We met Amy Fisher of Ms. Efficiency a couple of months ago; she contacted us after having discovered our weekly newsletter, wanting to know how she could reach out to our awesome fans to help us all with the clutter we invariably accumulate and an idea was born! But first, here’s what you need to know about Amy…
Amy was born and raised in Norfolk, Nebraska – middle of 7 kids (yes, 7 kids) – and moved to Denver, Colorado at age 21. After many years as an executive assistant and legal secretary, she found herself wanting more. So, she started Ms. Efficiency, a professional organization firm, at a time when most people didn’t even know what that meant and what she actually did. Getting in on the ground floor of an ever-expanding industry, she has loved every moment. In May of 2018, Amy moved to the Bethany Beach area to be close to her life-long friend and the ocean – two things the beautiful state of Colorado does not have. She has found the people and the area wonderful and welcoming (despite the rain and the mosquitos – 2 more things Colorado does not have) and wants to share her expertise with us – the awesome I Love Bethany Beach family! So, how is Amy going to help us? Check it out...
Helping folks declutter and organize is Amy’s passion (did you see the pics above?!?) and, let’s face it, when we’ve got clutter, whether it’s small (the catch-all closet) or large (the overflowing garage that you can’t get your cars into), clutter affects us all – our mindset, our motivation, our overall well-being. Worse yet, a lot of us don’t know where to start, let alone finish. That’s where Amy comes in…she’s here to help us fix it! Over the next six weeks, we’ll be posting #TuesdayTips on our Facebook page to help motivate us, step by easy step, to declutter our lives and start the new year off fresh and on the right foot. As we post the tips, we’ll add them here in this article so that you can bookmark it for easy reference…and you, dear readers, get a sneak-peak at Amy’s first tip before everyone else, how cool is that?!?
TIP #1: Tackle your “hot spot” (the place that drives you the most crazy) first. You’ll be motivated to continue. Here’s how…
Getting started is often the hardest part. Where to begin? Try to focus on just one part of the house at a time – think “baby steps” – not the ENTIRE house. Pick one room/area that is most frustrating and start there...declutter, Declutter, DECLUTTER. No matter which room or closet you’re working on, set out four tubs:
Donate/Consignment (I definitely stress the fact that someone else could really benefit from your “stuff” – and I donate items to specific charities if I can. Old cell phones to AT&T for the servicemen and women overseas, kid’s items to battered women’s shelters, etc.)
Belongs Elsewhere (items from the laundry room that really belong in the garage)
Now, just pick up a pile and start sorting. Be honest – do you REALLY love it? Do you REALLY use it? Will you REALLY wear it again someday? Wouldn’t you rather have the space it takes for something more important? Remember, it’s just stuff…
TIP #2: Declutter your kitchen cabinets
Start by emptying out everything on your counters or table. Sort like with like. Get rid of everything you will not use or eat: donate still-good food to a local food bank and discard anything that’s no longer consumable.
Zone the cabinets before you put things back: baking, cooking, storage, utensils, sharp items, dish towels, dishes, serving pieces, canned goods, spices and sauces. Wipe and clean the cabinets thoroughly. Use lazy susans, bamboo drawer dividers or wire shelves to corral smaller items such as spices, herbs, utensils and hand tools.
Load everything back in according to the zones you’ve created. Label the drawers/doors if needed for the first week or so, until you remember where things now live.
This is a simple habit that can help prevent clutter and mess all over your house, but especially in the kitchen. The idea is to only touch things once. When you’re done using something, instead of setting it down to put away later, aim to only touch it once. Put it away as soon as you’re done using it. Another way to think of it is: don’t put it down, put it away!
Getting in the habit of putting things away as soon as you’re done using them will go a long way towards keeping your kitchen (and home) organized and clutter-free. And even better, you won’t have to worry about picking up items again later!
TIP #3: File, Don’t Pile
Paperwork is always better stored vertically than horizontally. Piles are difficult to sort through, and typically only provide a reminder of the page that is on the top.
Set up automatic payments for monthly bills and make sure companies don’t send paper mail – all the information you need will be available online. Even in a mostly paperless environment, there will still be some paper, so have either a file drawer or file box set up with hanging files labeled appropriately.
