the shrink ‘rap: issue 28

the shrink ‘rap: issue 28

In this issue:


Water Cooler Rap

5 Truths About Decluttering

Starting an organizing project involves commitment, and if you’re going to commit to something, you might as well know what’s involved, right?

Here are 5 Truths About Decluttering you should know before you dive into your pile of papers, cluttered attic or exploding closet.

1. Paper is the most time-consuming thing to organize. – If all you have to organize is paper or you need to find a tax document by tomorrow, then you have no choice but to work on organizing your papers. If paper is just one of many things you need to organize, move it out of the way and start on something else – anything else. Your kitchen cabinets, under the bathroom sink or the trunk of your car. Start with something easy to gain the momentum you need to address the more difficult and time-consuming stuff.

2. Your significant other is typically not your best friend when you’re decluttering – I have worked with hundreds of clients in many homes and offices, and the projects that involve help from a significant other typically progress at a slower rate. I don’t know if this is a documented fact. I only know that it’s been my experience. Why? From what I have observed, more arguing occurs about who should keep what, where it should be stored, “why are you keeping things from your ex” etc. The tension builds, frustration grows and the whole process slows down. I have noted that the same thing happens when mothers and daughters work together. That’s why, especially when I’m working with teenagers, it’s best for mom to say what she has to say and then walk the other way.

3. Decluttering is exhausting. – It can be physically exhausting (and also a good substitute for the gym). The mental exhaustion, however, is often not expected. Making rapid fire decisions over and over in a short period of time can leave you mentally drained, and it might just sneak up on you. When I’m working with new clients, this point of I can’t make another decision typically happens around the 2 1/2-3 hour mark. Schedule your decluttering sessions in spurts. All day decluttering marathons aren’t ideal unless you’re up against a deadline.

4. It’s easy to get sidetracked. – You could have every intention of sorting through your entire basement next Saturday. Don’t be surprised, however, if after opening that first box of family photos you find yourself wondering where two hours went. The best way to keep moving is to put on some fast-paced music, schedule a snack break for yourself after the first hour or two, and push boxes that contain “trigger” items (anything that makes you nostalgic) off to the side to review later.

5. Decluttering isn’t a one-time event – You can declutter your entire attic, but don’t be surprised if two years later you have to do it again. Things have a way of piling up, but what’s even more important to realize is that our needs change. Our schedules, hobbies, family size and things we value change.  The things we want to keep now may not be relevant to us, for either practical or emotional reasons, in the future. Every area of your home and office should be revisited at least once a year for organizational maintenance.

Don’t let these 5 Truths About Decluttering scare you. The rewards are always worth it in the end. Getting organized saves space, time and money. It reduces stress, improves relationships and gives you more time to focus on doing things you enjoy.

 

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Need more help getting organized? Call Cluttershrink® for more information on receiving hands-on assistance organizing your home, office or relocation. Virtual organizing, customized seminars and gift certificates are also available. Call 215.431.0590 or e-mail Crystal Sabalaske at crystal@cluttershrink.com.

Thank you for reading the 27th issue of The ‘Shrink Rap! Cluttershrink® welcomes feedback and questions. If you have a particular organizing topic you would like to learn more about in a future issue, please contact crystal@cluttershrink.com or provide feedback here.

If you like these tips and ideas and would like to share them with your friends, feel free to forward this newsletter to them.

You can add your e-mail address to Cluttershrink’s® mailing list.

Posted in De-Clutter, Organizing, Paper Organizing, Projects

the shrink ‘rap: issue 27

the shrink ‘rap: issue 27

In this issue:


Water Cooler Rap

5 Clutter-Free Gifts That Organize Too!

The holidays are fun, right? You get to spend time with family and friends, eat good food, take a few days off work, and possibly open a few gifts.

The people who buy us gifts usually have the best intentions, but most of us, at one time or another, have received a did you seriously think I’d like this kind of gift. From the moment we opened it, we started planning how we were going to get rid of it. Trying not to be obvious, we searched for a gift receipt. If we didn’t find one, we ran through a mental list of people we knew who might appreciate the gift. We may have pursued the least attractive option–keeping the gift just in case the giver ever showed up at our house expecting to see it. (Where is it now? My guess is it’s taking up space in some back corner of your closet.)

