Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you find some helpful hints for organizing your time and space. My passions are to help you make home a refuge instead of a crisis center, and to help you function in peace rather than chaos - at home or at work. I have switched my main blog to 1-2-3 ... Get Organized on WordPress, so please visit me there.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

January - Get Organized Month

Here's a press release from the National Association of Professional Organizers about GO (Get Organized) month:

"Get Organized" is one of the Top 10 New Year's resolutions made by Americans year after year.  That's why seven years ago the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) declared January as GO (Get Organized) Month(SM).  Make 2011 the year you stick to your New Year's resolution to get your home or office organized. Contact a NAPO Professional Organizer in your area by visiting www.napo.net and searching their free directory, searchable by zip code, country and organizing service. 

Throughout the month of January, dozens of NAPO chapters and thousands of members will be hosting public events around the country, including, Ask-the-Organizer panels, Organize to Economize in the New Year workshops, Shred-and-Organize events, and much more! From Miami, FL, to Seattle, WA, a GO Month event is happening near you. Find one at www.napo.net

Did you know:
  • Becoming more organized can help save time and money, increase productivity, enhance one's quality of life, and reduce stress?
  • In its most recent survey, NAPO found that 96% of respondents felt that they could save at least some time each day if they were more organized at home
  • 91% felt they could be more efficient at work if they were better organized
  • 71% indicated their quality of life would improve with more organization
About NAPO: The premier national association dedicated to the field of organizing, the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) is The Organizing Authority®. Since forming in 1985 as a nonprofit professional educational association, NAPO has grown to nearly 4,200 members. NAPO is dedicated to serving its members through education, networking, industry resources, and promoting the profession to the public. For more information about NAPO and Get Organized Month(SM), visit www.napo.net or call NAPO at 856-380-6828. "

More about getting organized:

Organizing According to Your Right- or Left-Brain Dominance

Getting Organized for School 2010: Starting the Night Before

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas! Things are ramping up around here, so I'm not sure how often I'll post over the holidays. One of our daughters arrived last night. 

Three of our four foster daughters will be with us through Christmas day - one is going home tomorrow to be with her family for a couple of days.

Our other daughter and her husband will fly in at midnight on Christmas day. Our time off starts the 26th, and we'll celebrate Christmas again with them. 

Our family leaves on January 1st. Our foster daughters come back on the 31st, so we should have a fun New Year's Eve!

I wish you a joyous Christmas and the best ever New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Laundry Tips from Professional Organizers, Part 1

Recently, several professional organizers offered tips on doing laundry. I'll share some with you over the next few weeks.

This one is from Nora Silic:

"I'll wash and dry the laundry, but the kids (I have seven), fold it if they want to watch a DVD, and put it away when the movie is over.  

I keep a bin for unused hangers on the floor of their closets, so they don't have to search for empty hangers between hanging clothes.  That way, even if the little ones can't reach their shelf, they can still put the clothes on hangers for me, and I'll get them hung next time I'm passing through.

WARNING:  This has the potential to backfire.  All of a sudden, when there's several loads to fold, they'd rather read a book, color, play boardgames, practice piano -- anything but watch a movie, if it means folding clothes.  It's a risk I'm willing to take.

Something else I do to speed up the sorting process is put dots on the inside of collars and waistbands with a laundry marker.  One dot for the oldest girl or boy, two dots for the second oldest, etc.  It's much easier to count the dots than to figure out whose is whose by size.  That way, too, when an item is ready to be handed down, I just add a dot."

More on laundry:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Time Management App for iPhone - Lucid Lists Free

The following article by Aurangzaib Qumbrani details a new app for iPhones - Lucid Lists Free - to help you stay organized.

"Lucid Lists Free, by Kembipro, is one of the best on-the-move time management applications that I’ve ever used on my iPhone. I’m a college student, and it’s really hard to cope with a day full of tests and assignments. Thanks to this wonderful iPhone app, it’s simple and fast to plan your day ahead.

Lucid Lists Free is designed for those people who have a lot of things to do each day. This app is ready to remind you of almost anything, from calling your girlfriend to crucial office presentations.


Creating a to-do list for your day is easy and fun. The UI is clean and smooth. New tasks on the app are categorized as “Raw”. “Ripe” means that a task is ready, and if you miss something, that will be tagged as “Rotten”. So make sure you don’t miss any of them. The concept of the Raw, Ripe and Rotten, is very innovative, and I love it.

Download Lucid Lists Free for iPhone
Lucid Lists Free App for iPhone is absolutely free, and you really can’t afford to miss it. You can download this app via Apple’s App Store using this link!" [Download here]
About the Author: Aurangzaib Qumbrani authors MadXperts, a technology blog where he shares his personal interests on Apple, Google and Microsoft! He is a dedicated blogger, crazy tweeter, and a freelancer.

More on time management:
Three Steps to Time Management for the Working Mom
Three Steps to Time Management for the Single Mom
Three Steps to  Time Management fo the Stay-at-Home Mom

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wireless Printing - No Clutter, No Hassle

We recently purchased a Kodak ESP 5250 printer - I love it! Previously, in order to print from my laptop, I had to go downstairs to our office and connect to one of the printers there. I know it doesn't sound like a big deal, but it was a hassle, and I'd put off printing things because of it.

Kodak ESP 5250 All-in-One Printer
We set up the new printer to be used with the girls' computer on our first floor. And we installed it on all the computers in the house. 

