Living in this past year’s Covid-filled environment has brought many challenges to the surface and opened a whole new world of schooling for many families. Virtual education wasn’t at the forefront of our plans or desires for this year. A lot of us have been thrown into it kicking and screaming, but there’s hope! With a few simple tips, you can make your days more manageable for you and your children, and maybe even avoid some tears.
By following these tips and practicing that sense of humor, this year’s virtual schooling process can be a lot less stressful for everyone. A little prep ahead of time will help you to find time to enjoy each day, even if you, like me, can’t wait for Covid-19 to be in our rearview mirrors. Follow me for more tips on organizing your home and workspace.
Starting a new year can be intimidating with so many unknowns; who knows just what 2021 will bring? You can’t control everything that comes your way, but you can make the year go smoother with some small changes around your daily home and workspace. If you’re like most of us, you have spent a lot of time at home throughout Covid-19 and have learned that there are parts of your home that you don’t enjoy or make the best use out of. To use each space to its fullest, you will often find yourself first decluttering in order to see its full potential.
Decluttering did you say? I mention this word to most friends and family members and get immediate gagging and eye rolling. Most people dislike spending time on decluttering activities but completing just one small task a day will make life much simpler in the long run. It’s so gratifying to complete a task in one attempt, and when we break decluttering our home down into smaller tasks, we won’t be so quick to give up.
This month I challenge you to join me and declutter one area of your life. For ideas and inspiration, follow me on social media @amploorganizing (@amplo-organizing on LinkedIn) for my daily tip. We jumpstarted our month by burning and throwing away old candles. So many of us have a drawer of almost-useless candles (why do we do that?). By burning or throwing out old candles, we can clear a drawer or other space to utilize in a better way. We also cleaned out our purses and bags. You never know what you may find at the bottom of your purse if you are not cleaning it out regularly!
If you’ve been following along and have completed the tips thus far, give yourself a hand. If you have only completed one, or plan on starting tomorrow, give yourself a hand anyway! Last year was tough for many of us and we are still just getting started into the new year. Simply pick up where you left off or skip to today to get back on track. We aren’t done yet! There’s 28 days of this challenge, and I guarantee that following each daily tip will help you to shed the burdens of 2020 and feel encouraged and refreshed for what 2021 may have in store. Here is to a great, uncluttered, more peaceful (no matter what happens) 2021!
We are now well into the swing of summer, halfway through 2020, and I can’t remember how many months into COVID-19 disruptions. If you are one of the lucky ones, you are hopefully feeling some relief from your home bound existence, and starting to dip your toe into the ocean of society again. Many of us have spent these countless months binge watching Netflix (I think I have watched enough to be a paid critic), ordering groceries from Amazon, and attempting home projects with nothing but the ½ can of paint from last year’s bathroom renovation. As we begin to crawl back to “normal” life things are speeding up quickly. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my life went from pining away the time with do-it-yourself pedicures with my daughters to barely breathing again as I conduct business at the speed of light. At this point, I don’t even remember the last time I cooked every meal of the day, and have had to abandon my list of home project “to-do’s” until the next (God I hope not) pandemic strikes.
If you are like my family, we got a lot done during these last few months but have a laundry list of yet-to-be-started and unfinished projects on the home front. Now more than ever, it is important to make the best use of whatever time we have available to get them done. As I was revisiting such a project over the weekend it reminded me to return to basics and focus on the aspects that make any project a good and successful one. Here’s what I came up with:
Okay, we have a great plan, now what? For a more complex or time sensitive project, I would have added resources to the list of things to plan for. For most smaller home organizing projects, family members can usually be recruited after you have figured out the high-level details. This is the time to delegate and recruit your husband, kids, roommate, or anyone else who might be able to pitch in. Get the kids to grab and put away their own shoes. Have the husband or wife pick up those bins on his or her way home from work. I know the adage about doing things yourself if you want them to be perfect, but in our age of busyness and multi hat wearing, it’s time to leave that whole “perfect” thing by the side of the road. Being effective at managing and using our time so that our goals for that time are completed often requires that we delegate and share responsibility for the results. We simply can’t do it all by ourselves.
