Thursday, July 31, 2014

9 UHeart Organizing: How To Feel A Little More Unplugged Without Pulling The Plug

As much as I try to fight it at times, smart phones are a 2014 way of life.  They keep us connected in more ways than one, and offer us a lot of really great applications to simplify our lives.  Ashley from 7th House on the Left, is stopping by today to share how she takes advantage of that sweet little device of hers to ensure she is making the most out of the time she has with her phone, as well as the time she has when she takes a phone break. 

In this day and age of habituated technology usage, our cell phones have become more like appendages than simple communication devices.  I’m sure you’ve seen the ever-so-popular articles floating around about the importance of “unplugging” and enjoying the real everyday. It’s a bit of a hot topic lately, and while some may see it as a passing fad, I think it’s a concept worth trying out.

My husband and I both have very “tech-centeric” jobs (he’s a web developer and I’m a graphic designer / brand consultant), so we frequently (if not always) feel tethered to our phones, tablets and laptops.  In an effort to step away from the devices, we schedule “Official Unplug Days” on our calendars.  It may seem a bit extreme to literally schedule them, but for us, it’s helpful to put them on the calendar because we like to be sure to catch up on everything digital the day before.  I’ve grown to LOVE and look forward to these days.  Not only does it help me truly relax, but since my job is in a creative field, it also helps me keep the creative juices flowing by giving my brain a little rest and some much-needed breathing room.

Despite “Official Unplug Days”, it’s 2014, and there’s no way to get around using our phones.  Even though some days, I want to throw mine into a lake (we’ve all been there), our smartphones should make our lives easier, not more stressed.  Since we can’t travel back to the 1950’s (but oh how I’d love to live in the days of I Love Lucy and telegrams), there are a few things we can do to help organize and simplify our attention-sucking devices.  Here are three of my favorite tips and tricks…

01 / Have a heart-to-heart with your phone.  About a month ago, in an effort to simplify my “tech days", I recently went through my cell phone and completely decluttered.  I got rid of any apps I hadn’t used in the last 3 months and/or didn’t have a viable use for.  Yes, I finally got rid of Angry Birds (much to Greg’s disappointment).  Once I cut through the clutter, my phone was immediately more organized.  Seriously, it felt physically lighter - even though I know that isn’t really possible, haha.  (In a minute, I’ll talk about my top three apps that keep me organized and made the cut.)

02 / Group similar apps together by categories.  On my iPhone, I use the built-in grouping feature and categorize my apps into folders.  (You can do the same on Android phones)  I put all of my news apps in one folder, coupon/shopping apps in another, restaurant/dining apps in another, photo editing apps in another and so on.  By taking a few minutes to do this, I took my 5 pages of apps and condensed it down to two - including the home page.  To organize things a bit more, I keep my most used apps on the home page and use the second page just for my categorized folders.

03 / Categorize your contacts.  Updating and organizing the contacts in your cell phone can make a day out running errands go so much smoother.  To start off, go through your phone and delete the contacts you don’t need/want anymore.  This is basically the phone’s equivalent to throwing away gum wrappers in your purse.  Then, organize the contacts.  I group numbers for take-out places, medical-related offices/people, shops, florists, and such together in their respective categories.  So, for florists, I add “Florist | ” before the name of the florist. That way, when flipping through my phone, the contact would read “Florist | Strange’s (West Broad)” and all of the florist-related numbers would be grouped together.  If there are multiple locations (like our favorite florist above), I add the location after the name in parentheses.  This is something I’ve been doing for a long time (an idea I actually picked up from my 72-year-old-iPhone-loving Aunt Jerrie) and I love the handiness of it.

Now, for the icing on the cake… apps! As I mentioned earlier, I’m a huge advocate for not boggling down your phone with a ton of useless apps that just clutter it (and your mind!) up.  Here are three apps I think are worth holding on to…

