Organizing Cheap and Easy — Part 1

Spring has officially hit the calendar, and that means we’re all ready to dig out from more than just snow under the windows.

While some people like to take their Spring Cleaning & Organizing in one big bite, I prefer little nibbles myself, so I don’t get off-track on all of the other to-do lists I have every day. If’ you’re like me, I offer my room-by-room spring cleaning and organizing ideas–but best of all, I don’t bring in anything new and costly to do the job. Look around the house and find amazing ways to re-purpose items for organization by thinking outside of the box.

I’m starting today with the Living Room with a Baker’s Dozen of tips, and I will be moving through other rooms in the house throughout the next week or so. So come back in the days ahead, and leave any springtime ideas you already use, or new ones you might think of from reading my tips ūüôā

LIVING ROOM/FAMILY ROOM/GREAT ROOM — The place of community living

Yes, the whole family uses the living room or great room, and this room always holds way more than it should. Once spring temps arrive it’s time to put away all those comfy sofa blankets and afghans we’ve used all winter. Maybe you have a closet, or use the huge Ziploc bags like me to stow them under beds. They can also be packed away in large trash bags, with the extra air all mushed out and the openings taped up to be stacked neatly somewhere. More things to do as spring arrives–

1. Wipe off the fan blades of the ceiling fan, and reverse the rotation if you had them set for winter to push down the heat that gathered near the ceiling. We live in a summer hot zone, so we want the cool breeze the fans create, but prefer the warmer air stay up at the ceiling where the spiders can enjoy it. (No, I’m not a fan of spiders, either)

2. Keep a small waste basket right by the front door (or whichever door you use the most) to throw away junk mail and unnecessary flyers before they migrate into the living room.

3. Pull out all the furniture to find the favorite pet toy, missing library book, or lost DVD. Also check between the sofa cushions for errant action figures and the wandering universal remote. A basket that stays on a table or bookshelf is great to hold items like this. Another basket or box in a corner of the room can hold all the pet toys and small children’s toys like extra Legos. For the remotes, my favorite organizing tip for those is to stick one side of a Velcro piece to the remote, and the corresponding side to the item the remote controls. Then, the remote easily stays stuck to its video or audio device until you pull to remove it again.

4.¬†Until the world goes truly wireless, all those tangled cables behind entertainment centers are here to stay. You can buy a cable caddy that sticks onto the entertainment stand or table top, but if you don’t want to go to that expense, you can cover an empty paper towel roll with wallpaper or contact paper that coordinates with your room, and run all the cables through the tube (or two) to keep things looking a bit nicer and better organized.

5. A bin or basket on the coffee table can hold small items, cards, game pieces, pens, or anything that might get lost or broken if just left on the surface. Keep a box of coasters handy in the room to help make using them regularly a bit easier, too.

6. Keep flat surfaces clutter free. We humans tend to toss all papers in the “kitchen or family area,” and often find them missing when we really need them. Designate a small table or desk for the area as the place for mail and any important papers that need to be signed and returned. A two drawer lateral file cabinet will work well for this, too, if you have a place in the room to store it. In our house, I have two upholstered cubes in the family room that can be used for extra seating, or if you lift the lid and turn it over, it becomes a handle occasional table to set a cup of tea and a book. But best of all, the lower inside is one big storage area. I use one cube near my favorite comfy chair to hold all the yarn for my current knitting project, and with the top on the cube everything stays neat and safe from the cat. The other cube I put near hubby’s reading chair, and that’s the one that holds mail as it comes in, and files we need for any kind of current household project. He also keeps magazines and catalogs filed there when he’s on the hunt for something new and wants to check out all of his options before purchase.

7. In the same vein, a lot of small photo frames tend to clutter a family room and makes the space sometimes go from “wonderful” to a little too much “wow” when there are more than a room can comfortably hold. Take back your table tops and walls by reducing the number of framed photos you display every day. You don’t have to take them all down, just think about displaying in a new way–like photo albums and collage frames, or digital photo frames that store hundreds of digital photos and rotate them constantly. For storing in photo boxes, organize by date or occasion and keep in a central location.

8. For “good work” pages that come home with your children and end up tossed someplace in the living room, assign a drawer just to save those items. Drawer space in the living room often works well. When the drawer starts getting full you can have a family night to decide which pages need to be saved and archived in a notebook or child’s memory box.