“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” - Winston S. Churchill. Let this one sink in for a while. How often do we set out to do something, anything, in our homes and get distracted so many times along the way that we find ourselves in a different part of the house, forgetting completely what it was that we set out to do? You’ve spent the time to plan for your project and maybe recruit some help. You pondered over tasks, supplies have been purchased, and the 15-minute reminder just popped up on your calendar to start working on your plan. Don’t end up lost and confused in your own home. Shut off the phone and computer. Let the dog out ahead of time. If needed, you can even put a note on the front door to alert neighbors that you are in a working session and won’t be answering. Avoid the intense urge to see what John Doe is posting on Facebook, and focus, focus, focus. One thing that I find helps with distractions is to keep a pen and notebook close by to document random thoughts, reminders and things to address later so I can get them out of my head and onto a safe platform to retrieve later once my project is complete.
Lastly, no home project would be complete without a good dose of humor. Regardless of planning, sometimes things will run amuck. Distractions might happen anyway. The kids might bail on their tasks 5 minutes into them. The husband/wife might have brought home the wrong bins. Shit happens! There, I said it. Especially on the home front, things are not always going to go as planned. Remember that plan? While you are exercising your good sense of humor, now is the time to dust it off, revisit tasks, remember where you left off, and make changes, as needed, to recover and keep moving forward. The sky will not fall, and the earth will not stop spinning if something goes awry and you must reschedule or add more time. Just remember to stick to the plan, reengage those resources (unless you are now completely fed up with them), take a break to laugh and collect your thoughts, and continue forward.
Making lemonade out of lemons
As we head into a new month, continued stay-at-home living in most states, with the kids out of school, and a large percentage of the workforce working from home, most of us are starting to wonder just how much longer we can survive through this pandemic. This downtime has been a blessing for some and a curse for others, and right about now, I bet most of you are struggling with staying busy, maintaining a routine and downplaying anxiety. If you have kids, you might be pulling your hair out amidst boredom, complaining and fights. In my house, we have had high highs and low lows. We have moved almost daily from amazing family moments of laughter and warmth to stressful bouts of fighting and discontent. This roller coaster might look a bit different for each family, but I think there are some things we can do right now to combat the negatives and approach each new day with a sense of accomplishment and hope. None of this is new, but I know that I personally enjoy the timing of a good reminder when I need it the most.
The main thing that I have been working on lately is to be intentional and own my perspective. We all get bad thoughts occasionally, and with the scary things that the media is sharing, it's no surprise that most of us are being hit with thoughts of worry, anxiety, and fear. It's human to feel these things, and we shouldn't necessarily fight them off when they show up. They are sometimes there to warn us against a real danger or protect us from something that might be about to happen. On the flip side, they can also be brought about or intensified by our imaginations or fears, generated from negative experiences in our past. Owning your perspective involves allowing all thoughts to enter and float by, analyzing them to obtain any useful information as they move, and letting them continue their journey out of your brain. Follow up with a positive affirmation, take a step forward anyway, and change the dynamic. The key for me has been to let the thoughts go. Don't hold onto them, don't brew over them, and don't go to bed at night thinking about them. Instead, read a good book, listen to a motivational podcast, pray with intention, or call up a friend or family member to talk about something else. Simply dismissing a thought can feel easier said than done, but I have found that the magic is just as simple as distracting yourself and replacing the thought.
For the first few weeks after the schools closed, my family and I were all sick, so our lives resembled something like those of a pack of wild dogs, scrounging for food and doing whatever needed to stay alive. I joke, but it felt a bit like complete chaos. As we are healing, we are picking up the pieces, getting the laundry done and assessing the inventory of our pantry. Now is the time to reassess the state of your own household and determine things like what supplies are needed, how schedules will change, and who will be responsible for required household tasks. Reinventing and implementing a routine is key for feeling like you have some control over your situation. If you use a family command center or large calendar, erase the scheduled soccer practices and instead schedule a time for things like school or professional work, exercise, chores and free time.
