Kickstart Your Cleaning in January: A New Year’s Hangover Cure

New Year’s Eve is the most idealized of all the holidays. When you think about New Year’s Eve, you probably think of a glamorous party where the champagne is flowing and there are kisses at midnight. And then the next morning brings you a fresh start where you can get to work on keeping those resolutions that you’re actually going to keep this year.

But in reality, New Year’s Eve is all about stressing out over what you’re going to do that evening, finally picking an event that seems like it will require the least amount of effort, somehow missing the countdown to midnight (again), and waking up the next morning with smeared makeup and a pounding headache. Oh yes, and your resolutions are the same ones you made last year, since you never got around to doing them anyway.

It’s time for us to stop putting January 1st on a pedestal. Any day can be the first day of something new. And if you’ve been meaning to clean out your place, today is as good a day as any to get started!

You shouldn’t save your living-space overhaul for some arbitrary date on the calendar. In fact, you shouldn’t try to do it all on just one day in the first place. The truth is, you should be cleaning every day. I know, I know, at first glance that idea totally sucks. But let me finish. I didn’t say you had to clean the whole place every day, did I? You see, people think small homes are easier to clean, and in a way they are. But clutter piles up FAST in a small space, and there are fewer places to hide it. That means you’re not going to get away with waiting for the seasons to change before you break out the ol’ broom and dustpan. And so, a little bit of cleaning every day

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goes a long way.

There are lots of ways to make this process less painful. First, you should designate a time of day when you feel the most productive cleaning-wise. Me? I like to clean up after I’ve gotten ready in the morning and just before I leave for the office. It lets me dawdle a little with a legit excuse!

Next, designate different areas of your home to be cleaned on different days. Maybe you throw your laundry in the wash on Monday, on Tuesday you wipe down the bathroom, and on Wednesday you clean up all of those dishes you’ve been “meaning to do.” One thing I will say, though: you should make your bed every day. A neat, tucked-in bed is a simple thing that mobile casino helps your place feel cleaner in an instant. And as an added bonus, it also prevents you from climbing back into bed and taking a procrasti-nap instead of finishing your tasks.

Motivate yourself by creating a “cleaning playlist.” Figure out about how long it takes you to clean each area, and then create a playlist of songs of that same duration. By the time you hear Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean,” your room should be feeling the same way.

But even after you’ve broken down your list of chores into manageable chunks, you still might find yourself dragging your feet about doing those jobs that you reeeaaaally don’t want to do. Well then, you should ask yourself: Why? Why don’t I like doing that particular chore? I used to hate doing the dishes with a passion. I’d avoid it for as long as I could, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Then I realized it was because of my fingers! My hands would get really dried out after scrubbing a sink full of dishes in hot soapy water, and subconsciously I kept avoiding the cause of my discomfort. But then I bought myself a pair of rubber dish gloves, and—voilà!—doing the dishes wasn’t such a bad a job after all. (Folding the laundry is now at the bottom of my list . . . )

I hope these ideas help kickstart your new cleaning routine. It might not cause you to have a sweeping romance with your broom (pun intended), but at the very least you’ll soon

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The 3 Best Indoor Activities for Surviving the D.C. Snowmageddon

Man, it seems like there is snow everywhere right now. That’s especially true in the Washington D.C. area where a brutal cold spell was the dessert that beleaguered residents received after their main course of a whole heap of ski powder. It’s enough to make a person want to stay inside

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and be lazy, just like Congress does every single day. Lazing about gets old pretty quickly, though — and then what? Well, maybe you should consider …

Purging Your Closet

What better way to pass the time than to rip your closet a new one? You know you’ve been meaning to do it. You know it, and we know it too. Closets are havens of clutter — catchalls for unholy amounts of stuff. It’s guaranteed there are clothes in there you haven’t worn since the Bush Administration. Take some time to reclaim the space that’s rightfully yours.

Purging is a pretty easy task, but here are some ideas that might help you stay focused: first, choose a charity to donate your clothes to. This will help motivate you once you start second-guessing which clothes to keep and which clothes to give away. When you know someone will actually benefit from your purge, it will be oh-so-much easier to cull those outfits you haven’t worn in a year or more. Another helpful tip is to organize your shoes the way you buy them in the shoebox. You know — head to toe? That’ll create more space than you might think. And finally, get yourself some nice wooden hangers for all of your hanging clothes. You’d be shocked what a difference that makes.

And if you just can’t bear to part with your parachute pants (because you KNOW they’re coming back in style), store them.

Organizing Your Digital Life

These days our cyber selves can be even more cluttered than our real-life selves. If it’s too brutal to go outside and you’ve already purged all of your closets, consider purging your digital devices. I’m talking about organizing your inboxes, people. You won’t believe the mental space you’ll free up by bringing your inbox down to zero.

