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!
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:
When was the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator? Nobody enjoys this task, but without a routine schedule, your fridge can get nasty and it will be more difficult to keep track of expired products. Follow these easy steps once every 6 months to create a cleaner and healthier environment for your food:
As an added tip, use a Sharpie to label new frozen items with the date that they are put into the freezer to help keep track of expirations.
Follow the same routine for the refrigerator, remembering that leftovers only survive about a week before they should be thrown out.
This is the time of year when most of us are hanging outside and regularly throwing hot dogs or burgers on the grill. How organized is your backyard grill or BBQ space? You might want to check out these simple ideas to guarantee an easy and organized grilling experience. Click on any of the product images shared in this article to find out where to get them for yourself!
1) Consolidate those grilling utensils - Use a hanging system, bucket or nearby drawer to contain all utensils in one place.
2) Containerize your spices – Channel your inner pitmaster by using a caddy, basket or plastic container to keep all necessary rubs and grilling spices at close range.
3) Holster the covers – A large hanging organizer, like the options shown below, is perfect for rolling up and storing grill covers while not in use. Mount one in the garage or on the side of the grill somewhere away from the heat for easy access.
4) Have a flat surface handy – If your grill doesn’t come with built-in prep surfaces, stage a prep station or pull a small table close to where you are working to more easily manage plates, meats and veggies while cooking.
5) Always keep an extra propane tank filled to prevent mid-cooking outages. There's nothing that will kill your backyard bash quicker than half cooked burgers!
Taking the time to think through your grill's organizing needs and carefully stage solutions for greater functionality will make you less captive to your grill and help to ensure that your next BBQ leaves you with plenty of time for relaxing and enjoying the experience.
Summer is a time when life slows down for many of us. The kids are off school and sleeping in late. The nights are longer, and regular events like dinner and bedtime tend to be stretched alot later than other times of the year. This can easily result in more stressful early morning trips to the office if you are not properly prepared. Here are 4 things you can do to help speed up your morning routine and ensure you arrive to work relaxed and on time:
Many of us like to shop, but aside from the occasional trip to the mall, what happens when your spending gets out of control? I sometimes help my clients create healthier shopping habits by arming them with the tools needed to resist the urge to make purchases that they might regret later. Changing our perspective on shopping takes time and determination, and for most of us, some things are easier to resist than others. What one item or type of item still holds a strong grasp on your ability to make rational decisions? What makes you want to grab for your wallet regardless of cost or need, and how do you resist the urge to buy?
These 4 simple techniques might help save the day, and your money, when you feel a bout of binge shopping approaching:
If you still feel the urge to make a purchase after trying all these techniques, then it’s quite possible that the money might not be so haphazardly spent after all.
Believe it or not, there’s something to be said for following a schedule for de-cluttering each area of your house on a regular basis. Sticking to a routine clean out schedule will save you a load of stress and physical labor in the long run. Here’s an easy to follow plan that I often recommend to my clients:
Once a week – Most homes get a bit undone throughout a busy work and school week. In my house, it is not uncommon to have shoes, toys, office supplies and random dishes floating about come Friday afternoon. Look around the house, gather up all visibly misplaced items in a large basket or bag, and return them to where they belong.
Once a month – Sort through higher traffic spaces, like the laundry room, kitchen, TV room or play room and return misplaced items to their proper homes. Go through those dusty DVD’s, look in the toy box, and throw out those abandoned socks that have been sitting for 3 months without a match. If you pick one day a month to sort through one room in your home, you will be amazed at how much more organized and clear each space will feel. You will also be reacquainted with everything you own and might just find yourself surprisingly prepared for a very lucrative yard sale.
Once every 6 months – As the seasons change, our wardrobe selections start to shift, and most of us don’t have the space to store everything together all year long. This is a great time to sort through bedroom closets and the hallway or entryway coat closet for donations and off-season clothing and shoes. Stash off-season items in under-bed bags or plastic bins if they won’t fit in these spaces and use this time to evaluate whether you really need those jeans you bought 3 years ago with tags still attached waiting for that one day when you lose 5 pounds. I am the first to admit that I have had a few of these hanging around in the past!
Once a year – Nobody likes to clean out the garage or basement, but these areas are usually the fall-out zones for random items and things we plan to put away later. If left to their own demise, these spaces quickly become safe harbor for piles of clutter, fire hazards and unwanted living creatures. Once a year, choose a weekend or a few days in a week to start clearing everything out, making piles and deciding what stays and what goes. Places like Walmart and Big Lots offer great and affordable shelving and storage options, so there is no need for disorganization in these types of spaces.
There is no incorrect method for maintaining a clutter free environment, so you can play around with this schedule to make it work for your home and lifestyle. Just remember that any change in routine takes focus and determination to master, but the payoff for putting in a bit of extra time on a regular basis to keep your home clutter free is well worth the effort.
There are a lot of things that are worth taking seriously in this world, and sometimes we need a little dose of silliness to balance things out. In celebration of Friday and the weekend ahead, I felt inspired to dust off my not-so-great poetic skills and let the power of positive thought guide me in this epic tale of organizing success and chivalry. Continue on at your own risk…
Once upon a time there was a busy mom with 4 messy kids and a husband whose dirty clothes lived on the carpet like they were hit by a bomb. The dog kept hiding his toys in the mound of laundry on the floor, and there was so much clutter in the kitchen that the mom could no longer close the pantry door. There was a fire breathing dragon living under her porch and a unicorn eating her flower beds despite the fright of the scarecrow’s torch. She was distressed and overwhelmed and had nowhere to turn. Then she met Erin, a fabulous, incredibly talented and ravishingly beautiful organizer (insert laughter) who wasn’t afraid to get burned (by the dragon of course).
