Archive for the ‘organization’ Category

Use it or Lose it

This morning I stand in my closet of superhuman costumes and I do not know know how to choose. Today I need to be The Stuff Whisperer (Please insert your own heroic music), but I also need to be the Pied Piper of Pennies (What exactly does “pied” mean?). Unfortunately the two fight domestic disorder in different ways. Saving, upcycling, and repurposing can be at cross purposes with purging and simplifying. You may well be huddling with your picture frames that just need a good sand and some chalk paint, or the box of empty jars that would be great for votives or cookie mix gifts, wondering if you are saving the world or have unwittingly gone over to the dark side.
You may be thinking, “Leaping leftover casserole Deb. Is there no hope? Will I always have to choose between a simplified more stress free lifestyle and saving money?”
Take heart gentle citizen. There is one battle where they can unit. It is organization (cue the triumphant music).

To that end I offer a few simple ideas.
There is a lot of free stuff that comes into the house that gets tossed. In the kitchen it is the packets of ketchup, salt, pepper, paper napkins and soya sauce (don’t judge me). If they do get kept they are thrown into a drawer never to appear until they all get tossed.
These routinely get ignored in place of the purchased ketchup.  Why?  Why not use what we have?
Here is the compromise. They do you no good hidden away. What I did here was take three of my favourite pretty little bowls and place them on the kitchen table. One has ketchup, one soya sauce and one with salt and pepper. Feel free to be impressed with the groovy graphics border.


The way I work is that to use it I have to see it. The bowls make me smile because I love their colours. If it doesn’t work to have them on the table these are stacked in the cupboard with the spices so they are not forgotten.
On the shelf below the spices lived in an unhappy jumble and I’ve often bought 2 or 3 containers of the same spice because I couldn’t see what I had. An easy fix, after you go through what is too old and needs replacing, is to have a lazy susan so that you can see everything you own and access it without tearing apart the cupboard.

I told you the bowls were cute.  I wish I’d taken a before picture of the spices below.  They were all a right mess before the lazy susan. I had three containers of poppy seeds.  I do not think I will ever bake enough muffins to justify that quantity.

In the bathroom I dumped out everything and put all of the samples in an atrractive box that sits on the counter. These get used first. No buying new hand cream, facial cleansers or even shampoo until the samples are gone.
Getting the samples is only a deal if you use them.
These are just a few simple life hacks where simplifying and saving work well together.
I would love to hear your ideas on organizing your life to save money.
Up, up and oy veh. Oh my sciatica.

Can’t See the Forest for the Sleeves

OK maybe the title isn’t one of my better literary efforts but this is what happens after two days of trying to pack a suitcase and being unsuccessful.  The embarrassing part is that this is not my first trip to the rodeo (I did not just use that cliche.)  I had decluttered most of my wardrobe, matching outfits with jewelry etc.   It would have been a cunning and clever plan IF I had tried on everything first.  It also had another fatal flaw (see how I’m building the dramatic tension?).  I had a closet full of black pants and matched each one with a suitable top. Unfortunately I cannot bring 9 pairs of black pants with me and not all work with all the tops.  There are four variations on a yoga pant.  One is comfortable, a bit worn and the draw string really shows when under a top. The second is newer, has a more subtle waistband but a small paint stain on one leg. The third is a soft wide leg with pockets but keeps on lengthening due to the material.  The fourth is the newest but too figure fitting to wear with any shirt that doesn’t cover the bum.  Did I mention the dress pants with the faint pin strip in case I need to look businesslike, the flowing pants that would be great for the opera, the clam diggers or the two pairs of thick leggings with faux leather applique?  Of course I have two because the applique on one is on the side of the legs and the other is on the knees.

I will spare you the horrors of the toppings section ( I feel like an ice cream sundae), but I came back to the struggle between style and comfort.  What looked good was not necessarily what I could wear on the sort of multi climate zone trip I was going to take.  Unlike decluttering blouses and sweaters I found letting go of pants too hard.  My lifestyle requires clothes I can trash with my sculpting.  My textiles get lint on everything.  I have clothes for that so I don’t go out looking like I’ve rolled in an old man’s jacket pocket.