01 / Swipes.  I’ve been through my fair share of task apps.  (In reality, I think I’ve gone through 12 or so in the past few years) I always end up using them for a few days then forgetting I have them or getting frustrated with the design.  That’s definitely not the case with this app.  It’s very well designed (which makes the graphic designer in me very happy), uncomplicated and - best of all - it’s fun.  Basically, it keeps your daily to-dos on a timeline and allows you to easily prioritize each task.  If something comes up and you have to switch your priorities around, you can “snooze” the rest for a later time.  Under each task, you can be as simple or as detailed as you want because you have the option to add elements like notes, contact info, reminders, and categories.  Yet another perk, if you’re an Evernote user, this app will sync to your Evernote account, allowing you to have pretty much everything in one list.  One of my favorite features of the app is the screen that pops up after all of your tasks are done for the day - which comes complete with a quote/saying about productivity and an option to share it on Twitter or Facebook.  If you’re on the hunt for a really good all around app to keep your days organized, be sure to give this one a spin. *Swipes is available for iPhone and iPad, as a web app, and it’s currently in beta testing for Android. Oh, and it’s free!

02 / Tick.  This app is a lot more powerful than how I use it, but I still easily consider it to be one of my top favorite apps to keep me organized.  Tick has the capability to keep track of lists, project/task due dates and reminders, and it even syncs to iCloud to keep track of the reminders that you dictate to Siri.  I use this app to keep track of my long-term lists (Christmas gift lists, article ideas, future dog names [yes, I have a list for that!], beauty products I want to try, etc).  Up until I found this app, I’ve been keeping my long-term lists in the standard Notes app.  It worked out okay, but it just wasn’t as versatile or fun to use as Tick is. (Here’s a little video to see it in action)  I also love that you can customize the colors and icons for each list.  All in all, it is what you make it.  So, if you’re looking for a super-simple yet customizable list-keeping app, this is your guy.  *Right now, Tick only available for iPhone. You can find it in the App Store for only $1.99!

03 / Dropbox.  This app definitely falls in the “simplify” category.  I use it at least a few times a week and it has proven to be a lifesaver.  Basically, Dropbox ensures that files you’re working on or important documents you need to keep track of will be easily accessed on another computer or mobile device.  I’ve been using Dropbox on my computer for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I downloaded the app.  Cue: “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.  Whenever you add a file to your Dropbox, it’s instantaneously pushed to all of your computers and devices.  That way, you have hassle-free access to all of your important files, photos, videos pretty much everywhere you go.  If you’re one of those people who finds yourself running out of space on your phone for photos, you can easily transfer your photos over to Dropbox to free up space on your phone while keeping all of your photos.  *The Dropbox app is available on iPhone, iPad, and Android. You can sign up for a free account, which gives your 2BG of storage space.

If you have any favorite organizing apps to add to the list, be sure to share them in the comments!

"I'm Ashley from 7th House on the Left - a blog where my husband, Greg, and I talk about renovating, decorating and living in our first house here in Hanover, Virginia. I’ve been an interior design enthusiast and a long-time fan of all things organizing. Yep, I was the kid with the perfectly arranged Disney stuffed animals, alphabetized coloring books and the categorized and color-coded sticker book. When I'm not busy writing or doing projects around the house, I love classic TV shows (particularly I Love Lucy) and curling up with Greg, Bentley (our 9-pound Pomeranian), a blanket and a good black and white classic movie – I’m a complete sucker for Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant films. I'm thrilled and honored to be a part of the IHeart Organizing team and excited to get to work!"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

45 Renter Friendly Organizing Tips

Although I haven't lived in a rental for many years now, I am often asked about organizing and storage solutions that are rental friendly.  Some of you have been long time apartment dwellers, military families, have decided to downsize or are living within a rental property temporarily, and need tips that don't require built-ins and installing wall storage.  You need solutions that are versatile, inexpensive and can transition from place to place.

Many of these tips can be used in any small space, apartment or not, but they also take into consideration that no drilling or hammering can take place.  Here are my top room by room tips.

In The Entryway

  • Utilize a tall bookcase as a temporary closet.  With adjustable shelving, boots and shoes are able to be stored below while a few hooks above offer hanging storage.  Add in craft drawers for hats, mittens and mail as well as a small tray to collect daily personal necessities.
  • Credenzas also make great entryway storage with the ability to conceal footwear below while adding a lamp and tray creates a drop zone above. 
  • Pop a small storage ottoman near the entry to act as a place to sit while putting on shoes, as well as providing a place to conceal outerwear clutter.
  • If your entry door is made from steel, consider magnetic hooks which can be attached to the back of the door for hanging outwear, umbrellas and totes.