9. One of the saving graces in my household has always been Post-It Notes and Post-It Removable hooks. Both items can go on the wall anywhere you need to leave a list or note, or hang a small item, and are equally easy to remove when you need the wall space back in pristine condition.

10.¬†I remember when I thought toys were going to take over every extra bit of floor space. Designate one less-used corner of a family as the toy area and transform into a mini kid zone. Yes, kids can play in their rooms, but they want to spend time with the family too. With a movable chalk board, a small bookcase and a kids’ table, toy clutter tends to stay contained and in its place. If you need a little more toy storage look at rolling bin options or cover storage boxes with pretty paper. In our house, this area morphed into our family game area as everyone got older, with an adult game table replacing the mini kids version.

11. Space behind the soft is great for storing extra blankets and pillows. We stick an extra flashlight there, too, so everyone knows where they can grab some emergency light in case of spring storms. If you use a sofa table behind yours, see if you can find an attractive box or trunk to store on the floor between the table legs for an added storage option.

12. Our family is moving away from DVDs and videos and streaming more entertainment. But if you have movies and shows you prefer to keep on hand, take a half-hour or so to sort through your collection. Make two piles: one for keeping, and another for either donating or selling online. At first we didn’t think we wanted to give any up either, but as we sorted through them each year, more and more were placed in the re-purpose/recycle pile, as new options for watching our favorites became available online.

13. Collectibles can take over a room and not only commandeer space, but create more dusting work as well. Large collections are revealed best when a smaller number of  pieces are displayed at one time. Use smaller groupings, or shadow boxes, and rotate the items to keep the look fresh. Think about doing what museums do, and how exciting it is for people to come next time and see new things, even in a permanent display. Put half of a collection in a sturdy box in a closet, and keep the other half out for viewing. Then rotate different favorite items throughout the year.

Finally, one last story. This isn’t really a tip, but it might give you some ideas on saving memories. When we built our house, my daughter was only five at the time, and while we were clearing up some of the building-mess in another room, she used her sidewalk chalk to draw a gorgeous scene on the yet un-carpeted cement floor of the family room. When we saw what she was doing the drawing was more than halfway complete, and neither my husband nor I wanted to stop her and erase the drawing. So hubby found some sealer to put over the drawing, and to this day it sits under the pad and carpet in that room. It’s just a kind of secret family thing we all know is there, and we all smile telling the story each time the carpeting is replaced ūüôā

 

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We’re Going Into the Home Stretch…

Duomo complex with Giotto bell towerDo you know how writer’s whine? Well, let me tell you I’ve been happily whining up a storm lately because I’m having such a difficult time staying focused. But all the promos are starting on¬†Marked Masters,¬†the second book in my Bodies of Art Mysteries, and that makes me think of Florida and Florence, Italy–the two places Laurel & Jack focus their own attention in the book. The picture at the right shows the Duomo complex in Florence (you can see a hint of the exquisite dome on the far right edge) and the Giotto Bell Tower in the background plays a key role in the book. So… I’m having some difficulty staying in one point of view each day, and my cozy deadline is looming, and I have to keep reminding myself to get out of Laurel’s smart mouth POV and back into Kate’s much nicer and more dedicated one. However,¬†Girl and Her Ebooks¬†did a lovely chapter excerpt of Marked Masters¬†over Valentine’s weekend, along with the synopsis of the novel,¬†and readers who received pre-release ARCs of the book have already started posting¬†reviews of Marked Masters on Goodreads. So, I alternate between whining and grinning all day every day. And writing, of course–I seem to never stop writing ūüôā

Giotto bell towerThe fun will continue in the next couple of weeks. As I posted here last week, I did a giveaway of a Bodies of Art large canvas tote bag at Laffeinated Ink on Wednesday, and plan to do another very soon. I’ll also be giving away copies of the book in March when I guest post at a couple of blogs, so stay tuned for information on those prize ops–I promise to post all the information here in case any readers want to enter. And if you haven’t yet subscribed to my newsletter, there will be more giveaway tie-ins offered with the next issues, so feel free to¬†sign-up for my newsletter here.

