Your Organized Kitchen

A well organized and decluttered kitchen will vastly improve the functionality of your cooking space. By implementing the tips and tricks suggested here, your kitchen will be easier to clean, you’ll minimize food waste and improve your cooking efficiency.  I recommend dedicating one weekend afternoon to kitchen reorganization; I promise this time investment will pay off in the long term.

Declutter your kitchen. Decluttering is key to kitchen efficiency. Your kitchen is the most used space in the home with its primary purpose is to cook and store food. If you have items in the cupboards or floating around the counters that do not support your cooking efforts, like paperwork and old batteries, then these don’t belong in the kitchen.

  • Clear the countertop. A counter’s primary purpose is for food preparation. The less stored on your countertop the more sanitary and easier it will be to clean. Think of your kitchen counter as prime real estate. Keep items on the counter to a bare minimum. I recommend installing a magnetic wall rail system for your knives and kitchen scissors. Place all utensils, spatulas, and cutlery in drawers with dividers.
  • Re-home appliances. Appliances tend to clutter up countertops; and, and all of them need to be stored there. Appliances that you use daily such as a water kettle, coffee machine, or toaster deserve prime spots. Everything else should be stored elsewhere and taken out as needed.
  • Weed out your cooking tools. Kitchen gadgets you never use or multiples, un-opened wedding gifts like ice-cream makers, leftover party supplies, holiday serving platters, cocktail accessories, BBQ equipment; they can all creep into the cupboards and onto the shelves of our kitchen crowding the space needed for our everyday items.
  • Find new homes for less used items. Do you use your appliances or fancy dishes less than once a month? Find a more suitable storage area for them to make space for the everyday. Cookbooks do not always need to be housed in the kitchen. If you are short on shelf space, consider moving these to a bookshelf in the living room.  

The action triangle. A well-designed kitchen is based on a triangular configuration between the sink, stovetop, and refrigerator. The primary goal of the triangular configuration is to keep major work stations near the cook and minimize the need for unproductive walking around. Understanding the layout of your kitchen will help when organizing your cooking and storage zones.

  • Store in line with the action triangle. Most people look at an item and then look for the nearest available space that it will fit. Designate cooking and storage zones and rearrange shelves or cupboards to accommodate an item, so long as it fits within its zone. Pots and pans near the stovetop and glassware/dishes near the sink.
  • Keep staples within easy reach. Store herbs and spices in glass jars near the stove but away from heat. Open shelving is great if you have space, otherwise, organize them in a nearby drawer. Store seasonings that you use the most on the counter next to the stove.
  • Store similar items together. For optimum efficiency, dedicate one cupboard/drawer to baking tools (tins and trays, silicone molds, and measuring devices) and one near the stovetop for cooking essentials (spoons and spatulas). Store your cutting boards flat in a drawer or vertically in a cupboard. Graters, mandolins, and other small prepping tools can be kept in the same cupboard/drawer.
  • Divide the pantry. Sort and store spices, dry ingredients, canned goods, and other non-perishables as they would be grouped and stored in the supermarket. Storing items this way will save space and make it easier to quickly see what supplies may need replenishing on the next grocery run.

Maximize storage space.Storing like with like helps you save space and creates more usable kitchen space. Here are some of my tips for making the most of your storage space.

  • Make items accessible.Move plates down to lower cupboards and less frequently used serving dishes to higher shelves. If you have space above your kitchen cabinets, consider storing cake plates and other oversized items on top of the cabinetry.
  • Adjust the shelves. Often, we lose valuable storage space by not taking advantage of the vertical space between shelves. Invest in stacking shelves to gain extra shelf space or adjust and add an additional shelf. Don’t forget that the inside door of cabinets, with a few hooks or open-wire shelves, can be used for storing pot lids, spices, or other small kitchen items. Corner kitchen cabinets can benefit from rotating shelves to make items easier to reach.
  • Use bins to group similar items together. Spices, seasoning packets, sauces, and oils can quickly become a jumbled mess. These are best stored in a deep drawer for easy overview and access. If this is not an option, use a revolving tray (lazy Susan) or bins to corral flours, sugars, flavorings, and similar items together.
  • Decant dry pantry goods into clear, uniform containers. Food packaging is often bulky, leaky, and restricts your ability to quickly assess your stock levels. Decant flours, grains, legumes, spices and nuts into clear, uniform glass or plastic storage containers. Ensure that you can see through the sides and/or lids for quick reference when making your shopping list.

