Tomorrow is the end of daylight savings time. As you turn back the clocks, it’s also suggested that you replace the batteries in your smoke detectors. In my house, we’ve recently had some issues with our smoke detectors and I’ve learned that they should be replaced every 7-10 years. Not only do the batteries need to be changed, but the entire unit must be replaced. We’ve been in our house 7 years and lately the alarms have been acting funny. They have even gone off in full beeping mode when the batteries are fully charged–ugh. I did some searching and found that battery-powered smoke detectors in general don’t last long, it’s time for us to invest in new ones. I found the Kiddie KN-COSM-B to be a well crafted, good value dual smoke (Ionization and Photoelectric) and carbon monoxide detector. I also like that it is a “Talking Alarm” so it tells you what it’s detecting. Hopefully my kids will wake up to the voice alert as we’ve learned that they don’t even wake up to the loud beeping sound–that’s alarming! So, as you are turning back the clock this weekend, replace the batteries and consider the life span of those smoke detectors as well.
Tip of the Day from the Professional Organizers at Chaos to Order
Set a read to purchase ratio. If you read 2 books a month, commit to buying no more than 2 books per month–just set limits.
Pass books along. Do you have a friend or colleague who might be interested in reading the book you just finished? Give them yours rather than allowing the book to sit on the shelf, take up space, and collect dust.
Donate. There are many organizations who would love to take books off your hands. Donate them to the charity of your choice. Try Open-Books.org in Chicago.
Swap. Go to Paperbackswap.com to swap online, or gather a group yourself and meet to swap.
Make use of the library. Not only for books, but movies, games etc. the library is a terrific source for clutter free learning and entertainment.
If you think your book collection is overwhelming, check out bookshelfporn.com and see some examples of book collections gone wild!
With the change of seasons, the time is prime for making sure winter clothes are out, organized and ready to wear. Boots can be floppy and messy to store and have access to. One solution is to take pool noodles and cut them to help your boots stand up nicely. Take a noodle, you can get about 4 inserts by cutting the noodle with a bread knife. Stand the boots upright and they look much more organized in a row and also don’t flop over the other boots taking them out of viewing range. Keeping your closet organized is not only important because we want it to look tidy, but most closets store an abundance–usually more than they should. When you look in your closet, you want to be able to see what you need quickly and efficiently. Keeping boots upright and visible is one step towards having easier access to what you need.
This photo shows a good example using containers not only sort, organize and contain things, but also as colorful decorative accents. Using the right containers to house what you need and give you easy access is important in any home office, craft room etc. If you have open shelving, consider using the space for more than just books. Add some colorful containers and the list is limitless for what you can store on bookshelves. Just don’t forget to attach proper labels so you can easily find what you’ve so cleverly stored.
There was an article in Huffington Post Green over the weekend that started me thinking about all the stuff we no longer want that’s cluttering up space. So often we work with clients who have corners or rooms or even floors of their homes that are filled with items they really don’t want anymore, but there’s something standing in the way of getting rid of it. Maybe it’s great grandmothers old rocking chair, (hopefully it’s your great grandmother’s rocking chair, because if it belongs to a spouse, that can be the source of even more tension) or maybe you have items that your adult children can’t fit into their own place. Whatever it might be, any extra item that’s lying around and not being used amounts to clutter.
So how can we pare down and eliminate without feeling guilty about hurting someone’s feelings or being sensitive to the sentimental value attached? The answer is tricky. What one person thinks of as a treasured heirloom, another may consider trash. The value lies in the eyes of the beholder. At Chaos To Order, our organizers are very sensitive to this matter. They are there to coach you through the process so that you can make a clear decision on your own. They will ask questions to get you thinking about an item so you can determine the personal value it has. On the other side, you also need to keep in mind the expense of holding on to clutter. Real estate is expensive and if clutter is piling up, is it really worth losing that space, room or entire area?
If you want to eliminate something of sentimental value, your best bet is finding somewhere or someone to give it to that you feel is worthy. Knowing that someone else will make use of that item and enjoy it takes away the guilty feeling of getting rid of it. The article in the Huffing Post entitled, “Recycling Electronics, Donating Books And More: 10 Things To Give To Charity” gave some good suggestions of organizations and websites that will make good use of your cast-aways. We also have a page on the Chaos To Order website with a frequently updated list of organizations in Chicagoland accepting donations. You can find it under Resources–Where to Donate Stuff.