As you acclimate to your family's new routine, don't forget to relax and give yourself some grace in this process. Most of us have never lived through a pandemic like this, and it has literally upheaved our lives in a matter of weeks. Most of us have never been trained to navigate in this time, and we are all in the process of figuring things out as we go. If the dishes are dirty and the laundry is piled up, it's okay. If the kids are not yet in a home school routine, they will survive. If you are using tissues because the toilet paper ran out, everyone will still be fine. Take a deep breath and remember that you are smart, capable and blessed. If a routine or schedule doesn't work out as you envisioned, change it. The sky will not fall, and you WILL go on to live another day.
I certainly don't claim to be a therapist or guru in the art of living, but I can confidently claim the title of a real wife, mom, neighbor and professional who is also learning to navigate this strange time right alongside the rest of you. I am finding that readjusting my perspective to focus on the positive, continuing forward momentum, resuming a routine for my family, and giving myself the grace to show up in whatever capacity that I can bring to each day is helping to make great, slightly sweetened lemonade out of this batch of sour, bruised up lemons lying in front of us.
Spring is in the air! Do you feel it? As we speed into March, these mini bouts of warmer weather get me excited about reorganizing and cleaning my own house. The sun is finally lingering a bit longer in the bright blue spaces between the clouds. I don’t know about the rest of you, but towards the tail end of winter I tend to lose my mojo. Cloudy days, mud and ice start to strip my motivation, especially for mundane tasks like laundry and cleaning the house. This means that by the time March rolls around, there’s a lot to do to get this place spiffed up and back to my standards. This little period of spring-like weather is just what I need to get my home and attitude back into shape for the next season. Here is how I intend on springing into action at home this month!
We often underestimate the planning phase of any household project, but I have found that coming up with a very simple plan of attack before getting started can prevent anxiety and save hours of wasted time. Planning will help to break apart larger tasks into more manageable pieces, ensure that all needed supplies are on hand and give you a visual map to track your accomplishments. Some things to ask yourself include:
Once you have answers to these key questions, map everything out on a sheet of paper and hang it in a visible spot on the fridge or family communication board.
The dust bunnies must give up their stronghold before we can even think about organizing, so the first plan of action is to deep clean everything. Implement this 6-step process to zip through a deep clean of each room with ease:
Certain rooms might require unique steps, such as scrubbing the bathtub, but the ceiling-to-floor process described above should help you to identify and conquer everything within each space.
Once the cleaning is done, there will be more surface area available for sorting, categorizing and organizing the storage spaces in each room. These include closets, drawers, cabinets and even the refrigerator. One by one pull everything out of each space and evaluate the contents for obvious trash and donations. Pile the remaining items into categories based on what they are and what purpose they serve. Wipe down the inside of the cleared space, and if your current system works, put everything back where it came from.
If the current system isn’t working, come up with a new system by evaluating the activities that occur in each room and storing needed items in close proximity. For example, in the kitchen, coffee mugs, condiments and grinds should ideally be stored together, as close to the coffee maker as possible. I address spaces like closets, the pantry and the dreaded junk drawer (yes, I have one too) on their own schedule throughout the year, so won’t necessarily touch them when I spring clean. You might want to implement a similar schedule to prevent your spring-cleaning process for becoming too cumbersome.
Remember that plastic bin? Now is the time to sort through and determine homes for its’ contents. With the rest of your home clean and organized, it may be easier to see the potential in those temporarily stowed items. If not, out they go! If you decorate for St. Patrick’s Day or Easter, this is a great time to pull out and display those decorations. I also use this time to switch out the wreath on my front door, pull out a few pieces of patio furniture and crack open the windows to bring in that fresh spring air.
Regardless of your talent or appetite for organizing, just remember that with a little elbow grease, and maybe some help from the family, you ARE capable of spring cleaning and organizing your home. By following the process in bite sized chunks (maybe one room a week for instance) and celebrating your accomplishments along the way, you might just find yourself standing in a clean, clear and spring-ready home in no time. Good luck with your own spring-cleaning adventures!