I think one of the silliest gifts I ever received was a vacuum butler. This butler wasn’t a human who came to my house to do my vacuuming. That would have been appreciated. What I got was a fabric decorative cover for my vacuum–as if I left it in the middle of my living room for viewing?!?! It looked something like this:

This is not a clutter-free gift!

Photo from Sweeper-City.com

To be honest, I have no idea what happened to this butler friend of mine. I know he wasn’t my roommate for very long though.

The other day a client said to me, “Some things are cute until they just aren’t cute anymore.” She was referring to the gifts her friends have given her over the years that eventually became part of her clutter problem. Don’t let the gifts you give become someone else’s problem.

If you’re scrambling for gift ideas, almost everyone  appreciates gifts that  are useful and don’t contribute to clutter. Where do you find presents like that?

5 Clutter-Free Gifts That Organize Too:

(Please note: I do not have affiliate relationships with any of these products/companies. I recommend these products because I like them!)

1. NeatReceipts Portable Scanner – Know someone who is buried under piles of paper? This PORTABLE scanner might be the perfect gift. It reads and extracts important information from scanned documents, business cards and receipts and organizes it into keyword searchable digital files. You can buy it online, but I have seen it cheaper in some of the wholesale clubs.

2. Jewelry Organizers – You can find them in all shapes, sizes and colors at places like Bed Bath & Beyond and HomeGoods, but here are a few of my favorites that you can buy online:

Organizing Jewelry Valet

The Knotty Shelf Jewelry Organizer – For other options like this, search “jewelry organizer” on Etsy.

3. Custom Drawer Organizer Strips – Know someone with an out of control utensil drawer in the kitchen? Custom cut these inserts to fit any size drawer. You can also use them in the bathroom, office or bedroom.

4. Neatnix Ready 2 Go Small Tech Organizer – This gift is so popular that it keeps selling out on Amazon, but I have seen it online elsewhere. It offers an organizing solution for the tech lover who carries around gadgets and cords.

5. The Gift of an Organized Home or Office – Purchase a gift certificate from a Professional Organizer to help organize a home or office. To find an organizer in the appropriate geographical area, search The National Association of Professional Organizer’s website – NAPO. If you are looking for a gift for someone in a remote area and/or a more budget-friendly option, find an organizer who offers virtual organizing services.

If you’re struggling to find a useful present for someone you care about, consider buying a clutter-free gift that will help that person get more organized.

If you receive a gift this holiday season that is meant to help you get organized, please tell me about it!

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Need more help getting organized? Call Cluttershrink® for more information on receiving hands-on assistance organizing your home, office or relocation. Virtual organizing, customized seminars and gift certificates are also available. Call 215.431.0590 or e-mail Crystal Sabalaske at crystal@cluttershrink.com.

Thank you for reading the 27th issue of The ‘Shrink Rap! Cluttershrink® welcomes feedback and questions. If you have a particular organizing topic you would like to learn more about in a future issue, please contact crystal@cluttershrink.com or provide feedback here.

If you like these tips and ideas and would like to share them with your friends, feel free to forward this newsletter to them.

You can add your e-mail address to Cluttershrink’s® mailing list.

Posted in Accessories, Bathroom, Budget friendly, De-Clutter, Drawer organizing, Holidays, Kitchen, Office, Paper Organizing, Shopping, Technology

December’s Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist

monthly maintenance

Check these items off your list!

Cluttershrink is excited to share December‘s home maintenance checklist. Each month I will post a new list.

If you notice a task appears repeatedly, you are supposed to perform that task on a monthly basis.

Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist – December 2014

  • If you are hosting a holiday meal, take time to plan the menu and make sure you have all of the cooking tools, cookware, and table-setting supplies you will need. Allow for some extra time to clean items that have been packed away all year.
  • After the holidays, give your oven a thorough cleaning. Use the self-cleaning cycle or clean your oven without using harsh chemicals by making a simple paste of baking soda and water.
  • If you live in an area with a high snowfall average, place markers along your driveway.
  • Clean inside and above your cabinets, and wash the outsides with a degreaser and furniture cleaner (such as Murphy’s Oil Soap, if you have wood cabinets). Rinse and dry with clean rags.
  • If you have a radon remediation system, check for leaks caused by condensation. (I just had quite a big leak coming from our system. Glad I caught it before the water spread all over the basement.)
  • Replace the water filter in your refrigerator, if you haven’t done it recently. Most filters should be replaced every 3 months.
  • Add (or replace) a box of baking soda in your refrigerator and freezer. The baking soda minimizes odors and should be replaced every 3 months.
  • Clean your dryer vent – inside and out.
  • Lubricate door locks and hinges. WD-40 works well.
  • Test all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries if they have not been replaced within the past 6 months, especially since holiday lights and space heaters used during winter months are both frequent causes of house fires.
  • Test your home security system to make sure each zone/sensor is working. Unfortunately, ’tis the season for break-ins.
  • Check all downspouts and gutters to make sure they are not blocked or leaking.
  • Check filter in HVAC system. Change it if needed.
  • Check unfinished areas of basement and attic for leaks near foundation and roof.
  • Check water softener. Refill salt if necessary.
  • Disinfect garbage disposal.  (For directions refer to January’s monthly checklist.)
  • Disinfect all trashcans, including your outdoor trashcans.
  • Check and clean dehumidifier or humidifier filters.
Posted in Basement, Checklist, Cleaning, Holidays, Home, Kitchen, Meal Planning, Storage Tagged with: ,

November’s Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist

monthly maintenance

Check these items off your list!

Cluttershrink is excited to share November‘s home maintenance checklist. Each month I will post a new list.

If you notice a task appears repeatedly, you are supposed to perform that task on a monthly basis.

Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist – November 2014

  • Clear pathways to make snow-shoveling easier. Make sure you have access to your woodpile, gas and oil tanks, and garbage cans.
  • Insulate bare water pipes running through your home to prevent freezing and to limit condensation on cold-water lines. Also, insulate hose bibs with styrofoam covers.
  • Place your snow shovel in an accessible location and tune up your snow blower.
  • Put an ice scraper and small snow shovel in your car.
  • Inspect automatic garage door openers. Lubricate chains according to manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure bolts and screws are properly tightened and secured.
  • Take winter linens out of storage and launder. Dry clean any garments that were packed in mothballs.
  • Clean your refrigerator inside and out before the holidays by wiping down shelves and drawers and vacuuming the coils under and behind your refrigerator.
  • Make room for incoming holiday gifts by cleaning out closets and toy storage areas.
  • Wipe down the legs of all dining and desk chairs. Replace the felt protective pads on the bottom of each leg, if needed.
  • Add extra storage near entryways to accommodate the winter season’s scarves, mittens, outerwear and boots.
  • Prepare guest rooms if you will be hosting guests throughout the holiday season. Freshen the bedroom and bathroom linens, and provide extra hangers for the closet and toiletries for the bathroom. Wash or dry clean the bed coverings before the guests’ scheduled arrival.
  • Test your heating system, including pilot lights and burners, and have serviced by a professional, if required.
  • Clean your dryer vent – inside and out.
  • Clean out your toaster oven if you have one.
  • Organize your pantry and set aside unexpired foods for donation.
  • If you use one, set up a humidifier to prevent static electricity and dry skin.
  • Test all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries if they have not been replaced within the past 6 months, especially since holiday lights and space heaters used during winter months are both frequent causes of house fires.
  • Check all downspouts and gutters to make sure they are not blocked or leaking.
  • Check filter in HVAC system. Change it if needed.
  • Check unfinished areas of basement and attic for leaks near foundation and roof.
  • Check water softener. Refill salt if necessary.
  • Disinfect garbage disposal.  (For directions refer to January’s monthly checklist.)
  • Disinfect all trashcans, including your outdoor trashcans.
  • Check and clean dehumidifier or humidifier filters.
Posted in Automobile, Basement, Checklist, Cleaning, Closets, Clothing, Holidays, Home, Kitchen, Linens, Storage Tagged with: ,

the shrink ‘rap: issue 26

the shrink ‘rap: issue 26

In this issue:


Water Cooler Rap

How to Maintain an Organized Closet

There’s so much involved in getting your closet to look just the way you want it; the design, installation and organization, but once it looks stunning, how do you keep it that way?