If you have an item that is not being used, consider that someone else may actually enjoy having it and you will clear some space at the same time. If you want to always cherish it, you can still do that without actually hanging on to the item. Take photos or video, with digital technology, it will take up much less space! The decision is yours, don’t hang on to the guilt of what to keep in your own home. Set boundaries with those adult children, Grandmother wouldn’t want to burden you with her old stuff. Remember her in other ways and enjoy the freedom of taking control over your own space.
Here are some tips for organizing your refrigerator from a talk I gave at Kenmore Studios in Chicago.
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Do you ever feel like you just need to look at a written reminder so you don’t forget something important? It’s one thing to set reminders (which I love and live by) but sometimes I need to have a bright note that stares me in the face in order to remember–can you relate? So I found a perfect solution, Post-it Notes for the outside, yes the outside of the iPhone! Post-it makes Label Pads 2×3″ that have a full adhesive “super sticky” backing and it’s the perfect note pad to stick on the back of the phone and no it does not peel off until you remove it! It fits perfectly, stays put and is brightly colored to help me take notice. If you’ve got a list of important tasks and you want a bright, visual reminder, grab some Label Pads and keep your list front and center!
Being organized means staying on top of all of the nagging home maintenance projects that are required as a homeowner. There once was a day when we would remember those mundane tasks like when the air filters had to be replaced or when the dryer vents needed to be cleaned. The business of life can get in the way of making sure these projects get done and often it’s not until something breaks that we realize simple maintenance would have been a much better option than the calamity of the mechanical breakdown. Brighnest is an app that can help you keep track of the never ending home maintenance jobs. You can add all the members of your household and assign tasks to them (sometimes an electronic nudge works better than a verbal nag). There’s even an area where you can store important items like paint colors, user manuals, customized tips and ideas etc… The setup of the app is interesting because it gathers all of the information it needs on your home and then, knowing that, it sets you up with a typical maintenance schedule. Of course you can also add your own tasks (I added repeating kids chores to my list). Check out Brightnest.com and keep your home humming!
It’s back to school time, our friends at Right@Home have included some of my tips in this terrific article on how to get back to school organized. Check it out…
Going back to school (or work) after the lazy days of summer can be challenging even for the best of us. Professional organizer Monica Friel admits the deluge of back-to-school paperwork and mail can feel overwhelming even to her.”It’s hard for me to keep up with it all,” said Friel, a mother of three children. “I can imagine what chaos can ensue when there aren’t systems in place.”But don’t worry. Right@Home™ is here to help. We consulted not only Friel, who owns and operates Chaos to Order™, but a collection of other moms who shared their tried-and-true secrets for mastering the fall frenzy.
Take time to transition
Don’t let the school year sneak up on you. When you’re scheduling your last summer vacation, use one of those days off work to get your house in order for what’s ahead.
Bump up bedtime
Beginning in early August, Cindy Richards, editor of TravelingMom.com, moves up her kids’ bedtimes by 15 minutes a night and wakes them up earlier as well.
Set up a storage system
Clean your coat closet or streamline your mudroom to create space for the kids (not you) to store their backpacks, jackets, sports and music equipment, and other back-to-school gear. It’s important for everything to have its place.
Plan for the paperwork
Friel suggests creating one file per child to keep important papers as well as artwork. During holiday breaks, go through the folder with your child and keep what’s necessary. At the end of the year, put the file in a keepsake box with room for the years ahead.
Organize the school supplies/work station
Richards and her kids take inventory of last year’s school supplies to see what can be used for the upcoming school year. They’ll recycle old notebooks but keep any unused pages as scratch paper. Then new and old supplies are kept in a storage space near where the children do their homework.
Be a digital diva
Use today’s technology to your advantage. Input all important dates, sporting events and club meetings onto a compatible calendar (try Google Calendar, iCal or iCloud), and sync your phones and computers so everyone can see the same schedule. Friel also creates a digital photo album for each child.
Communicate with the kids
To make sure everyone knows that day’s schedule, Friel writes it on a dry-erase board placed near the kids’ coats and gear.