A word on the refrigerator: If you haven’t decluttered your refrigerator, do so now.

  • Clear the condiments. Toss out expired or unused condiments and sauces in your fridge. Many of these tend to be stored for extended periods of time going unused, taking up valuable space.
  • Create storage zones. Re-organize the fridge into zones by grouping like items together. Many modern refrigerators come with useful, labeled sections. Beverages go on one shelf, condiments and small containers on another. Reserve one drawer for meats and cheeses, one drawer for veggies, and the largest large shelf (which can accommodate storage containers and other odd sizes) for all food preparations and leftovers. The door best stores butter, spreads, and open drink containers.
  • Repackage freezer items. Freezer bags are a great alternative to storage containers for vegetables, meats, sauces and other liquids that will be frozen.

As a professional organizer, I don’t believe in the adage “a messy cook is a good cook”. I believe an efficient and organized cook is a good cook. Take Julia Child as an example, she had “a place for everything and everything in its place”, including the outline on peg boards for every kitchen item.

Designating a place for everything will help you maintain your newly decluttered kitchen. Routinely return items to where they belong after use. Clean out your fridge and pantry periodically. Keep drawers orderly, with stacks of pots and pans arranged from biggest at the bottom to smallest on top. Once you’ve set up your kitchen to work efficiently, ease and enjoyment will follow. Your cooking routine will reflect the change and you’ll feel it every time you walk in your kitchen.

Consumed with Tidying

It is the middle of winter, short frigid days and long dark nights. I find myself lighting the candles, wrapping myself in a blanket, and increasing my television consumption. I know, I know, not the most effective or efficient use of my time but I’m a TV junkie. Luckily, I have been able to combine my love of TV with organizing by binge watching organizing programs on Netflix. If you have access to Netflix and you’ve ever wondered what an organizer does, and what they can offer you, then watch a few episodes of “Consumed” and “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”.

Now there is one caveat I have to my previous statement. These are televisions shows after all and television is made to be sensational, to draw you in, which is why we love to binge watch. The shows are just a glimpse inside a person’s private life (their home) and the chaos created through overconsumption. As an organizer I can see beyond the sensation and read into, for as much as the program allows, what is really going on in the lives of these people. Sometimes I want to reach through the screen and offer my assistance. That interest and excitement reminds me why I love helping others find a better quality of life through organizing and decluttering.   

Whether you’ve watched the programs or not I thought I’d share a little of my insight into what makes the program work and what may be lacking.

Consumed: With a firm but caring hand, organizational expert Jill Pollack helps overwhelmed families declutter their homes and their lives. (Netflix) Jill’s method has each family pack-up all their belongings, store them off-site and live with only the essentials for two weeks. After two weeks, the families are reunited with their belongings and asked to get rid of 70% of their possessions.

What I love:

  • Everything passes through their hands so they must connect with each object and determine if it stays or goes.
  • The method takes people out of their comfort zone and demonstrates the arc of emotions people have during the process: overwhelm, hesitation, acceptance and finally freedom from their possessions.
  • Each episode shows how our excess possessions are just a manifestation of an underlying problem. The possessions aren’t the problem in and of themselves, but by reducing the amount of possessions we own we have more time and energy to focus on finding the energy and happiness we seek.  
  • Nearly every family lets go of 70% of their possessions, and when Jill revisits them after three months most are continuing to let go and implementing or maintaining more quality time together.

What is missing:

  • It is an intense method that isn’t affordable or practical for everyone.
  • There are a few episodes that show people with serve issues, such as hoarding, and would require the added expertise of psychologists or therapists, along with that of an organizer. These issues are not addressed.
  • The organizing solutions shared come in the form of a handy-man, who repurposes some of their furniture; they don’t provide you with low cost/no cost solutions you can implement yourself.

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo: In a series of inspiring home make-overs, world-renowned tidying expert Marie Kondo helps clients clear out the clutter – and choose joy. (Netflix) Marie Kondo helps her clients tidy by implementing her method of folding and storing items, through the process clients reduce their number of possessions.

