Category Archives: Organization

The Travel Checklist

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I know you’re most likely travelling to a city where they have, you know, stores and stuff. But I hate the feeling that I’ve left something behind at home and now have to purchase a double. I keep a basic travel checklist in “Notes” on my iPhone that I consult as I’m packing for a trip. By biggest problem, however, is overpacking. I don’t need three outfit choices for every event on our itinerary. An overstuffed bag is a painful for my back and – thanks to the fees – my wallet. Take control of your suitcase!

If you’re an app lover, check out Packwhiz packing list generator:

http://www.packwhiz.com/

Lifehacker’s “Geek Travel Checklist”

http://edge-cache.lifehacker.com/lifehacker/lh_travel_checklist.pdf

Lifehacker’s Time-Saving Travel Checklist:

http://edge-cache.lifehacker.com/lifehacker/airportchecklist.pdf

Universal Packing List (hideous interface, but effective)

http://upl.codeq.info/

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Routine Auto Maintenance – A Necessary Pain in the Ass

I admit, I have always been (and apparently remain) a total slacker when it comes to keeping proper care of my vehicle. I didn’t have to worry about this in NYC, which was awesome, but now we’re back to daily driving and car ownership and so it looms… I did buy two Groupons for Jiffy Lube (pats self on back), so I’m at least acknowledging and addressing my shortcomings in this area. At any rate, here is a handy and simple guide to routine auto maintenance. I’ve scheduled it into my Google Calendar so I won’t space and kill our Kia.

Every 3,000-7,000 miles

The oil and oil filter should be replaced

Inspection of transmission fluid level, coolant, power steering fluid, washer fluid and wipers, tires, exterior lights

Every 15,000-30,000 miles

Replace air filter

Inspect battery and coolant

Replace fuel filter

Replace air filter and power steering fluid

Inspect coolant, radiator hoses, HVAC system, brake pads and suspension

Every 35,000-50,000 miles

Inspect and replace battery

Replace spark plugs and spark plug wires

Inspect ignition system and suspension

Every 60,000 miles

Replace brake pads and brake fluid

Replace radiator hoses, coolant, power steering fluid and timing belt

Inspect the HVAC, suspension components and tires

Oil changes and air filters are very important parts of engine maintenance; however, a thorough inspection of all engine, transmission, cooling, brakes and suspension components should also be performed regularly. The owner’s manual provides a routine auto maintenance schedule based on engine mileage for most cars.

The other issue with car maintenance is the money – my solution is to put aside a fixed amount every month to be saved in case of extensive repairs or parts replacement (beyond the maintenance listed above).

See what the Lifehacker Hive Mind has to say on the subject:

http://lifehacker.com/5879645/ask-and-answer-questions-about-vehicle-maintenance

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Friday Bites – (#11) Clean as you go (#12) Clean kitchen as you cook

This week’s selection of Bites from Tsh Oxenreider covers two topics near and dear to my heart. Keeping an organized house – whether you live alone or have more crotchfruit than the Duggars requires constant vigilance.

 

#11: Clean as you go

Best cleaning hack there is – if something spills, or gets dirty, clean it up right away. A few minutes of time can really add up when it comes to keeping your home under control. I know either F or I make the bed every morning as soon as we get up. It takes two minutes and it makes the room look that much less like ass. The other thing I do – and this is a constant struggle, I won’t lie – is to hang up clothes and put away shoes after I take them off. A tough thing to do when you drag home from a long day and just want to throw everything in a pile and curl up on your (unmade) bed…

Here are a few more things we currently do to keep things a little less chaotic in Casa Lopez:

• put away primping items when I’m done (I hate having a bunch of crap on my bathroom counter)

• wiping down kitchen after cooking

 

Things we need to work on:

• loading and unloading dishwasher (HATE the damn dishes)

• clearing the tub of dinos and Polly Pocket dolls after Oliver is done with his bath

 

The book suggest that you set a timer for 15 minutes and see how much you can get done in your immediate environment. Do this until it becomes a habit – clean your house in small sprees throughout the day.

 

#12 – Clean your kitchen as you cook

Professional chefs learn this – and they look like they’re pretty damn busy (at least on Food Network), so I’m pretty sure we can do this in real life. Easier said than done.

Clean up after every task, no matter how miniscule, before moving on to the next. What seems like a drag will eventually become a habit.

 

Tips:

Start with a clean kitchen

Assign a proper home for each type of kitchen waste – compost, recycling, garbage

Arrange your workspace for a mini cleaning “mise en place” – place a garbage container nearby for food scraps, for a double sink: run one side half full of hot soapy water for hands and dishes and leave the other side free, keep a dust broom and bin right there, have several clean towels on hand.

PRO Restaurant tip: place a jar of warm water on the counter and stash several soup spoons inside. Use them for stirring sauces and other foods while cooking, eliminating sticky crap on the counter where a spoon has been rested. Also cuts down on dirty dishes since the spoons can be reused.

 

I know we always TRY to clean as we cook – but when we’re up against a deadline, like a looming gathering or trying to get the kids fed, etc – it’s a struggle.

