What’s New & Free Wednesday?

Organized for Homicide doesn’t go on sale for 99¢ very often, but that’s what’s happening now. But if you want a bargain, please grab a copy soon because it’s only on sale through the weekend. Here’s the link to all the buy links — Click here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring Means Mud…Rooms

I started talking the other day about ways to transition from wintertime living rooms/family rooms to springtime ones. Today I’m taking a sweep at the Mud Room. Yes, the room has mud in its name and its function is to try to trap the dirt and grime before the mess enters the house. However, if your mud room is anything like mine, trapping dirt is just the beginning of the room’s job.

In our mudroom, we also have the washer/dryer, and a utility bathroom people are supposed to use to strip and shower when the filth is too much for the guest or master bathrooms. Clothes go right into the washer this way–at least on principle. But that only happens if everyone does his or her part. Too often, there are piles of everything all around. And the lovely cabinets and counter top I had the builder install so I had room to store clothes that needed to be put away, and fold things neatly on the Formica… Well, I let Life happen for a while and then everyone gets pulled in for another reminder that Mudroom does not equate with Catchall.

But winter and spring are particularly bad times for mud rooms, and there are a number of ways to help stem the tide of whatever rolls into your doors. Spring Cleaning is just one time of annual cleaning for this room. If you’re like me, you won’t expect perfection out of family members, but you won’t accept sheer laziness on their parts, either.

MUD ROOM

1. Like the front door waste basket I mentioned in the living room post, a waste basket tucked into a corner of the mud room saves many a mess. From dryer lint, to junk stuffed in jean pockets because a trash can wasn’t nearby, it’s just easier to get family members to actually throw trash away (instead of stacking it on the counter top or dryer) if there’s ready access to a waste basket that stays permanently in the room. A big plastic hook on the wall by the light switch tend to keep my husband’s keys from wandering off. I also keep a basket on the nearby counter top for hubby to toss his wallet into; another thing he would lose too easily otherwise.

2. If you have room in your mud area, and this is the more favored way to always exit your house, a set of sorting baskets can hold items handy when heading out the door–such as mail to post, videos, and library books–so nothing is forgotten. Large and small bins by the doorway are also great for holding shoes or seasonal items like caps and gloves. While winter accessories like gloves and hats are heavier weight and take up more space than spring caps and gardening gloves, it’s easy to recycle the same bins for whatever season the calendar says. If you don’t have bins available, and don’t want to buy new, look for heavy duty cardboard boxes and cover with wallpaper or contact paper to match the room, or discarded wooden crates you can paint, then stack or line them up near the door. When a few are kept at a low level, even small children can reach their own items and increase their independence.

3. Hooks serve many functions in a mudroom. Besides my hubby’s hook for his keys, we use hooks by the doorway for dog leashes, umbrellas, and whatever seasonal jackets we wear the most.  Use lower hanging stick-on hooks, too, so little ones can hang their own things, and the hooks can be moved up as kids grow.

4. If you prefer eye hooks for keys, screw the eye hooks into a board or picture frame for easy access by a door. This also provides a space on the wood for labeling which key goes on what hook. You can hang small bins this way, too, if you don’t have cabinets in there.

5. If you don’t have a counter top in your mudroom, but you have some room, fit a table–even a small one–into the space. This not only helps in getting laundry folded and sorted, and stacked so others can help mom put it all away, but it also gives a designated space underneath for laundry baskets and hampers and storage bags. Too often, if we don’t “have a place” for something, that something ends up staying in the middle of the floor.

Create an organizing method that works for you, and stick with it for a few weeks. Soon it will be second nature for you, and everyone else will see the beauty of its efficiency. When the weather finally settles into spring temps, make it a family activity to switch out winter clothes for spring, spring for summer, etc., laundering the heavier gear and storing it away until next year. Just a change out like that can make a space look new, as the lighter fabrics and less bulky jackets send out that quiet message that better weather is here!

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]

I’m Blogging on the Run Today

I’m over at Laffeinated Ink talking about quick and easy organization tips to give you ideas for new year decluttering. Love to see you if you have a minute to come by. Here’s the link if you want to read the blog over a coffee break: New Year, New Organization at Laffeinated Ink

Because a Writer Can’t Wear All the Hats, We Find Experts

Fiction writers may be great at creating characters and brainstorming plots, but sometimes real facts get in the way, and that’s when we turn to outside sources. For example, I’m playing around with a darker than usual suspense story right now that is only alive and thriving because I was able to interview an iron worker about his job. You see, I would never be able to walk confidently across the beams that make up the skeleton of a high rise building. Lucky for me, however, I found someone who not only could, but was willing to tell me about it so I could add color and authenticity to my story and main character. My source was male, and my fictional protagonist is female, and when I told him this he gave a great gaffawing laugh and said, “Let me know when the book is published. I can’t wait to show my kids.” He has five children, and I forget how many grandkids. I can’t wait to hear their reaction either.

