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School Year's Resolutions: Get Organized

(ARA) - The kids are back in school. The free-wheeling attitude of summer is a fading memory. And parents are left with the daunting task of re-imposing order and organization on the household.

"The barrage of paperwork alone that comes with the start of the school year can be a real wake up call," says Ginny Bean, a mother of three boys ages 11, 15 and 17, and publisher of one of the country's fastest growing house wares catalogs. She has learned a thing or two over the years about organization, and Ginny's is filled with items that help families cut through everyday clutter to get organized.

1. Divide and conquer. Second only to "when in doubt, throw it out" among organizational truisms, this is the updated, slightly less compulsive cousin of "a place for everything and everything in its place." Bean recommends you designate a file tray or basket for each member of the family, and put his or her name on it. Sort the mail and school backpack contents (permission slips, notices, homework assignments) directly into individual trays.

This rule works for non-paper items, too. Create logical order in a child's room by storing like toys in designated containers. Put shirts in one drawer, pants in another; and label as much as possible, using pictures instead of words for younger children. In the kitchen, separate baking pans and bowls from other food preparation or pantry items.

2. Store items where you use them. Place baskets, racks or wall pegs near the door, so children and other family members have a place to deposit outerwear and shoes when they get home. Keep cookbooks together in the kitchen, craft books near your crafting area, travel books in the family room, and reference books in the den.

Any cook knows that storing tools at their point of use can significantly enhance productivity in the kitchen. And yet, no matter how big the kitchen, there never seems to be enough cabinet or drawer space. Ginny's fall catalog has some clever ideas for alleviating the kitchen space crunch and keeping what you need, where you need it. There's a double-decker shelf that simply sits on the countertop to fit over your kitchen sink and hold jewelry, scrubbing pads and other essentials; a wall-mounted knife magnet that makes it easy to safely store and find knives; and an attractive lidded trash bin with a drawer for holding tall kitchen bags.

3. Make the most of your space. One way to overcome seemingly omnipresent space challenges is to choose furnishings that can do double-duty. Portable storage ottomans, for example, have become very popular. They provide not only a foot rest, but also an extra, movable place to sit, and best of all, an inside compartment for storing away afghans, magazines, games and other stuff. New to this fall's Ginny's catalog are a portable storage ottoman with a removable tray that creates a tabletop, and another with built-in storage for CDs and DVDs.

Among other space-saving favorites are a child's trundle bed, a six-shelf "thin man pantry" that slides into the spot between an appliance and cabinet, and a rolling table with nesting stool that makes a great portable project area and even has a three-tier rack for spices or cookbooks.

4. If it's not in use, hide it away. Clear the clutter of uncompleted tasks. Get rid of the piles of partially paid bills on the kitchen table and the scrapbooking project that's overtaking the family room. It's a matter of basic containment, which can often be as simple as a plastic bin placed on the shelf of a nearby closet.

Wheeled storage carts are a great way to organize crafts, home office or children's games and can be rolled out of sight as needed. Ginny's fall catalog has a nifty "sewing desk," which could just as easily serve as a bill paying, arts-and-crafts or homework station. The sturdy drop-leaf table with five drawers folds down to the size of a file cabinet and can be rolled from room to closet.

Ginny's catalog, first published in 1990, is dedicated to showcasing fun and unique items for everyday life. The fall 2006 catalog includes more than 120 pages full of practical solutions for the home, kitchen and beyond, including appliances, house wares, furniture, bedding, accessories, personal care items and electronics. There are also seasonal recipes and helpful tips on everything from drying flowers for centerpieces to making the perfect cup of coffee.