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I had Evernote on my old work computer back in NYC and never felt like I was taking full advantage of its robust offerings. Sure, I halfheartedly clipped a couple of web pages to it, but never really took the time to play around.

Evernote is a “personal digital assistant,” allowing you to record thoughts and notes, clip web pages, take pics and store PDFs. Your notes are available everywhere you’re your desktop computer, the internets, your iTems… Everything you do on each of your devices is aggregated in your personal Evernote account for access anywhere.

Evernote supports tagging and advanced search and replaces bookmarking apps like Delicious.

When your’re on a website or in a pertinent document, select the text/image, hit command+c to copy, click the Evernote bookmarklet and choose “clip to Evernote.” Easy-peasy.

Evernote uses OCR to recognizes words and catalogs them – index, searchable by text.

Premium users can put it Word docs and spreadsheets.

CNET, Lifehacker, … they all RAVE about Evernote, calling it “life-changing.” Well with all that sexy hype, I must try it.

One con that was frequently mentioned was that Evernote doesn’t play well with Outlook (like anything does?!?!) but other than that, it’s all positive.

I’m not going to install on my current work computer – because it might not be my work computer forever… I’ll play with it at home on the desktop and my iTems and will report back.

Mac demo:

http://www.evernote.com/about/video/#OlOLXWvaIy0|1|1

Evernote overview:

http://www.productivity501.com/evernote-review/6307/

Evernote Essentials: The Definitive Getting Started Guide (paid eBook):

http://nerdgap.com/landing/evernote-essentials/

Tech Tuesday – Evernote

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Recipes: Best Friends or Worst Enemies?

The Mr and I love to cook – the ritual of preparing and enjoying a great meal (preferably shared with friends) is one of the great joys in life. What isn’t great is keeping track of the many recipes I pull out of magazines or print off the web, etc. I have a file folder in the kitchen stuffed with the most recent items that I want to try. There’s also a small accordion folder under the bar with even more clippings – somewhat categorized. Plus we have about 30 cookbooks and there’s Epicurious, etc… It’s sometimes a daunting pain in the ass to sit down and plan the weekly menu or conceive a party spread with so much nonsense floating around.

There are many apps and electronic solutions to my problem – but they mainly tackle organizing recipes that are already digital. Plus, I don’t always agree with the way they are categorized – I like to break stuff out into groupings that meet our particular lifestyle needs, such as: food for the kids, party food, weeknight meals, weekend feasts, etc. I think I’m going to go analog luddite on this one and just buy a honking binder with dividers and a bunch of plastic sleeves to protect my recipes.

I’ve been doing some research about electronic options, and while none of them appeal to me, you might find them useful.ImageI think BigOven looks like a really robust option and does allow for scanning or typing in your analog recipies. But, ugh, when do I have the time to transfer all of that data to an electronic format. Good lord – if I had like 10 hours to kill, it sure as hell wouldn’t be spent typing recipes – but I digress… BigOven.com features a 30 day free trial followed by a $15.95 annual subscription charge. I’m doing some research before I make the commitment and document my experience in a future post.

http://www.bigoven.com/?gclid=CLjF8pa6iq8CFQpjTAodxGQMDw

Lifehacker – 5 Best Recipe Organization Tools

http://lifehacker.com/5862746/five-best-recipe-organization-tools

If you’re into a more traditional method of organizing your recipes, you might give this a whirl:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/barefoot-contessa-recipe-organizer-ina-garten/1100026339

But at $100 a pop, it had better cook the damn food for me. Not sure how the Barefoot Contessa can justify the cost otherwise.

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OCD Mission Control

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The brains of the Casa Lopez operation are housed in our utility room… The magnetic chalkboard contains:
-the wipe-off chore list clipboard
-shopping lists
-a plastic envelope of current/relevant coupons
-a plastic envelope of items needed that week (a blank thank you note that has to go out, party invitations, etc.
-that week’s school activities for the boys

I love it. The board’s mere presence makes me feel content and in control. If only the wall was big enough to add our calendar so that area could truly serve as the aggregator of all pertinent family data…
Dream big, Lopez, dream big….

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Getting Things Done: Collection – Corralling Your Stuff

In this week’s installment of GTD, we finally get to take some action. Gathering all of your crap, sorting, tossing, and moving forward.

ImageSet aside several hours to gather all of your incompletes, your paper, your “stuff” into one place. Note: this works for both your home and office workspaces, so tackle the most egregious one first. Search your physical environment for anything that doesn’t belong where it is and put it in your in-box (or if you have a lot of crap, use an actual large shipping box), so that they are available for later processing.

What shouldn’t go into the in-box:

• Supplies

• Reference material

• Decoration

• Equipment

If something is clearly trash, go ahead and toss it, don’t put it into your in-box.

Order of attack:

• Start with your desktop

• Move to your desk drawers

• Countertops (stuff on top of cabinets, credenzas, etc)

• Then inside the cabinets

• Floors, Walls + Shelves

• Equipment, Furniture and Fixtures (anything you want to change about the physical space itself)

Once you’ve gathered your stuff to be processed or tossed (hopefully), you’re ready to move on to what David Allen calls “the mind sweep.”

