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March 2020

Spring Cleaning? Find Your Gift Cards!

Spring Cleaning? Find Your Gift Cards! 8553 6048 admin

The annual “spring cleaning” ritual dates back to ancient times, but in America it became popular in the 19th century. Prior to the advent of the vacuum cleaner, March was often the best time for dusting because it was getting warm enough to open windows and doors (but not warm enough for insects to be a problem), and the high winds could carry the dust out of the house. This time of year is also when coal furnaces wouldn’t run and you could wash all the soot from the walls and furniture left by the furnace. For the same reason, modern rural households often use the month of March for cleaning projects involving the use of chemical products which generate fumes.

In addition to this household deep cleanse, many experts recommend organizing the household as part of spring cleaning.  It’s a great way to uncover the unused gift cards you may have stuffed in drawers or the back of cabinets.

“Summer is more fun when you’re organized!  So, fling into Spring,” says Amy Fisher, a.k.a. Ms. Efficiency. “One tip – keep your gift cards (and coupons) in a colorful plastic envelope that can be tucked into the side door of your car or in the glove compartment. That way you’ll always have them when you need them!”

In fact, organizing is an essential component of spring cleaning. As you go room-to-room with your vacuum, mop and dust cloth, focus on going through your closets and drawers, and donate items you know you won’t use again, but other’s might find useful. You can even make it fun by inviting friends for a spring-cleaning swap! So channel your inner Marie Kondo and get ready to clean and stay organized.

Along the way, you’re likely to come across forgotten gift cards, because $3 billion in gift cards are going unspent each year in the U.S. Once you’ve re-discovered your gift cards, you have two choices: use them or organize them in a way that you will use them in the future, and not bury them again.

Early spring is a great time to use your gift cards because you can get winter items at rock-bottom prices in clearance sales. It’s also a perfect moment to refresh your wardrobe and add a few key pieces for spring.

If you choose to hold off on using your gift cards, make a plan for when and how you will use them in the future.  For example, if you know you’re going camping in June, make a note on your calendar to use your gift card when you stock up on gear in the weeks before you leave on your trip.

Did you find a dining gift card or one for a special experience? Consider which of your friends of family members has a birthday coming up and make a plan to use your gift card to celebrate.

The best part of spring cleaning is getting a fresh start. Make it a moment to take a fresh look at your gift cards too!

Winter Clearance Sales are Coming – Use Your Gift Cards!

Winter Clearance Sales are Coming – Use Your Gift Cards! 8553 6048 admin

The best thing about getting gift cards is using them. But it’s hard to know when is the “best” time to use them. Some people like to use them to treat themselves for a special occasion, others use them as a pick-me-up on an otherwise hum-drum day. However, for thrifty consumers, timing the use of gift cards strategically helps maximize their dollar amount.

According to the National Retail Federation, consumers planned to purchase three or four gift cards on average at an average $47 per card for a total of $27.5 billion this past holiday season.  Earlier research indicated that 42% of people who receive gift cards during the holiday season say they watch for a good sale or promotion to maximize the value of their gift cards.

Stores across the country hold their last call winter-clearance sales, such as Saks Off Fifth, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Express and rue21. It’s a great time to find rock bottom prices on merchandise that didn’t sell during post-holiday sales.  It’s also the perfect time to start thinking about donating the items in your closet that you didn’t wear last winter – or wore out and adding new items that you’ll enjoy next winter.

In addition to winter clearance clothes and accessories, other items that traditionally go on sale in March include:

  • air conditioners
  • washers and dryers
  • garden supplies
  • outdoor winter sports gear
  • luggage
  • china

There are other ways to be a smart sales shopper. Among the tips they offer online, Consumer Reports recommends these top savvy strategies:

  • “The Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of your favorite retailers are a great way to find out about deals and promotions. Also check their Instagram and Pinterest accounts. Retailers will often reward customers who like or follow them with special alerts to Cyber Monday discounts and incentives. And, of course, texts, tweets, and social media posts are an easy way to share shopping intel with your friends.”
  • “Sign up for loyalty programs. Stores often have loyalty programs that offer sales and promotions to their members first, then let them earn rewards on what they buy. Signing up for Cyber Monday shopping alerts will get you the early word on promotions, coupons, and discounts. In some cases, you can even find out whether the products you want are in stock or eligible to buy online and pick up at the store, which can save you on shipping.”
  • “If you’re using a retailer or shopping app, make sure it comes from one of the major app stores, such as the Apple App Store or Google Play. And follow these additional tips to make sure it’s not a fake app created by scammers.”

 

Once you’ve gotten the most bang for your gift card bucks, check around your drawers, wallets and car to see if you’ve forgotten one. With any luck, you’ll find a restaurant gift card you can use to celebrate all your savings!

Clocks Spring Ahead! Wake Up and Use the Extra Hour Wisely

Clocks Spring Ahead! Wake Up and Use the Extra Hour Wisely 8553 6048 admin

The second Sunday of March each year is more than just an average weekend day.  It’s the date that daylight savings time begins – and gives us an extra hour of time. One of the most popular things to do with that hour is sleep (more on that later).  However, the extra hour can be spent doing something that will reap even bigger rewards. Why not get up at your usual time and use the bonus sixty mintues to organize your gift cards?

Chances are, you’re one of the xx people who received a gift card over the holidays. What you don’t want to happen to those gift cards is to have them become part of the $3 billion in gift cards that go unspent each year in the U.S.