How to tackle this year's resolutions
This time of year, I usually see an uptick in new client inquiries as the New Year’s resolutions start forming and the excitement for change in the coming year escalates. We all hope to enter each year as a new and improved version of our previous year’s self. As we plant our feet firmly into the new year, reality usually sets in and we realize that conquering those resolutions is going to take more than hopeful thinking and feelings of motivation. Achieving those goals will also take discipline, change and diligence. These activities and changes also apply to the process of organizing. Organizing requires discipline.
Some of you probably stopped reading after that last sentence but hang on. Sure, some of us are inclined to being creative with storage solutions, and it helps when we also enjoy the process of getting organized. I have news for you though…even people who are well organized conjure up a bit of discipline to stay that way. The TV shows we see about getting organized and making over a home tend to show us the highlights; the results that make us feel good and suddenly empowered to take on our own projects. What they don’t show is the diligence, process and habit changing mindset that goes into maintaining those results.
If you have ever worked with me, you have likely heard me say that I wish I had a magic wand. I wish I could wave a wand over everyone’s disorganized situations and suddenly transform them to a state of forever organized and neat. I wish I could use that wand in my own house. I am very organized and love to put things back in their place, but if my husband and I have a busy week, and choose different priorities, clutter happens. The laundry piles up, just like everyone else. The dishwasher gets full and dishes overflow in the sink, just like everyone else. As a result, just like everyone else, we are left feeling stressed and disorganized.
So, what do we do about it? If you are thinking of throwing in the towel at this point and surrendering to an existence in a cluttered and messy household, hang in there. We CAN change and we CAN be organized! Cleaning up is often the easy part. Most of us are capable of picking things up off the floor and putting them back where they belong. The challenge is maintaining a state of constant tidiness during our busy lives. While changing our habits requires that we delve into a bit of science (more on that later), here are a few activities that you can start doing today that will help you to stay organized after the initial clean-up:
In his book “Atomic Habits” author James Clear defines the 4 stages of any habit as: 1) Cue – the trigger that tells the brain that a reward is in proximity, 2) Craving – the perceived change in state that will be delivered by following the cue, 3) Response – the action needed by you to receive the reward, and 4) the Reward itself. According to his philosophy, we get stuck in this “habit loop” that perpetuates our actions unless we remove one of the 4 stages. His simple suggestion is to break old habits by removing one of these stages; by making the cue and reward less desirable, harder to reach or invisible altogether. He goes on to say that we can then create new habits by asking ourselves these 4 questions:
If you want to geek out on this further like I did, check out his entire excerpt online at https://jamesclear.com/three-steps-habit-change. If you need some real change this year and are not sure where to start, give me a call and we can approach this process together! Happy New Year!
No, this is not a joke. October 17th is actually National Clean Your Virtual Desktop Day! Do you remember the day when you first bought your computer or laptop? Your desktop screen was pretty much empty. As time goes on, some of us tend to put things in a quick access area where they are easily visible...the desktop. Over time our desktop ends up looking like this...
or even worse, this...
In honor of National Clean Your Desktop Day, today is the day to regain your desktop and add some much needed organization to your virtual life! Check out the following tips on how to clear the clutter from your desktop:
Delete what is not being used - right-click on any icon on your desktop. If the last date modified is a year or older, chances are you don't need it anymore. Delete it off the desktop and if you ever need it again, you can restore it to your desktop from your recycling bin.
Make folders for similar programs/files – putting common programs and files in a folder will clear up and organize your desktop. It will also help you save time when searching for what you need.
Organize files in alphabetical order – sorting your icons in alphabetical order will help keep your desktop organized and make them easier to find.
These tips also work for your cell phone and tablet. No more swiping back and forth through screens trying to find your apps.
Clearing a cluttered desktop will also help your device with space and speed, giving you more time to be more productive throughout the day.
So what are you waiting for? Start celebrating this day with a clean desktop and a fresh start!
There’s nothing better than sinking into the fantasy of a good book; to transport yourself to another dimension or time period and walk in someone else’s shoes. The problem with physical literature is that once the fantasy ends, the book itself serves very little purpose. Sure, we can plan to re-read them again in the future or give them to Aunt Edna next time she is in town, but if we are honest with ourselves, those scenarios rarely happen.