Sit with a stack of blank printer paper and a big ass marker and write out each thought, each idea, each project or thing that has your attention on its own separate sheet of paper. You will be processing these items individually, so it’s best to put each thought on its own sheet. Stick these sheets into your in-box.

To assist in your brain dump mission, you can use this trigger list – go item by item to make sure you’ve included everything.

http://wiki.43folders.com/index.php/Trigger_List

Print out your important emails, transcribe important voice mails – it sounds terribly analog – but make everything paper-based and physical and put it into the in-box.

Once you have an overflowing in-box and feel that everything is physically and psychically in one place, you can tackle next week’s step: “Getting ‘In’ to Empty.”

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I Love My: West Elm Lacquer Tray

Magazines can be a source of pleasurable reading or painful hoarders-like clutter. I think the way to avoid becoming overwhelmed by your magazines is to process them like you would your bills or receipts. My magazine “in box” is a lovely orange lacquer tray from West Elm. It houses about 8-10 magazines that I am currently reading.

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Once I have completed reading a magazine, one of three things happens:

–       I go through the book and pull out stuff I want like recipes, information, looks, etc to be filed in my tickler system

–       I keep the magazines that I collect like Foregin Affairs, Make, TX Monthly, etc in their duly assigned magazine butlers

–       I toss everything else, immediately, into recycling

Having a small magazine in box keeps me from taking in too much crap. Once the pile gets higher than the lip of the box, it’s time to purge.

Perpetual Birthday Calendar

Facebook posts and IMs are nice, but I really think a great birthday card – mailed to your home – is irreplaceable. I used to use my ubiquitous Moleskine for this task and penciled in the dates every year, but I’ve recently switched to using a perpetual calendar that sends me email reminders one week prior to each special day. I’m currently using Google Calendar for this task, just because it’s easy and I already use the application through my Gmail account. However, it doesn’t sync up to iCal because Apple and Google just don’t play nice. So those dates don’t cross-populate and the email reminder will have to suffice. The never ending battles between my iCal, Outlook and Google calendars causes me perpetual irritation, but that’s a topic for another day.

I don’t think that I want to add yet another app to my crowded iTems, but if that appeals to you and you don’t mind sharing your Facebook info, Birthday Calendar Classic might work. The interface is a little irritatingly millennial, however.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/birthday-calendar-classic/id323425199?mt=8

And if you’re using a Droid device: http://www.simplydroid.com/sync-your-contacts-birthday-info-with-your-android-phone-calendar/

If analog versions are your thing, here’s a really down and dirty printable PDF you can use:

http://www.realsimple.com/static/pdfs/birthday-org.pdf

Or, if you want something pretty – try this one from Esty.com:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/65459753/perpetual-birthday-calendar?ref=sr_gallery_3&sref=&ga_includes%5B0%5D=tags&ga_search_query=perpetual+birthday+calendar&ga_ref=related&ga_page=1&ga_search_type=all&ga_facet=

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Friday Bites – (#8) Streamline Your Mail (#9) Streamline Your Receipts

Look at this dizzy jackass, does she look happy to you?

ImageI can’t stand having a bunch of paper crap scattered around the house, it makes me batsh!t crazy. So this week’s “bites” were a good reminder to take a walk around the place and clear up some of this nonsense.

#8 – Streamline Your Mail

The goal here is to keep mail from entering the house at all

• Toss in recycling/trash by mailboxes if possible

• Opt out of junk mail (go to http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt063.shtm for more information)

• For any flyer or notice related to an upcoming event, jot it on your calendar and toss the paper into recycling

• Make your bills paperless

At our casa, all of the incoming mail goes into the in bin on the entry table. Sometimes I’ll sort it right when I get into the house, tossing the junk and putting the rest in the in-bin. The stuff in the in-bin is further processed 1x/week – into either pay, file, or to-do areas in my home office. Wherever I possible (and when I remember), we have paperless billing established on our accounts. However, and this is because I’m an old luddite, part of me still likes getting a paper statement every month that I can review and file for future reference.

#9 – Streamline Your Receipt System

If you really want to make my blood boil, just litter the house with receipts…little slips of crap jammed into every crevice of the place. Hate it. Sometimes it’s inevitable – but 90% of the time, there is NO REASON to hold on to receipts.

Only keep the following:

• receipts for large purchases that come with warranties

• medical receipts (especially if you’re on an individual health insurance plan)

• tax deductible receipts (charity donations, home office expenses, etc).

• anything you need for your business expense report

Each of these categories should have its own plastic folio/envelope and applicable recipts should go right into them. All else should go directly into the trash.

If you REALLY want to free yourself from your paper shackles, consider one of these receipt scanners : http://www.squidoo.com/best-receipt-scanners. I’m saving my pennies for one of those NeatDesk dealies (drool).

Now forge on, with your newly paper-free selves….

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