Bit by bit the pile of working clothes has grown out of control as well.  I justify that I can turn them into rugs one day but the chances are slim.

The truth is that by hanging on to all the “almost works” pants I didn’t realize that I did not have a basic black pant that was great.  The clutter of “must keep” clothing didn’t let me know what I needed.  Slowly I started matching the tops I wanted to take with the pants as they lay on the bed.  A clear winner emerged for the yoga pants that would serve for hiking and a slim pair for the boots that would walk me around Istanbul. The tops had to either go with one of these two pairs to make the cut.  I allowed myself one skirt and though I only have three, one is for summer, one is in a different colour theme and the lucky winner manages to work with three of the tops.

In the end I had a pair of city pants, country pants, and a skirt..

I learned I had no sweaters, no fleece, no raincoat and 16 camisoles.  Over the next few months I will try and refine the wardrobe into wearable outfits that mix and match and fit properly.   If I can also manage to get a cool hair style and balance my budget I will have pulled a hat trick of domestic bliss. I am reluctant to get rid of things that still fit.  It seems counter intuitive  but if I know what I really need I won’t waste money buying the wrong thing. Maybe the next time I want to get away I will be able to pack in less time than I will spend on my vacation.

Leaving you a trail of breadcrumbs out of the forest, Deb

Stop Working and Save Money

No don’t tell your boss he has coffee breath and a bad comb over, especially if you are self employed.

Being a stay at home mom, like thousands of other women, I’ve scrambled for ways to make extra money.  Some run home daycares but I’d rather be a bouncer at a biker bar.  Others continue on part time at their old jobs but that wasn’t  possible.  There are home parties but I couldn’t sell ice in the desert.  What did that leave?  I read through the books on at home jobs.  The typical advice seemed to be to go with my talents and passions.  Unfortunately no one was willing to pay me to watch sci. fi., eat natchos and hang out with my girlfriends.  During the early years of motherhood my husband traveled a lot as well as upgrading his education so I found I spent a lot of time alone.  As an outlet I began to sketch, refinish furniture, and make jewelry.  When I started to ask people for ideas as to how to make money I received encouragement to sell my jewelry.  “Oh did you make that? Where do you sell? Oh I love that.” I learned later that compliments don’t necessarily correlate to sales but that bit of wisdom came with experience.

I started making jewelry and selling at craft fairs.  Sometimes I made a few dollars and other times I paid the entrance fees only to have dismal turn outs and poor sales. Throughout the years I have sold baskets, earrings, pendants, sculptures and even papier mache sculptures.  The question is, did I make any money?  There is a lot to consider if you are going to try this.  Are you going to sell at fairs, through stores, or online?  The markets either charge a table rate or a commission or a mixture of both. I found the best ones are the commissions so that for the organizers to make money they have to work at advertising.  I made the mistake of doing one house sale where there were only four other sellers and a grand total of 6 customers as the rather flighty lady had neglected to advertise except by a recipe card posted at the local market.  She got her fee in advance and was happy to sit back. One of the worst I remember was a certain bead and jewelry show that had a $400 booth fee. An artist traveled from the Interior of the province, paid for gas, food and an overnight at the hotel and only made $170.  She ended up being out hundreds of dollars for the privilege of giving away her jewelry. Ouch.

To sell you need to invest in ways to display your wares, packaging, business cards, marketing material and stands.  You also have to create enough products to sell. What you do not sell can become a costly investment and leave you with a drawer full wasted materials and time.

If you are going to sell retail they will either take your work on consignment or buy it outright.  Once again if it is on consignment you tie up a portion of your inventory, and the store owner is not as invested in displaying your wares. Selling outright is the dream.  That requires a fair bit of door pounding. The other way is online either through your own website or a site like e-bay, etsy, or artfire etc. To run your own site you pay for the site design and web hosting, and have to maintain it.  You need to be continuously photographing your pieces to update the site. This all costs upfront and ongoing money. To sign up with one of the other sites costs money per post and possibly a commission per sale. The good part is that you do not need to carry excess stock. Unfortunately you do not get the impulse buyer and then you are involved in shipping and methods of payment.