In The Living Room

  • Although we are not renters, our DIY "built in" bookcases are renter friendly!  They hold everything for our family/living room such as electronic components, board games, family photos and mementos, books and craft supplies for the boys.  They consist of a series of bookcases pieced together and have been a major storage win!
  • Conceal media and memorabilia within decorative boxes to reduce visual clutter.
  • In a rental, storage ottomans will be your best friend in almost any space.  In the living room, utilize them to store video game controllers, games or toys for the littles.
  • Collapsible television trays work well as sofa end tables because they can also double as a place to dine or work.

In The Kitchen

  • Add a stand-in wire shelving or a rolling cart to hold small appliances, cookbooks, bulky cookware and bake-ware as well as serving dishes and barware.
  • Command Strips are a renter's best friend in almost any space.  Not only are they perfect for holding measuring cups, bibs and utensils on the insides of cabinets, they also work well to hold small baskets and tension rods which allow you to get really creative with cabinet storage.  They also rock for getting utensils and cookware off of the limited counter space and up on the walls.
  • Utilize over the door pockets and organizers for additional food and pantry storage.
  • Maximize cabinet storage by adding in wire shelf inserts and shelf baskets, which allow items to be stacked without becoming cumbersome to take out and put away.
  • Stackable bins and baskets used within cabinets for dry food packaging and the fridge for yogurts and snacks will maximize any vertical space.

In The Bathroom

  • Take advantage of the cabinet doors by adding over-the-door baskets to hold hair tools and cleaning supplies.
  • Most vanity cabinets do not come with built-in shelving {I always question this but suppose it is to accommodate plumbing}, so make the most of the vertical area with open faced stackable baskets.  They are ideal for toiletries, linens and paper products.
  • Consider utilizing a narrow bookcase to act as a stand in linen closet.  Baskets can be added to corral daily essentials while towels and linens can stack on the open shelving.
  • Use the space behind the toilet by adding in a narrow bathroom etagere which will allow you to keep your oral care products tucked away behind closed doors.  Within the cabinet, utilize small stacking shelves and Command bins to hold smaller cosmetics and toiletries.
  • Add over the door organizers and hooks to hold towels and linens.  If floor space is so limited that no cabinet space is available, stock a tote with daily toiletries and hair tools and hang on a hook behind the door.

In The Laundry Room

  • Many rentals are not equipped with a washer and dryer within the unit, so laundry organization can become even more tricky.  Stock a caddy with daily laundering essentials such as detergent, dryer sheets, stain remover and lint brushes, which you can "grab and go" on laundry day.  Diaper, cleaning or shower caddies all work well for this purpose.
  • Use laundry sacks hung on the back of the door to sort clothing.  Not only do the laundry sacks take up very little space {and no floor space}, they are easy to transport to the washer.
  • Invest in a small, collapsible drying rack which is light weight enough to hang on the back of the bathroom door with some Command Hooks, and can be placed in the shower to dry daily delicate items.
  • If the rental does contain a washer/dryer, narrow rolling carts are a great solution for storing daily laundry care items.
  • As with all rooms and closets in the home, take advantage of doors to add over-the-door storage.

In The Bedroom

  • I have always boasted about creating custom closet solutions, and many think that this cannot be done in a rental.  But it can!  I am a GIANT fan of the Closetmaid Selections pieces sold at most home improvement stores, because they stack and mix and match to meet your individual storage needs.  In a variety of sizes, they offer shoe racks, drawers and cubbies which can be paired with a variety of bins and baskets.  Definitely a smart way to maximize bedroom storage without having to install a high end closet.
  • Use a storage ottoman at the end of the bed to act as a bench while getting ready each day as well as storage for oversized bedding and linens.
  • Add risers to your bed frame to allow for underbed storage containers or drawers.  These drawers are fantastic for holding off-season clothing, exercise equipment and all of your other miscellaneous possessions that need a tucked away place to call home.
  • Consider adding a small desk to act as a makeup vanity, which can house your daily beauty supplies and free up space in the bath.
  • Don't forget the back of the door to add hooks, Command Caddies and shoe pockets, which work wonders for storing accessories, shoes and handbags.

OK friends, surely I have forgotten a thing or two since I haven't lived in an apartment for 13 years now, so help a gal out.  What else do you have to add that has been a small space life saver?  

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