Suddenly, the busy mom’s life changed and things got rearranged. Erin came into her castle, assessed the situation and devised a plan without hassle. With a wave of her wand and a swoosh of her long flowing hair, she flew through the house decluttering, tidying and putting everything back somewhere. She taught the kids incredible lessons, like where to find the garbage can to prevent further messins’. She straightened out that husband and stopped those clothes from hitting the floor, thus removing Fido’s favorite hiding place and finally shutting that pantry door. She extinguished the dragon’s odorous fumes, installed unicorn-proof fencing around the flowers and protected the shrooms. She hustled and bustled and brought order to all parts of the kingdom.
The busy mom was no longer stressed. She cried tears of joy over becoming de-messed. She thanked Erin for her genius and creativity, noting that she could not have done it herself, even if the whole neighborhood was involved in the activity. She was so excited that she called all her friends and before Erin knew it, she was looking at life through a rose-colored lens! She was a millionaire, living in a posh mansion without a hair of despair. She sat grandly out back, looking down at the stack of perfectly organized and impeccable homes that she had created for her customers. “It’s all in a day’s work” she sighed, “I’m along for the ride.” The day was soon ending, and tomorrow would bring more opportunities for dragon slaying, sword wielding and hearing customers sing. As she headed for bed, she dreamed in her head of tomorrow’s adventures that would be sure to bring more opportunities for clutter to shed. The End.
I warned you...
Getting ready to move? There are a lot of different packing supplies out there, especially if you start looking into specialized boxes and containers. If you are moving to the other side of the country, you might want to forego the hassle and leave the packing and moving to the experts who will bring all the needed supplies along. If you are moving across town and opt to rent a truck or transport your things using the help of family and friends, you are likely looking for fool-proof and budget conscious solutions to assist. Aside from those always-critical cardboard moving boxes, these are my go-to supplies that will help you get the job done like a pro:
Liquor store boxes – The boxes that you can get for free at your local liquor store come already equipped with dividers, which you will find are perfect for wrapping and packing mugs, glassware and breakable tchotchkes that would not fair as well in an open container. Roll them in packing paper and stack within each divider to make everything snug as a bug for your journey.
Contractor grade outdoor trash bags – Contractor grade bags are triple the thickness and strength as regular outdoor trash bags and can easily contain just about anything. Use these upside-down over groups of hanging clothing in place of a garment bag to transport your wrinkle-prone and fancy garb from one closet to the next with ease. Use them to protect and contain bedding, throw pillows, hangers and stuffed animals. Just make sure you label them with a bright piece of duct tape, so they don’t get mistaken for trash!
Plastic zip / cable ties – Purchase a package of 10”-12” long ties to use for bundling folding lawn and beach chairs, containing all parts of a dismantled wire shelf or baker’s rack, or anchoring all your vacuum cleaner parts to the vacuum so you can easily find things when you are ready to unpack. The use for these little buggers is only limited by your imagination when it comes to moving!
Bubble wrap – Completely underrated as a moving supply, bubble wrap is critical for adding an extra layer of protection to breakables, especially those that are larger and/or irregular shapes. Bubble wrap can also be used to cover pictures and smaller framed art that can be placed side-by-side into a standard moving box for safe transport over short distance moves.
Packing paper (or newspaper if in a pinch) – Not everything needs bubble wrap, but it’s probably obvious that you will need to put some sort of other cushioning in between breakables as you pack them. Wrapping most everything in a sheet or 2 of packing paper usually keeps them safe. You can buy a big box for less than $10 at most home improvement stores. Newspaper is also an option, but I would avoid this for porous or light-colored items, since the ink from the paper could be transferred to them permanently during the moving process.
Grab plenty of good quality packing tape, a box cutter and a few wide Sharpies, and you should be all set to conquer your move. With a bit of elbow grease, and maybe a lot of help from friends, you will be moved and unpacked in your new home in no time.
As I continue to work with clients and help them with their organizing challenges, I am seeing a high level of synergy between excessive clutter and depression. I see a vicious cycle occurring where the feeling of loss of control or depression leads to low motivation for household and lifestyle related chores, resulting in a buildup of clutter. This clutter then causes anxiety and fuels depression in a very vicious and unsettling cycle. It's one that is rarely broken without the intervention of another person, process or experience.
In one of her articles in Psychology Today, psychologist and writer Sherrie Bourg Carter perfectly captured the list of side effects stemming from clutter. “Why does mess lead to so much stress?
I know firsthand the negative effects of having too much clutter in your life. I also know the grounding sense of freedom that can be achieved in a clutter-free environment. Clearing out the clutter can literally change your perspective, attitude and motivation in an instant. Like magic, it will clear a pathway, both literally within your home and figuratively within every other aspect of your life. Seeing the positive changes in motion through the work I do with my client’s is what gets me up in the morning every day.
If you are living amidst a great deal of clutter and disorganization, you don’t have to remain hostage to your belongings. Call me, call another organizer or enlist a friend. Involve others and commit to “digging out.” The hard work of moving, sorting, arranging and letting go will be a small and temporary hurdle that, once accomplished, will lead to a new awakening of the inner you. Your anxiety, stress and feelings of depression will be greatly improved, and the air will feel lighter all around you. Come on, I dare you to give it a try!