Get the kids in the habit of hanging their coats, organizing their backpacks and homework, and putting stuff away. “As parents we’re so in the mode of doing it for them,” Friel said, but it’s important for kids to take responsibility.“I tell them my job is to work my way out of a job,” she said, adding that she recently de-stressed her morning routine by no longer telling her son to get up for school and letting him get up on his own.
Enlist weekend help
Encourage responsibility into the weekend by making chores fun. Friel recommends checking out free interactive chore charts on goalforit.com,or writing chores on ping-pong balls or popsicle sticks and letting kids choose a ball or stick to determine their chore. Back to school is a great time to put new routines in place, she noted.
For more great tips and ideas for getting organized, join Right@Home. Its a great online destination for helpful cleaning and organizing tips, delicious recipes and coupons for SC Johnson home care products.
- Take the time to sort it all out. Go through everything you have and decide if it stays home, goes with or goes out. Remember, you can’t fit 10lbs. of potatoes in a 5 lb. bag!
- Plan your space. www.designyourdorm.com is a great site to plan the space in your actual dorm room with lists and accessories of all the items you could possibly need specific to your school.
- Create a list of what you’ll need. Many stores have good checklists of all the things you might need, but remember they want you to buy as much as possible. Here’s a good comprehensive checklist which also links you directly to your school’s suggestions and where to buy things in the area.
- Coordinate with your roommate. Avoid duplicates by making decisions about ALL the items you could possibly share, and where to draw the line.
- Information share. Realize that college information goes directly to the student, so make sure the lines of communication are open as to how bills will be paid and deadlines will be met.
- Plan your time wisely. Your time is pulled in many directions at college, so make a weekly plan of how you will best manage your time and schedule accordingly.
- The countdown has begun. Planning, sorting, purging and packing can’t start soon enough. Carve out time daily to check things off your list.
In order to be successful in college, organization is imperative. Starting college can be a fresh start to a better organized life.
We recently received this question and I thought it would be good to address it on the blog because knowing how to properly store papers is essential to keeping desk and office space organized. We have always referred to our Record Retention Document as the standard for what to keep and then advise that your accountant would have the last word on your own personal matters. A paper copy of the most important documents is always a good option for long term record keeping, but the computer continues to progress as a terrific storage solution. Not only does it save an incredible amount of documents on small hardware such as a DVD or external drive, searching for something doesn’t have to involve crawling in a dark place with a flashlight, you can simply type in the key search words on your computer and viola–it appears!
If you’re going to store documents on your computer, the Fujitsu Scansnap would be a great companion. It makes getting papers out of piles and into computer files very quick and easy. But wait…once the document is scanned, what do you do? Throw it out? When I worked on the show, “Hoarding: Buried Alive”, I suggested that the client (a paper hoarder) scan all of his interesting articles so that he could walk in his house rather that crawling over the paper piles. He thought it was a great idea and we were all thrilled at his agreement to scanning. The problem was that once scanned, he still wasn’t willing to toss the papers! Don’t use scanning as just another place to hoard papers, once scanned you need to toss or shred the document.
As for what to store in file folders, I suggest that mail and papers that are transient be held in files. If you need access to them and have to work with them, they are better off staying on paper. If they are just a resource, you might want to consider the scan and toss option. If you’ve got papers piled, take some time to determine what the best storage system would be for your needs and then carve out some time to get the ball rolling. Of course, our professional organizers are always here to help!
In order to create optimal organization in your space, you need to have a place for everything. Making the most out of every bit of storage space you have is crucial. Here is a product that is terrific for adding space to a cluttered cabinet. This pull out shelf by JA Marketing is awesome because you can install it yourself and it’s expandable! You can adjust it to the exact size of your cabinet, so one size fits all from 12″ to 20″. If you have a base cabinet in your kitchen or bathroom that’s stuffed and cluttered, these would be a great addition. I like to put one at the bottom, and add more depending on the size of the items in the cabinet. I have one cabinet that has 3 pull out shelves and I’m able to fit much more than I would a regular cabinet without these terrific expandable pull out shelves. You can find them here.