I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating. Organizing is a habit. If you don’t do it regularly, things are likely to get out of control. Some simple steps can keep your closet looking neat and organized throughout the year.

Daily organizing tasks:

  • Move empty hangers to one end of the closet rod. This will prevent them from getting tangled up or disappearing inside other clothing items.
  • If you have what I refer to as transitional wear, clothes that you have worn once but the item does not yet warrant laundering, turn those items inside out and hang them back up. This is a much better alternative to throwing your clothes on the floor or on an unused treadmill. Inside-out will indicate that it has already been worn and needs to be washed the next time you wear it. Also, if you are packing clothes up for the change of seasons, you should always launder them first so pests and bugs aren’t attracted to lingering scents. Your inside-out items will let you know what you need to wash before you pack things away in seasonal storage.

Weekly organizing tasks:

  • Spend 5-10 minutes per week lining up shoes and refolding and stacking sweaters, t-shirts or other folded items.
  • As you are picking out your clothes each morning, take a quick peek at your closet rod and shelves. Are there items that are folded at the bottom of a pile that you can’t even identify? If you find something you haven’t worn in awhile because it isn’t comfortable, doesn’t fit, you don’t like or is too difficult/costly to maintain, put it in a donate pile.
  • Rotate your clothes within your closet. If you have a habit of wearing the same things over and over, as you pull out clothes (e.g. a blue shirt and tan pants), move other clothing items down the rod closer to where you access your closet (e.g. the right side of the rod). When you hang your blue shirt and tan pants up after laundering, put them at the opposite end (left side). This way, it will take you a few days or weeks before you come across the same outfit again, as your unworn clothes are constantly in rotation moving closer to you in the closet line-up. (This is some system my husband came up with years ago. Clean laundry always gets hung on the left and he wears whatever is in the line-up on the right. I suppose it makes picking out what he’s wearing to work pretty easy.)
  • Vacuum your closet floors.

A few times a year organizing tasks:

  • Remove everything from your closet. Give your closet a good cleaning. Wipe down walls. Vacuum. Dust shelves, drawers and closet rods. Let your closet air out for a few hours before putting things back.
  • Try on everything in your closet that you haven’t worn in six months. See what meets the good fit, super-comfortable, I feel great in it, it’s so easy to maintain criteria. Donate anything that is questionable. If it doesn’t meet the criteria and you haven’t worn it in six months, chances are slim that you’ll wear it in the near future.
  • Evaluate how often you wear certain garments. The items used most frequently should be the most accessible. Items you rarely wear should be stored in the back of the closet or on high shelves. When you return clothes to drawers, shelves or a hanging rod, make sure the hanging items are all facing the same direction and the folded clothes are folded the same way so they stack neatly.

Is anyone brave enough to send me a picture of a disorganized or organized closet?

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Need more help getting organized? Call Cluttershrink® for more information on receiving hands-on assistance organizing your home, office or relocation. Phone consultations, customized seminars and gift certificates are also available. Call 215.431.0590 or e-mail Crystal Sabalaske at crystal@cluttershrink.com.

Thank you for reading the 26th issue of The ‘Shrink Rap! Cluttershrink® welcomes feedback and questions. If you have a particular organizing topic you would like to learn more about in a future issue, please contact crystal@cluttershrink.com or provide feedback here.

If you like these tips and ideas and would like to share them with your friends, feel free to forward this newsletter to them.

You can add your e-mail address to Cluttershrink’s® mailing list.

Posted in Cleaning, Closets, Clothing, Drawer organizing, Organizing, Shopping

October’s Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist

monthly maintenance

Check these items off your list!