If you know me or have worked with me before, you probably know that I love to re-purpose. The fact is that most of us own way too much stuff, and the amount of useable and good quality items that hit the landfills every year is staggering and unnecessary. As technology is taking over and printed materials are becoming a thing of the past, more and more books are being rejected by the libraries, thrift stores and non-profits that once welcomed those slightly worn donations. Instead of throwing them away, here are a few re-purposing hacks that might come in handy:
Prepping for back-to-school
It’s that time of year again…already! Summer is bidding its sweet farewell, and I am starting to once again hear the rumbling of school bus tires on the roads. The end of summer is bittersweet for most parents. The end of summer brings tears as we say farewell to our tiny tots on their first days of kindergarten and watch our young adults speed away to their first years in college. The end of summer means that its time to get our acts together and embrace that routine that we carelessly tossed to the curb last July. The end of summer also means we can work from home again and get things accomplished on time and without distraction. Yay! What a mashup of emotions! Although one size never fits all, I have found some ideas over the years that have helped to ease my own family’s transition back to a new school year.
Manage the Paperwork - If your kids are still in elementary school, you know how much paperwork comes home in their schoolbags the first few days back. Between field trip permission slips, picture day forms and pest control notices, the kitchen counter can quickly start to feel more like the local recycle center than a part of your household. My advice is simple: establish a “drop zone” and tackle paperwork every night as it comes in! Evenings can be super busy, especially for dual working families, but allowing paperwork to pile up only creates more effort later. Schedule 10 minutes each night to talk through paperwork with your child, complete and/or sign forms, toss the trash and put those “return to school” items back in the school bag.
Join Forces - Back-to-school also represents a huge fluctuation in activities as kids join sports teams, school clubs and other social events. Failing to centralize everyone’s schedules will eventually result in missed appointments and late meetings. If your family responds best to a visual cue, create a command center in a high traffic area, like the kitchen or laundry room and clearly write out everyone’s schedule. If your family is more tech savvy, there are a ton of apps, like Google Calendars, Cozi and OurHome, that allow the whole family to track the same set of appointments and to-do’s right from their smart phones.
Conquer the Homework - I hear my clients commiserate all the time about their struggles with homework. Right after school most kids need some downtime to decompress from their day. Too close to bed and everyone is grumpy and tired. As kids get older, homework becomes more difficult and time consuming, so without some sort of schedule or routine, your child’s habits can go sideways quickly, especially if school sports are also involved. The option that I have found works best for my own kids is to schedule out the hours of the afternoon and evening to something like this:
Post this schedule on a chalk or bulletin board in a central location of the house. If homework will take a long time or be too complex, it’s okay to break it into smaller, more achievable chunks throughout the evening. Trying to force completion in one sitting just leads to anxiety and frustration for everyone, so be flexible and experiment with the timing to see what works best for your household. If sports are a factor, this schedule will need to be compressed to some degree. Another option for very busy families is to sign your child up for afterschool study sessions that usually run for an hour right after school ends, or have an older child use their study hall time more wisely to complete the next day’s homework before leaving school.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare - Prep the night activities are essential, especially when mom and dad are running out the door in the morning the same time as the kiddos. Select outfits, including shoes and accessories. Put all returning forms, books and folders back into bags. Pack lunches and discuss tomorrow’s happenings with the whole family before bedtime. Most of these tasks are intuitive, but busy schedules and exhaustion at the end of the day are most frequently noted as reasons for procrastinating. There is nothing worse than running around in the morning, screaming at kids, while trying to find Jimmy’s other shoe and Katy’s permission slip with 30 seconds to spare until the bus arrives. Trust me, I have been in this situation all too often. Just do the work the night before and I guarantee that your morning will go alot smoother!
How to reignite that motivation
Are you struggling with motivation? We all fall victim to a lack of motivation at some point. Whether you are halfway through cleaning out the basement or procrastinating about finishing the bills, here are a few ideas that will get you back on track: