June Project Update

How are your June Projects going? Mine is squeaking by, I definitely need to finish some chores this week to keep on track. The magazine stack is slowly growing smaller and I’ve been adding new recipes to my binder.

The ‘to be filed’ pile can be done in ten minutes and I might even clear out my ‘to be shredded’ box. When it comes to going through a lot of paper and recycling I find it’s easy to designate a bag. I use paper bags from the grocery store so I can dump all of my paper directly into the recycle bin.

If you think it’s too late to get started, don’t worry! Here are three tips to get you started tonight:

1. Set up a filter – an email filter is a great way to avoid distractions and save time. I’ve mentioned before that Costco sales emails have their own folder, photo deals from Shutterfly, Hotbook, Walgreens and Snapfish go to one folder and correspondence for my volunteer projects go to another. So easy! Check out this article on what types of email to filter and how to get started.

2. Put like things together – if I asked you to grab a red pen would you know where to look? How about a spatula? Puzzle? Shampoo? If two or more places come to mind then you can start simplifying by moving like items together.

In my house black sharpies go in the middle desk drawer. Cleaning rags under the bathroom sink. This saves SO much time trying to find something in place A only to find it’s not there, looking in place B and giving up by buying another at Wal-Mart. Another benefit is knowing how much you have! If your towels don’t fit in a large basket do you have too many? If you gather all your printer paper and only have a ream should you buy more? Do you find duplicates that you don’t need or would you benefit from a backup set?

True story: I have 5 pair of scissors for little ole me. One pair goes in the office for paper only, the rest reside in the kitchen. This way if I grab one for scrapbooking or another to open a bag of pretzels I don’t have to spend an hour hunting down a pair to cut out a coupon.

Grouping like items also makes it easier to get dressed, pack and clean. The best part of “cleaning up” is knowing that when you come across something you know where it should go.

3. Gather and toss – do you get advertisements in the mail every week like I do? Such a waste… if I want to view deals I go to the site directly to view the grocery flyer and I never buy those pizza or oil change deals. But since I can’t find a way to stop the mailman from leaving me those papers I gather and toss them once a week.

When you collect your mail sort into two piles: to do and to wait. If it’s a bill, birthday card, or other important document it becomes a “to do.” Bills should be paid, cards acknowledged, checks cashed, coupons sorted, etc. If you have no immediate use for the mail it becomes to “to wait.” This pile has a shelf life of 7 days, no more. Every other day I get an advertisement for a new cable service that I’m never going to use. That skips the “to wait” pile and goes into the recycling. Same for credit card offers (which are shredded first), pet food offers, and grocery stores I do not frequent. What remains are circular ads for stores I do shop at and those are only good for a week. At the end of the week they go straight into the recycling.

Magazines go right into the “to read” magazine file and I try to keep just the last 3 months on hand at once. After all, recipes for Christmas ham and soups to ward off the cold are not very useful right now!

I don’t have a cute little box or basket for this type of mail, just one bar stools in the kitchen. Everything in my “to do” pile gets move immediately. Bills go on the calendar and then filed in my “to be paid” folder. One of these days I’ll go paperless but I’m not there yet.


Project: Paper Pile Proflieration

I finally settled on a June project, now that we’re a week into the month. It’s time I tackle the piles of papers that proliferate around my house and are so easy to overlook. These papers fall into 3 main categories:

1. Magazines – read and remove interesting articles & recipes, save just the last 2 months of each subscription.

2. Loose papers – recycle junk, save and store resource information in a binder or file and ruthlessly attack my projects file.

3. Old files – research how long I should be keeping papers, scan and shred as many old files as I can.

While I don’t plan on going through my old journals or any books I do count it extra credit if I sell books on Amazon (or even list them…) and I shall try to avoid circumstances where I will be tempted to buy books. Thrift stores. Library book sales. Book stores. The internet. I’m still working on reading my way through my library which I presume will only take me the next, oh decade or so.

In the next few weeks I’ll probably post some updates on this new project including my collection of binders and folders that keep my papers organized, my filing system and maybe even my dozens of journals amassed over the years.

Have you decided to take on a project in June? The rules are simple: no rules.  Just choose a frugal home project and try it out for the rest of the month.  I’ve posted some ideas here and here to help get you started.

Project Ideas

Will you take the June challenge? Here are five ideas to get you started.

1. Clothes Chaos – this challenge requires you to divide and conquer and is best done in chunks of time with a full length mirror and Law & Order marathon. Start by sorting your clothes into categories and deal with one at a time. Jeans, shorts, bathing suits, socks, sweaters, pajamas, and so on.
Grab some boxes for clothes that should be donated and clothes needing repair. Then go back through the “to repair” clothes and ask if it’s worth the time and money.
Socks with holes become dusting rags, same with solo socks.
Worn shirts can be your painting clothes but put a limit on it – 3 max.
Shoes that hurt your feet or are too uncomfortable have to go.

2. Word Wars – do you ever feel like there is too much information and you’ll never get a chance to read it all? Here’s your chance to limit input for 30 days.