Check out this list of Best iPhone Apps from Lifehacker:
Our List of the Best iPhone Apps
The Lifehacker Pack is a yearly snapshot of our favorite, must-have applications for each of our favorite platforms. If you’re curious to see how things have changed this year, here’s last year’s Lifehacker Pack for iPhone. For our always-updating directory of all the best apps, be sure to bookmark ouriPhone App Directory.
Looking for an app in a specific category? Use the links below to jump around.
- Music, Photos, and Video
- Food and Entertainment
Sparrow may be the best app released for the iPhone this year. While Apple’s built-in mail client is completely serviceable, Sparrow demonstrates what it could. It’s almost indispensable for Gmail users, but Sparrow works with pretty much any other type of account, too. It’s fast, easy to navigate, simple to move mail around, and just generally a pleasure to use. It comes with one caveat, however: it doesn’t support push notifications. This won’t be a bother if you don’t enjoy finding out the very second an email arrives. If you do, you can always jailbreak and install Sparrow+. That’ll get you push notifications and all you to set it as the default client.
Simplenote is a key component in the holy grail of ubiquitous text capture, and rightfully so. It allows for speedy note entry on your iPhone, plus it syncs with the alsofree Simplenote service so your notes are always available wherever you want them.
Cue is a handy app that provides you with a rundown of your day without any input on your part. It scans your email accounts, calendars, and several other web services to get an idea of what’s going on in your life. It then repackages all that data into a more digestible, concise format that you can load up on your iPhone anytime. You can check the weather, see appointments (with contact information for people involved), let you know about birthdays, and more. It’s not an app that necessarily helps you do anything, or involves doing much, but it’s an app that’ll keep you on task and avoid forgetting the things that are important.
Orchestra is a wonderful, simple, to-do management app that you can use by yourself or with virtually anyone else with an email account. When you need to collaborate, you can just add people you know to a task whether they have Orchestra or not. Additionally, you can add tasks with voice recognition if you don’t feel like typing. You can send them in via email, too. Orchestra has lots of great features but it’s also very simple to understand and use. That’s a tough thing to pull off, but Orchestra does it admirably.
Instapaper and Pocket
Instapaper and Pocket both serve the purpose of saving web content for later reading, but both have their differences. Instapaper offers you a straightforward and simple way of reading saved content, but it costs $4. Pocket is a little more feature-rich, and is free. Both are great options, so check them out and see what you prefer.
When it comes to browsing your news feeds, Reeder is the way to go. In addition to a really pleasant, easy-to-use interface it comes with plenty of features to make feed reading better. In addition to Google Reader sync, it provides Readability support so the full text of an article easier on the eyes. You can also quickly share articles and save them to services like Instapaper.
If you haven’t used TripIt to manage your travel itineraries, you’ve been missing out. We’ve already discussed its merits, but the free iPhone app makes it even easier to manage your trip. It’s a natural extensions of the service, since if you’re traveling it’s more than likely that you’re not at your computer.
If you need to book a flight and/or a hotel, Hipmunk provides an agony-free search with lots of great features. You just decide where you want to go and you’ll get results organized any way you want. Hipmunk can even tell you if there’s Wi-Fi on your flight, plus a whole lot more.
Although still in its infancy, Chrome for iPhone is a very promising browser. Aside from a simple user interface and the wonderful omnibar, if you’re already a Chrome user on the desktop you’ll undoubtedly appreciate its ability to sync all your data. If you’re not a Chrome user or you don’t feel the app is quite ready to become your primary mobile browser, check out Doplhin instead. It’s pretty great all-around and offers a wider number of features.
Skype isn’t perfect, but it’s still one of the best ways to make VOIP calls and video chat on a mobile phone, regardless of whether you’re on Wi-Fi or cellular data. Even the pretty video quality is pretty good in either case. While there are plenty of calling alternatives, Skype is the most solid and versatile option.
If you’re a member of Google Voice, the official app will let you tap into your account to check your voicemail and text messages. Additionally, you can send messages and make calls from your Google Voice number. Because the iPhone is pretty much locked down, you can’t use Google Voice as your default dialer. That said, jailbrokeniPhones can add the SMS GV Extension and the Phone GV Extension for full integration.
Instant messaging on your phone can get a little bit overwhelming, as a touchscreen phone isn’t made for rapid text-based communication with many people. Nonetheless, Imo does a really good job at helping you keep up with an influx of text messages. It has a really simple interface that’s easy to navigate, support for practically every IM service you could want, keeps a searchable chat history, and a lot more.
