Saturday, August 25, 2012

Reclaim Your Kitchen Counter With a Command Center

Do you have a pile of clutter somewhere on your kitchen counter? Of course you do. Take-out menus, papers from school that may have to be referenced again, classroom phone lists, gift certificates, postcards from that service company you might want to call someday, a bit of writing, such as a poem or joke, that you found that you want to keep and share... the list of things in our kitchen counter clutter piles goes on and on. Do you have a place for things that aren't files but that you want to make sure you don't lose? These items can all neatly be collected in what I call the Command Center .
A quick trip to the office supply store is all that's needed to get your Command Center in order. Start with a sturdy 3-ring binder. Depending on the size of the pile you're organizing, a 1.5 inch binder is probably a good starting point. Don't be afraid to buy a fun print or wild color...have a little fun with it! Tabbed dividers, clear sheet protectors, and slash-cut pockets round out the supply list. If the binder has inside pockets, stash your checkbook, stamps and return address labels there, then set up tabs for each category.

Here is a suggested list of tabs to start your Command Center (in no particular order):

  • To Do: Forms that need to be completed, order forms, sign-up sheets... you know the pesky pieces of paper that need action, but not this second. Keep them up front and you'll always know what has to get done next and where to find that form on a moment's notice.
  • Take-out Menus: Maybe it's just me, but this is a "go-to" pile in my house. We keep it handy for times when I'm not cooking. Yeah, it's a well-worn pile. Pocket tabs work well for this.
  • Contacts: If you have children that are in school, you know that every fall, the stack of classroom directories, phone lists, teacher/school contact information, club and sports team rosters will grow. Every year, toss the previous year's lists and start fresh. Clear sheet protectors are perfect for these lists.
  • Gift Cards/Gift Certificates: If you keep them in a central location, you'll know just the spot to check when you're making plans for a night out or heading out to shop. How many of us haven't used gift cards because we misplaced them? Or kept forgotten gift certificates for so long the places are no longer in business? One pocket is all it takes to keep them accessible.
  • Tips/Notes: What do you do with all of those handy tips you cut out of magazines in hopes of trying them out? Keep them in this one spot and you'll always know where to find that perfect cleaning solution recipe or project instructions (origami, anyone?). Again, put each tip in a clear sheet protector so it's easy to flip through when you're looking for something.
  • House/Car: This is the place to keep those postcards or coupons you get in the mail for home/lawn/car services that you don't need right now, but want to keep for future reference. When it's time for that chimney cleaning, firewood order, or brake job, you'll be ready to call.
  • Receipts: Maybe you already have a system in place for how you keep track of receipts.  If you do, I recommend keeping it. I use this tab for "temporary" receipts of purchase - records you need to keep only until you receive your order for things such as Girl Scout cookies, school picture order forms, subscriptions, and online order confirmations, to name a few.
Once you've put items into the Command Center, see what's left in the pile and create additional custom tabs for yourself. Some words of caution: avoid the use of "Miscellaneous" when you're making your tabs. This tab will balloon out of control because it's easy to categorize every little thing as miscellaneous. Putting a little effort into figuring out into which tab it belongs will ultimately improve your organization skills. Trust me on this one.

Keep the Command Center in an easily accessible place so that you can put items there BEFORE they become a clutter pile (some suggestions: kitchen cabinet, desk drawer, living room bookcase... be creative). Every so often, flip through the Command Center to toss old, obsolete, and expired items. That's all there is to it.  Get ready to take command of that clutter pile and reclaim your kitchen counter!

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