What I love:

  • Marie makes it clear to her clients that she doesn’t possess magic, but you can find that illusive magic within yourself. The magic isn’t, like the wave of a wand, the transformation of the home, it is the transformation within, showing how you feel lighter and happier, have joy, because you have less stuff and more time to do what you love.
  • Peppered throughout each episode are Marie’s methods for folding and storing items. It is a practical DIY guide on how to implement her method without the assistance of an organizer. For those who have read her book these will be recognizable.
  • Each episode represents nearly every type of client an organizer could potentially work with, from new parents, to empty-nesters, young 20-somethings to retirees, and those blending homes together, dealing with the personal effects of a loved one lost or preparing for a new phase in life.   

What is missing:

  • Marie’s style is very practical and deals with surface level emotions; the show glosses over those struggling and doesn’t show Marie supporting or guiding those needing more emotional support during the “tidying”, i.e. letting go process.  
  • Her method focuses on tidying, and that is her strength, but you never tidy what you don’t need to keep. The simple question of does it “spark joy” was sometimes too simple for individuals who found “joy” in everything and weren’t prepared for decluttering.
  • How people found their joy. While people were open to the process many struggled with the method and the idea of letting go, and then it would jump to the end and they would be happy and relieved. You missed how they made the transition.

In both programs there were two things the organizers made clear, you must know why you want to organize your home and that you, not the organizer, need to do the heavy lifting. There is a common misconception that an organizer will come in to your home and clear the clutter for you. Your possessions are yours and the attachment you have is personal, which means the decision to keep or let go is determined by you, not the organizer. The organizer is there to coach you through the process, when you get stuck, to keep you on track, and to offer advice and solutions on how best to store and maintain items.

In nearly every episode of both programs I was able to relate to the person’s experience whether it be like my own, or someone I know, or that of a client I have worked with. It helps being an American and seeing it through that lens. Many will be put off by the fact that Americans have TOO MUCH STUFF, in excessively large homes that may not be relatable across other cultures. If you don’t see yourself in the people on the screen, that’s ok, but know that many of us are struggling to manage the influx of stuff in balance with the joy we want out of life. If you yourself, or someone you know, is facing this struggle, enlist the help of an organizer and get consumed with joy.

Five universal frustrations in the home

Do you find yourself continually arguing with family members over the clutter in your living room? Rest assured, you are not alone. IKEA’s 2017 Life at Home report reveals that the living room is what nearly 48% of families with children under the age of seven argue most about.
Since 2014 IKEA’s team of home researchers has been producing an annual Life at Home report. Their research takes them into the homes of thousands of individuals around the globe, across all demographics and the findings are used to help IKEA develop products that create a better life for ourselves.
What else has IKEA learned about us this year?
  • 49% of arguments stem from our different perspectives on what a “mess” actually is
  • 44% of us say that clearing out gives us a great sense of relief
  • 21% of us fear starting home projects in case we can’t finish
  • 23% of us feel stressed because we don’t know what to keep
  • 17% of all arguments in the home stem from people intruding on other people’s space
More than 50% of us feel proud, peaceful or joyful when we think about our homes. What keeps the rest of us from feeling total satisfaction in our homes are the same frustrations we face regardless of where we live in the world.
IKEA’s five universal frustrations:
  • we have a hard time decluttering, we want less stuff, but have a complicated emotional attachment to our stuff
  • my space, your space & our space are hard to define within the home
  • we struggle to stay mentally present at home; technology & work get in the way
  • we have trouble balancing the good & bad side of technology
  • we want our homes to be finished, we are paralyzed by where to start, but the best homes are a continual work in progress and will never be finished
When you look around your home do you see unfinished projects?  What you need is the help of a professional organizer, a person who can:
  • help you see the big picture
  • clear your space of clutter and unnecessary distractions
  • focus on the right priorities for your family and home
  • find more effective organizing solutions
If you are struggling to decide where to start, sorted.by Melissa, a professional organizer, can help. Whether it be addressing clutter, storage inefficiencies or preparing for a move or renovation, sorted.by Melissa will work with you to find the solutions that work best for you and your home so that you can move forward.
For more organizing tips follow sorted.by Melissa on Facebook or sign-up for the monthly newsletter.

101 Things to Declutter

Everywhere we look there are items we can declutter from our homes. Pick an item a day, or go room by room. If you are looking for inspiration use this list of 101 Things to Declutter starting today. Grab a bag (that’s #1 on the list, you’ve already begun) and start filling it with all the items you no longer need, love or are past their usefulness date. Consider what you can give to someone you know, donate or recycle; the rest gets tossed in the garbage bin.

