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Scattered Squirrel

Scattered Squirrel: June 2012

June 30, 2012

What Works for You: Home Office Part 3.2

~~  I'm not sure what happened to my post!  I wrote it up and had it set to post yesterday, but something happened.  I don't know if I hit the wrong button, or if there was a hiccup with a Google, or the computer, or what . . . but the post is gone!  All I was left with was the first paragraph.  Weird!  So, I'm really sorry that this post didn't come out yesterday as planned.  ~~

So, after the other day's longer than planned post, I opted to break the Bringing it All Together into a couple of posts.  Yesterday I showed you some pictures I found around the web, to give you ideas for how to make a home office work for your space and your needs.  This is all about what will work best for YOU!  I'm just sharing my thoughts on matter.  Today, I thought we'd jump right into more fun stuff, organizing your supplies and the equipment you need.

I mentioned in the first post (here) that I used two lists to figure out what I would need.  The first is by tasks. For example:  One of the things I need to do in my "office" is to keep track of our family's schedule.  To accomplish this I need:

  • HMB
  • Planner
  • Family Calendar
  • Pens
  • Dry Erase Markers
  • Paper Clips
  • School Notices

I also need to be able to plan our meals.  For that I need:

  • Kitchen Binder
  • Planner
  • Family Calendar
  • Pens
  • Shopping List
  • Dry Erase Markers
  • Paper Clip
  • Folder of New Recipes to Try

Next step for me, is to compare all the lists to figure out what I use most to least.  Using the above examples I know that the most often used items are:

  • Planner
  • Family Calendar
  • Pens
  • Dry Erase Markers
  • Paper Clips

These are items that need to be at my finger tips or in a centrally located area.  They're going to get the prime "office" real-estate because I'm going to be using them more often than any of the other items.  The next items to get assigned space are the ones I know I don't use as often, but still get regular use, like my HMB and Kitchen Binder.  These need to be easy to get too, but they don't have to be front and center.  If I was using shelves above the desk, the first group would be on the desktop or in the top drawers, and the next items would be on the first shelf up.  After that, it's a matter of a) frequency of use; b) my own personal priority system and c) who else in the house will need to use the items.  Everyone will have their own way of figuring this out.  Just remember, the more you use an item, the easier to get to you want that item to be.  The ones you use rarely can be harder to get too.  

Now it's time to figure out how to store those supplies!  Think outside the box here too, and find storage solutions that function for you AND reflect your style.  Don't forget to think about the "how" (post is here) when looking into storage solutions, if you're a piler like me, maybe add pretty baskets to your list.  Maybe you're a filer, and you've been itching to really get those files organized and color coded, in which case add colored file folders to you list!  There are no right and wrong solutions, whatever works for you, is the way to go!

Check out some of the photos and links below for some visual ideas!

Source: BHG

These mailboxes could be used for notebooks, papers, as in and out boxes, or whatever else you can dream up!  Would be great for small spaces, where you want to keep your surface as clear as possible.   You could paint and customize them anyway you want.

Source:  BHG 

Love this idea for storing magazines and newspapers.  

Source: BHG 

Repurpose unique items into In and Out boxes, or even just for storing smaller items

Source: BHG

Absolutely LOVE this idea!  I've tried it myself, and it worked really well.  It's a great way to repurpose an unlikely item found around the home, and it takes up very little space.

Source: BHG

Turn a caddy into great office storage.  You could even take it a step further and have a different one for different tasks.  The best parts about this idea is that its versatile, portable, and makes it oh so easy to just grab and go.  

Muffin tins for drawer dividers!

Source: BHG 

 Cover tin cans with pretty paper for holding pens and other tools.

Source: BHG

 Soap dish and tooth brush holder for desk organizers!

Source: BHG

 Antique glasses, mugs and dishes make for a pretty and functional desk top storage.

Source: BHG

Egg cups for smaller items!  Great idea.  A ceramic egg tray would work also, and could be tucked into a drawer.