LuckyPhone is a great minute-saver, as the app that waits on hold so you don’t have to. If you’re calling a popular business, LucyPhone’s directory may even save you the step of going through the phone tree to get to the right department. While you might confuse the customer service representative on the other end, LucyPhone takes all the pain of waiting on hold—including the loss of your mobile minutes. (For more information, check out our quick review.)
The official Facebook app on the iPhone is great for general updates and messages, but it becomes especially useful when all your contacts flood in. If your address book is missing a number, just find your friend in the Facebook app and click the call button. You can also keep track of events, check your news feed, and edit your profile.
Tweetbot is an excellent Twitter client. It provides many of the features you’d expect and can get for free with the official Twitter app but with a smarter interface and some added functionality. Tweetbot has its own handy gestures for better navigation, customization options, push notifications with Boxcar (also part of this pack), and a lot more. It might be a little pricey for some at $3, but if you’re a Twitter addict you probably won’t mind.
Although Google+ hasn’t attracted a remarkable number of users, it’s still a popular social network. If you’re a member and an iPhone user, the app is kind of a must. Although nothing mindblowing, it’s preferable to using the Google+ site and keeps you up to date with notifications.
Waze is our favorite turn-by-turn navigation app for iPhone, and for good reason. Even though we’re excited to use the new Maps in iOS 6, which will offer up some serious competition, Waze is already ahead of the game in several areas. Because of its large community, you can find out about were police cars are stationed and be warned about accidents and closures. That’s already on top of general traffic reporting. Additionally, the latest version of Waze will help you find a cheap gas station wherever you are and even get you a discount in some cases. Those are just a few of its awesome features, and they’re all completely free.
You have quite a few fitness apps to choose from on the iPhone. One of those happens to be RunKeeper, and lucky us, it has a great free version. RunKeeper uses your iPhone’s GPS to track your run and provide you with statistics, giving you the statistical benefits of a treadmill when you’re outside the gym. It integrates with your music library and lets you share your activities. While the built-in Nike+ app is also pretty nice, RunKeeper doesn’t require the purchase of any additional hardware and lets you choose your brand of shoes.
Even if you’re not a MobileMe subscriber, you’ve probably heard a bit about Find My iPhone in the news. It’s already tracked down a few iPhone thieves, but is probably more commonly used when you’ve just misplaced your phone. It used to cost $99 with MobileMe, but Apple offers it up for free for all iDevices so there’s really no reason not to give it a try.
While it’s not for everyone, jailbreaking your iPhone opens up a world of new possibilities. Cydia is the hub where they reside. Often labeled the jailbreak app store, it allows you to download many more great apps that you can’t get through Apple. If you want full control over your phone, you’ll want to jailbreak it.
Would it truly be a Lifehacker Pack without file-syncing app extraordinaire Dropbox? While the iPhone version of Dropbox isn’t quite as useful as Dropbox on your computer, it makes for a nice companion. If you’re using Dropbox for all sorts of clever things, it’s always nice having access to your sync’d files from your phone. While the Dropbox app can download anything the iPhone (or a third-party app) can display, you can also save key files on your phone as well.
Slice is a phenomenal package tracker that doesn’t involve much effort to use. You simply connect it to your email account(s) and let it look for receipts. When it finds them, it’ll build a history of your purchases and pull any tracking numbers it finds as well. This way, if you want to track a package you simply need to open the app. Slice discovers new purchases as you make them, so if you want to see any updates all you have to do is look. If you want to learn more about what Slice can do, read this.
The iPhone’s file system isn’t available to the end user—at least without jailbreaking. As a result, sending files to and from your device isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Air Sharing makes it pretty simple, offering a variety of ways to get movies, PDFs, music, and other documents from your computer to your iPhone. It also happens to be a pretty good document reader as well. It’s a must for anyone who has a lot of stuff they want to take on their mobile.
Panamp is an alternative music player for your iPhone that uses a tree-based structure for your content. This makes it really easy to quickly navigate through all your songs and queue them up on the fly. If you like creating playlists on the go, Panamp is the music player you’ve always wanted. If you like a more traditional structure, however, the built-in iPod app will still do the trick.
