Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why not?

I've spent the day in my office thinning files, moving things out of here that belong elsewhere, shredding, recycling, thinking, poking around my computer, singing that Rihanna song "Stay" about 12 times.

During the "poking around my computer" phase I Googled myself, which I do occasionally.  Just to see what's out there.  I started this blog in 2009 and posts from it always come up first.  I looked at the archives and saw how I hit the ground running -- maybe a little too fast!  Over 20 posts the first month!  Then down to 11 the second month.  Then two to four each month over the next few months. Then a single, lonely post in 2010.  In February.

Not sure why I stopped.

But I think I'm going to start again.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Your Own Launch and Landing Pad

Greetings from snowy Northern Virginia! Regular, routine-driven days are a vague memory since schools have been closed since last Friday and won't reopen until Monday at the earliest. All this "free" time may be a good time to think about how your morning routine can shape your entire day. Do your mornings consist of mad dashes throughout the house looking for car keys, permission slip or library book? Is your cell phone dead? Are your children in a panic searching for their back packs, their gloves, their homework? If any of this sounds depressingly familiar, you may find the key to a less-harried morning routine is to add a launch and landing pad to your home’s most used entryway. It may be an area near your front door or, if you’re lucky, it may be a nice, big mudroom.

Simply put, a launch and landing pad is a designated area where routine items are placed upon entering your home (the landing pad) and taken upon leaving (launching you out the door). There may be a closet and ideally, the area is well-lit, includes a table, a wastebasket and hooks for bags, purses and backpacks. Each family member should have their own basket or shelf to keep small items such as keys, cell phones (an outlet and space for the charger is a big bonus) and wallets. The ability for each family member to “Grab and Go” important items is key to keeping the morning chaos to a minimum.

Depending on the ages of your children, you may want to place an “In and Out” box for them to put important papers for you to see and/or sign, or you may be the one digging through a back pack or “Friday Folder” for the must-have paperwork for the younger kids.

You can create a launch and landing pad even if you are space challenged. We live in an early-1960’s split foyer. The “foyer” consists of a 4’ x 7’ entry way with a small coat closet. I’ve created my launch and landing pad on the floor just inside one of eye-level stairway dowels. It’s unobtrusive yet very accessible for my keys, sunglasses and any other small items I need to make sure I take with me in the mornings.

For smoother, less chaotic mornings in 2010, get your family into the habit of placing important items on the landing pad when they walk in the door and, conversely, making sure that everything is in its place on the launch pad before they go to bed at night. Everyone deserves to start off their day in a confident, relaxed state of mind. That goes for you and your kids!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

19 Tips for Zen-Like Holiday Travel

The holiday travel daze is just around the corner! I get a little twitchy just thinking about all the packing, cleaning, sorting, planning, buying, wrapping in my near future! Here are a few family-friendly tips for creating some mellowness in your life over the next few weeks:

1. Give yourself 2-3 days to pack. Don’t wait until the night before the trip (or the morning of – you know who you are!) It always takes longer than you think. A stressed out mom and forgotten essentials are definitely not a good way to start a trip!

2. Create a packing list for each family member. You can get as fancy as an Excel spreadsheet or use a piece of notebook paper. The important thing is to get down in writing each family member’s travel needs. Think about the weather at your destination and what sorts of activities you’ll be doing. Make copies of each list for future trips. Don’t forget phone, computer, camera and game chargers!

3. Pack self-contained, complete sets of clothing for each child. You can use gallon size zip-lock bags (use a Sharpie to put the child’s name on it) or even reuse plastic grocery bags for this purpose. Older kids can help and often love the process of putting together outfits for each day of the trip. Don’t forget to include socks, undies, hair clips and any other accessories. Once you are at your destination, it’s easy to just grab each kids’ bag ‘o clothes for the day! Bonus: You can use the bags for dirty clothes on the back end of your trip.

4. Pack absolute essentials in your carry on bag or purse in case your luggage gets lost or delayed. Medications, lovies, toothbrushes, change of clothes (or at least a fresh pair of underwear!), contact lens solution, etc.

5. Don’t wrap gifts if you are flying! Pack wrapping paper or gift bags in your suitcase to wrap gifts upon arrival at your destination. There’s nothing worse than seeing a grown woman cry as the TSA guy is destroying her beautiful wrap jobs. Also, pack one suitcase with gifts to be given and you can use it on your return trip for gifts you and yours received.

