I am a self-diagnosed neat freak. I love to clean and I love to organize. (If I could have a container, holder and/or label for EVERYTHING, my life would be complete!) And this is my brand new blog for everything NEAT!
I have a toddler in perpetual motion, a packrat daughter, a dog and a disorganized husband... and I hope to share the challenges, trials, errors, rewards and insights of being a bit "too clean obsessive" in a family that's not so in love with neatness. And I am making a promise to clean, rearrange, organize and simplify my life... and help you along the way! SO stay tuned for my journey toward everything orderly and efficient!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 84: DE-Clutter the Pen Cup

OH, it's a simple task, all right... but it's one that we don't always make time for. So set aside about 2-5 minutes and go through the cup, basket and/or drawer that holds your writing utensils... and clean it up!

Step 1: Take everything out. You can do this in clusters, like I plan to do, or just dump it all out at once. Your call!
Step 2: Test every pen. If it's not dried up -- or, worse, a goopy, gooey mess -- keep it! Discard all space wasters and all pens without tops. (Topless pens might not be causing any problems now.... but they are just begging for the chance!)

Step 3: Check pencils. Sharpen dull ones. And toss out the useless nubs that you have to cross your eyes and grit your teeth to hold onto! ;)
Step 4: Rinse out and/or wash off holder. I usually turn mine upside down over the trash can and then wipe with a damp paper towel!
Step 5: Replace items! Be sure to store highlighters, pens, markers, Sharpies, etc., with the ink side down, if possible! That way you don't waste time waiting for the ink to get to the tip!

(And, yes, that is me, top photo, with one of my favorite pens: a PEEPS pen!)

Now, THAT's neat!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 83: The Organized Baby Bag

I know this is not a "mommy blog," but since I am a mommy... and since my neat freakishness carries over into ALL of my "roles"... I figured I'd share another neat product with all of you! So, neat mommies, take note!

I recently discovered Diaper Dude and figured I would give one of their products a try, even thought I am NOT a daddy, and most of the items they sell are designed specifically with some cool, hip, diaper-changing daddies in mind! ;)

Since I LOVE neatness and organization, I thought I'd purchased a changing station. It recently arrived, and WOW! I just love it! I used to keep wipes in one pocket of the diaper bag and diapers in a small zip pouch. Then I had a changing pad and some "essentials" (AKA baby powder, butt pastes, etc.) in another baggie. Well, needless to say, that set-up was NOT convenient for a quick run (uh, no pun intended) to the bathroom with a little one!

Well, this well-constructed-- and I must say, fashionable, bag -- is bigger and sturdier (and way cooler) than I imagined. And it's just the PERFECT size and shape for diapers and wipes and any of those other "extras."

It unfolds from a shoulder-strap bag, like THIS: a full-size, cushy diaper pad, with two pockets and a mesh bag, like THIS:

And check out the fun little diagram, HERE:

...and the all-important checklist for dads, in case they are in sole charge of the little ones:

I may still bring our whole diaper bag with us wherever we go, but now I can just grab the extremely handy, convenient (and cool) DD changing station whenever we have a... ummm.... "need."

Now, THAT's neat!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 82: Color Code Your Calendar

I have an iPhone, but I am not a fan of electronic calendars. I don't like things beeping at me all the time, reminding me of what I need to do in an hour. ;) Plus, I don't really like seeing only ONE event or ONE day at a time. I like the big picture. And that's why I actually have two calendars. Paper calendars. One is specifically for work items, due dates, meetings, phone conferences, etc., and I keep it on my work desk. The other is a small calendar I keep in my purse. I write down lunch dates, doctor's appointments, practices, parties and other events, and I use it almost like a journal to keep track of what I have done, not just what I have to do! For instance, if the family stops to catch a movie, I'll write down that movie title in my calendar. If we eat out, I'll list that restaurant, too! That way, I can look forward to what's coming up, but I can also look back and see some of the fun things I did!

Either way, folks have asked me about how I use color coding in my calendars. Admittedly, I mostly use the coding for work items, so I can glance at the calendar and immediately get an idea of what I'm going to be doing. But it can certainly be useful for the family calendar, too. You can assign each member a certain color, and then see who's got the most lined up for the month! ;) Or, you can assign colors to different kinds of tasks. For example, as I mentioned in my last post, an orange highlighter alerts me to approaching deadlines and due dates; blue signifies upcoming meetings; green highlights work-related events; pink shows my family and personal events; and yellow…. well, the yellow highlighter is my go-to highlighter for just about everything else!