  1. Excess (plastic & paper) shopping bags
  2. Old blankets & bedding
  3. Excess bedsheets; two sets per bed is enough
  4. Hair accessories you don’t use, especially those outstretched hair elastics
  5. Jewelry you don’t wear; missing the matching earring?
  6. Broken watches
  7. Underwear, socks, tights, and bras that are stretched out or have holes
  8. Keys without a matching lock
  9. Threadbare bath towels
  10. Toys & Games your children have outgrown/played
  11. Stuffed animals no longer loved
  12. Puzzles with missing pieces
  13. Old agendas & notebooks
  14. Outdated calendars
  15. Store catalogues
  16. Extra buttons that came with a clothing purchase
  17. Used envelopes and old flyers
  18. Storage containers without a matching lid
  19. Old mobile phones
  20. Name badges & lanyards from conferences
  21. Kitchen magnets
  22. Old invitations
  23. Exercise equipment collecting dust
  24. Gifts you don’t like
  25. DVDs you don’t watch
  26. VHS tapes (who still owns a VCR?)
  27. Extra key chains
  28. Receipts from the supermarket
  29. Dried up glue containers
  30. Cookbooks you never cook out of
  31. Boxes your electronics came in
  32. Scarves you never wear
  33. Belts that don’t fit
  34. Shoes that pinch
  35. Shoes you never wear/are old
  36. Promotional t-shirts
  37. Books you will probably never read
  38. Chipped dishes
  39. Decorative serving wear you never serve food in
  40. Alcohol you’ve never opened & won’t drink
  41. Appliance/electronic manuals (you can view these online)
  42. Toiletries you will never use
  43. Abandoned (art) projects
  44. Excess coffee mugs, how many do you need?
  45. Apps you don’t use on your phone or tablet
  46. Leftover paint you’ll never use again
  47. Your child’s artwork (keep the ones you love)
  48. Cords & cables to things you no longer own
  49. Duplicate kitchen items
  50. Used up pens & markers
  51. Take out menus
  52. Missing socks
  53. Handbags/Purses you no longer like
  54. Old backpacks
  55. Food & spices that are overdate
  56. Picture frames you no longer like
  57. Luggage you never use (you probably always pack using your favorite piece)
  58. Old to-do lists
  59. Knickknacks/Souvenirs/Home Décor that doesn’t match your style
  60. Small Flash drives/Thumb drives
  61. Computer monitors/keyboards/mouse or computer accessories that are outdated/unused
  62. Miscellaneous nails, screws, and bolts
  63. Perfume/cologne you don’t wear
  64. Old phone contacts, business cards you don’t need, the outdated address book
  65. Paper, plastic, glass containers collected – time to recycle
  66. Broken electronics & appliances
  67. Scrap paper
  68. Excess flower vases
  69. Garden pots you don’t use
  70. Wire hangers
  71. Plastic around dry-clean items
  72. Old newspapers & clippings
  73. Old magazines
  74. Old school books
  75. Expired medicine
  76. Dried up nail polish
  77. Office Supplies you don’t need or have too much of
  78. Subscriptions to services you no longer need
  79. Cleaning products you tried and don’t like
  80. Used/expired batteries
  81. Burned out or broken lightbulbs
  82. Old glasses/eyeglass cases
  83. Baseball caps & hats no longer worn
  84. Sports equipment you no longer use
  85. Children’s sippy cups and themed dishes they have outgrown
  86. Expired coupons
  87. Scrap fabric, yarn, or wool you will never use
  88. Nearly used up candles
  89. Tax returns more than seven years old
  90. Refills for items you no longer have
  91. Camping equipment (you never go camping anymore)
  92. Leftover party supplies
  93. Cheap plastic hangers from the clothing store
  94. Flat pillows too uncomfortable even for guests
  95. Old dress-up/party costumes
  96. Duplicate photos
  97. Items cluttering your bulletin board
  98. Unused wedding gifts
  99. Old toothbrushes
  100. One glove missing it’s match
  101. Stretched out & faded swimwear

If you are ready to explore the benefits of working with a professional organizer to find more space, focus and time contact sorted.by Melissa. I want to help you live a more organized life. Let’s get you sorted.

Nomophobia

Is your smartphone smarter than you? Why are we so addicted to dependent on our smartphones? Why is it such an important object in our lives? It might be because our smartphones have become our agenda, clock, navigator, book, television, audio player, camera, cookbook, newspaper, shopping list, alarm, exercise coach and perhaps even our wallet. Not to mention the numerous game, chat, or social media apps that keep us entertained and connected to the world.