If you listen to a lot of podcasts, you should be listening with Downcast. It does just about everything that’s missing from Apple’s iPod app. For starters, it downloads everything directly from within the app. It’ll work over 3G and Wi-Fi, plus you can set rules for when it uses the 3G connection to download and when it doesn’t. You don’t even have to download the files—you can stream them instead. There are plenty more features and you can read about them here.
Pandora’s always been a favorite on the iPhone, but it was kind of useless before multitasking support came around. Not much has changed since the release allowing it to play in the background, but nothing was really necessary. It’s still the same great Pandora, offering personalized radio stations free of charge.
When it comes to remotely accessing your iTunes library and streaming music via AirPlay, the Remote app is the best there is. It’s basically like using the built-in Music app, but you’re controlling a remote library instead.
StreamToMe and Air Video
StreamToMe and Air Video are both apps that help you stream video from your computer to your iPhone, no matter where you are. They’re especially compelling when you want to watch something at, say, the gym and you didn’t have time to transcode and sync it to your device first. Whether you’re connected to Wi-Fi or 3G, you can stream video directly to your phone from anywhere you are (the quality of your connection permitting, of course). Both apps have some subtle differences, such as StreamToMe’s ability to stream more than just video and Air Video’s option to pre-encode content for easier streaming, and either are worth the price of admission: $2.99.
Although Air Video and StreamToMe offer remote media streaming just like Plex, neither are as easy to set up. With Plex you just set your media folders, create an account, and log in with that account on any device. From there you can stream without any network configuration, plus you get the great home theater experience Plex provides for televisions. While you may prefer just streaming files and not worrying about a fancy interface, if you like what Plex has to offer it’s a must-download. One of my favorite bonuses that the app provides is the ability to watch something at home and then pick up right where you left off on your mobile.
If you’d like to keep your videos in their native format rather than use Air Video or StreamToMe to stream iOS-friendly versions, GoodPlayer can handle the task—if your hardware’s up to it. While GoodPlayer supports pretty much every video format you could need to play, it’s limited by your iPhone’s hardware. It tends to do better using the iPad’s A5 chip, claiming playback of even 720p MKV files. It’s a very capable player, but it’ll be significantly more useful once the hardware catches up.
It’s hard to consider any of the iPhone ebook readers the best choice because they’re pretty similar. They all let you read on your phone, they all let you purchase books, and they’re all free to download. While I’m partial to the Kindle app, it’s mainly because I started with ebooks via the Kindle. Pick the ebook app that works the best for you—or don’t, since they’re all free downloads.
Instagram is a wonderful little social camera app that lets you take pictures, apply neat vintage-style filters, and share your images across the web on various social sites and photo sharing services. It’s fast, it’s free, and it’s pretty addictive.
Camera+ pretty much turns your phone into a feature-rich point-and-shoot camera. Not only is it really fast at snapping photos, but it can enhance them, remove red eye, add special effects, and a whole lot more. It also comes with great features for taking the pictures themselves like stabilization and digital zoom that doesn’t completely suck. It’ll cost you $2 but it’s worth it if you’re really into taking pictures with your phone.
MenuPages isn’t necessarily the best at discovering new food, but choosing a restaurant can often depend on what’s on the menu. This app gives you access to the content of the popular web site when you’re away from the computer.
IMDb is a great resources for movie information, and the app does a good job of focusing a lot of information onto your iPhone’s small screen. What’s also great about the IMDb app is that it also serves as an excellent free option for finding movie showtimes.
TV Forecast performs the simple function of keeping track of when the next episode of any show is going to air. Enter in just about any show that’s currently running and TV Forecast will provide you with an attractive schedule tailored just for you. While you can grab the free version of TV Listings instead and save yourself $1.99, TV Forecast is a better option.
The Netflix app does one important thing: allows you to stream content from your instant queue directly to your iPhone (or other iDevice). You can also search for titles and make (instant) queue adjustments, but those features come second to being able to stream Netflix to your phone. If you’re looking to catch up on a few TV episodes or even want to watch a movie, you’ll piss off David Lynch but you can do it.
Getting kids to put towels back in the bathroom is usually more effort than it should be. Here’s a tip from our organizer Pam on how she keeps towels organized, off the floor and decorative too.