Never set the mail down:
go straight to the recycling bin and toss the junk (better yet – go to dmachoice.org and optoutprescreen.com to STOP the junk – or at least slow it down)
put bills in a designated spot labeled “Bills to Pay”
mark upcoming events on your calendar
pin “Action Items” (items that require follow-up i.e. phone calls, permission slips to sign, appointments to schedule) on the bulletin board to keep them within reach (be sure to schedule time each day/week to work on those Action Items)
coupons (and gift cards) go in an envelope in your car so you will have them when you need them
catalogs and magazines to the coffee table
TIP #4: move like a pro
Ok – to be honest – Amy “stole” this list from Good Housekeeping – but has used it herself (especially on her BIG move from Colorado to Bethany Beach) – and shared it with clients – it’s definitely Tried, True and Tested!
If all of your belongings could magically appear in a new home without any stress or sweat on your part, you'd move in a heartbeat. But actually, the moving process can be less of a chore if you break down the tasks — scheduling, packing, and cleaning — into weekly to-do lists. Follow this eight-week guide for a stress-free move.
The papers are signed. The plans are underway. Now, it's time to figure out the logistics of how and when you'll move, along with the plan for when you first step foot in your new home.
Research moving companies with the Better Business Bureau and get recommendations from friends and family who have recently moved.
Learn about your rights and responsibilities as you prepare to work with a moving company from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Consider extra insurance coverage you may need for your move. Ask prospective moving companies what insurance is included and check your homeowners' policy to see what it covers.
If you are moving to a new area, research banks, doctors, and schools. Gather all the proper paperwork you need to set up new accounts.
You're on a research kick — keep it going. Seven weeks out from the big day, lock down the moving company that you'll use and start tracking all relevant expenses.
Get estimates in writing from at least three licensed moving companies. If possible, have an estimator come to your home to do an inventory.
Start a binder or folder where you can keep all of your moving estimates and moving-related paperwork.
Make a list of businesses you will need to contact to change your address. Don't forget to list your online accounts, too.
Put your plan to action by going around your house — closets, basements, and storage areas, especially — and deciding what makes the cut. Once everything is sorted, start packing non-essential items (think: holiday decorations and craft supplies).
Get the packing process started by assessing your closets and donating clothing that doesn't fit or you no longer want. When the closets are done, start to assess items room by room.
Do a first round of donations of unwanted goods to charity, sell items online, or have a garage sale to help pay for your move.
If you have children, work with the current and future school to transfer school records and make plans for a smooth transition.
Begin packing items that aren't used frequently. Seasonal items, rarely used gadgets, and items stored in the attic or basement are a good place to start.
Before you start throwing everything in boxes, map out a room-by-room plan. Oh, and give loved ones a head's up that you'll have a new address next month.
Use up food from the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Refrain from buying too many groceries, especially bulk orders, from here on out.
Get the word out to friends and family members that you're moving. Send them your new address or send a moving announcement through email.
Purchase moving supplies including boxes, packing material, tape, labels, and box cutters. Remember to order specialty items like dish boxes, wardrobe boxes, and mattress bags if your mover is not supplying them.
Get a box-labeling system in place. Numbered boxes, color-coding by room, and a master list with inventory are key elements.
Make a room-by-room packing schedule and start packing!
It's official: You're moving this month. Ditch the packing tape and boxes this week, and spend your time getting all of your official documents in order.
Fill out an official change-of-address form with the U.S. Post Office.
Consult your list of businesses and services and make address changes on all relevant accounts.
Put in for vacation time at your job for the days surrounding your move and schedule a babysitter if necessary.
Confirm major details, especially insurance coverage, with your mover.
Now that the basics are out of the way (the bank and post office, especially), sort out your annual subscriptions, valuables, and sentimental items.
Cancel all newspaper home delivery and set up delivery in your new neighborhood.
Gather valuable paperwork, jewelry, and small family heirlooms. Keep these special items separate from your moving boxes and make a plan for transporting them by hand or via a trackable shipping service with insurance.
Take photos of any high-ticket items. Note any existing scratches, dings, or damage to your furniture.
Pretend you're going on an extended vacation: Pack your belongings, ditch any perishables, go the bank, and double-check prescriptions.
Pack little by little so that you don't save it all for the last week.