We’ve introduced one of the most integrated and useful pieces of technology into our lives, yet the question begs, who is the master and who is the servant in this relationship?

During a conference for professional organizers, guest speaker Marnix Pauwels (author of Leg dat #@!ding nou ‘ns weg!) asked what might be a healthy relationship with our smartphones? Beyond its practical use, we turn to it in times of boredom, curiosity, loneliness, restlessness, for reassurance, for a pick-me-up or to avoid feeling negative feelings in a particular moment. It drains of us our precious energy, diverts our concentration and weakens our short-term memory muscle.

The reality is we can’t live without our smartphones, they have become too integral to our daily lives. So much so that we now have a new term for our fear of going without them. Nomophobia is the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use your phone for some reason such as the absence of a signal or running out of minutes or battery power. So how do we regain control as master?

Learn to be aware of its presence in your daily life
If you are unsure of how often you reach for your smartphone try an app like QualityTime or Moment.

Recognize when it is becoming a distraction or an emotional substitute
Consciously consider your emotional state when you are interacting with your phone. Could you be more in the moment, mindful of the experience going on around you? Are you avoiding something in the present moment?

Minimize the disruptions
Turn-off notifications & vibrations, reduce the number of apps you use and use the Do Not Disturb setting when you need to focus on a task.

Observe other people’s relationships with their phone
Do you want to emulate their behavior or for them to emulate yours? Lead by example. In your next work meeting, while out with friends for coffee, or interacting with your teen put your phone away. Its mere absence might be noticed.

Create time-out spaces for your smartphone
Keep your smartphone out of your bedroom. Don’t touch your phone until after breakfast. Make the dinner table a no phone zone. Go the extra step, store it further away (in another room or in a box) so you need to consciously walk over to where it is in order to use it.

If you find your digital habits overrunning your life contact sorted.by MelissaI can help you find more space, focus and time to do the things you love.

I want to help you live a more organized life. Let’s get you sorted.

Avoiding Stress At the Holidays

The Halloween jack-o-lanterns have just begun to rot and we are already making lanterns for Sint Maarten, anticipating Sinterklaas’ arrival in The Netherlands and contemplating our Thanksgiving menu.  That just gets my family through to the end of November. December, in and of itself, is one big holiday month with Pakjesavond, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It can be overwhelming and exhausting when this is mixed with year-end deliverables at work, family and friend engagements, holiday celebrations and potential overnight guests.

The holiday season is just one long rolling celebration of festive cultural, national and religious holidays which requires some serious Time Management Solutions. Here are some suggestions on how to handle the extra load.

  • Take one day at a time. Or in this case one holiday at a time by planning and organizing for each individually. There is no sense stressing one’s self out by managing it all at once.
  • Write it down. Use a central calendar to capture everyone’s commitments and invitations. An overview lets everyone know what to anticipate and where they are expected to be.
  • Clear the agendas. Once you’ve noted down all the events and related parties look at what you can cancel or remove from your agenda. Workshops, networks events, conferences, meetings, doctor’s appointments. What can be re-booked during a less stressful time? Must you attend every business or holiday event? Choose consciously those events that bring you the most joy and energy. This is a great exercise in learning to say “no”.
  • Declutter central zones. Start with your entryway, clear away items to make room for greeting guests and hanging their coats. Move to the kitchen and clear the countertops. Cooking large meals become an extra challenge when you are limited by space. Turn the guest room back into an inviting place for guests and not your temporary storage or project room.
  • Create your to-do list. Do you need to coordinate treats, outfits, or gifts for an event? Are you required to RSVP? Purchase tickets? Note down what needs to be done and set aside an evening to make your arrangements.
  • Book in your downtime. Keep at least one weekend day free from engagements. Recovery time is more precious than ever. With the shorter days crawl into bed a little earlier for an extra bit of sleep.
  • Swap time with a friend. You need to run errands without the children in tow (how else can Sinterklaas get his shopping done). Ask a friend to trade afternoons looking after each other’s children. You might have a busy day babysitting, but you’ll be rewarded with a relatively quiet and stress-free afternoon to handle all your shopping needs.

Start now, plan and organize what you can. By managing your time wisely during the holiday season you’ll be able to enjoy the festivities rather than stress and lose sleep.