I’ve also been putting some finishing touches on a short story that features Laurel Beacham doing one of her “pro bono” retrievals. I’ll post when it’s available for viewing soon. It will be on the Short Stories page whose link is along the banner at the top of this page, and which currently contains the link to my Organized Christmas story.

Moonrise over the Arno in FlorenceHope your February is going well, and you’re staying warm. We just had four inches of snow last night, and expect another couple overnight tonight. So my agenda for the next few days is to stay in, keep dry, and don’t stop writing. And to view wonderful pics like these of Florence to take my mind off the cold. If things get too difficult, I’ll have a little wine with my whine. Sounds like a good plan, right?¬†Florence at Night

In the meantime, here are a few more wonderful shots of Florence that tie in with the events in¬†Marked Masters.¬†Hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Now, I have to get back to my Organized camping trip. I can almost taste the s’mores–David by Michelangelowhen I’m not helping Kate solve the murder of course! ¬†Buonasera!

To purchase Marked Master in print or ebook, you can find the links on my Where to Buy My Books page. The book will be released in all bookseller outlets March 2nd.Florence at Night

 

More Great Reads, Contest Fun and Prizes

A lot of great new contests and giveaways have started up lately, and this is the third blog I’ve written on this subject in the past week. If you didn’t read the other blog posts, scroll down to look them over as some of the contests mentioned have long entry periods, and the book blogs mentioned have new contests all the time. But in the spirit of new opportunity, here are a few more sites to check out, and these links are the kind that have giveaways pretty regularly.

Dru’s Book Musing¬†is a great reading site that offers unique and fun info for fans, and giveaways as well. Features include A Day in the Life, that lets secondary characters in books take the spotlight to reveal more of their personality and voice, cover reveals of new and upcoming books, book reviews, and giveaways provided by authors and/or publishers. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on the blog page–but these contests are quick to close, only open until noon the following day, so move quickly to get your chance at a favorite author’s book.

Shelley Giusti ¬†started her blog almost two years ago, and she’s ready to celebrate. She posted first thing Monday, March 10th saying, “I will be promoting this early — On Saturday¬†Lorna Barrett¬†will be hosting the Book Trivia on my blog. Guess what book she is talking about and you will receive an ARC copy of the book!” ¬†Here’s the link to that blog if you want to check it out ¬†www.shelleyreadsandreviews.blogspot.com¬†Shelly also schedules a¬†Saturday Book Trivia, with last week’s contest hosted by Joyce Lavene. Don’t miss it!

 

There are a number of other bloggers who host blog tours, and not only give readers opportunities to learn more about favorite authors and their books but also win new books by those favorite authors. Most of the contests are quick, however, to get your entry in as soon as you can, and the best way to do that is to subscribe to your favorite blogs. Here are a few more to check out:

Cozy Up with Kathy¬†,¬†Melina’s Book Blog¬†,¬†Thoughts in Progress¬†, and¬†Socrates Book Review

And don’t forget group author pages like¬†The Stiletto Gang¬†and¬†Jungle Red Writers. You win with great blogs to read several times each week, plus know right away when one or more of the authors decides to run a new contest for fans.

Happy Reading!

Why Two is Better Than One–And a Giveaway

I’m over at Lori’s Reading Corner today, blogging about books and authors that shaped the way I write. I also give the evidence behind the title I used for this brief post. So if you’re curious, or have a couple of minutes to spare, check out the blog post at Lori’s. There’s a Book Giveaway, too–a copy of ORGANIZED FOR MURDER–so be sure to leave a comment at the Lori’s Reading Corner blog to enter!

Here’s the link to the blog:
http://www.lorisreadingcorner.com/2014/03/guest-post-with-giveaway-organized-for-murder-by-ritter-ames.html

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Launch Week of Organized for Murder

It’s been several days since I’ve had time to blog on organization tips because I’ve been blogging so much on the new release. Anyone reading this who purchased ORGANIZED FOR MURDER,¬†read & reviewed it, and/or blogged about it to share the news,¬†thank you so very much.¬†I cannot begin to put into words how much it has meant to see people like this book and help spread the news about it.