Cluttershrink is excited to share October‘s home maintenance checklist. Each month I will post a new list.

If you notice a task appears repeatedly, you are supposed to perform that task on a monthly basis.

Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist – October 2014

  • Turn off any outside water supplies and drain outside hose spigots.
  • Winterize your outdoor furniture by cleaning and then storing according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Clean out your gardens by weeding and digging up any spent annual vegetables or flowers. Cut perennials to the ground and cover with 1″ of compost.
  • Transplant trees or shrubs one month before the ground freezes.
  • Rake leaves.
  • Plant spring flower bulbs.
  • Service and cover outdoor pools.
  • If you have a rain barrel, drain it and store it for the winter.
  • Remove paints, caulks and any liquids from your shed or garage to prevent freezing.
  • Clean the inside and outside of your windows.
  • Switch your screens to storm windows.
  • Seal any drafty windows or doors with weatherstripping.
  • Test and lubricate your sump pump.
  • If you have window air-conditioning units, remove and store them for winter, or cover to protect them.
  • Clean and organize your bedroom closets and store summer clothes, if necessary.
  • Test your heating system and have serviced by a professional, if required.
  • Clean your dryer vent – inside and out.
  • Test all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries if needed.
  • Check all downspouts and gutters to make sure they are not blocked or leaking.
  • Check filter in HVAC system. Change it if needed.
  • Check unfinished areas of basement and attic for leaks near foundation and roof.
  • Check water softener. Refill salt if necessary.
  • Disinfect garbage disposal.  (For directions refer to January’s monthly checklist.)
  • Disinfect all trashcans, including your outdoor trashcans.
  • Check and clean dehumidifier or humidifier filters.
Posted in Basement, Checklist, Cleaning, Closets, Clothing, Garden, Gardening, Home Tagged with: ,

the shrink ‘rap: issue 25

the shrink ‘rap: issue 25

In this issue:


Ask the Organizer

We’re excited to include another submission to The ‘Shrink Rap’s “Ask the Organizer” section. Please continue to submit your questions by e-mailing them to crystal@cluttershrink.com. Every submitted question related to organizing will be included in a future issue of The ‘Shrink Rap.

Q: I have been saving clothes from my mom and my husband who died several years ago. Part of me wants to keep them, and part of me wants to take them out of the closet to get more space. What do you suggest I do?
– Susan in Delaware

A: Dear Susan,

I am sorry to hear about the loss of both your mother and husband. The clothes you are keeping are not the actual memories of your loved ones. At this point, they are just collecting dust and taking up space. There are, however, some pieces that may evoke fond memories – a shirt your husband wore every Thanksgiving, or a sweater that you gave your mom that she loved (even if it was ugly). If you can pick something up and have a specific memory that makes you SMILE (not one that makes you cry), then it might be worth holding on to no more than 3 things from each of them. They are taking up valuable space and preventing you from moving on – either from being more organized or from the constant reminder that you are in limbo regarding their belongings. I suggest donating them to someone who could benefit from them. Make someone else happy and free yourself from the emotional burden of having to deal with them, even if it’s just pushing them aside to get to something else that you need in the closet. I think it’s time to let most of the stuff go. Pick a few select items and know that your memories are in your heart, not your closet. If you pick something up and it wasn’t a favorite of yours, your husband’s or your mother’s, that’s definitely an item to move to the donate pile. I hope that helps.

– Crystal at Cluttershrink

Dear Crystal,

Thank you for your kind, caring and helpful thoughts. I can manage keeping three items from each of my loved ones and donating the others. I appreciate your time.

Regards,

– Susan

 

 

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Need more help getting organized? Call Cluttershrink® for more information on receiving hands-on assistance organizing your home, office or relocation. Phone consultations, customized seminars and gift certificates are also available. Call 215.431.0590 or e-mail Crystal Sabalaske at crystal@cluttershrink.com.