Do you need a little extra help during the holiday season? Perhaps preparing your home for guests, decorating your home for the festive season, or organizing your kitchen for holiday cooking? Bring order, structure, and efficiency to your home by contacting sorted.by Melissa by email or phone for a Free Consultation. 

For more organizing tips follow sorted.by Melissa on Facebook or sign-up for the monthly newsletter.

Declutter Your Computer

A few years back, I managed and coordinated the IT needs for a consultancy. My colleagues would ring me up or pop-by my desk with all sorts of computer problems for me to troubleshoot. As consultants, client deliverables were priority number one, and forced downtime/loss of work time from a faulty laptop was frustrating and unacceptable.

Often the issues were simple enough to resolve with updates or removals of problematic applications. Having full access to someone’s computer is an eye-opening experience. I could see those that worked in chaos, files and shortcuts all over their desktops, and those who were impatient and just clicked on every button allowing dozens of applications to be downloaded, clogging up computer memory, slowing down their system.

Computers, for most of us, are fundamental to our working lives. To maintain our work productivity and valuable time we need to maintain good working computers. You don’t need to be a computer expert to do this, just follow these few principles for maintaining a functionally efficient, de-cluttered, and organized computer.

System

  • Install the latest updates for applications and programs to work optimally.
  • With every download and browser click you run the risk of accidentally introducing a computer virus; Run a virus scanner such as ESET Online Scanner
  • To optimize the disk space on your Hard Drive run the Disk clean-up/defrag program from your computer which can be found in system settings. Or download a free disk cleaner such as Piriform CC Cleaner
  • Clear your Temporary Files (File Explore > %temp% > Delete Files)
  • Uninstall unused applications and programs (see System Settings) you don’t use or need; bonus, it frees up more space on your hard drive.

Web Browser

  • Clear your homepage of distractions. Choose for a simple search engine homepage without the personalization, updates or news.
  • Clear your browsers cookies/browsing data regularly.
  • Delete most of your bookmarks. Keep only those that you use routinely. If you want to remember a website for future reference, consider web clipping and saving in Evernote.
  • Organize your bookmarks into a folder or if you only use a handful add the ones you use the most on to a bookmark bar.

Desktop & Folders

  • Clear your computer desktop of old and unnecessary files or shortcuts.
  • Have a simple desktop background image that will be inspiring, not distracting.
  • Organize your desktop into quadrants: work, personal, to file, tools. Consider using a desktop wallpaper that helps you organize such as the sorted. Desktop Organizer.
  • Create a good folder structure and file your documents for easy retrieval.
  • Remove as many desktop icons as you can. With a good folder structure, you won’t need shortcuts to your folders.
  • Delete old documents and extra versions.
  • Empty your download folder.
  • Empty your trashcan.

While you are working on your computer lets also do the same for your tablet and smartphone.

Tablets & smartphones

  • Remove unused apps from your devices.
  • Group and organize your apps into folders. Have all your apps fit on 1-2 screens.
  • Delete photos you really don’t need. Undo the autosave photo function from Whatsapp, Viber or other chat apps.

Are you, or your business, struggling to keep organized digitally? Bring order, structure, and efficiency to your digital life by contacting sorted.by Melissa by email or phone for a Free Consultation. 

For more organizing tips follow sorted.by Melissa on Facebook or sign-up for the monthly newsletter.

The Power of Organizing in Evernote

I have always been a collector of information: useful websites, magazine and newspaper articles or potential future travel itineraries. My brain doesn’t have the capacity to hold onto all this information, nor do I enjoy the clutter of physical paper and notebooks. Thankfully, around 10 years ago, Evernote launched a digital notebook that would satisfy my need to keep useful information in an organized and decluttered way. I have been a faithful user since early 2012, expanding the capabilities and uses of this handy digital notebook into various areas of my personal and work life. If you are unsure about how Evernote could work for you consider some of the ways I use it.

Note: I have Evernote installed on my smartphone, tablet, and computer. When online it syncs data across all devices. I have also installed the Clip to Evernote extension on my web browser and downloaded the Scannable app to my smartphone. This is not a sponsored Evernote Blog; I am merely sharing my personal organizing experience using this tool.