6. Make copies of passports, credit cards, trip itineraries with confirmation numbers (e-tickets), drivers’ licenses and other important documents, and leave with a trusted friend or family member back home. You will thank me for this when you leave your wallet sitting on the bathroom counter at Chicago O’Hare.

7. Make arrangements for pet and house sitters well in advance. Kennels fill up around the holidays. Friends and neighbors who usually help you out might be traveling themselves. Keep a form letter about all of Fido and Fifi’s habits and needs so you can just print it out for the pet sitter each time you travel.

8. Weigh your bags at home to avoid costly surplus weight baggage charges at the airport. Remember, each traveler, no matter their age, is allowed a certain number of checked and carry on bags. Your two year old is entitled to a carry on bag and a checked bag.

9. Pick a color to coordinate your clothes for the entire trip. My trips tend to be either “brown” trips or “black” trips. It really cuts down on the shoes you need to pack and it just makes packing a lot more streamlined and, frankly, mindless.

10. Keep your toiletry bag pre-packed at all times so you don’t even have to think about what you need to take. I admit I worship at the wall of travel-size stuff at Target. You literally can get any toiletry item you really need in a travel size. You may not find your luscious, extra special eye makeup remover, but, I promise, those little Dove wipes will do in a vacation pinch! Or if you must have your special creams and stuff, stock up on the little plastic travel containers and fill them with the goods.

11. Leave your home reasonably clean. Well, OK, how about just reasonably tidy. Ahhhh. Doesn’t it feel good to come home to a clean house? Also, unplug (don’t just turn off) the “vampire” appliances throughout your house: computers, printers, microwaves, TVs, etc. These are the items that suck the electricity even when turned off. Consider it your own little carbon offset while you drive or fly across the country!

12. It took three or four years but John is now a convert to my “roll your clothes” process for packing a suitcase. I swear it seems like you can pack twice as much in a suitcase by neatly rolling your clothing rather than folding them. It also helps keep wrinkles to a bare minimum. Go ahead, try it.

13. Back up your faith in your GPS with a real map (you know that paper thing that has all the squiggly lines on it?) or MapQuest printed directions. You just never know.

14. Pack a small hostess gift from your hometown so you won’t be running around trying to find something special the last day of your trip.

15. If traveling by car, pack activities and toys in a soft bin on the seat (or between the seats if you have captain’s chairs) so kids can access items themselves. You’ll save your shoulder joints from the constant, ergonomically-incorrect reaching back!

16. Oldie but goodie: Collect a few new books, toys, games and/or DVDs for the road or plane. There’s nothing that says 10 minutes of peace and quiet for mom and dad like a new goodie. And for God’s sake, don’t forget to pack spare batteries for that Game Boy or DS or whatever it is that mesmerizes your child!

17. If you travel by plane a lot, consider investing in a second, lighter weight carseat for travel. We schlepped around a bulky, heavy-as-a-bag-of-rocks car seat until I saw the light.

18. Wear your bulkiest shoes or boots on the plane to free up space in your luggage. Yes, you’ll have to remove them for the security line but it’s better than them taking up a third of your suitcase space!

19. If you are staying with friends or family members, do a quick run through the house each day and collect all your stuff. This will ensure that you at least start each day with your belongings intact. It’ll make your last day pack up much easier as well. Bring a copy of your packing list to use as a checklist for your return packing.

The holidays can be hard enough on you and your loved ones. Travel stress, extended family issues, unrealistic expectations, excessive eating and drinking – all can take their toll. At least give yourself and your family a solid head start toward a calmer and more relaxing holiday by having a good travel plan. Ooohhhhmmmm.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall in love with your closet

I’ve been helping clients with closets all week! I do love me a good closet re-do mainly because I know it will make a lasting, positive difference every day for the closet owner. Our closet is one of the few places in our homes we utilize, without fail, on a daily basis. It can be a source of headache-inducing chaos. Or, properly organized, our closet can be a source of relaxing calm before we charge out the door to meet the storms of our too-busy days.