You also have to consider the costs of the materials, the marketing products, the time in manufacturing and selling, and fees. Do these equate to what you can make? What about incidentals like gas, parking, food while on site, classes to learn techniques, books, and sometimes accomodations.  When I sat down and did the math I realized that between the different materials (clay, findings, clasps, chains, gold leaf) and tools (dremels, mold, textures, buffers, sanding paper, finishing)  and marketing info. like business cards, card stock for the individual pieces, bags for each item, the time, and the fees, I was giving up my evenings and weekends for little profit or to break even.

Bottom line:You have to honestly account for all of your expenses.  If you are not making a profit after your costs then you may be indulging in a hobby rather than a business.

Now I hold a couple of private sales a year or do commission work. When people ask where I sell I tell them I can’t afford to sell as it costs too much.  I will continue to do my sculpting and rug design for exhibition work and education because I love it but as far as a money maker, unless I am sure of my costs versus my profits, I am further ahead to stop working and save money.  Now where are those nachos? Oh cool, a Godzilla marathon on the Space network.

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When “to be” is the Only Option

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve canned  corn relish and made blackberry jam from hand picked blackberries.  I’ve created balanced homemade meals and avoided fast food (pretty much), started to organize my closets (You didn’t seriously think I got that done yet did you?), started to reduce my pantry and freezer stock, cancelled online daily deal subscriptions, avoided flyers and searching for airmiles deals, as well as sifting through paperwork, art supplies and filling donation boxes.  As I finished up washing yet another stack of handwashed pots and pans generated from apples studel made with apples from my own tree I was struck with the strength of my feelings.  I’m tired!!!!  There was a reason I ate out, ignored the filing and did not hand make my own shampoo and deodorant (and trust me folks, crystals do nothing to reduce the stink even if you think your aura is cleaner.  I’m just saying.)

Today my joints are swollen, my face is puffy and I can’t follow the plot line of America’s Next Top Model.  In other words it is time to rest, and let the world take care of itself.  Today I will ignore the dog toys, eat ifits (if it is in the fridge you can have it) and just enjoy my home.  We work so hard to create an environment for everyone but ourselves.  It is hard to realize that I have limitations but there is wisdom in knowing yourself, testing the boundaries and accepting when you have gone as far as you can.  Today is the day to let my home look after me rather than the other way around. Today I will enjoy snippets of summer that still exist in my garden. Today I will just be and be content.

Every Day I’m Shuffling

Have you ever had one of those moments when you get a shock and you go white, then flush, and then feel like you are going to pass out?

I never thought that that would happen just trying to get organized.  Today I decided to conquer the dreaded filing pile.  Yes I know you should do it at the end of each day and there would not be a stack that looks like a cartoon in-box.  OK so I have bank statements, receipts, recipes (cheese scones?  Oh yum.), Josh’s report card from last year, Bella’s vet appointment update and my car insurance papers.  No wait. My what?  Yup.  I had renewed the car’s insurance, brought the papers in the house and put them on the mini pile on the island in the kitchen.  These are the things to deal with today. Or at least in the morning. Or the next afternoon because in the morning is carpool, banking and lab work.  Or tomorrow evening because I have to get dinner ready and clean away things as I need to scrub down the kitchen.  Etc., Etc.,….. Until the mini pile joins all the other mini pile in the office which will be promptly filed.

The insurance was purchased July 10th.  That meant that for over two months I’ve been driving around with my insurance papers in a rat’s nest or folders and paid bills.  If I’d been pulled over I would have not had any clue where to find my registration.  Please feel free to winch right here.  I justify it by saying that I couldn’t just pop the papers in the glovebox as you are always warned not to leave the paperwork with all your vital information in the car.  All I needed to do was bring it all in to the house, remove the one paper with top secret info. and return the rest of the package to the car.  Simple and quick.  I was going to do it right after the groceries were put away, the dog let out, the oven turned on, the dishwasher emptied, the meal started, I checked my e-mails, facebook and the TV listings for the evening in case something urgently needed to be programmed for the PVR, etc.

I’ll admit that I know that I need to allot a certain amount of time at the end of each day for paperwork.  I think the only way for me to actually do it is to set a specific time.  I don’t want to but realizing how I dodged a bullet in terms of a large traffic ticket I’ve been scared straight.

My life as a cautionary tale, Deb