Sound impossible? It’s not. I keep my inbox at zero, and Mashable has some quality tips on how to keep yours at zero too. The real secret for me

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is folders — obvious folders. Make folders for the major categories of emails you receive (whether it’s based on projects or events or whatever), categories you won’t have to think twice about before you drag an email to its appropriate place. Once you’ve read the email and responded to it, stash it away. End every day with your inbox at zero.

Trust me, your life is about to get so much better.

Playing a Rousing Game of Couch Cushion Scavenger Hunt

We lose a lot of things in the creases and folds of our couches. Consider using this inclement weather downtime to dig in there and see what you can find. For maximum fun, turn it into a scavenger hunt and use this handy scoring chart:

A comb = 0 points (there’s one in every couch — too easy)

A dollar or more in change = 1 point

Five dollars or more in change = 5 points

Paper money in any denomination = 10 points

Gold bars = the current market value, except you get that amount in points instead of money (bummer)

The remote control you assumed was lost forever, so you got a replacement from the cable company; now you have two remote controls like some kind of billionaire = 20 points

People, plants or animals = 100 points each

Nothing = 1,000,000 points (and my sincerest congrats on maintaining such a pristine sitting area)

Make the most of these wintery winter months by purging your closet(s), purging your inbox, purging your couch. Trust me: It will be time well spent, and it will improve your life even after the snow melts and you return to your normal, everyday existence. Make this snowmageddon your best snowmaggeon yet.


4 Ways to Make Washington D.C. a Not-Impossible Place to Live

Rent is too damn high. It’s true in New York. It’s true in California. And as sure as that mole on Barack Obama’s face, it’s true in Washington D.C. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is, at last count, $2,190. That’s dollars, people, not yen. With prices like that, the only way to survive in this town, unless you happen to live in the

White House, is to get creative.

So let’s talk creative. How can you cut down on your living expenses to make D.C. a viable, livable, won’t-make-you-homeless hometown? Here are four ways to make D.C. work for your budget:

Get yourself some roomies. You don’t want them, but you’re probably gonna need at least one—if not seven. (Hey, it worked for Snow White.) While roommates might not be your first choice, there are a few things you can do to improve your odds of picking a real tooth-sparkling winner. Like, for example, asking any potential candidates some probing questions. Here are some options to consider when interviewing a potential candidate:

• What temperature do you set the thermostat on?
• What are you allergic to?
• Do you have other friends besides me?
• Do you see yourself talking to me a lot?
• Do you get emotional after 9 p.m.?
• What’s your favorite Christmas movie? (Hint: Die Hard)

I won’t insult your intelligence by doing the basic math for you, but adding just two roommates can lower your rent into a range that’s known throughout the rest of the country as “reasonable.” We’re talking roughly $700 here, which would hypothetically leave you $1,000+ every month to do things that are currently out of the question—like “invest” and “save” and “buy groceries.”

Make large, simple meals. Thanks to your new roomies you’re saving a crap-ton of money now, but don’t get too carried away with

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your grocery shopping. Financial experts will tell you that food should account for 5 to 15 percent of your income. And we’re not going to argue with them. But since you live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, it’s probably best to err on the cheap side.

Here’s how: Buy frozen foods in bulk.

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We’re not talking about TV dinners and microwave burritos —you can still eat well even though you’re eating cheap. Here’s an easy formula to follow: Make sure every meal contains (1) a vegetable, (2) a legume, and (3) a lean meat (like chicken or fish or something). Then make enough of the dish to last you a few days. For instance, you might make a pot of turkey chili over the weekend and freeze it for meals during the week. (Just make sure you hide it from your new roomies.) Or check out this link for some great homemade meal ideas that cost less than under $3. (Warning: That link is going to take you to Better Homes and Gardens, so don’t click on it until you’re sure you’re alone. You have a reputation to protect.)

Also, if you’re willing to spend a little extra cash—and support your local economy—you can check out the local DC farmer’s markets, most of which are open all year long. Eastern Market is our favorite but visit a few and find yours!

Bundle up. During the winter, keep your monthly expenses in check by leaving your thermostat set low. If you bundle up, you can save a bundle. Don a beanie and save some greenie, etc. You can also pick up some low-cost weather proofing supplies from Home Depot that will keep you warm on the cheap (for example, this inexpensive draft stopper will keep that sweet, sweet heat from slipping out from under your door). And as an added bonus: when you cook your own meals, your oven will heat your apartment for you!

Start Slugging. You can save a ton of money by slugging, DC’s very own (and mostly safe) version of hitchhiking. Slugging, done properly, is when a car carrying two upstanding citizens picks up a third upstanding citizen — usually a complete stranger — to meet the 3 passenger HOV requirements. You might have heard it called “instant carpooling” or “casual carpooling,” but either way, it’s a win/win. And here’s the best part: It’s free. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Actually slugging has been around almost 40 years. Check out more here: www.slug-lines.com.