Unsubscribe to emails you never read (sorry Quiznos, Rite Aid and charity spam)
If an email or mail is important enough to keep then create a file for it.
Throw away the excess. You don’t need the envelope your Visa statement arrived in 2 months ago. You don’t need the 13 emails leading up to the decision to go to the Lake last year. Keep what’s important and archive or delete the rest.

3. Endless entertainment – don’t let the items that should help you relax become a source of stress.

That book you bought and never liked: donate it
The movies you used to watch but don’t like now: sell them
A stack of games or a game system that sits unused: get rid of it
Towering piles of magazines you wouldn’t read even if you were on bed rest for the next year: recycle them

The same goes for websites you bookmarked but don’t care to read again, links to news stories that are now archived and old research for long forgotten projects.

4. Recipe Review – tame your recipes and start using the ones you want to try.

Read my guest post on organizing recipes here.

5. Music Madness – are you holding on to discs, tapes and records when you could simplify?

Gather all your CDs and add them, one by one, to your MP3 player. Before you take a CD in the car for your road trip, copy it to your computer. Once the music is downloaded you can organize the discs however you choose.

If you’re holding on to tapes, records, or 45s ask yourself why? Do you listen to them? Do you even own a tape player? Donate.

Tackle your accessories too. Throw out headphones that are broken or poor quality. Get rid of chargers, adapters and speakers that go to equipment you no longer own. (I have iPod skins for several older generation iPods to toss…)

Once that’s done, organize your music files. Create fun playlists or fill in gaps in your collection. Check out the library for new music or a book on CD to listen to during your commute.

Reset the radio presets to your favorite stations and buy a new CD – just one – for a new artist.

What am I going to do in June? I have no idea! My initial idea was to finish decorating my master bedroom but I have a few barriers. I’d like to scrape the popcorn texture ceiling first so I don’t have to re-empty the space. To do so I need a scaffold. IF I can get that scaffold the plan is to:
a) empty the room
b) lay down drop cloths and plastic
c) scrape the ceiling smooth
d) remove plastic & ceiling junk
e) wipe down walls
f) prime & paint walls
g) remove baseboards
f) buy, paint and install baseboards
g) bring everything back in
h) paint and install picture frames

June is Frugal Hobby Month

No, it’s not a formal thing, just a challenge from me to you!  Summer is
kicking off and there’s so much to be done. But there’s also a tendency to
run out to the stores for a new swimsuit! lawn chairs! flowers! camping
gear! fruit snacks! pool toys! new books! lemonade!Slow down.

The first thing is to take a few sheets of paper and go for a walk. Walk
from the front door to the back door. Through your garage. In the backyard.
Into bedrooms and bathrooms.

What bugs you? Notice I’m not asking what’s wrong according to MY standards. Ask yourself what YOU want to change.

Some things that bother me in my house:
-book series I haven’t read in years but enjoy
-duplicate DVDs I want to sell
-the purple paint in my bathroom
-bald spots on my lawn
-a puzzle I want to complete

Take that list of things you want to change and make June the month to get started. Don’t try to tackle everything! Have you ever encountered a friend who writes novels in her “spare time”, bakes incredible creations, volunteers all over town or maintains a clean and efficient household? Changes are she learned habits and created this lifestyle over time.  Instead of complaining that this friend is obviously a transplant from Stepford, Connecticut start with one thing you want to change, set a modest goal and go for it.

Here are 27 ideas for practical and fun ideas:

  1. make a neighborhood walk with your spouse, kids, pet or friend a habit
  2. take 12 photographs a day
  3. reorganize a closet (just ONE!)
  4. practice a new language
  5. improve your vocabulary using my favorite site for high schoolers: free rice
  6. organize your DVDs
  7. re-read a favorite book or series
  8. paint a room
  9. touch up paint on baseboards, a scuffed wall or trim
  10. train your dog a new trick
  11. weed the lawn and garden
  12. do 1 minute sit up drills and try to improve your numbers
  13. collect and sort all the writing utensils in your house (last time I did this, no lie, over 20 black Sharpies)
  14. catalog all the food in your pantry
  15. scan 25 family photos every day – bonus points for throwing away overexposed, blurry and unrecognizable prints
  16. research and comparison shop for car insurance
  17. set up a laundry line and hang all your clothes to dry
  18. finish a puzzle
  19. play every game in your game closet
  20. sort through all your jewelry for forgotten pieces
  21. do all those small repair projects (caulk the tub, replace a fence board, repair a torn screen)
  22. sharpen your kitchen knives
  23. learn to change the oil in your car
  24. cancel 5 paper statements and sign up for email reminders (add reminders to your calendar)
  25. backup your computer data whether or not it’s organized the way you like it
  26. write down all the birthdays coming up in 2010 and 2-3 gift ideas for each
  27. turn in recycling and reduce your trash contributions

What else can you think of? I’ll add more to the list with your comments and let me know what you’re going to tackle in June!