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Spring clean your business

Organizing your files can help clamp down on clutter (istockphoto)
Organizing your files can help your business clamp down on clutter (istockphoto)
The office¬†is¬†second only to¬†the bedroom as the most lived-in space in our daily lives. And yet,¬†our workplace rarely¬†gets the kind of special attention that we commit to cleaning our homes. It’s time for that to change. This year, consider “spring cleaning” different aspects of your business to make your company more efficient and effective year-round. Clean your physical workspace:¬†A clean workspace can improve employee morale, prevent office-borne illness and¬†create a more professional working environment for workers and clients. Give your office a makeover by: -Deep cleaning carpets or floors; -Dusting office furniture; -Wiping down computers and other office equipment with electronics-friendly cleaning cloths; -Vacuuming behind your desks, making sure to unplug electronics and pull away the wiring first. De-clutter¬†your filing system: This applies to both¬†paper documents¬†and computer files. Create archives to store¬†old data.¬†Invest in organizers.¬†Throw out any files¬†that¬†are no longer¬†useful or necessary¬†for record keeping purposes. Your goal should be to clear your desk (and your computer’s desktop) of extraneous files. Finally, consider going paperless in the office; online storage systems like DropBox or Apple’s iCloud allow you store files¬†securely and share them across¬†a network, rather than constantly making copies. Fix up your website:¬†A company’s website is a direct extension of its¬†brand. An old or outdated webpage may discourage new customers from contacting you, no matter how amazing your in-house products or services are. Take some time to perform some basic¬†e-maintenance by: -Repairing broken links -Updating contact¬†information, logos and¬†company bios; -Introducing new pictures and testimonials; -Integrating features like Twitter and Facebook into your website. If your web¬†design skills are less than stellar, consider enlisting third-party help.¬†Content management platforms like WordPress provide¬†customer support services and¬†can help you create¬†a design¬†practical, stylish¬†(and affordable)¬†website from the ground up. Evaluate your goals: If you’ve set business goals for 2013, now is the time to check in and see how those goals are progressing. If you haven’t set goals, it’s not too late. A simple visioning exercise, like this one developed by Purdue University, can help you identify where you’d like your business to be five¬†to ten years down the road, and¬†develop a strategy¬†to get there. Organize key information: Put together an administrative manual that contains all your processes, passwords and contacts.¬†Having the information readily available will help ensure¬†that you and your employees follow proper procedures when performing day-to-day tasks, which in turn promotes productivity and consistency. Thank your customers: Take the time to craft an email or a newsletter addressed to all the clients who have frequented your business in the past year. Thank them for their patronage and¬†tell them that you’d love to work with them again.¬†It’s a small gesture that goes a long way towards fostering positive¬†relationships with your customers.

8 time-saving spring cleaning tips

There’s no way around it – spring cleaning takes work. But if you’ve been following our 31-day Spring Clean Challenge, you know that the most effective way to tackle a big job is to turn it into several smaller jobs. Well, here are eight more time-saving tips to help you along.
Put together a cleaning caddy to keep your cleaning supplies close by (istockphoto)
Put together a cleaning caddy to keep your cleaning supplies close by (istockphoto)
Make a cleaning caddy You can find these handy organizing buckets at most hardware stores. Fill the caddy with multipurpose cleaners, microfiber cloths and dish soap. That way, you’ll always have your basic cleaning tools on hand as you move about the house. Find a place for everything Tackle large piles of clutter by subdividing the task into smaller pieces. Label a set of Rubbermaid containers with general areas in your home – kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, bedroom, office, garbage etc. Before you begin cleaning a room, place clutter into the appropriate box and place the box it in the room where the items belong. Once you’ve finished your cleaning for the day, sort through each box and find a home for your stuff. Repeat as necessary. (This is also a good way to sort through items when planning a garage sale.) Move your furniture and appliances just enough to clean around them¬†Unless you’re steam cleaning the carpets, there’s no need to clear a room of all furniture before you start. When vacuuming, simply move those big items a little to the left or to the right, vacuum the area previously occupied by the furniture and then move it back into place. As an additional task: check the pads on the feet of your chairs and couches, and replace any that are dirty to prevent scratching your floors.
A squeegee is your best friend when it comes to washing windows (istockphoto)
A squeegee is your best friend when it comes to washing windows (istockphoto)
Use all the tools in your cleaning armada Do you use the attachments that came your vacuum cleaner? You should. The upholstery brush attachment is perfect for cleaning cushions and drapes, while the crevice attachment can get into tight spots with ease. You can also use an extending rod to clean up high. And when cleaning windows outside, save time (and a small fortune in paper towels) by using a squeegee with a pole attachment. Let water do your work Metal and plastic blinds can be removed from the window and cleaned outside. Scrub down the blinds with soapy water, then spray them clean with a garden hose. Lay the blinds flat on a towel to dry in the sun. Garbage cans, plastic furniture and toys can also be hosed down. Doing the work work outside will prevent you from accidentally bringing dirt and grime back in your house. Make a lost and found box Don’t waste time fretting about where to put that orphaned sock or how to neatly arrange your collection of extra shirt buttons. Instead, set aside a container for items that have no obvious home. Then you can resume your cleaning duties and worry about the little details later. Identify and eliminate clutter hotspots My personal hotspot is right next to the microwave on the kitchen counter. It’s a magnet for pieces of mail, flyers, old receipts and other documents I’m too lazy to sort. The trick to keeping such spaces clean is to remove the temptation; once you’ve cleared a hotspot, put something in its place – a lamp, a vase with some flowers or an art object – to block the clutter from re-appearing Get rid of dust at the source A lot of the dust in your house gets recirculated by dirty air filters, vents and fan blades.¬† Remove dust and dirt from ceiling fans and air-conditioner vents with a cloth and a vacuum with a soft nozzle attachment. Replace your air filters regularly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