And HERE is what is COULD look like, if you're curious to see color coding in action!

I see mostly pink for February... and if this were a REAL calendar, that would mean a LOT of family items. And since there's only a little bit of orange, there are not many due dates. See? I didn't even have to look at the actual items. The color coding by itself is enough to get a good idea of the goings-on for the month!

Now, THAT's neat!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 81: Real Simple Desk Drawer

"The Neat Get Neater" blog is HONORED to be included in the February 2011 issue of Real Simple magazine! Did you see the cover story about expert advice for pairing down?!?! Well, "Get Neater" had the opportunity to contribute to the section about office desk drawers!

To expand on that information, following is the Q&A, in its entirety! Hopefully this provides some useful tips for tackling YOUR desk drawers!

  1. WHAT ARE THE OFFICE RELATED BASICS THAT YOU THINK EVERY PERSON SHOULD KEEP IN THEIR DESK DRAWER? Ultimately, what you keep in your desk drawer depends on the size of the drawer in question. If possible, I like to keep stamps, envelopes and note cards handy. But, if I’m a bit limited on space, I think an office desk drawer should include the things that I might need on a daily basis, like: paperclips, post-it notes, correction tape, scotch tape, scissors, pens, highlighters and a black Sharpie pen. (You can store your stapler, staples, CDs, hole punch, writing pads, labels and other handy things that you don’t use everyday, elsewhere!
  2. WHAT PERSONAL ITEMS SHOULD BE ON-HAND IN THE DRAWER? I like to keep an all-in-one make-up kit (I have Clinique’s all-in-one eye shadow, blush and lipstick – with mirror!), a hairbrush or comb and some gum. I never know when I’ll have an unplanned meeting or a surprise visitor. And when work drags on to the wee hours, it’s nice to be able to freshen up my look… and my breath!
  3. IS IT A GOOD IDEA TO KEEP A SPARE SNACK IN THE DRAWER? IF SO, ANY EXAMPLES? Snacks can quickly take up much-needed space in a drawer, so go light. Besides gum, I have a pack of peanut butter crackers (for a quick pick-me-up) and Godiva’s chocolate pearls (for stimulation… and for inspiration!).
  4. WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO KEEP A DESK DRAWER NEAT? With any drawer, I start with a non-slip liner or a drawer organizing tray… or both! The liner helps keep things from sliding all over the place. (That’s the easiest way to get a messy drawer, even if you take the time to arrange everything!) And I love compartmentalized trays since they are made with plenty of different-sized “pockets” to hold all your desk necessities. Of course, you have to keep in mind that pens can be a bit unpredictable. They either walk out of the room… or they multiply in dark office drawers. So, I keep a small zippered pouch in there, just for writing utensils.
  5. HOW MANY SPARE POST-IT PADS DOES ONE DRAWER REALLY NEED? I say stack ‘em up as high as they will go… as long as they don’t get in the way! You can never have too many post-it notes!
  6. HOW CAN SOMEONE TELL WHEN THEY HAVE TOO MUCH OF SOMETHING IN THEIR DRAWER? If things get crumpled, stick out or get stuck so you can’t open the drawer without a major struggle, that’s usually a good sign that there’s too much in there!
  7. ANYTHING SURPRISING THAT EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE IN THEIR DRAWER? Floss. It doesn’t take up much room. And since I may not have time to brush my teeth while working, floss is a must to remove that stray bit of romaine lettuce from that business lunch!
  8. ANYTHING THAT MOST PEOPLE HAVE IN THEIR DRAWER BUT SHOULDN’T? MEANING, IT’S NOT NECESSARY? I’ve witnessed many people with notes, checks, receipts and other paper items crammed in their desk drawers. This is not just an unnecessary thing, it’s a “no-no.” Loose papers in a drawer can easily get stuck, rip or disappear altogether as the drawer moves in and out and shoves the papers out over the back edge. (My husband “lost” a $500 check this way!) So, store your paper items in a safe place… like a file, envelope or folder.
  9. ANYTHING THAT A HOME-OFFICE DRAWER SHOULD HAVE (OR NOT HAVE) AS OPPOSED TO AN OUT-OF-THE-HOUSE OFFICE DRAWER? I don’t keep things to freshen up with or to snack on in my home-office drawers. In my home, there’s a place for everything, and everything in its place…. and to have food or makeup spread around the drawers in my home might make me a bit neurotic!
  10. DO YOU SUGGEST POST-IT NOTES IN A VARIETY OF SIZES? IF SO, WHY? I love Post-in notes of all sizes, including the wall pads and easel pads, but I usually keep only the traditional size and the post-it flags in my desk drawer. Both of these sizes are very useful for making notes and for marking pages, which I do just about every day!
  11. ARE THERE ANY PENCILS YOU LIKE? I’ve never much liked pencils because I have to sharpen them every five seconds or so. And I tend to write way too hard for the mechanical pencils (that thin, lead bit breaks off every other letter!). However, I do have that dreaded, exam-taking no. 2 pencil, just in case!
  12. DO YOU HAVE ANY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A COOL/ATTRACTIVE TAPE DISPENSER? Funny thing is, I picked up a little, round, purple tape dispenser (think purple donut) as a “distraction” for my baby boy while I was shopping, and it turned out to be one of my favorite tape dispensers. It’s small, and it does not take up much room, so it’s a perfect desk drawer mate. Then again, I think pop-up tape dispensers are probably one of the most clever office inventions to come around in a while! And the Scotch Pop-Up Tape Deskgrip Dispenser is pretty spiffy. It ‘s small. It suctions to your desk. It dispenses pre-cut pieces of tape. And it’s refillable. So it’s about as good as it gets, in my book!
  13. AS FOR SCISSORS, ANY TIPS FOR WHAT TO LOOK FOR? I am no scissors snob, but I think that Stampin’Up’s craft and paper scissors are pretty sharp! (Pun intended!) These ergonomically designed, heavy-duty scissors (with a stainless steel blade) are very comfortable, and they cut easily and beautifully. You’ll get a smooth, clean cut every time. And isn’t that what you want scissors to do?
  14. AS FOR HIGHLIGHTERS. DO YOU THINK IT"S GOOD TO HAVE A FEW DIFFERENT COLORS? Highlighters are useful for many reasons. Not only can you draw attention – literally – to things by simply making a little line or a scribble, you can utilize the different colors to create your own color-code system! I use color coding whenever possible, and I currently use my highlighters to make figuring out what’s happening on my event-full desk calendar a bit easier. For example, the orange highlighter alerts me to approaching deadlines and due dates; blue signifies any upcoming meetings; green highlights work-related events; pink shows all my family and personal events; and yellow…. Well, the yellow highlighter is my go-to highlighter for just about everything else!
  15. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PENS? I love gel pens – lovely, liquidy gel pens! They write so neatly, and you don’t have to press down too hard. (You can just let your wrist go with the flow!) But if you want specifics, I really, really love the “Frixion” pen by Pilot. It's an ERASABLE gel pen, which, in my book, is absolutely superb! :) It writes well... AND it erases well. So I am very pleased that I can write neatly and cater to my perfectionist tendencies…without crumpling up so much paper (or Post-it notes)!
Now, THAT's neat!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 80: My CUPS Runneth Over

