Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Happier at Home

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, has a new book coming out in September called Happier at Home. I'm super excited to read it, as The Happiness Project Blog and book are chock-full of amazingly simple but important thoughts on happiness, and Happier at Home seems like it is going to be a wonderful follow-up, and particularly applicable to me, as I am spending more time at home than ever with my almost four-month-old. Gretchen Rubin posted a link to an excerpt of the book, which I lapped right up. Here's a quote from it that is just too perfect not to share:
"Many aspects of my life contributed to my feeling of hurry. Time might seem to be a very separate issue from possessions, for example, but I'd noticed that after I tackled clutter, not only did our apartment seem more spacious and organized, I also felt less hurried, because I could find and stow things easily. Having more order in my cabinets and closets made me feel as though I had more time in my day. Instead of scrabbling away at high shelves in search of a flashlight, or jamming the heating pad into some odd corner, I had a place for everything, with nothing superfluous in my way, which gave me a feeling of unhurriedness and mastery of the space around me."
- Gretchen Rubin, Happier at Home

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nominations close tomorrow!

Nominations for the 2012 Organizing Awards close tomorrow. Go to the NAPO-LA website to nominate your favorite organizing products and services right now!

Mark your calendars. The Awards are October 20, here in Los Angeles. It's very exciting that Trish Suhr of Clean House will be the host.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Just put it down

I just read a fantastic post by Jeri Danksy of Jeri's Organizing and Decluttering News, titled Not Every Book is Worth Finishing. She quotes a number of writers and readers who give their cutoffs for when to put a book down. The main thing is to give yourself permission to stop a reading a book, and then give yourself permission to not finish it. I have a category I created just for these types of books on my Goodreads profile, since I do it so often. I love to read, and I just don't have time to finish books that aren't doing it for me.

Thanks, Jeri, for the wonderful reminder that not every book is worth finishing.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How to make returns easy

The best way to make returns easy is to not have them in the first place. Don't ever buy anything just because it's on sale (you probably won't be able to return it, anyway), without knowing where it will live in your home, or if you don't need it or love it.

However, sometimes returns are unavoidable, and a lot of the time people lose their money, their space and their mental energy on returns that never get made. Here's how to make them happen.

Keep your receipts in one central location.  Once you have decided to return an item, locate the receipt for it and place the receipt and the item in a (reusable) bag. Place the bag in the area of your home where you keep items that are leaving (library books, mail, etc.). The next time you will be in the vicinity of the store in question, grab the bag, place it your car (or take it with you if you use public transportation), and enter a reminder in your to-do list or calendar to make the return. (Using Apple's Reminders app on your iOS5 iPhone, you can even program the address in and when you arrive, you'll get pinged.) If the return is to a store you are rarely near, take note of the window you have for returns (usually found on the front or back of the receipt) and schedule a time to get there before the window is up. It's not a bad idea to mark in your calendar the last day to return the item anyway, as time can get away from us.

More tips:
  • Take note of the payment method and make sure you have the card you used to make the purchase on you when you go to return, or you may have to take store credit.
  • Try to pair the return with another errands at the same store or in the area so you don't have to make a special trip.
  • Avoid making returns without a receipt. The process will take longer at the store, you may not get the full value of the return,and you will probably only get store credit.
  • If you do accept store credit instead of cash or charge back on your card, try to use it right then so you don't have to make an extra trip to get your money's worth.
Do you have any other tips for making returns easy?

Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by John Bell

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kitchen short cuts

I love spending all day in the kitchen to prepare an elaborate meal for friends or family. About twice a year. The rest of the time, I also enjoy cooking, but don't have the luxury of spending a lot of time cooking or cleaning. Here are some of my kitchen short cuts.

  • Keep a well stocked pantry and a running grocery list on the fridge, so you minimize the risk of running out of something at the very moment you need it. This avoids the hassle of last minute shopping or having to come up with a substitution.
  • I don't have a dishwasher, so though I normally frown on duplicates,  I do have lots of mixing bowls, spatulas and other frequently used items so I don't have to stop what I'm doing just to wash a dish.
  • Make staples ahead of time and have them ready to go in the fridge. I like to make a big batch if rice at the beginning of the week. It can then be used instantly.
  • Wash, dry and put away your good chef's knives as soon as they become dirty. That way they last longer and are ready to go at a moment's notice.
  • Two words: frozen vegetables. They are a lifesaver. I always keep peas, corn, spinach, and green beans on hand and often lima beans and bell peppers as well.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

4 great Disneyland tips

I'm actually kind of shocked that I haven't written a post about visiting Disneyland. Before I became a professional organizer, I had an annual pass to Disneyland for several years, but I haven't gone as much lately. It is one of my favorite destinations and a great place to spend a few hours or a few days.

I have my own Lelah-patented method of "doing Disneyland" that I've perfected over dozens of visits. It maximizes the time I spend on my favorite rides and activities and minimizes time waiting in line. What works for me doesn't work for everyone, as every family has its own unique Disneyland approach. Even so, I do think I have some useful tips for just about anyone visiting the park.

Me, my brother and my dad at Disneyland circa 1986.
  1. Do utilize the FastPass option. FastPass is a way to spend less time in line for the best rides, but you have to be careful to return at your designated time, and you can only get one at a time. To get the most out of FastPass, be sure to get one for the busiest rides (Raiders, Space Mountain) early in the day, because sometimes the FastPasses run out. Also, don't be afraid to send one envoy with everyone's tickets to get all the FastPasses for a given ride while the rest of the group is doing something else.
  2. If you pass a ride and the line looks short, but you were planning to do it later, just go on it now. You will hate to come back and see the line is much longer than before. Good spontaneous rides and usually short waits: Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Winnie the Pooh.
  3. Feeling hot and tired? Take a break in the Tiki Room, on the train, or even on Pirates of the Caribbean, which is the longest ride in the park and nice and cool.
  4. Don't go in the gift shops. You don't need anything in there and you'll have to carry whatever you buy around all day. But, if you do want something like Mickey ears or a hat, get that early so you can enjoy it all day long.
I feel like I could go on an on...perhaps there is a follow up post in the cards. In any event, the next time you make the trip to the happiest place on earth, have a spectacular time!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Top 5 packing tips

**This post was originally published in my monthly e-newsletter, Lelah's News. Don't subscribe? Sign up here!

According to Inc. Magazine (June 2012), the amount airline passengers were charged in baggage fees in 2010 was an astounding $3.4 billion. Obviously, what makes economic sense to the airlines does not make economic sense to many of its passengers. Checking bags is now a luxury we may not be able to afford. Therefore, packing light has never been more attractive. Aside from the time and money saved by not checking bags, it can be liberating to travel light and have less stuff to worry about when in transit. Here are my top packing tips:

  1. Pack clothes in easily washable and quick drying fabrics like nylon or polyester, or at least cotton blends containing such materials. Hand wash as needed.
  2. Wear one set of all-purpose jewelry on the plane and skip packing alternates.
  3. Take some of your savings from not checking a bag, invest in an e-reader and forgo heavy paper books and magazines.
  4. Use packing cubes - they really work to pack the most amount of stuff into a small space.
  5. Remember - wherever you're going, they probably have stores that sell toothpaste, underwear and batteries, so don't panic if you forget something or run out of supplies.
For more packing advice check out my previous post - Preparing for travel: packing

Wednesday, July 4, 2012