How to host a successful garage sale

iStock_000010089424Small One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. That pretty much explains the mysterious allure of the garage sale, an annual springtime ritual that also serves as a great excuse to de-clutter your home (and make some extra cash). Of course, you’re not the only home on the block hoping to pawn off unwanted household items this spring. A successful garage sale requires organization, planning and a bit of luck. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making the most of your next junk sale. 1. Trash of treasure? Sorting through your junk can be emotionally difficult for those of us who get attached to their “stuff.” The best approach is to set firm rules for what you’ll keep and what you’ll sell. Some sellers use the year rule – if I haven’t worn it, read it, cooked with it, used it or looked at it in the past year, I’m selling it. Go through every room in your house, methodically sorting between items you absolutely need and items you can live without. 2. Clean up your merchandise A little bit of polish can go a long way toward increasing the perceived value of that table lamp or toaster. Fix up all your items as best you can before displaying them. Clean plastic toys in a tub filled with hot, soapy water. Put fresh shoelaces on shoes and hang clothes on coat hangers. Test electronics. Throw out anything that is broken, damaged or that might present a danger to the buyer. Whenever possible, display items in their original boxes or containers, with instructions and spare parts included.
Fix up all your items as best you can before displaying them (istockphoto)
Fix up all your items as best you can before displaying them (istockphoto)
3. Sort items by price and type Use colour-coded stickers to simplify the pricing process. Use intervals like 50 cents, $1, $2, $5, $10 and $20 to mark items (alternately, you can label entire boxes of goods with this approach). Mark items worth more than $20 with tags. When laying out your garage sale, sort items by where they might be used in the home; kitchen items go on one table, children’s toys and books in another. 4. Choose a date Host your garage sale when you have a full day to dedicate to the cause. Avoid long weekends and holidays when people might travel. A one-day sale is usually sufficient – shoppers know the best finds are usually gone by the second day. You may want to consider coordinating a group garage sale with your neighbours¬† – the more people pass through your neighbourhood, the more likely people will stop to browse your selection. 5. Advertise at least two weeks in advance The most dedicated bargain hunters plan their trips well in advance, so you need to give them fair warning. Classified websites like Craigslist and Kijiji allow you to post advertisements for free. Consider posting an ad in the classified section of your local newspaper, setting up a Facebook event page, or emailing your friends and neighbours to tell them about the sale. In your ads, give customers some tantalizing glimpses of the great items they might find. (Some of the deals that tend to attract shoppers include wooden or antique furniture, sports equipment, appliances, artwork, antiques and vintage items, silverware and china.)
Use signs to guide shoppers to your doorstep (istockphoto)
Use signs to guide shoppers to your doorstep (istockphoto)
6. Be clear with instructions and directions Set firms hours for your garage sale to keep “early bird shoppers” from knocking on your door at the crack of dawn. On the day of the sale, post signs to direct cars to your home (Organized Home has some free printable direction signs). Make your signs BIG and bright so that drivers can see the address. 7. Be firm with hagglers – at first Don’t accept a low-ball bid on your best merchandise at the beginning of the sale. As the day progresses, it will be easy to see which items are selling and which are not. At that point, start offering better deals – a 50 per cent discount after 2 p.m., buy-one-get-one-free books, etc. Alternately, collect some of your hard-to-move items into “mystery bags” and sell them for a dollar apiece. 8. Ditch or donate anything you can’t sell if nobody else wants it, why keep it? Donate your leftover items to a local charity. If, for whatever reason, the item can’t be donated, dump it.