In the next issue

  • Monthly Household Checklist
  • Water Cooler Rap – Apps to Get You Organized – Part 2
  • Guest Article Submission – Michelle Schaffel from Inspired by Design

Thank you for reading the 19th issue of The ‘Shrink Rap! Cluttershrink® welcomes feedback and questions. If you have a particular organizing topic you would like to learn more about in a future issue, please contact crystal@cluttershrink.com or provide feedback here.

If you like these tips and ideas and would like to share them with your friends, feel free to forward this newsletter to them.

You can add your e-mail address to Cluttershrink’s® mailing list.

Posted in Ask the Organizer, Closets, Clothing, Donations Tagged with: ,

September’s Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist

monthly maintenance

Check these items off your list!

Cluttershrink is excited to share September‘s home maintenance checklist. Each month I will post a new list.

If you notice a task appears repeatedly, you are supposed to perform that task on a monthly basis.

Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist – September 2014

  • Add seasonal color to spruce up flower gardens and pots. Mums, pansies, and ornamental kale are hearty plants that will add color and withstand the cooler weather.
  • September is a prime month for fall lawn care. Fertilize, aerate and re-seed if necessary.
  • Trim shrubs and trees away from the house.
  • Check for gaps in your foundation, around your garage door, and make sure exterior vents are covered with screens to prevent mice from coming in to make their winter home. Mice only need a 1/4″ gap, and rats only need a 1/2″ in order to squeeze into your home.
  • If you have a wood-burning stove, schedule your firewood delivery.
  • Schedule your chimney cleaning service before they are booked.
  • Check the condition of your insulation and consider adding more, if necessary, to offset winter heating bills.
  • Caulk around windows and vents on the exterior of your home before the temperature drops. Caulk shrinks over time and needs to be reapplied in order to prevent water from entering your home.
  • While the weather is mild and windows can be left open, it is a good time to paint interior rooms, exterior doors, or shampoo or install carpets.
  • Inspect your water heater for leaks.
  • Check your sump pump’s battery and back-up battery to make sure they are functional.
  • Clean your dryer vent – inside and out.
  • Test all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries if needed.
  • Check all downspouts and gutters to make sure they are not blocked or leaking.
  • Check filter in HVAC system. Change it if needed.
  • Check unfinished areas of basement and attic for leaks near foundation and roof.
  • Check water softener. Refill salt if necessary.
  • Disinfect garbage disposal.  (For directions refer toJanuary’s monthly checklist.)
  • Disinfect all trashcans, including your outdoor trashcans.
  • Check and clean dehumidifier or humidifier filters.
Posted in Basement, Checklist, Gardening, Home

August’s Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist

Cluttershrink is excited to share August‘s home maintenance checklist. Each month I will post a new list.

If you notice a task appears repeatedly, you are supposed to perform that task on a monthly basis.

Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist – August 2014

  • Inspect outdoor garbage cans for tight fitting lids and leaks. As the weather gets colder, animals are going to be looking for food. You don’t want the added aggravation of having to clean up trash that ends up all over your yard.
  • Don’t make it easy for pests to make nests near your home. Remove items that make it easy for them to hide, such as ladders, yard waste, and toys.
  • Inspect your water heater for leaks.
  • Inspect doors and thresholds around all doors. Install weather stripping if necessary.
  • Check your sump pump’s battery and back-up battery to make sure they are functional.
  • Clear out all sump pump drains and pipes that drain directly into your yard.
  • Check all motion sensor light bulbs on the outside of the house. Replace if necessary.
  • As pool season ends, clean and remove all air from inflatable pool toys. Fold and pack away in a plastic storage container with a lid. Store in shed, basement or garage.
  • Continue treating the weeds in your yard.  Consider using a safer (non-chemical) method by combining 1 gallon of white vinegar, 1 cup of table salt and 1 tablespoon of Dawn dish soap.  Put in a bottle with a sprayer and apply to weeds.
  • Clean your dryer vent – inside and out.
  • Test all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries if needed.
  • Check all downspouts and gutters to make sure they are not blocked or leaking.
  • Check filter in HVAC system.  Change it if needed.
  • Check unfinished areas of basement and attic for leaks near foundation and roof.
  • Check water softener. Refill salt if necessary.
  • Disinfect garbage disposal.  (For directions refer to January’s monthly checklist).
  • Disinfect all trashcans, including your outdoor trashcans.
  • Check and clean dehumidifier or humidifier filters.
Posted in Basement, Checklist, Gardening

the shrink ‘rap: issue 24

the shrink ‘rap: issue 24

In this issue:


Guest Article

Organizing Your College Application Process –

by Johanna Baum from ObjectiveInSight College & Career Counseling

Applying to college is an exciting time for students and their families, but if you’re not organized, it can become incredibly stressful and overwhelming for everyone. Below are some helpful strategies to keep you calm and on track throughout the process.

Meet with your school counselor and/or college advisor to go over the process. 

Ideally, this meeting should take place in the winter or early spring of your junior year. Make sure you have access to Naviance (or whatever college and career planning tool your high school uses) and find out your high school’s requirements and deadlines for requesting transcripts and recommendations. Ask for a copy of your transcript and solicit suggestions on appropriate schools to begin building a list.

Create a spreadsheet to organize your school research and application process.

Build your own, or use an online tool like College App Wizard. Include each school’s admissions data (average GPA and SAT/ACT scores, as well as acceptance rate) so that you can assess your likelihood of admission. Track admissions requirements and deadlines, early and regular, for each school. Note that financial aid deadlines may not be the same as application deadlines.

Plan your testing strategy.

If you’re not sure whether to take the SAT or ACT, schedule both in January/February of junior year. Registration deadlines are approximately a month before the test date. Review your scores to determine which test you will use for admissions. You’ll still have time to retake it once or twice more before your application is submitted. Take SAT Subject Tests, if your schools require them, in June of junior year, when you’ve just finished the courses that prepare you for the tests.

Schedule school visits.

Make sure to officially register with admissions. Some schools keep track of visits as part of the admissions process. Students should jot down some notes after seeing each school to remember the specifics. They will help in the decision making process as well as with writing the “Why Us” essay, which many schools require. Register on the websites of any schools you would like information about.

Ask for recommendations.

The best time to ask is between spring break and summer break of junior year. If you need to ask someone in the fall of senior year, do it as soon as possible once school starts because some teachers limit the number of recommendations they are willing to write each year. Some recommenders will ask you to complete a questionnaire or “brag sheet”. Prepare packets for each recommender, with your completed questionnaire/brag sheet, activity list/resume, school list, and a letter thanking them for their work.

Transfer all application related deadlines into your datebook or smartphone calendar.

Set deadlines with reminders for each stage of the application process, including test dates, college visits, interviews, financial aid and application deadlines, the date by which you will provide all necessary materials to your recommenders, and deadlines for essay writing (both drafts and final versions).

Set up a physical folder and an electronic one (on Google Drive or Dropbox) for each college.

Keep a master contact list in each folder that includes the names and contact information of school officials so that you have them handy. Keep all materials and essay drafts in the correct folder. Save all of your college application usernames and passwords in one place for easy reference.

Finally, check your email regularly so you don’t miss any important updates from your high school or colleges. Good luck!

Johanna Baum is an independent college and career counselor who helps students put their best foot forward throughout the college application process. For more information, email objectiveinsightconsulting@gmail.com or visit ObjectiveInSight.

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Need more help getting organized? Call Cluttershrink® for more information on receiving hands-on assistance organizing your home, office or relocation. Virtual organizing, organizing for families with food allergies, customized seminars and gift certificates are also available. Call 215.431.0590 or e-mail Crystal Sabalaske at crystal@cluttershrink.com.

Thank you for reading The ‘Shrink Rap! Cluttershrink® welcomes feedback and questions. If you have a particular organizing topic you would like to learn more about in a future issue, please contact crystal@cluttershrink.com or provide feedback here.

If you like these tips and ideas and would like to share them with your friends, feel free to forward this newsletter to them.

You can add your e-mail address to Cluttershrink’s® mailing list.

Posted in Applications, Calendar, College, Organizing, Passwords, School