Source: BHG

Use glass jars to hold smaller items.  Affix lids to underside of shelf or cabinet to clear the work area!

Source: Home Made Simple

Glue mason jars together in a pyramid to crate a unique desktop sorter.

Be sure to click the links in the captions of the photos to check out some more great ideas for organizing and storing your office supplies.  They all have some wonderful ideas that reuse items around the house, or are inexpensive.

Next week, I'll share some ideas for storing and organizing paper, and I'll share with you the ins and outs of our old home office.

How do you organize and store your supplies for your office?  Are you thinking of changing things up?  Do you have a solution that seems totally off the wall to some people but makes perfect sense to you?

I hope all of you are having a wonderful weekend!

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June 28, 2012

What Works for You: Home Office Part 3

Remember those questions I talked about in the first post (here) and then again in the second post (here)?  Well, this is where we bring it all together.  We take those answers and lists and create a home "office" that works for us!

Start by taking a look at where you typically work in your home.  Is that space working for you?  Is it easy to accomplish what you set out to do?  If not, take some time to think about where in your home you would like to have an office.   If you're like me, and you don't really have the space to set up a desk, it's time to think a little outside the box.  Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

No Room?  What about a Closet?

Cloffice from iHeart Organizing

Jen from iHeart Organizing turned half her master closet into an incredibly functional, storage packed office space.  You can hop on over to her blog here and check out, not just this project, but the tons of other projects she's shared.  Her site is FULL of amazing information, inspiration and organizational ideas.

Maybe you don't have a spare closet, or you do, but it's just not something that floats your boat, or it's in the wrong room or what have you ... how about squeezing an office into an armoire?  

Armoire Office from Making it Too Perfect

Katie from Making It Too Perfect condensed her office into one armoire!  How fabulous is that?   You can hop on over to her blog here to get all the details.  You have to check out the before and afters for this project!!!

Source: BHG

Better Homes and Gardens is a vault of inspiration for re-purposed armoires!  When looking for inspiration, you cannot go wrong browsing through their site!

But, maybe you don't want or need that much space.  Perhaps all you need is a place to keep your files, and maybe a few odds and ends.  What about a storage ottoman or a trunk?

Filing Trunk from PB&J Stories

Pamela from PB&J Stories turned an old trunk into a filing cabinet that works for her.  Hop on over to her blog here to see the transformation.  You might want to grab a drink of your choice and settle in for a while, because she has some AMAZING stuff on her blog!

Ottoman File Storage from BHG

BHG shows a great way to hide away your files until you need them.  As I said above, it is a great site for finding inspiration!

Maybe something a little more portable would work for you.  These next pictures are great options if you like work in different areas of your home, or like me, you work in the dining room and need to be able to put your stuff away for meal times, or would like to hide it away when company comes a calling.

Office Cart from BHG

Office Cart from Real Simple

Storing your often used items on a cart is a great way to create a portable office space.  These two options from BHG and Real Simple are great examples of packing in storage and function into a small and versatile space.

Maybe something smaller would work better, why not try an office tote?

Office in a Tote by BHG

Another BHG find. But a great idea for those who just need a little space for often used files and items.  You could work from anywhere with something like this!

So, even if you don't have a room to dedicate to a home office, or even if you do, but want to keep your home management stuff separate from your other office tasks, there is a an option and idea out there for you!  It's a matter of figuring out what YOU need in a home office, and coming up with a solution that works for you.

I'm sorry this post turned out to be so long and picture heavy.  I just kept finding more and more great ideas for "offices"  and I just had to share them with you.   There's more to come.... but as I just scrolled up and realized just how LONG this post already is, I think I'll save the rest for tomorrow.

Did any of the pictures inspire you to create or tweak an office space?  Anyone else in awe of all the fabulous ideas out there?

I hope you'll check back tomorrow!  Until then, I wish you all a fantastic day!!!!