For my already published works, I’ve picked friends’ brains for efficient ideas that work in their homes, listened when they told me ideas I did naturally were some of the best they’d ever heard, and even bought a professional organizer coffee so she’d tell me some of her stories about closet makeovers. I haven’t used the latter in any of my Organized Mysteries yet, but I’m sure to a few books down the line. I even got the help of an eye doctor to fine tune one of my plot points for Kate McKenzie in Organized for Murder.

But I don’t just focus on main characters. I’ve interviewed interior designers so I could get Valerie’s character correct, even though she’s a secondary character, and–I suppose–a main adversary to Kate and Meg. Since Valerie is a catalyst, I know it’s just as important to keep her and her actions completely real as it is for me to do the same for Kate and Meg. For the latest, Organized for Homicide, I interviewed a longtime interior designer who had segued into house staging after a friend of a friend of a friend connected us. She was halfway across the country from where my office sits, but the telephone is a wonderful thing, and we had a marvelous visit. I fired off my questions what a stager does and why, and she sent her answers a couple of weeks later, and gave me permission to use her exact words in my book. She even told me how she would stage the Collier’s kitchen when I described the room, which is where so much of the action takes place. I thought her generosity of information was very brave, since when I spoke to her my first book wasn’t even out yet, so she had no idea if my cozy mystery would be a good one or not. I’m sure that’s likely why she preferred I didn’t acknowledge her contribution in the book, for as she said, “My corporate clients aren’t so likely to want my name to appear in genre fiction. Please take no offense; it’s simply a business judgement call on my part.” And I didn’t take offense. Why should I when she’d been so generous with the information I really needed?

For my other series, The Bodies of Art Mysteries, I’ve gone back over the art history notes I took in college, and spoken to curators and docents at my two local fine art museums. You can get a ton of information from docents–trust me on this. Docents truly are a museum’s best cheerleaders. I’ve also visited the National Galleries in Washington DC (yes, we have two), the Canadian National Gallery in Vancouver, and the National Gallery in London. Believe me when I say the old chestnut “you’ve seen one museum, you’ve seen ’em all” is the farthest thing from a true statement. Every museum is different–and that goes for more than just those labeled a ‘National Gallery’. And after I get back home and need a refresher on a museum, I need only locate one of the many YouTube videos that other tourists have shot with their cameras and phones, then posted later for the public to see. You’d be surprised at how good some of these videos really are.

The Art Mysteries series gives me ideas on where I want to travel next, and helps me fall into our destinations that much quicker. A few years ago we went to London, and I not only used sights I’d gained from the trip in Counterfeit Conspiracies, and the upcoming Marked Masters, but I’ve been able to relive many of the high points of  the trip by posting on this blog. In previous posts I’ve talked about the Tower of London, Harrods, the Baker Street Underground station, and even one wild trip my husband and I experienced on a double decker bus one crazy afternoon.

So while it would be nice to just sit at my desk and type away all day on my keyboard, coming up with absolutely perfect stories all the time, it doesn’t always happen. Lucky for me, however, there’s always some wonderful expert out there who is happy to give a lowly author a heads up on facts we all truly need to make a story work.

I Guess I Have the Bargain of the Week

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]I have two books coming out soon. The first, Organized for Homicideis another featuring organizational expert Kate McKenzie as chief sleuth and bottle organizer. To coincide with this September 8th release, my publisher has discounted book#1 in the series, Organized for Murder, to 99 cents for a short time in all ebook formats. And the rest of this week I’ll be posting excerpts of the new book, Organized for Homicideso everyone can get a sampling of that story as well.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]In my Organized Mysteries series, Kate and her sidekick, Meg Berman, find that starting a small business sometimes leads to having to do more than your mission statement implies. Sometimes it means figuring out whodunit when someone involved in their business contract gets killed, and law enforcement focuses on the wrong person as the murder suspect. In the first book, Kate is in the hot seat herself, so she is absolutely sure the state police are pursuing the wrong person.

If you already own the first book, thank you, and please come back by in the next few days to read excerpts from the new release. But if you don’t have a copy of Organized for Murder, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to pick up a copy while it’s on sale. I just love a bargain, don’t you? You can click here for the Amazon link to get a Kindle copy or check my Where to Buy My Books page to purchase Organized for Murder in any of the other ebook formats, and where you can also find links to pre-order copies of  Organized for Homicide. All the buy links will be there once it’s available at all booksellers next weekend. I can’t wait to share the excerpts with you this week! Hope to see a lot of you return soon.

One of my favorite things about this series is that I get to share terrific organizing tips I’ve figured out on my own or learned from others. Do you have any favorite things you do every day to keep life organized and running a little smoother? Feel free to tell us in the comments 🙂

 

Save Those Things You Could Use for Years

We get so busy that sometimes we forget to hang on to things we should–things that could help us avoid stressful situation, buy additional items we shouldn’t, or even keep family members from serious medical issues.

