re as OCD as I am (not literally OCD, but, perhaps, obsessively organized), then here’s a tip: color-coordinate the most important things in your calendar. I am the type of person that likes to see the entire month ahead in front of me. And not only do I put things in the monthly view, I put them in the daily/weekly view as well. For instance, I always write my “Paydays” in red; things my dogs need are highlighted in yellow (heartworm, flea meds, vet trips); and homework is usually only recorded in my weekly calendar unless I have a test or assignment due.

I’m not saying that the key to success is a planner, but staying organized and writing things down definitely is. As I said in my post about organizing your home, the most important part is expelling the small amount of energy it takes to start the organizing and then the dedication to stay with it. I mean, really, how hard is it to pull out your calendar (or phone) every day and take a peek at what you need to get done for that day, the week, or the month? Write things down, make lists – the satisfaction of physically crossing something off is so gratifying, it is completely worth the annoyance of documenting something in pen and ink.

The basis of this message, and any organizational posts that follow, is to STOP BEING LAZY. There absolutely NO excuse for it. If you’re watching your favorite TV show, or if you’re cooking something that takes a long time and little-to-no maintenance, then use that simultaneous spare time you have to fold your clothes, do laundry, clean your room, clean the dishes – do SOMETHING productive that you keep putting off. You will feel SO much better if every surface of your home is junk-free and clean. I promise you that.

*If you’re a visual person and you feel you might need a calendar, Target and Walmart sell them for an extremely low price (and – BONUS – their calendars are from June of the same year through August of the next year). Don’t rip yourself off for some Staples brand, leather-bound day-planner that only gives you 9 months as opposed to the 15 that Target’s or Walmart’s will give you. And while you’re investing some time and money into a planner, might as well pick up some colored pens and highlighters to really give your calendar that extra organizational “oomph” it really needs.

Get Your Sh*t Together!

Image

Organization.

Just the word itself is complicated to say. Our mouths can barely form the complicated grouping of consonants and vowels strung together so awkwardly it hardly seems like a real word. But, as difficult and as daunting as we may find it, it is without a doubt one word (and it’s meaning, really) that can significantly simplify your life every day.

Exhibit A: My Boyfriend. While I love the man, he is without a doubt the most unorganized individual (not to mention a total slob). To give you an example, he will come home from work and immediately kick off his shoes and dump everything on the ground – backpack, pants, keys, money – anything that happens to be in his pockets or in his hands goes straight on the floor. This has been his routine every single day in the two years that I’ve known him. In that time we have adopted two Doberman puppies (one is now 2-years-old, one is 9 months old). You may not know much about Dobermans, but they are extremely oral – they love to chew! Anything left within their reach that screams “humans only” will be repossessed and destroyed. You would think that after the first dog, he would have learned that leaving a brand new pair of Vans on the floor in Dobie world is grounds for removal and destruction. Alas, several iPhones, earphones, backpacks, dollar bills, shoes, socks (you name it, he’s lost it to a Dobe) later, and he still leaves things lying around. True to form, whatever “it” is ends up being chewed up and spit out, telltale teeth marks marking the culprit. This always results in an outrage in which the dog is immediately sent to its bed and said object goes sailing about the room amongst a string of curses and stomping around. After calmly reminding him that he should have placed his items in a safe location, nothing is done about it and it’s business as usual.

Here’s your first tip to getting organized – FIND A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING. You have a home, why don’t your “things”? How much time and energy do you expel every time you’re looking for your keys? The “I left them right here!” line gets old pretty quickly. And let’s face it, in a society like America’s that is so fast-paced, do you really have the time to be hunting for vital items every single morning? Blaming your misplacement on a befuddled, pre-coffee mind doesn’t help matters, either. Not to mention, knowing where everything is at all times will allow you to squeeze in some additional Zz’s in the morning.

Let’s look at it this way. Say you woke up this morning and spent 15 minutes hunting for your keys. That 15 minutes cost you precious beautifying time, and put you smack dab in the middle of rush hour traffic, and therefore you were late for work. Not a good way to start the day, eh? Now, let’s say this morning was the absolute last straw – you’ve been having these mornings far too often and you finally want to change it! The hardest part is admitting you have a problem! You’re already ahead of the group.

The next thing you need to do is to clean out. This part does not need to be organized. Grab a few trash bags and just start dumping. If you are a pack rat, it is time to come back to reality and accept that the Zombie Apocalypse just isn’t going to happen (at least, not in our lifetime). And if it does, you will not be needing a bunch of pens with dried up ink, or the Beanie Baby collection you spent so much of your babysitting allowance on in junior high. All of those sweet birthday cards you’ve been saving from everyone and their mother since first grade and have now caused a drawer jam in your desk have to go. It is time to learn to become emotionally UNattached to things. I know for some of you this will be difficult, especially if you have children and are so proud of every drawing they bring home, even if it’s just a big black blob due to a pen explosion at school (which additionally ended up all over their outfit, which you’ve hung in the laundry room and are swearing you are going to get to one of these days). GET RID OF IT! SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE. They won’t miss the outfit or the drawing, and you’ll quickly find that neither will you. *Sidenote: if you find that you are having a hard time parting with something, consider donating it. Think about what it could do for someone who is much less fortunate than you are.

The next step is taking stock of what you have leftover. This is why I make my bed first thing every morning – it leaves space for me to set things on. This is not to say that I leave them there. Who wants to sleep in a bed with two 80 pound Dobermans and a full-sized man, AND a bunch of junk at the foot of the bed? Maybe your bed isn’t as full as mine is, but I sure don’t want the additional clutter at my feet. So use the clean space on your bed or your counter to your advantage. Sort through things by how often you use it or how important it is in your daily routine. For example, every woman likes all her kitchen appliances, but if you’re holding onto a breadmaker because once a year at Thanksgiving you make a delicious recipe for your family, you can certainly afford to stick it in the very back of the cabinet, and dig it out the one day a year that you use it.

Going room-by-room usually works best for me. Often times I find things that should be stored in a different room. These items go directly to that room, and stay there untouched until I have finished the other rooms ahead of it. Don’t try and do every room at the same time. Work your way around. Start at one end and move to the other. Trying to take on the entire house in one sitting makes the situation way too daunting, and usually ends up being an unfinished project. Every person is different, so you just have to find what works the best for you.

I’ll admit, I had my college glory days when the pile of clean clothes on my floor was indiscernible from the pile of dirty ones, and I chose my outfits according to whether or not something smelled sour (not amongst my finer moments in life). So I do believe it’s important to reward yourself when you’ve accomplished a deep organize, or even after each room, if it helps you to finish the process. I usually have a glass of wine or watch a favorite movie. Sitting down to relax and enjoy your clean home afterward is one of the best rewarding perks of the whole project.

Now, get off your lazy butt and take on your home! The energy and time you spend now will save you exorbitant amounts in the future (not to mention those pesky Dobermans will be forced to take advantage of the thousands of toys you buy for them in order to avoid all home and clothing destruction).

Stay tuned for room-specific organizational tips.

Image