Fall is a great time to organize your closet. Don’t forget to use the S.P.A.C.E. process from Julie Morgenstern: Sort, Purge, Assign a Home, Containerize, and Equalize. You won’t know you need to purge white blouses until you realize through sorting that you have eight of them! Likewise, you won’t know how much space you need for said white blouses until you have purged the ones you don’t want to keep and so on.

The other essential tip for closet organizing – this is going to sound painful but you can do it – is to remove everything from your closet before you begin your sorting process. Otherwise, you will find yourself simply flipping through hangers, taking out an item here and there, and not really making much headway in your S.P.A.C.E. process. Yes, your bedroom will look like a clothing explosion during the process but it’s really the best way to do the work necessary to get your closet in shape!

OK now, get out your calendar and make a date with your closet. Trust me, you’ll fall in love with your organized closet and wonder how you ever lived without it!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Perfectionism be gone!

It's been bugging me that I haven't found the time to post in awhile. I heard recently that you don't "find" time, you have to "make" the time to do things that are important to you. So, I'm making time here this afternoon. John and Mimi are having a super full Daddy-Daughter Day. They went out canvassing this morning, doing their part for the tight Virginia governor's race. Then to their fave pre-movie dining spot, T.G.I.Friday's. And finally, where they sit at this very moment, the 3-D, double-feature Toy Story and Toy Story 2. I'm sure Mimi is loving life. John, not so much.

I just ran across a note I had scribbled which is actually what inspired me to write this post. It reads:

Let go of perfectionism. It will stall you out. It's OK to be good enough.

Wow! I wish I could remember where I saw this so I could give proper credit; however, I am letting go of perfectionism (MUST find out who said this before I include it in a post) and sharing someone's very wise words with you.

I don't consider myself a perfectionist although I sometimes put off doing something if I can't do it "just so" right then! Perfectionism is sometimes at the root of disorganization. Counterintuitive, huh? You would think that a perfectionist would be uber-organized, right? But sometimes perfectionism manifests itself as "If I can't organize my closet perfectly, I will not organize it at all!"

Let go of the notion that you or your house or your children or your car or your office has to be perfect. It really is OK to be good enough.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ready, Set, Go!

I've got an end-of-summer decluttering buzz going on! There is something about the beginning of the school year that feels very New Years-ish to me! Here are a few easy tips to help get you going on those tasks around the house you've been putting off during these busy summer months:

1. Set a timer for 30 minutes and play beat the clock. Focus on one room, one closet or just a general swoop around the house. When the time goes off, that's it! Pat yourself on the back for accomplishing something.

2. Turn on your favorite music. It's amazing how much zippier I feel when I've got some old B-52s or No Doubt blaring throughout the house! Time really does fly when you're listening to whatever music inspires you.

3. Reward yourself. Promise yourself a bubble bath, a pedicure, a glass of wine in the hammock -- something you really love -- whenever you complete a task you've been dreading. Whether it's cleaning out a closet, a junk drawer or a filing cabinet, the prospect of a sweet reward at the end of the job will often get you to plow through.

Go on now. Have a little fun getting something done.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Life. Love. Not so much organizing!

Well, long time, no post! Our summer started out with a bang. Mimi was sick the last week of school. Turns out she had a perforated (ruptured) appendix which was taken out June 20. We were home from the hospital Friday night the 26th after a week of IV antibiotics. Oy, what a scary, stressful few weeks! All is good now. My sanity-savers, a.k.a. my parents, came up from Texas for two weeks to help out.

Child health tip of the day: You know your child best. Don't hesitate to be "that annoying, pushy parent" who insists on further action in the doctor's office or ER. We didn't and I've finally stopped beating myself up for not "catching" that Mimi was seriously ill. Kids perforate about half the time because their appendicitis doesn't always present in the classical way.

Anyhoo, now for an organizing tip for the day:

It's not too early to start sorting out school clothes to see where your kids stand in the clothing department! We've got about a month to go in our house but I'll feel better once we have Mimi's clothes sorted out to see what we are lacking. We picked out and ordered her backpack and school shoes this morning on Next, we'll go through her fall clothes from last year and see what's still wearable (at her age, not much!). Bundle up the too-small-stuff and take them to our favorite donation site, then make a list of what we need and do a little shopping.

The last weeks of summer tend to produce a frenzy of activity to get everything fun done before school starts. So make a date with your kids and their closets. Ahh, won't it be nice to cross that off your to-do list!