How do you organize the important things? And the sentimental things?
I could set up a filing system for everything, but I find that it's better not to be too ambitious about organization. It becomes hard to maintain, and I end up doing nothing. Less is more. There's one drawer in our kitchen devoted to school and notes. Things that are inactive but important are in that drawer. Any note that comes home from school about an event that's coming up gets taped to the refrigerator door. When the event passes, I take the note off and throw it away. I do the same with birthday party invites. Our refrigerator is our bulletin board. The kids each have bulletin boards in their rooms, but I find that one central place is easier to manage.
For important family documents like birth certificates, medical records, passports and the like, I use big plastic storage boxes. I have one for my kids' artwork. I force myself to go through it every month or so. Although everything they do is precious, if it's nothing more than a scribble, I get rid of it. I pick a few pieces that are emblematic of what they're doing that year, and I keep those. I only have two kids, so I only need one box. It's easier that way. Even the act of getting a box for each kid makes the process harder, as you have to figure out whose box it is.
I keep yet another box for all the photos I collect over the years of birthday parties and the like. In January, I go through them and, with a cold eye, I discard seconds or pictures that just aren't very good. When I'm ambitious, I create some photo albums with the best shots. Otherwise they get thrown out.
What about meal organization?
Like a lot of moms, I do rely on take-out when I have to, and those take-out menus pile up! I have a drawer just for them. I go through it often to purge it of duplicates and to discard the ones we don't seem to be using. Lately I've found it's so much better to use a site like MenuPages.com. It has the menu of every restaurant in town. That changed my life!
But I do employ some food organization tips. I always recommend making large quantities of the items you use frequently '- as long as they can stay fresh in the fridge or freezer. For example, my daughter loves to have pancakes every morning, and making batter is time consuming, so I make extra and keep it in the fridge for a few days. My kids eat a lot of plain pasta, so I cook it, cover it in plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge. At dinnertime, it's easy to warm up in the microwave and top with sauce. My husband and I love salads, so I make a lot of vinaigrette and keep it in the fridge to serve with chopped salad greens and veggies.
What's your favorite de-clutter tip?
Well, the thing that causes the most clutter for us is mail, so mail organization is extremely important in my house. As soon as I walk in the door, I go through the mail. I throw out everything I don't want. I have a special pile for the bills that need to be paid. I have a pile for charity invites and other things that actually require me to take action. Anything pertaining to the kids, of course, gets taped to the fridge!