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June 20, 2012

Tracking Bills and a Free Printable

I hit a small bump in the road with the Home Care section of my HMB.   Mainly because we're moving, and my next home will have different needs than my old one.  So, all the wonderful things I want to have recorded in the HMB, won't really apply.  I've put that section on hold for the moment, and I decided to switch gears and focus on the Finance section of my book.  I've flipped and flopped on including this section in the HMB, or making a whole binder just for Finance Management.  I finally decided to include it as a section in the HMB for now.  Later on, if I feel like it needs to be in a binder all its own, then I can set that up.

There is so much information that could be stored in the finance section.  I'm trying to rein myself in a little on this one, because it would be so easy to over think it, over complicate, over fill it, and end up with repetitive information.  In my effort to keep it simple, I decided to start with just a basic bill tracker.  I have to send out a HUGE, heartfelt thank you to my Mom!  She came up with many of the ideas that I incorporated into the printable below.   Thanks to her insights I think I was able to come up with a simple way to track our monthly bills, in a couple different ways on the same sheet.

Without further adieu... here's my new Bill Tracker.

finance managment printable

So, here are my thoughts.  The first column, can be used two different ways (or maybe more, but I only thought of two) you could use this column to keep track of the pay-by date for each bill, or you could use it to keep track of the date you normally pay it.  For example, if you always get paid on the same days each month you could track which bills come from which pay cheque.  It's totally up to you.  

The last part of the form is pretty self explanatory.  I tried to make sure that I left enough space in each monthly column for recording the amount of each payment.  You don't actually have to put in the amount if you don't want too, but some people like to see how much their spending month to month.  For the most part I think I'll just add a check mark into each one after they are paid.

Since this is a page I will be using frequently, I've opted not to put it in a page protector, so I made sure to leave room at the top for the holes.  I'm not sure how it looks printed out.  I'm away from our printer right now.  If there are any issues with how it prints, please don't hesitate to let me know!   

As always, to get your own copy just click on the link below the picture! 

I hope you find this printable useful.  Do you have a system for tracking your bill payments?  Do you keep track of how much you pay each month, or is it enough for you to know that they are paid?

Thanks so much for stopping by.  I wish you all a wonderful rest of the week!  

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June 12, 2012

What Works for You: Home Office Part 2

I know it's been too long between these posts, and all I can say is I will make sure the next one comes out more quickly.   Last time we were talking about defining our needs for our "home office".  (You can find the first post here)  I asked you to think about what you needed to do in your office, where you typically did those things, how much time you spend on "office" tasks, and what supplies you needed to complete them.  These are all really important things to think about when figuring out what your home "office" means to you and eventually, what it will look like.

Before we get to the fun part of setting up the office, organizing everything to suit our needs and all that other fun stuff, there is one more thing that bares thinking about.  To me, it's one of the most important questions, it will make or break your office system, I kid you not.  It's one of the hardest lessons I've learned over the years, and one I wish I had learned a looooong time ago.  It has made things so much simpler, freed up a ton of head-space where stress about the mess used to be.  The question you need to ask next is:


How do you accomplish those tasks in your list?
How do you deal with the items that you need for those tasks?
How do you like to keep things?
How can you set things up to work the easiest, fastest way possible for YOU?

To clarify a little, I'm going to share my "Ah-ha" moment with you.  

The paper items coming into the home have always been a problem area for me.  When I was first starting out on my own, I set up everything the way I'd watched my Mom do it.  I had file for each bill, a file for medical stuff, income tax, pay stubs, bank statements, eventually one for kid things, and so on.  I was pretty proud of the fact that I thought to set up a file system at all, and it was pretty easy to keep the files neat and tidy, mainly because nothing ever really made it into them.  You see, mail would come in, and I'd open it, or recycle it, and I'd pay my bills, but I never seemed to get from that to putting the bill in the right folder.  Instead they would accumulate on my desk, in an ever growing pile, until they either found their way to the floor in a massive correspondence avalanche, or I finally got sick of the pile and spent HOURS sorting and filing.  