Plastic cups.

They migrate... frequently.
They multiply... often.
And they will randomly launch themselves at unsuspecting beverage seekers from their precarious positions in the kitchen cabinets!

If your plastic cups are taking up way too much real estate all over your kitchen (perhaps even invading the pantry!?!?), you might want to herd them up and give them a new home. Together. Where they will cause much less damage and frustration!

Although these cups aren't pretty (I mean, face it, we've collected these cheapies and freebies from decades of yard sales, birthday parties, concerts and ball games), they do deserve some attention. So summon your organizing prowess, and clear a cabinet just for the cups. Swallow your pride, and just stack 'em up by size.

Now, I've let some coffee mugs take up residence here, along with a few water bottles, but this cabinet is probably 83% plastic cups. Every once in a while, they'll start to form a rebellion and try to wobble and lean their way off the edge of the shelf in order to hit someone in the head or bounce all over the floor. But, most days, the cups stay pretty neat and organized. I haven't found a stray in the dog food for a while. And the cup count has remained pretty steady.

Now, THAT's neat!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 79: The Pyrex Complex

Ok... back to those kitchen cabinets that we started talking about the other day...

As a neat freak, y'all know that I love to keep "like" things or families of items together. It just makes sense to me. And it makes it SO much easier to store, locate and use said items.