Tie up loose ends: Confirm that you've changed addresses, have all the proper moving insurance in place, and are ready to make your move.
Put together a packet for the new owners of your home with any warranties, vendor recommendations, and a note with your contact information in case they have questions or need to forward your mail.
If you are moving major appliances, make sure that they're clean and ready to go. Remember: Freezers need to be defrosted and you may need a professional to disconnect gas lines on particular appliances.
Fill prescriptions and make sure that everyone has packed medications they need in their suitcase.
Withdraw cash to tip the movers and make sure you have enough money on hand for any unexpected expenses.
It's here! It's finally here! Tie any loose ends before moving to your new home sweet home.
Utilities should be turned off in your current home one day after your move-out date. All utilities in your new home should be turned on the day before you move in.
Dispose of all flammable items that can't be transported, including paint, chemicals, and aerosol cans.
Take one last look at the items you're packing. If you have additional items to donate, schedule a pickup by your chosen organization.
Back up all computers, if packing.
Get each family member to pack a suitcase like they are going on a two-week vacation with their daily toiletries and comfortable clothes.
Confirm details with your moving company, including the moving-day arrival time, cell phone numbers, and last-minute details.
Hire a cleaning company to do a quick clean after the movers leave or schedule a day that you will come back to clean before the new owners arrive.
Most importantly, celebrate the memories you've made in your home and get ready to start a new chapter in your life. Onward and upward!
TIP #5: The Most Important Rule of All – One-in, One-Out
We're sure you’ve all heard this one before – but it really does work – just try it! For example:
Books – as you add new a new book to the bookshelf (that is already full but you’re sure you can squeeze just one more in) – pull out one that you know you will not read again. It can go straight to a friend, donation center, or library.
Garage – (Almost) nobody’s garage is large enough for multiples of bicycles, lawn equipment and beach chairs. If you find a great deal on a new lawn mower, it means you’re giving away the old one. If you buy new beach chairs – get rid of the old ones!
Kid’s Toys – Right before a birthday and especially right before Christmas – be sure to take some time to weed out the unused, outgrown, missing a piece and/or broken toys – if only to make room for the new ones that are sure to come! But even during the rest of the year – a new one in means an old one out. And this can be a great teachable moment for your kids – the old ones are going to be enjoyed by kids who can’t afford new toys!
Clothes – Your bedroom (closet AND dresser) is the most important place to follow the one-in, one-out rule. Remember, there aren’t many spots a pair of jeans can go when they don’t fit in a drawer or if you don’t have room for one more hanger. Shoes too…
TIP #6: the 15 Minute Method
Try the 15 Minute Method – set a timer – you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish in 15 minutes.
Make the bed– might seem too obvious yet sometimes even the task of making the bed can seem daunting. But once you do it, your whole bedroom seems more put-together.
medicine cabinet makeover– it is important to have remedies on hand for colds and minor cuts and scrapes, but if your kids are in middle school and you still have teething get, it’s time to toss it – same goes for those prescription bottles from 2009 (remember to peel off the label for privacy). Pull out everything from the cabinet onto the counter – toss anything expired or unnecessary. Give the shelves a quick wipe-down and then organize the items back into the cabinet – keeping your daily or frequently used items front and center.
restock the toilet paper– do yourself and your guests a favor by storing at least two rolls on standby near the toilet in each bathroom and stock a few more under the sink.
take care of returns– you probably have purchases or gifts that need to be exchanged or returned. Don’t lose out by forgetting to take them back. Gather the items and the corresponding receipts) and place them in a shopping bag near the door so you can grab it on your way out the door.
tackle 1 or 2 items from your To Do List– call the dentist to schedule the kid’s yearly exam; rsvp ‘yes’ for the “Girls Night Out” event (you deserve it); pay the bills due this week.
We hope you've enjoyed these tips...good for any time of the year - when you're ready to do them and, if you find that it’s all a bit too much (hello work, family, life), Amy can come to you and help you organize your home office, closets, garage, kid’s playroom, kitchen (and/or anything else that needs fixin’) so that you can have more time to enjoy the important things in life – she’s even offering our readers a free consultation to boot (just give her a shout and tell her you heard about it from I Love Bethany Beach)!
A final note from Ms. Efficiency: