Organising your Fridge and Freezer

Organising your Fridge and Freezer

Organising your fridge and freezer

 

Organising your fridge and freezer can seem like just another task on your never-ending to do list. But getting them organised can save you time and most importantly money.

‘How?’ I hear you ask.

The answer is simple, food costs money and throwing unused food away is basically throwing your hard-earned money in the bin.

So how do we fix this? In one word, organise. Having your fridge and freezer organised will help you to lessen your food waste, by enabling you to see what food you have and what needs to be eaten, which can also prevent you from overspending. You can also better plan out your meals whether this is by writing down a menu for the week or simply eating the food closest to its expiry date.

Without further ado let’s get started:

 

Overview

  1. The Fridge

  2. The Freezer

  3. How Busy Lives! can support you

 

The Fridge

 Home to your milk, cheese, fruit, veg and meat the fridge is arguably one of the most important appliances in your kitchen. So, let’s show it some love.

Step 1:

Now you’ve committed to organising your fridge you need to decide what system you are going to use. This can be as simple as designating a shelf for each food type or as complicated as using baskets and boxes and going a little mad with the label-maker!

Top tip

The generally agreed upon layout for your fridge is as follows:

  • The crisper / bottom drawer is reserved for fruits, vegetables, and salad items.
  • The bottom shelf should be for raw meat and seafood (make sure they are properly sealed to avoid cross-contamination).
  • The middle shelf should be for dairy products – that includes the milk if your door doesn’t have a shelf for this.
  • And the top shelf should be for food that does not require cooking such as cooked meats and leftovers.
  • The door shelving is the place to keep condiments, juices, jams and water.

Now you have chosen your system for organising it is time to start. A good place to begin is by cleaning your fridge.

Step 2:

Empty your fridge – I’d recommend doing this before you go food shopping. Pack any food you have in a cool bag to avoid it spoiling.

Once your fridge is empty give it a clean – remove the shelves and drawers and wash them using regular washing up liquid (Make sure to let the shelves warm at room temperature before submerging them in hot water – not doing this could make them crack). Leave them to dry.

Wipe down the inside of the fridge with a cloth and disinfectant spray. Make sure to thoroughly dry the inside of the fridge.

Dry the shelves and drawers and put them back into the fridge.

Once your fridge is squeaky clean it is time to start putting the food back. Use the system you devised earlier to start loading up your fridge.

Top tip

Check the temperature setting of your fridge. The Food Standards Agency recommends a temperature between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius.

Step 3:

Pack all your food into your fridge. Avoid overfilling your fridge as this can make it harder for the fridge to maintain its temperature and force it to work harder to keep cool.

Try and leave space between items to allow the cold air to move freely.

And you’re done. All that’s left to do is stand back and admire your handiwork. To keep your fridge looking sparkling clean and fresh I’d recommend giving it a clean every few months – for quick cleans just wipe down the shelves and the inside surfaces of the fridge. Deep clean 1-2 times per year.

 

The Freezer

The Freezer is a lifesaver, from chips to batch cooking and garden produce to your leftovers, your freezer can home everything; meat, veg, fruit, and (most importantly) ice-cream.

But, let’s be honest now, we all have ‘the thing’. That one item tucked away behind the bag of peas that we have no idea what it is or how long it’s been there, but we have some odd compulsion to hang onto it.

Now it’s time to say goodbye to ‘the thing’ and get your freezer organised.

Step 1:

Like the fridge, the first step is to decide how you are going to organise your freezer. I recommend allocating drawers or shelves to one kind of item. For example, in my freezer we have a drawer for fruit and veg, a drawer for processed foods, a drawer for homemade batch cooking and a breads / dessert drawer.

Once you have your system it becomes easy – you just need to stick to it

Next is – you guessed it – time to clean out your freezer.

Step 2:

Declutter. No one likes throwing food away– I’m with you there but some things just can’t be saved, now is the time to bin them.

And make sure to bid farewell to ‘the thing’ that has hung around since before Christmas but now it’s time for it to go.

Once your freezer is empty decide if it needs defrosting and cleaning. If you do need to defrost don’t try to speed up the process with a hairdryer or screwdriver hacking off ice as I did once – surprise, surprise the result of that was a new freezer!

Top tip

The Food Standards Agency recommend your freezer to run at -18 degrees Celsius. If your freezer has an adjustable temperature gauge, make sure it is not set any warmer than this.

Now you should have a clean, empty, freezer ready for you to start refilling.

Step 3:

It’s time to pack everything away. Stick to the plan you devised, and this step should be a breeze. But to help you here are some space-saving tips.

  • Bags save space – if you need to freeze batch cooking, a soup or sauce, instead of putting it in a box use a plastic bag instead. Fill it with your soup and seal it (make sure to squeeze out all the air) Ensure the bag is sealed properly and you can lie it flat in the freezer and stack them up. Don’t forget to write and label what you’re freezing, chilli con carne looks very similar to a spaghetti Bolognese.
  • Remove the boxes – some freezer food from the supermarket comes individually wrapped but then packed in large box – recycle the box and save yourself some space (if you need cooking instructions you can write them on the individual packets or cut that part out of the box and stick it to the item)

Top tip

I put my homemade batch cooking in a plastic bag and sit it in a plastic container in the freezer to freeze it in a uniformed shape, then I remove the bag from the container once it is frozen. You’d be surprised how much more will fit in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few more helpful tips:

  • Store ice-cream towards the back of the freezer to avoid freezer burn.
  • Divide up bulk buy items – buying 20 chicken breasts for less than a five pounds is a bargain but it’s doubtful you’ll need all twenty at once, split them up into bags reflecting the number of people you cook for.
  • Freezers work better when they’re full – Yes, believe it or not filling your freezer is good. Filling your freezer means it does not have to work as hard so puts less strain on the appliance.
  • And most importantly – LABEL EVERYTHING. We don’t want to find anymore ‘things’ lurking behind the peas. When you go to freeze something write on the bag or box what it is and the date.

 

How Busy Lives! can support you with this

Busy Lives! was created when I left a busy career which left me time poor and unable to give appropriate priority to what really mattered to me. I have provided services like these for the self-employed, retired and for people with highly demanding careers.

I am happy to help with organisational support including optimising the space and storage you already have in your home. You can go out to work and return with the chaos sorted!

I can help by:

  • Effectively organising your contents so regularly used items are readily and easily available.
  • Organising any room in the house such as your kitchen.
  • Re-organising cupboards and wardrobes which need attention.
  • Making the most of the space and storage you have or would like to improve.
  • Tackling that room, shed or garage which has become ‘the sort later room’ (the one that started as a drawer and became a room!)

 

Find out more about how I can help you with home organisation

Let you help you gain precious time back. Ring Busy Lives! 07565 722 031

Or Email: karen@busylivesnottingham.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Organising Your Household Paperwork

Organising Your Household Paperwork

Organising your household paperwork

Many of us have busy lives in one way or another, but perhaps sometimes we make ourselves busy as an excuse not to do those tasks we really don’t like or know where to start. The vast majority of people have something that they are always going to get around to or have something that gets transferred from one weeks ‘To do’ list to the next!  Organising your home paperwork is a great example of this and yet it’s probably the most important set of papers you need to have at hand, safe and secure. This blog post shares a quick, easy process and system to help you put an end to having papers you can’t find, lying around or getting lost amongst all those other papers shoved in a box or kitchen draw.

Overview

  1. Finding a system that will work for you and the people in you live with (Hd3)

  2. Retention of paperwork

  3. How and where to start if your paperwork piles go back years

  4. Suggested ways forward for storing your household paperwork

  5. Action needed / To do pile

  6. Passwords

  7. Becoming paperless

  8. How Busy Lives! can support you

Please note: If you have less than a couple of years paperwork to sort, you may wish to skip section three.

 

 

  1. Finding a system that will work for you and the people in you live with

You should never feel embarrassed if you have paperwork hidden away somewhere or shoved in a box! If you haven’t got a system that works for YOU it isn’t going to work and more importantly you won’t be able to maintain it over time.

What you need is a system in place that’s quick and easy to access it for YOU. Keep this in mind when reading and considering the rest of this content.

The other factor which is important to consider is who else needs to access and maintain your household paperwork. If it’s others in your household in addition to you, I highly recommend you discuss the different ways forward and agree on which system will work for everyone involved. The consequence of not doing this is you either end up back at square one will piles of papers dumped in a mess or you’re the one that always ends up doing the filing into the system!

 

  1. Retention of paperwork 

How long paperwork is kept and stored for has reduced over time in some instances. Much more household paperwork now available electronically, Section 7 of this blog post goes into more detail about electronic storage for this.

Important paperwork to keep and not destroy:

  • Bank / Credit Card Statements – Keep the original joining information and then the last 3 or 6 months depending on your preference.
  • Car Documentation – For the current car/s owned by the household. This should be the registration certificate. I also keep the purchase or lease agreement. It is useful to have a printed copy of your latest insurance certificate including your no claims bonus as if you change insurance companies many still request proof of no claims bonus. I also keep records of services and work carried out whilst owning the car as proof that it has been well maintained when selling.
  • Certificates – Birth certificates / Marriage or Civil Partnership certificates / Exam and qualification certificates.
  • Memberships – Such as for a gym, keep the original as it will have your number on it.
  • Medical Information – Medical information worth retaining includes your NHS number, European Health Insurance Card, Vaccination record all need to be kept. If you have any medical condition records that would be important for a physician to know keep. Latest glasses prescription is useful to keep. Letters or cards of previous doctor or hospital appointments can be shredded.
  • Mortgage & Life Assurance – Paperwork and any signed agreements relating to this. If you’ve paid off your mortgage it’s important to keep the Deeds and original survey you had when you purchased your property.
  • National Insurance – Depending on your age this will either be on a piece of paper or card. You need to keep this.
  • Savings information & Certificates – Keep the original information and statement/s showing the last six months. If you have Premium Bonds ensure you keep the certificate somewhere safe.
  • Pensions – Keep the annual statements. This is especially important if you change jobs and have more than one pension in place.
  • Pet – Keep details of their birth documentation / adoption, Microchip number and vaccination records
  • Receipts, Warranties & Manuals – I keep receipts on any purchases more than the excess on my home insurance as a rule of thumb. Warranties speak for themselves, there’s no point keeping them if they have expired. Manuals tend to be for appliances and are worth hanging onto, especially the boiler one!
  • Stock and Shares – Paperwork can be quite frequent so I suggest you keep your original statement, the latest one, then one from either every six months or year.
  • Utility Bills – Keep the original joining information and then the last 3 or 6 months depending on your preference. If it’s an annual statement such as water rates, council tax or TV licence it’s your choice again if you just keep the current one or last three years.
  • Wages & Tax Statements – I keep all my P45 & P60’s for tax purposes. This is especially useful if you change jobs and have been placed on the wrong tax code by HRMC. In terms of wage slips I suggest you keep the last six months. Large employers have large numbers salaries to cross check each month and mistakes can be made by error occasionally.
  • Will & Last testament / Power of Attorney – Really important to keep the final signed copies of these. Draft copies can be shredded.

 

 

  1. How and where to start if your paperwork piles go back years

If you’ve accumulated more than a couple of years’ worth of paper hidden in various different places you need a strategy to help you make a start and move forward. This isn’t a procedure to rush as it may result in you recycling papers such as those listed above which you need to keep.

Step 1

  • Have a clear space next to your pile of papers – a table, the floor, or a kitchen worktop are the best ones.
  • Get either three pieces of paper or post-it notes and write the following three words on as large as possible:
    • Keep / Need to organise
    • Recycle
    • Shred

Important 

Anything with personal information on about you or your family needs to be shredded. It’s far too easy for someone to steal your identity from your recycle dustbin . If you don’t have access to a shredder ask your family or friends if they have one you can borrow.

  • Look carefully at each of your papers and place just under the appropriate label you’ve just made.
  • This may seem a daft tip but go and put the recycle pile of papers straight in the bin! You’ve decided to recycle it, so do it!
  • Shred pile of papers. Either sit and shred straight away so it’s done or put in a plastic bag and write Shred on the bag. Think carefully where you then put the bag, as you don’t want to find it in a few years’ time when you’re having another tidy!

Step 2 

  • Again start with a clear surface next to your ‘Keep / Need to organise pile.’
  • Using blank pieces of paper or post-it  notes write the new headings on each piece as large as possible:
    1. Bank, Savings, Portfolio’s & Loans
    2. Car & Bicycle Details
    3. Certificates & Passports
    4. Children / Pets
    5. House related & Bills
    6. Job related, Pension & Wage Slips
    7. Legal Power of Attorney & Will & Last testament
    8. Medical & Health
    9. Mortgage & Life Assurance
    10. Purchases, Receipts & Warranties
  • Look carefully at each of your papers and place just under the appropriate label you’ve just made.
  • Repeat this until your unorganised pile has diminished. You now have ten clear areas where your paperwork relates to a common theme.

Top tip 

If you find you’re running out of time and need the surface for another use such as cooking the dinner! Carefully stack each pile on top of each other either inserting a coloured piece of paper / newspaper or silver foil in between each section. This will save you time starting from scratch again the next time you continue.

Step 3 

  • Take one of your ten areas at a time (i.e. Bank, Savings, Portfolio’s & Loans) and repeat Step 1 again, this time paying more attention to the date of the documentation when considering if it needs to be retained.
  • Next, again with each area, sub-divide it further into sub-sections. For example:
    • Bank Account
    • Access Account
    • Joint Account
    • Bank Loan
    • Savings Account
    • Stocks & Shares

Top Tip 

For each sub-section always have the latest date on the top. This makes it easier and quicker for filing new paperwork.

Step 4 

  • Purchase 10 folders. If possible use hardback ones as opposed to the flexible plastic ones. This stops all the folders collapsing like dominoes when you pull one out when filing a new piece of paper.
  • Each of your 10 areas from Step 2 above now becomes the label you write down the spine of each folder.
  • Using either file dividers or plastic wallets with a piece of coloured paper in, now insert your organised papers from that pile into sections into your folder.

Top Tip 

Have an A4 Hole puncher with the pull-out arm set for A4 paper near to your folders. This makes it always quick and simple to file new paperwork straight away as opposed to dumping it and creating a disorganised pile again.

 

  1. Suggested ways forward for storing your household paperwork

We are spoilt really with the different types of storage now available on the market. What I would stress here when deciding what to buy, is to reflect on which system is going to work efficiently, quickly and easiest for you. To some extent it may also depend in the amount of space you have in your home.

These are my top three:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Hard back Ergogrip Binder

+ Hardback durable folders which stand up on their own without needing support on your shelf looking professional and smart. Very quick and easy to file new paperwork into the sub-sections you create. I’ve recently reduced my ten folders down to three – the secret of course being clearly labelled file dividers.

– Quite expensive compared to other folders on the market you can buy.

 

 

  1. Under desk small filing pedestal cabinet

+ Can fit under your desk or at the side blending into your chosen colour scheme as they come in a range of wood and spray paint finishes. They also come with 2 width options which is good if you’re short on space. Paperwork goes in the bottom drawer, with middle draw useful for storing paper / plastic wallets and the top drawer your stationary.

– Can be a disaster if you don’t buy the correct file dividers and label them correctly.

 

  1. Concertina Folder

+ Quickest and easiest for filing new paperwork as it comes in if you have the sections clearly labelled.

– Avoid buying a cheap cardboard one as with the volume of papers going into it there tend to tear. If you file everything alphabetically as some are labels you end up with some sections not able to hold everything within it. Write your own headings on if you go for this.

 

Top Tip 

File new paperwork once dealt with as it arrives if possible. Have a system with bills etc that when a new one goes in the last one comes out and gets either recycled or shredded depending on its content.

 

  1. The Action Needed / to do pile

Some new paperwork as it comes through the post will need acting upon. The danger here is if you file it straight away you forget to action it or if you leave it lying around it gets lost. I simply use a brightly coloured document wallet in put the papers needing action in there – this works really well and as soon as I’ve carried out what was needed I file the paper accordingly or recycle/shred if no longer needed.

 

  1. Passwords 

We all have so many different important passwords for things which we’re meant to be able to memorise. The most important thing if you can’t like me remember them is to never store them in the same place as your paperwork and in a different location. If you do have them written down in a book ensure this is stored somewhere safe and if possible with locked access.

A second place where you can store them is your phone but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you have a tight level of security on it in addition to 2-factor-authenication when switching it on.

The best place for storing passwords is in an electronic online password manager programme such as ‘LastPass.’

 

  1. Becoming paperless 

Many homes are becoming ‘paperless’ and save everything electronically. Some paperwork some as bank statements can be accessed automatically online so that you no longer need paper copies.  Other documentation still comes through the post. The way around this is to invest in a scanner, many printers come with them now and are easy to use.

Top Tip 

If you do decide to become paperless and save all you paperwork electronically create the same folders and sub-folders as you would have done with a physical folder and label each document carefully including the year.

Important 

I would highly recommend you don’t do this if you have not got a high level of security, anti-virus and back up on your machine and it’s storage. If all these are in place you’re away!

 

  1. How Busy Lives! can support you

Busy Lives! was created when I left a busy career which left me time poor and unable to give appropriate priority to what really mattered to me. I have provided services like these for the self-employed, retired and for people with highly demanding careers.

I am happy to help with organisational support including optimising the space and storage you already have in your home.

You can go out to work and return with the chaos sorted! Why not let me make it easier to find what you want straight away throughout your home from that important document to your favourite items of clothing.

This work focuses on the logistical re-organisation of any existing storage used in any part of the home, together with the creation of new storage and filing systems where needed, so that space is optimised, and you can access what you need in a systematic and orderly manner.

Small business owners who work from home may have different needs can help with, such as setting up your home office with a manageable filing system to assist you.

I can help by:

  • Design a system that will work for you with how you store and stay on top of your paperwork.
  • Create clear and effective filing systems for your household utilities and other home documents.
  • Provide the additional option for me to revisit on a quarterly basis to file new papers and maintain your system.
  • Enabling you to become paperless if you have the proper securities in place electronically by scanning, creating and saving your electronic home paperwork systematically on your behalf.
  • Setting an excel document up to track your household income and expenditure on a monthly and annual basis.

 

Find out more about how I can help you with wider aspects of home organisation

Let you help you gain precious time back. Ring Busy Lives! 07565 722 031

Or Email: karen@busylivesnottingham.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organising Your Office

Organising Your Office

Is your office chaotic?
Is your desk so cluttered that you cannot actually see any of it?
Have you got a system, but it just does not work?
It is amazing how much time you can waste looking for that one document or piece of paper. It can also have an effect on your stress and anxiety levels!
We are all equipped with our own skill sets. When it comes to making the most effective use of space. I like to think my spatial awareness is highly developed.

 

Areas covered within this blog post:

  1. Fact find
  2. What areas are working
  3. What areas need to be improved
  4. Action steps to take
  5. Eleven top tips for an organised office
  6. Frequently Asked Questions

When organising an office, sorting one area at a time may work but you may also end up with it just as chaotic! I have always found starting over from scratch to be the best solution. This may be daunting, but this is how I would tackle an home office as pictured below for a client:

The same strategy could also be applied to an office at a business premises.

1. Fact find

  • Do you want to actually work in the office or is it mainly for storing work related items, books and papers?
  • What type of papers and documents do you need to access quickly and most frequently?
  • Are you making effective use of the existing cupboards and draws with how they are organised?
  • Is there anything you are hanging onto which you no longer require?
  • How do you archive paperwork you no longer need?
  • What needs to be accessed and filed so that you can immediately find it next time you need it?What areas are working?

2. What areas are working?

Stand in the middle of the room with cupboards and draws open to evaluate the areas which are working, and you would want to maintain:
  • The top two shelves with books on in the second picture do work. They are zoned together, not needed frequently and are accessible. For a ‘quick win’ they can be quickly re-organised by theme, author or title.
  • Two chairs in the office is a good idea. The main office one for yourself and a second one if you have a client or colleague work alongside you.
  • The three tier tray stackers, box files, calendar and notes board are good ideas and can be organised further to full potential. Think what you need to access most frequently. This needs to be closest to you.
  • A desk drawer next to where you sit is great for accessing and storing the stationary you frequently use and will help you to maintain a tidy desktop.
  • Pictures which inspire and motivate you around the office help create the ambiance and make your office a relaxing environment in which to work.
  • Natural light into the office will also make a difference to your well-being and help reduce strain on your eyes.