Living in D.C. is not for the faint of heart. But with a little creativity, a couple of roommates, some Better Homes and Gardens recipes, and perhaps a fur-lined balaclava, you can truly make this city your beeyotch.


So, You’ve Alienated Your Neighbors—Now What?

No matter how selective you are in choosing a place to live, you rarely get to choose your neighbors. This

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can be especially problematic in the tighter living quarters of urban environments, where mundane sounds that would barely warrant a notice in roomier spots can turn into borderline noise pollution pretty easily.

What’s worse is that sometimes you can become that raucous neighbor without even realizing it. Maybe your dog barks incessantly every time you leave the room. Perhaps you outfitted your dorm-sized abode with so much home theater wattage that anything you watch, regardless of the volume level, can be heard by everyone on the floor. Whatever the case, your neighbors don’t like you anymore, and that’s a mighty uncomfortable way to live. So . . . what should you do?

Own Up to Your Transgressions

Nobody likes to have their intelligence insulted. If it’s been brought to your attention that you’ve done something the rest of the community doesn’t like, then the first and best thing to do is acknowledge it and apologize. Knock on their door with a couple of your famous homemade apology burritos in hand. Buy them a case of apology beer.

If, on the other hand, you feel like you’re on the outs and you don’t know why, ask yourself if you’ve been breaking any of cardinal sins of apartment living lately. How loud are your pets? How often are you watching Inception at full volume? Is your trash piling up outside your front door? Are you parking over the line in the parking garage? If so, perhaps a pre-emptive apology burrito and case of beer are in order. You don’t have to wait for them to come to you. Sometimes you can be the one to break the ice

. . . Unless Confession Will Only Make Things More Awkward

That said, you should keep in mind that there are some things your neighbors don’t want to talk about. Did you inadvertently take their copy of the newspaper a couple mornings in a row? Then sure, go ahead and apologize. On the other hand, if your neighbors were accidental audible witnesses to your, um, romantic evening, then you might want to just leave that one alone. Sometimes the best way for everyone to heal is adhering to a strict no-eye-contact policy for at least three months. If you notice them not making eye contact with you, accept their shaming with grace and dignity.

Offer Up a Solution

Most problems between neighbors come down to a matter of noise. If you’re the one who’s making that noise but you have no choice (like when Terrence Howard’s character in Hustle & Flow really needed to record his first rap album, for example), at least take some good-faith steps to improve the situation. Soundproofing a room is something you can do yourself. If you don’t know how to do it, just ask the Internet. And how about being a little proactive, huh? Check with your neighbors to see if there are certain times of day when making a ruckus won’t drive them up the wall. Say, for example, the times of day when they’re not home.

Invite Them Over

Let’s be honest, you haven’t invited the neighbors over yet, right? Unfortunately, neighbors rarely take the time to get to know each other these days. If the people who live next door know you as “Frank” instead of “that dude who sounds like he’s building a boat in his living room,” then they might be a little more accepting of your flaws. Invite them over for a friendship casserole and a little game I like to call Settlers of Catan. Once you’ve formed an alliance over brick/ore production, your petty apartment

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If All Else Fails, Move

Sometimes, the fences can’t be mended. If that comes to pass in your situation, there’s something you should keep in mind before you decide to take things in a “Hatfields versus McCoys” direction: Those people killed each other. Once it becomes clear that your living arrangement isn’t going to become any more harmonious, the best thing to do is cut your losses and start counting the days until your lease is up.


5 Hidden Benefits of Housing Out-of-Town Visitors in Your Tiny Apartment

The nuisance of enduring a visit from out-of-town relatives during the holidays is one of the most well-worn comedy tropes of all time—and for good reason. Having your home invaded by transient family members looking to transform your living room into a hostel has great potential to go horribly wrong, especially if you, like most people living in big cities, don’t have the square footage to spare.

It’s not all bad though. If you find yourself on the business end of a family visit this holiday season, try to keep these silver linings in mind.

Good Excuse to Finally Clean Your Apartment

Only an animal invites a guest into its home without thoroughly cleaning it first. The grit and grime that’s accumulated on your bathroom fixtures and such is never quite as noticeable as it is when you find out you’re going to have company. And when your living space is already just barely big enough for you, that muck becomes all the most apparent when you fill your 500 square feet to the edges. Entertaining an apartment full of distant relations might be a bummer, but just think how nice your shower will look for the next day or so!

You Can Assign Them Tasks

And when it stops looking nice, make them clean it again! After all, they’re family and they’re staying in your home. If they’ve got time to lean, they’ve got time to clean. In exchange casino online for the free living room floor space sleeping bag you’re so generously providing, ask them to straighten up the place while you’re at work. It’s the least they can do!