  • Book Wish List – Whenever I am recommended a book or come across a book I’d like to read I add this to my Book Wish List page in the notebook. Next time I’m at the library or bookstore and can’t remember the title a quick review of the list provides me all the info I need to know.
  • Business Cards – Using the Evernote App on my smartphone I snap a photo of the business card and Evernote auto-fills the Business Card notebook page with the person’s contact information. Now I have a searchable database of network contacts and can recycle or pass on the paper version.
  • Meeting Notes, Presentations or PDFs – Whether I’m at a client meeting or at a conference, I can capture notes along with saving photos, agendas or shared digital presentations and PDFs. This is really useful on a tablet instead of a cumbersome laptop or the limited capabilities of your smartphone.
  • Recipe collection – I have a separate notebook within Evernote dedicated to storing and collecting most of my recipes. When a friend emails a recipe, I pop it into the notebook. I’ve searched the internet for a new recipe I Web Clip it into the notebook. Flipping through a magazine I use Scannable and snap a pic of the recipe into the notebook. These items are quickly searchable and when I’m at the grocery store wondering how much of an ingredient I need I can pull it up on my phone’s app.
  • Websites – When I come across a website I want to remember, whether it be a digital tool I could use, tax advice I need for later reference or a restaurant I want to try I can Bookmark the website to refer to at a later date.
  • Signatures – Fax machines are obsolete yet there are occasions where I receive a document requiring my signature and I need to email it back. Using the Scannable function I can turn any document into a PDF or JPG, scan and email to any address or save to Evernote.
  • School Information – Keeping track of school information can be overwhelming and frustrating. Do I need a password for the school wiki? Did they email that info? Or Did I receive a hand-out? By adding these into Evernote I have one place where I store class lists, school passwords, flyers, handouts and important emails for convenient reference.
  • Gift Wish Lists – My kids have Santa, Sinterklaas and Birthday gift wish lists. I can snap a pic of something they see or save a web link to an item or just create a simple list of their wishes. When grandparents or friends ask what their gift wishes are I can mail them the page from Evernote.
  • Vacation Destinations – When organizing a trip there is a lot of research that goes into planning the itinerary and activities. During a search, I can save various websites, PDFs and other information about my search into Evernote.
  • Travel documents – Hotel, car or plane reservations are all electronic these days. Storing the reservations in one notebook keeps me from searching through countless emails. I can also keep digital copies of visas, passports, and other vital travel documents.
  • Product Information – Periodically I need to buy new vacuum cleaner bags or replace the printer cartridges. What model number vacuum or printer do I have again? By storing this info in Evernote I quickly reference the product code, number or model for online or in-store purchasing.
  • Shopping List Items – Beyond making the requisite list of clothes my kids need because they’ve outgrown a winter jacket or shoes, I can capture web addresses where I may be able to purchase them. Maybe I’m out and not able to shop but spot something I like, I’ll take a photo and add this to my Evernote notebook. I can also collect ideas for pieces of furniture or accessories I may want for my home that I see in magazines or stores, think Pinterest but more personalized.

There are far more capabilities within Evernote to capture images, collaborate with others or search your data using tags. The more you use Evernote the more useful it becomes.

Are you, or your business, struggling to keep organized digitally? Bring order, structure, and efficiency to your digital life by contacting sorted.by Melissa by email or phone for a Free Consultation. 

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Protect Your Password

How often are you prompted for your password in a week? Too many to count, right? And how often do you get stuck trying to remember the right one before you are locked out or need to reset your password?

Password protection is essential, you need to keep your accounts safe and remember all your passwords. Here are a few tips & tricks to help you protect and create secure passwords.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING

  • Use a different password for each of your accounts. If someone discovers your password they most likely will be able to quickly access multiple accounts before you can change them all.
  • Change your passwords for important accounts regularly (i.e. banking, email). Most companies and many websites force you to do this as part of their own security protocol.
  • Do not use any personal details when creating a password. No birth dates, children’s names or your address.
  • Your password should be a minimum of 8 characters; use 12 to be more secure.
  • Make your password stronger by using a combination of letters (upper and lowercase), numbers, and special characters. For example, use the number 5 in place of the letter S.
  • If you write or save your passwords in a list don’t make it easy or obvious to find the document, such as PASSWORD.docx

CLEVER WAYS TO CREATE PASSWORDS

  • Use a sentence or a phrase and turn it into a password.
    • Example: Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week = T10TbDotW
  • Mix complimentary words together.
    • Example: auto boat = abuotaot
  • Turn your password around.
    • Example: toatouba
  • Find a password through a password generator site that you can phonetically remember
    • Example: 5T5&kV}8 – 5 TOKYO 5 & korean VISA } 8
  • Use a motor pattern on the keyboard. Start with a number or letter and move diagonally or in a pattern alternating keys.
    • Example: @wDvGy&
  • Choose a base word and build or alter the letter/number combination
    • Example: Generate = !G3n3R8!