3. What areas need to be improved?

Stand in the middle of the room again and decide what isn’t working and needs an improved system:
  • Floor, desk space and shelving above the desk as depicted is not currently working effectively in the pictures and needs tackling.
  • Files and papers left in bags on the floor restrict access both to their contents and making good use of cupboard space.
  • Access to key areas of storage is currently restricted.

4. Action steps to take

  • You ideally need two clear spaces.
  • In the first space stack all the paperwork and folders into one enormous pile. Use the second space to sort the papers and folders into common areas.
  • Clear and empty shelf and cupboard contents you are unhappy with onto this first space. Moving forward this will allow you to create zones for the different areas of your work.
  • Create lever arch folders / box files or storage of your choice with these areas and label clearly with the area they fall into. Pinterest on social media gives lots of great ideas for office storage of all sizes and shapes.
  • Sub-divide the level arch folder/chosen storage using file dividers or labels breaking down further into key areas. (for instance: A marketing folder would then be broken down into strategy plan, blogs, email marketing, flyers, press releases, testimonials, social media…)
  • Clearly label each area.

Eleven Top Tips

  1. Papers you need to access frequently need to be close by but not taking up desk space. The shelving immediately above or next to the computer desk is ideal for this.
  2. Have a clear plastic envelope folder. Put any new papers you don’t have time to file immediately into this, then file them when you have time.
  3. Papers you wish to keep and archived can be boxed and put in closed cupboards out of sight and secure.
  4. Invest in a good quality shredder and printer with a scanner. This can reduce the amount of paper you need to keep. This is also an effective means of security if electronically saved onto a secure cloud.
  5. Don’t hang onto hundreds of business cards. Create either a database or add onto your email contacts page within the same week you have received them if possible.
  6. If you do have an excess of paper, consider purchasing a small office filing cabinet that will fit under your desk. furniture-work.co.uk sell these that you can match to your desk colour.
  7. Have a bin in your office and recycle the paper ever week. This will avoid you creating another pile of paper you need to sort through again.
  8. Tower multi-socket plugs and cable tidy’s can really make a quick difference to the overall look of your office. They also make cleaning the room much easier.
  9. Purchase a good quality hole punch with a slide bar for lining up A4 paper to ensure the holes are consistently in the same place. You will be surprised how much smarter this instantly makes the contents!
  10. Hang your calendars, notice boards and pictures on the wall rather than having them on your desk top.
  11. If you are a person with numerous bags, put coat hooks spaced out on the back of your office door and hang the bags on these.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to organise a home office?

This depends on the client and the office! It usually ranges from half a day to three days depending on the amount that needs both sorting and organising.

Do you label and organise all your clients home offices the same?

No. It is important to create an office environment that will work for them. Some people prefer filing cabinets others concertina files or folders.

Is there another way of sorting everything without starting from one big pile?

You have two options here. You can tackle the room in zones but be careful you don’t end up the same as you were before. Your second option is to let me come and do it for you. Once a clear system is in place it is much easier to maintain as everything has its place.

I’m worried about you throwing away papers that may be important and need to be kept. How do I know this will not happen?

After fact finding about you and your business, any papers which I do not feel you need to hang onto I put into a ‘check’ box as I go along. This gives you the final say and opportunity to check before it is recycled.

Do I need to be there if I employed you to organise my office for me?

I need to have an initial meeting with you as part of my fact find about your business, yourself and how ideally you would like your office to look. After that, I am fine on my own. You can either give me a key to your property or I am happy to arrive before you go out.

How do I know I can trust you with my paperwork and data protection?

This is all set out in my Freelance contract and Terms & Conditions document which you receive in advance of any work taking place. I am also registered with the ICO and fully insured.

How do I book your services?

Either give me a call on 07565722031 or complete the contact me details and I will be in touch. Once we have discussed your needs, I will book you in the first available slot I have.

I would rather be there when you sort my office. Do you work at the weekend?

Yes, I am happy to do that if you prefer or at a time of your choosing.

If this is still a daunting task for you why not let me give you precious time back and do it for you! Think how brilliant you will feel being in an organised office with everything at your fingertips.