Early reviews and sales have been overwhelming. More than a hundred 5-star reviews on the online bookseller sites, and the book hit #1 on Amazon’s Cozy Crafts & Hobbies category on the first day. Right now, it’s still #4 as an Amazon Cozy, #1 on their Top Rated books, #2 in Hot New Cozy Releases, and #13 for Women Sleuths, which means that my amateur sleuth is measured against the popularity of all the other women sleuths in all the different categories of the mystery genre–what a thrill! On the B&N side, my book is currently #23 in Bestselling Mysteries–what a thrill to have the first book in my new series appear on the first page of that list! And while this is what I could call a very American cozy mystery, it’s become a pretty good hit in the U.K. as well, and by yesterday, which was Day 2 there on sales, it reach #26 in Bestselling Mystery category, and remains #1 on the U.K. Bestseller list for Cozy Crafts & Hobbies, just like the U.S.Image

While I meant to give a few more organization tips this week, the best tip I can offer today is to suggest if you have any interest in what I humbly call a good mystery, and/or like to read about ways to make your life more organized–but prefer to get the information in the midst of an intriguing cozy crime story instead of a conventional How-To book–please consider buying ORGANIZED FOR MURDER.¬†Until the end of this week, it’s available in all ebook versions at the bargain price of 99 cents, but that price will go up to the regular pricing soon. So, if you want to save some money, get a well-reviewed mystery, and gain some organization tips along the way, please consider purchasing a copy of¬†ORGANIZED FOR MURDER¬†

It’s available in print copy, too, at the Barnes & Noble site and the Amazon U.K. website, but the sale price is only for the ebook version. You can find all the easy links to buy by clicking on my page ‘Here’s Where To Buy My Books’ that you see listed just under the banner at the top of this page.

Kitchen Organization Tips

Today is Day 2 of my mini-blog tour at my publisher’s FB page (Thank you,¬†Gemma Halliday), and I’m offering a couple of new tips I use every day that not only keeps my kitchen organized, but also helps me save on my food budget. Look for the post in the left column of the page, and be sure to click ‘See More’ at the end of Gemma’s intro paragraph to see the rest of the blog. If you didn’t read the tips posted yesterday and the day before, scroll down that same column and you’ll find those posts, too! Happy Saturday, everyone!¬†https://www.facebook.com/gemmahallidayauthorPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]

All of these tips, of course, are to get you thinking about buying my newest mystery novel¬†ORGANIZED FOR MURDER¬†which will be released in all ebook formats and print on Monday, Feb. 24th. The sale links go live on Monday, and I’ll post all bookseller links here. In the meantime, come back tomorrow for the last day of my mini-blog, and learn a couple of other organization tips you won’t find in the book.

One final note: to tie to the Monday, Feb. 24th release for¬†ORGANIZED FOR MURDER,¬†my publisher has set the price on the first book in my other series¬†COUNTERFEIT CONSPIRACIES¬†at a one-week bargain price of 99 cents‚Äďbut today is the LAST DAY.¬†COUNTERFEIT CONSPIRACIES¬†is specially priced across all ebook formats at all online booksellers–BUT IT GOES BACK TO REGULAR PRICING TOMORROW! Click the page above marked¬†Here‚Äôs Where To Buy My Books¬†to find clickable links.¬†:)

Posting Organization Tips Today on My Publisher’s Facebook Page

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]My wonderful publisher, Gemma Halliday, is offering me her Facebook page for the next three days to post even more great organization tips. How cool is that? You don’t have to be her Facebook friend to see the tips (though you can be), just go to her Author page at https://www.facebook.com/gemmahallidayauthor and look for the cover of my book near the top of the left hand column. Also, be sure to click on the blue ‘See More’ link near the end of her introductory paragraph to bring up my organization tips.

Enjoy! More tips will be posted on her FB page tomorrow and Saturday, and here on this site you can still read the Chapter One excerpt on my post for yesterday.

One final note: to tie to the Monday, Feb. 24th release for¬†ORGANIZED FOR MURDER,¬†my publisher has set the price on the first book in my other series¬†COUNTERFEIT CONSPIRACIES¬†at a one-week bargain price of 99 cents–but that special price only lasts through tomorrow, Feb. 22nd. COUNTERFEIT CONSPIRACIES¬†is specially priced across all ebook formats at all online booksellers. Click the page above marked Here‚Äôs Where To Buy My Books to find clickable links.¬†:)