PASSWORD SERVICES

A number of online password protection services are now available so that you only need remember one password.

Is digital organization not your thing? Could you use support getting your digital life sorted? sorted.by Melissa can help. Email or call for a Free Consultation. 

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Get Your Digital Clutter Sorted

I am all too familiar with digital clutter. While I have a neatly organized storage box, with clearly labeled and sorted storage bags for cables, accessories, chargers, and manuals — once out of sight it is out of mind. Just last week while retrieving an extra power cord from the storage box I discovered some extraneous clutter. How did we end up with so many extra sets of headphones? Those quickly found themselves in the bin. A TomTom, remember those? Google Maps and our car navigation kit suit me just fine. And an old Nokia smartphone; how long ago was that upgraded to an iPhone? Both ended up in the hands of extended family members within days.

My own experience shows none of us are immune to digital clutter. Minimizing the clutter frees up space, opens the opportunity for better upgrades to new devices, and reduces the amount of time you waste on moving, storing or sorting through your digital possessions.

Here is a list of digital items to consider decluttering & recycling:

  • DVDs & CDs: Like a good book collection, those of us who came of age before the advent of Spotify, iTunes, Netflix and other Cloud video and music services, have garnered an extensive collection of DVDs & CDs. If you haven’t watched/listen to your collection or don’t even have a player that works for them it’s time for them to go. Not ready to let go? Discard the covers and store the discs in a case.
  • VHS tapes: does it need to be said? Definitely, time to dispose of them.
  • Computer manuals and CD-ROMS: If you no longer own the device or the software has a newer version, toss it. Nearly every manual or software update is available online.
  • Cables: Keep unique power cables for charging your devices, but if you have 10 versions of a universal cable maybe at least 8 of them need to go.
  • Keyboards, Monitors, Mouse: Apart from monitors, computer periphery is relatively inexpensive to replace. Invest in a good set that you actively use and dispose of the rest.
  • Digital Cameras/Video Cameras: Most likely you use your smartphone to capture photos and record videos. Is it time to let go of the one-use device?
  • Thumb Drives: Nearly everything can be stored and accessed from the Cloud. And with the size of images and documents that old 1GB (or smaller) thumb drive is useless and outdated.
  • External Hard Drives: Like thumb drives, old external hard drives don’t have the capacity to store all our photos/documents/videos anymore. Consider upgrading and migrating your files to an NAS of minimum 1TB (Networked Accessed Storage).
  • GPS Devices: Do you use an app like Google Maps or have an integrated navigation system built-in your car? Old GPS devices are outdated, requiring constant updates.
  • Old Mobile Phones. If you have no one you can pass it on to, recycle it. Or see if you can get some money for it through a buy-back company. Holding on to a collection of phone covers? One phone, one cover is enough.
  • Health tracking devices: From watches to smart bands there is a myriad of accessories that sync & connect to our other devices. Have you bought an upgrade or received a replacement version? Pass on working models to friends or families and recycle the ones that are broken.
  • MP3 Players: Once the must-have of portable music players, with music streaming services or player apps on our smartphone your old MP3 player is heading for the recycling bin.
  • Headsets: Your current headset and a back-up are sufficient; anything else should be tossed.

Of special note, I must comment on the storage of the packaging your devices came in. I’ve heard lots of excuses from clients justifying holding onto the pretty box.

  • The product is more valuable with the packaging (resale value); what is the likelihood you will resell the item?
  • If it breaks and I need to ship it back or return it to the store; if it is under warranty the company will take it back in any packaging.
  • If we ever move the box will protect it and be convenient; when is your next move planned? How did you move your digital stuff in the past?
  • It is pretty, it seems a waste to throw it away; either find a new use for the box or set a date (1 month, 6 months) for when you will recycle the packaging.

Is your digital clutter more than you can manage? Do you need assistance determining how best to sort & store your digital belongings? sorted.by Melissa can help. Email or call for a Free Consultation. 

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