Well, the same can work in the kitchen, and that's why I keep all my glass cooking stuffs (AKA Pyrex) in the same cabinet!

It doesn't look all that impressive. And, frankly, it can get rather heavy to wriggle out what I need. But, until I can figure out how to add more shelves or create some other clever storage rack, this is how it is! ;)

You can see that bowls (on the bottom) are stacked in bigger bowls. And squares/rectangles are stacked in bigger squares/rectangles (on the middle shelf). I left the top shelf for a few of the "serving pieces" (AKA glass bakeware with pretty patterns on them!) since I don't fish them out quite as often as the other pieces. As well, my beloved Pampered Chef batter bowl has a spot of its own up there... which is easy for me, since I'm 6-feet tall! (If you are not quite as, uh.... blessed with high altitude, you might want to try stacking/storing your most-used items at a lower, more convenient, level!)

Neat Freak Cheat Sheet: I lined each shelf with some rubbery, non-skid stuff so the glass has a cushier landing!

Now, THAT's neat!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 78: Toothpaste... great for Tartar AND for Tarnish!

We had my sister-in-law and her fiance over for dinner the other night, and I was excited to actually have an opportunity to use my silver gravy boat. I've had that thing for, hmmm.... about forever, but I think I only used it one time, about 10 years ago. So, it's been neatly stored in my hutch ever since. I guess that explains why it was so tarnished. Ooops.

I REALLY wanted to use the gravy boat, but NOT in that condition. So... I remembered a little hint I learned a long while back to get rid of tarnish: toothpaste. Of course, I didn't have any regular, old, "plain" toothpaste. THIS is what I had!

I figured I'd give it a shot. So, I squirted a little toothpaste on the gravy boat and the tray and gently rubbed it in with a very soft paper towel.

Then I rinsed both pieces off in warm water. If I had spent a little more time (maybe with a toothbrush!), I could have removed all the tarnish in the smaller groves of the design. BUT, this was a great solution for the moment! A spiffy clean -- and MINTY fresh -- gravy boat!

Now, THAT's neat!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 77: Everyday Dishes

People always tell me that one of the worst disaster areas in their homes is their kitchen. Well, this is not hard for me to believe. After all, a lot of events take place in the kitchen... besides just cooking and eating! Kids do homework here. Crafts get spread all over the tables in this space. Random items get dumped on counters as folks walk in and out of the house. The kitchen is the epicenter of the home, so it makes perfect sense to me that this room is in need of some extra loving care when it comes to getting organized! So... I am going to do a few posts about my kitchen cabinets... where a lot of needed and necessary kitchen items may get "lost" or "hidden!"

So, let's talk about everyday dishes. These are the plates and bowls that your family uses everyday. We're not talking about the "nice" China. We're talking about the inexpensive set (or mismatched hand-me-down sets) that come in odd numbers and might or might not have a few cracks or chips. (I probably don't need to say this, but cracks and chips are dangerous. A few more trips in the dishwasher, and you might have a bloody finger... or lip! Consider saying "good riddance" to these items!)

Personally, I recommend keeping everyday items (yes, even the plastic character bowls and plates that my children use on a daily basis) together in one cabinet, if at all possible. Some might argue that all plates go together and all bowls should have their own space, but I find it much more practical to keep my sets together. It's better for setting the table and for emptying the dishwasher, since they all come from -- and go back to -- the same cabinet! Of course, I still keep all my plates and bowls stacked in nice, neat piles.

As you may see, I also like to use a little bit of decorating tips (like propping a taller serving platter or bowl behind the other items for a little interest) so my cabinets aren't an eyesore, should a random stranger or family member open it up for a peek! BUT... there's no magic to this. Just keep in mind: "a place for everything, and everything in its place!" This way, everything has a permanent home, and everyone knows it! You won't hear my hubby asking, "Where are the cereal bowls?"

Now, THAT's neat!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 76: The Little Things

I love little gadgets and tools... and anything that can help keep things neat, clean and organized! And a fun stocking stuffer that *yours truly* received fits the bill perfectly!

It's called "Fuzzy Fingers," and it's a little, pink, fluffy thing that slips over two or three fingers, allowing you to brush/sweep/wipe clean small things like computer keyboards, frames, phones and other items! It might sound kind of kooky, but it's a handy, little thing that does not take up much room. So it's great to keep in a desk drawer and use when those cookie crumbs in your laptop are getting in the way! :)

Now, THAT's neat!