They’ll Take Care of Your Pets

Speaking of being at work, won’t it be nice to have someone at home who can help you with your rowdy pets for a few days? You know you could use a respite from burning your lunch break every day to run home and feed and walk the dog. And while the cats of the world can usually fend for themselves, have you ever lived below a cat owner? Cats build up an amazing reservoir of energy while sleeping on their owners’ laptops, and then they expend it all by stampeding around the apartment like a herd of wild horses when they’re home alone. Depending on your flooring situation, your downstairs neighbors might appreciate a break from your pet’s antics as well.

You Can Finally Go Do Some Touristy Stuff

Hey, San Francisco, stop pretending you don’t want to visit Alcatraz! You’ve lived in the city for a while now, so you have no reason to act so snooty toward Al Capone’s former home. The same goes for any other legitimately interesting attraction. Just because the tourists may want to see it, that doesn’t mean you should immediately write it off. Still, if your pride won’t allow you to visit a tourist trap of your own volition (but deep down you really want to), then having some incoming family to blame for the excursion wouldn’t be the worst thing.

You Can Blame Them for Everything

In fact, why stop at blaming the relatives for making you go on that (fabulous!) bus tour of the stars’ homes in Beverly Hills? Overnight guests are a hassle that anyone can relate to. Whether you’re late for work or just need a valid excuse to blow off a previous engagement, blaming visiting kin is almost always a workable excuse because, at the end of the day, you can at least take comfort in knowing the problem is only temporary.


Joshua Zerkel

A Holiday Interview with Josh Zerkel, CPO

We sat down with Josh Zerkel, a Certified Professional Organizer in San Francisco who focuses on helping professionals, entrepreneurs, and small business owners simplify and organize their businesses.


How did you initially become interested in being a professional organizer?
I was always a super-organized person. Even as a kid, I loved grouping my toys, alphabetizing my comic books, and putting things in containers. As an adult, I worked in a creative field (graphic design), and my colleagues would often wonder how I stayed on top of my projects and met all my deadlines. I ended up showing many of them my techniques and strategies for

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productivity and organization. As it turns out, I was pretty good at it, and I ended up switching careers to help people full-time.


Tell us a little bit about starting your company and how things have grown.
I started my business by word-of-mouth – my first clients were friends of friends or acquaintances. I tested the waters a bit for about six months before I went full-force into business-launch mode. At that point, I decided to get serious about running a business – I set up all the proper business structures, initial branding, marketing strategies and materials, and so on. From there, business grew quickly and steadily. Even during the recession, business was strong, which I attribute to matching my company’s services and pricing to the needs of my target customers.


What is a common challenge for small businesses that you see?
Most people in business are often great at doing a specific thing – making widgets, baking cupcakes, or offering a service – but the intricacies of running a business often have nothing to do with what the actual business offering is. The biggest challenge I see people run into is that they just don’t know what they’ve signed up for when they start to run a business, and they find themselves overwhelmed by the myriad tasks and responsibilities they must do in order to make the wheels of the business turn. It can be exhilarating at times and exhausting at others – and it’s definitely not for everyone.


What could be the impact to a business of hiring a professional organizer?
A good productivity consultant or professional organizer that specializes in working with businesses can help get the details of a business under control, so that the people in the business can better focus their time and energy on meeting customer needs. We help develop systems and strategies for dealing with the mechanics of a business, which can help lessen the amount of time spent on them, and increase the amount of time spent on other key business tasks.


Do you have any timely tips for the year’s end?
This is an ideal time to revisit your goals, systems, and resources. Decide on goals or metrics for the new year, and make sure you have the systems in place to make those goals a reality, and the resources you need to work your systems.


How do you help clients choose whether to purge, keep, or store an item?
I think most people have a good idea of what to keep and what to get rid of, but we’ve been trained out of listening to common sense. Generally speaking, if you don’t use, need, or want something, it should go away. If you use, need, or want something, it should stay. If you need something but don’t use it regularly or have the space to keep it nearby, you should store it.


Joshua Zerkel is a Productivity Strategist, a Certified Professional Organizer® and the CEO and founder of Custom Living Solutions, the San Francisco Bay Area’s

premier productivity and organizing consulting firm. Their mission is to help entrepreneurs, small businesses, service providers, and home office workers find easy ways to take control of their paper, space, time, and technology so they can boost productivity and profits.

He has been featured in various media, including CBS News, ABC News, the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner, Organize Magazine, Online Organizing, and many others, is a regular columnist on the Franklin Covey website, is a part of the Neat Fleet from the Neat Company, and is the world’s first Evernote Ambassador on Productivity.

Custom Living Solutions
411A Brannan Street, Suite 2
San Francisco, CA 94107