Once you’ve had your coffee and breakfast, go on a gift card treasure hunt around the house. Look in all the drawers, desks, files, wallets, purses and gym bags for gift cards you may have forgotten about.  Lay them out on a table and grab your calendar and a permanent marker.

Schedule a “use on” date for each gift card, mark the date on the card, and make a notation to use that gift card on your calendar. It may be as simple as deciding to use a restaurant gift card to take a friend out on their birthday. Or, knowing that you will be near your favorite mall on a particular day.  Once you’ve made a plan to use your gift card, put them in a place where you’ll have them readily available. If you usually drive, your car’s glove compartment is a good option. Another great spot is in a see-through bag tacked to your front door.

Once you’ve gotten your gift cards together and organized and you still feel robbed of that extra hour of sleep, make sure you’re getting the best quality sleep on daylight savings night – and every night – by following these tips from psychotherapist  Jonathan Alpert, author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.

1) Get Daily Exercise:  improved blood flow, which can be gained through aerobic exercise, increases your drive for sleep.

2)  Clear Your Mind:  Writing down your daily to-do list the night before helps eliminate the chronic worry that so often keeps people up at night.

3)  Relax and Get Ready:  Meditation and exercises for muscle relaxation have helped many of my patients quiet their minds to prepare for sleep.

Always getting a good night’s sleep will make forgoing that extra daylight savings time hour less important – use that hour to organize your gift cards!

Get Organized in 2020

Get Organized in 2020 8553 6048 admin

As is often the custom, many people make a New Year’s resolution to be more organized. As a professional organizer, I totally understand the desire to get organized.

There are so many benefits.

Benefits

When you are organized, you know where your things are and where to put them back.

When you are organized, you save money. It’s true! You know what you have so you don’t spend money on things that are already in your closet, on your shelves, or in the cupboard. You can avoid buying duplicates. If you have gift cards, you know where they are and can easily access them when you’re ready to use them.

When you are organized, you have less stress at home. You may have stress at work or outside the home but once you get home, you can relax. If there is a mess, it’s easy to tidy up. If things are out of place, it’s no big deal to put them back where they belong because there is a place for everything, and everything is in its place.

How do you arrive at this state of organized bliss?

Decide on a Zone

Begin by deciding on an area or zone on which to focus. Typically, I ask clients to focus on the zone that is bothering them the most. For the purpose of this blog, let’s select the kitchen.

Start by setting your timer for a short period of time. Fifteen minutes to half an hour is probably a good amount of time to begin with. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself by thinking you have to start and finish the entire kitchen in a day.

Remove anything that doesn’t belong in the kitchen. Put these things in a bag or box to deal with when you’re finished for the day. You don’t want to take time out of your organizing session to figure out what to do with them or where to put these things as you find them.

Pick a zone within the zone. You may decide to begin by clearing off the counters, leaving only the things that support the function of the kitchen. Remember put the things that don’t belong in a bag or a box to be delivered when the timer goes off. It’s important to note that your kitchen counter may serve many different functions.

It is probably a food prep station and a place to keep small appliances like your coffee machine or toaster oven.  It may also be a drop zone for the mail. This is fine as long as you have a place to put the mail and that you have a plan for sorting it.

Work your way through the drawers, cupboards, and shelves one at a time. You’ll be amazed by how much you can do in 15 to 30 minutes when you focus on one small area at a time.

Small, incremental improvements are the easiest to maintain.

Inform the others

If you are part of a family, they will need a tour of what you have done and guidance so they can help you maintain the organization. Let them know that the kitchen counters are no longer the place to deposit backpacks, homework, toys or other odds and ends.

Maintain the kitchen before tackling your next zone.

Practice these skills mindfully and before long you’ll discover that putting things away is a habit, part of your routine.

Chores

Some chores go in cycles. Thinking about them this way can help you as you work towards being more organized. Chores like laundry and dishes are good examples.

For instance, you put the laundry in the washer, then the dryer (or hang the laundry to dry), fold the clothes and put them away or hang them in the closet and the cycle is complete.

Washing dishes has a similar cycle. You use the cooking tools and dishes, wash them or put them in the dishwasher, either dry them or remove the items from the dishwasher, and put them away.

Everything ends with putting things away.

Mail

Even the mail has a cycle. It comes into our home many times digitally. We read it and then we deal with it. We can delete the digital mail, let it sit in our inbox, file it digitally or print it. You know that more mail is going to come in every day. It is a good idea to keep the number of emails that linger in your inbox to a minimum.

Paper mail we can recycle, shred, or file.

Having a good user-friendly filing system is important.

I mentioned that quite often the kitchen counter is a collection spot for paper mail. It has always been that way for me and for many of my clients.

Have a basket in the kitchen in which to deposit paper mail. Make a date with yourself to go through the basket at least once a week. This will keep the basket from overflowing and will keep you current.

Gift Cards

Do you get gift cards in the mail? I have often sent gift cards to family members and I regularly come across them when helping my clients organize their papers. Letting gift cards linger in a basket or on a desk is wasting money.

Keep your gift cards together in a clear plastic envelope or a small baggie.

When you are making your shopping list double check this baggie or envelope to see if you have a gift card or a reward card from any of the stores at which you are planning to shop.

Take the gift card out of the baggie or envelope and put it either with your list or in your wallet so that you remember to use it.

Give yourself the gift of getting organized this year so that you save time, and money (use those gift cards) and reduce stress. Where and when will you start? Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people affected by ADD, Hoarding, and chronic disorganization.