At that time I hadn't read much about organizing, I didn't know as much as I know now, and I didn't really understand that everyone has their own way of doing things.  And that it was perfectly fine, if how I needed to be organized was different from how my parents were.  I tried everything, in and out boxes (ha ha ha ... the inbox was always full, and the out box was mostly just hidden under the in pile)  I tried telling myself, "It takes just a few moments to file it away, do it NOW"  Nothing really truly worked.  As in, I stuck with it.  Then one day a few years ago, in a mad dash to clean up the house before company stopped by (If you're someone who struggles with staying organized, you'll know the mad dash I mean) I looked at the pile of papers, and made a split second decision to toss them in a basket, instead of spending 15-30 minutes sorting and filing.  A few days later, new mail came in, and with it, new paper stuff, and into the basket it went.  A week or two went by, I noticed that paper stuff wasn't piling up in any of the usual spots.  In fact, it wasn't piling up at all.  WOW!  I was shocked and amazed.  Current bills waiting to be paid were clipped to the fridge, school notices were clipped to the fridge, but all the other stuff was tucked into the basket.  It made me stop and think about why it was keeping the clutter away.  And it amazed me that that one simple, split second decision created a whole new system for us, and it was WORKING without me having to even think about it.

Why did it work?  Well, I'm a piler.  Yep!  One of those pesky people who like to pile up papers, books, anything and everything (ok maybe not anything and everything, but paper for sure) and most of the time, I knew exactly where everything was, but it was always a mess, there was always damage control to do.  I didn't want to file it away, but I didn't want to hide it for fear I would forget to file it.  Using the basket allowed me to continue to pile things, but at the same time, made me make sure the important stuff was out where those who needed it could see it.  When the basket got full I spent about an hour sorting through it, filing stuff away, shredding what didn't need to be kept, and recycled the rest.  There's an added bonus to this system for me, my files are much neater.  I'm not keeping as much paper stuff as I used too.  And, as an EXTRA added bonus, we've gone with paperless billing for every account we can, and that's a HUGE amount of paper not even coming in the door, which helps tremendously.  

As silly as it sounds, that one decision, and the end results caused me to look at the rest of my systems with new eyes, and the success of that decision allowed me to think outside the box without feeling like I was doing it wrong.  

Thinking about how we do things is just as important as thinking about what we do.  There are so many different ways of accomplishing the same task.  They might look different, they might not make sense to all of us, but they all do the same thing.  So, before we go forward with the really fun stuff, take some time to think about the how!  You've already thought about your needs, the space you're going to work in, what you need to do the work, now think about HOW you're going to do that work.  One more quick example:  How I plan our grocery shopping.  I do up a meal plan, check the fridge, freezer, and pantry, go through the flyers to see what's on sale, and I do it all in the kitchen.  So, for me, keeping the stuff I need for that in the kitchen, makes a lot of sense.  Even though it's something I consider an office task, that stuff gets the best use if it's got a home in the kitchen.  

So take some time to think about the Hows, and I'll be back soon with part 3:  Bringing it all together.  

Have you ever had an "Ah-ha" moment?  Ever made a quick decision that ended up being one of the best you ever made?  

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June 9, 2012

The One Gadget I Couldn't Live Without!

Alright, be honest, the first thought that popped into your head was "iPhone" right?  Nope, not one of those, infact, I think I could easily live without my POS, WP7.  It's one of those items that breeds love-hate relationships wherever it goes.  (but that's a whole other post)  Actually, the one gadget I could not live without out is ....

my Kobo Touch e-reader. 

I am seriously in love with this pretty little thing.   So, what do I love about it?  Well, first, I love that it was a gift from Travis.  He gave it to me last year for our anniversary.  BEST. GIFT. EVER!!!!  That, right there, is reason enough to love it.  :-)  Onto the more serious stuff though.