Without getting into some of the first arguments hubby and I had, here’s a couple of tips that could save your life and definitely save budget and your relationship.

Anytime you buy anything with a manual or a written warranty, file it. Stapling the receipt that shows where and when it was purchased helps even more, but definitely file the item’s paperwork. Here’s why — it will break. Your spouse may be able to fix it, or you can order replacement parts, or one of you realize the kids shoved a plastic piece of toy where it doesn’t belong because the schematic in the manual doesn’t show that piece of plastic ever being a part of the design. If it can’t be repaired, that written warranty may prove you deserve a free replacement!

Save stress and expense by organizing ALL manuals together. If just starting out, get a three-ring notebook, and either punch holes in your manuals/warranties or buy those clear sleeves at Office Depot to slide the paperwork into, then clip the sleeves into the binder. You can sort these in sections, or not, but the big thing is to have them in one place.

We outgrew the notebook, so I have a portable Rubbermaid file box with a carry-handle that holds letter-sized hanging folders, one for each appliance. I drop each manual/warranty inside. I can easily shift hanging folders so all the paperwork from each room gets grouped together.

Best of all, whenever hubby asks for the millionth time where a manual is, I just point to the box. He never files the manual back, that’s too much to hope, but he does drop the manual back on top of the box when done. That’s a win in my book.

When I mentioned ‘save your life organizing,’ it wasn’t to keep from killing my spouse because he used to drive me nuts about product manuals. What I meant referred to those informational medicine pages received with prescription drugs.

Even if it’s a prescription you never expect to use again, keep the paperwork. When you’re ill, or starting a new prescription, you think you’ve paid attention what your doctor said, but if your symptoms change or become worse you may be having side effects from the very thing supposed to be making you better.

When we receive the written info from the pharmacist, I look it over, then file in a notebook holding all other paperwork like this our family has received.

If an unexpected side effect occurs, I make notes on the paper, and flag it in the notebook. If that family member is prescribed this medication again, we know what to tell the next doctor. Even if nothing bad happens, I keep the paperwork without adding notes to know the medication worked fine. We always think we’re going to remember, but even best intentions can fall short. A quick note now may save future health complications and stress.

Easy Way to Organize Bed Linens

In preparation for the launch of my book ORGANIZED FOR MURDER, my publisher invited me to post a few days of organization tips on her Facebook site. I’m going to repeat those tips here for the next few days, in case some fans missed the FB postings. These are not tips I included in the cozy mystery novel, but ones I like will add to future editions to this series. So you’re getting the scoop now, maybe years ahead of time.

Read on how I–and Kate McKenzie–keep easy order for our families’ bed linens.

What to Do with Linens – 
One of my oldest and most favorite tips is how to have an organized linen closet even if you aren’t a “neat freak.” I told a friend about this a couple of decades ago, when I still had little kids in the house, and my friend still remarks on the idea and has told all her friends, so I know it’s a winner.

Flat sheets and pillowcases can be easy, but folding fitted sheets neatly can try anyone’s patience. Yes, I know there are tips and techniques to do so, but even if I learned, I know I’d never get everyone else in the family to fold the sheet to Bed Bath & Beyond specifications. Worse, unless you carefully stack all the matching pieces together, kids (and spouses) tend to just grab the first right-sized items they can find, leaving matching sheets to not always “wear” evenly as some are used more often than their mates.

To combat these problems, I always just fold matching sheets into roughly the same-sized squares/rectangles and slide them into the matching pillowcases. Makes my linen closet look neat whether I’ve folded the fitted sheet neatly or not, and it’s easy for the youngest (or oldest) family member to grab one pillowcase with everything inside – that’s, of course, if I can con anyone into making a bed so I don’t have to.

This also allows the youngest kids to help without feeling like theirs doesn’t look right. They can fold as best they can, then smash it down. Once everything is in the pillowcase, even smashed down clean sheets it looks the same as everything else, and each group is easy to stack.

Another good thing about this method is that if you have limited linen closet space, you don’t have to use the closet for sheets. When my daughter moved into her first apartment, what passed for a linen closet really needed to be used as a pantry (she didn’t have one of those, either). So, I suggested she do like hotels do when they leave extra pillows and blankets on the upper closet shelves. She used the space up-high, just inside the bedroom closet door, to stack her sheets and blankets. Problem solved and premium closet space in the apartment was then allocated to the kitchen.

One final idea for storing sheets and bed linens is to use the old blanket chest approach. People used to keep chests at the foot of their beds to store quilts and blankets until they needed them on cold nights. You can store bed linens that way, too. If you don’t have room for a chest at the end of the bed, or your family has an old set or unused set of chest of drawers you want to use instead, the larger drawers are perfect for linen storage. Once all the sheets are folded and inserted into their matching pillow cases, it’s a breeze to stack them in the drawer, and later quickly pull out the necessary linens when beds are changed.

Easy!