I love that Kobo is affiliated with Chapters (Indigo).  Chapters is one of my all time favourite stores.  They have a little of everything,and a whole lot of books!!!  And they're Canadian!  Who could ask for more?  You can also use your Chapters gift card to purchase books on Kobo, which is a nice touch, especially for someone like me who likes to have a budget to work with.

The e-reader itself is really nice.  The quilted back makes for easy holding.  It's light, portable (I purchased a hard cover bookstyle case for it because it comes almost everywhere with me)  and for anyone who enjoys reading outside, you'll love this part too, the screen gets BETTER outside in sunny weather.  Yep!  You heard right, the screen gets better, as in easier to read, when you're outdoors.  FABULOUS right?  That's e-ink screens for you.  And I have to say that, after being affiliated with a Canadian company, the e-ink was the big draw for me.  I wanted something that wasn't backlit, that had no glare, that gave the illusion of reading a book.  The Kobo Touch hit all those points.

It also comes with a few fun features that really appealed to the geek in me.  I can choose from different fonts, change the font size, choose the refresh rate, look up words in the built in dictionary, borrow e-books from the library, and load any DRM free e-pub or pdf book onto it.  This means, that say a blogger I enjoy reading publishes an e-book, in PDF format.  Even if the book is not in the Kobo store, I can purchase it from the blogger, and use Adobe Digital Editions to load it onto my reader.  SWEET!  Love that!

And it has more features.  Like Reading Life, where the e-reader keeps track of wonderful things like, how many books you've finished, how many hours you've read, and what percentage of your library you've gone through.  It will also tell you funny little things like, how many hours you've been reading your current book for, how many minutes per reading session you're averaging, and how many pages you've turned in the book.  (I know, totally geeky, but fun, and it gets better)  Adding to the fun, you can earn awards, little virtual stickers for meeting certain goals.  A little silly, but I can see this having merit for kids who don't like reading.  (and adults who never really grew up.... not saying that's me or anything, but I did happen to notice that I have all my stickers :-) )

Social media plays a huge role in society now, and Kobo jumped right in, and allows to link to your facebook account so you can share your reading experiences with your friends and family.  They seem to really be trying to make reading a social experience, which is kind of neat.  You can have your Kobo account synced through multiple devices, your phone (Android, iPhone, Blackberry) tablet (Android, iPad, Blackberry) and your PC or Mac.  (Not available for Linux yet, but Travis and I are researching ways to get around that) as well as online through the Kobo site.  Best part.... you really can access your Kobo account from all those places, including your library.  You are not confined to just one.  The only thing you need to do, is sync your e-reader with the desktop app to keep it up to date.

Navigating the store is easy, though I will say, it would be nice if it was easier to find the free titles.  The selection is vast and growing for all genres.  You can surf the web on this one, but I don't recommend it.  It's slow, and not very easy to navigate.  This wasn't really meant to be anything but an e-reader.

I know I should tell you somethings I don't like about it, but other than the web surfing being slow, I can't think of any.  Oh, yes I can, they don't have an App for POS WP7, so I can't sync it to my phone :-(  other than that, I'm totally loving it.  It's been my savior during the packing process.  I packed all our books, except for some of Liam's.  Without my Kobo I would go insane.  I have almost 100 books stored on it, and let me tell you, it sure saves space!  lol  Despite all I love about my e-reader, there is still nothing quite like cracking open a good, old fashioned book.  That won't ever change for me.  It just means that I pick and choose the books to purchase a little more carefully.

So, there you have it.  Not really surprising that the one gadget this bookworm can't live without, is her e-reader.

***  Please note that all the opinions found in this post are mine!  I'm sharing this because I really do LOVE my e-reader (ask my husband, my parents, my BFF, my kids... they'll tell you!)  I was in no way compensated for writing this post.  I was not asked to review or share my thoughts on this product.  ***

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