With this wireless printer, any computer in our house can print from anywhere in the house without cords or hassle! So, people on different computers can be using the same printer at the same time without having to physically go to the printer. 

I love this so much, I doubt I'll ever go back to a printer that requires cords. Little things make me happy! :)

More on printers:

Ink for 1/3 the Cost? No Way!

A Follow Up to: Ink for 1/3 the Cost? No Way!

Three Steps to Organizing Your Office


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Psychology Today: Beating Clutter in Less than 5 Minutes

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project offers ten tips for decluttering in Psychology Today's December 2 issue:

"Here are ten easy, quick tips that, if followed regularly, will help keep your clutter under control. And none of them takes more than five minutes – if that. I mostly follow these, and I'm a lot happier when I do.

1. Make your bed.

2. Get rid of the newspaper each night, even if you haven’t read it yet. Or am I the only one still reading a paper newspaper?

3. Follow the “one-minute rule” – push yourself to do any chore that takes less than one minute. Throw away the junk mail, put the peanut-butter jar back in the cabinet, close the cabinet door, put your dirty socks in the hamper, hang up your wet towel.

4. Identify a place or person to whom you can give things you no longer need – it’s much easier to get rid of unneeded stuff if you can envision someone else getting good use from them. Also, figure out a place to store those things until you hand them over. We have a special shelf for books that we’re taking to the Housing Works thrift store.

5. Be very cautious about letting yourself “store” something. Storing something means you don’t intend to use it much. Other than holiday decorations and seasonal clothes, you should strive to “store” as little as possible.

6. Beware of freebies. Never accept anything free, unless you’re thrilled with it. A mug, a tote bag, a hand-me-down toy, the lamp from your mother-in-law -- if you don’t need it, don’t take it.

7. Get rid of things if they break. When I went through our apartment, I was astonished by how many things I’d kept even though they didn’t work.

8. Don’t keep any piece of paper unless you know that you actually need it. I have a friend who, for years, carefully filed away the stubs when she paid her gas bill. “Why?” I asked, mystified. “I have no idea,” she said. Along the same lines, don’t keep anything that would quickly become dated -- like travel information. Remember the internet! If you can easily find information online, you don’t need to keep a hard copy.

9. Hang up your coat. I have a lot of trouble with this one, so now I use a hook instead of a hanger.

10. Before you go to bed, take five minutes to do an “evening tidy-up.” Don’t tackle anything ambitious, but just stack up the magazines, put your shoes away, shove the chairs into place, etc. Just a few minutes of tidying can make your house look a lot better, and it’s a calming thing to do before going to sleep. Plus it makes the morning nicer."

More on Decluttering:
Three Steps to  Decluttering

Just Because You've Decluttered Doesn't Mean It's Going to Stay That Way

Get Organized Month 2009 - Family Five Minute Challenge


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Apps for Keeping Droid Phones Organized

Following a couple of snow days and knee-deep snow, our foster daughters will return to school today. Lots of drifting and blowing snow. I'll try to post some pictures soon. Now on to our post for today ...
 If you have a droid phone, you might be interested in the article Steve Kovach has written for Business Insider, The 10 Best Android Apps For Keeping Your Phone Organized And Running Smoothly.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More Clutter-Free Ideas for Christmas

Our winter blizzard is in full swing here in northeast Ohio. We have at least 12 inches of snow, although it's hard to tell how much with the blowing and drifting. The storm doesn't end until Wednesday morning at 7 am. 

Thankfully, I have all my Christmas shopping done except for a couple of online gifts. If you still need some non-clutter ideas for Christmas gifts, the Savannah Morning News ran the following article on how to have a green Christmas:

"The director of the Office of Sustainability at Georgia Southern University suggests the notion of being environmentally conscious can be extended into 'green' giving at Christmas.

Lissa Leege says you just try to buy from companies that protect the environment, consider a product's waste output, and give experiences or items that can be reused or recycled.

Her top 10 gift ideas include:
1) Give experiences instead of "stuff" - concert tickets, a week of making dinner, a coupon booklet for backrubs - anything that reduces waste and clutter.

2) Consider "green" technology - a wireless reading device, such as a Kindle, or the new Sony Elm or a smart phone made from recycled plastic.

3) A canvas bag of personalized environmentally friendly items such as a travel mug, a reusable water bottle and an organic pillow case.

4) Couples can give their homes a 'green' treat - an inexpensive low flow showerhead; lights with automatic shut-off; a new, programmable thermostat; a scanner to cut back on clutter and manage bills/files electronically.

5) Give gifts built to last - sturdy wooden toys rather than cheap plastic that will break on Christmas morning.

6) Consider organic or recycled cotton clothing to avoid the intensive pesticides required for conventional cotton production.

7) Buy locally made products as much as possible to avoid transportation costs and emissions.

8) Plant a tree together.

9) Even fashion can be "green" - solar powered watches, earth-friendly lines of shoes, bags and other accessories.

10) Make a donation in his/her name to a favorite nonprofit organization."

More on having a green Christmas:

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 8 - Give Memories, Not Clutter

Turn Holiday Clutter into Classroom Treasure

Repurposing Your Christmas Cards into a Year-Round Memory



Monday, December 13, 2010

Tools for Organizing Meals for New Moms, the Ill, or Potlucks

I discovered Take Them A Meal - an online resource for organizing meals for new moms, for the bereaved, and for the ill. Instead of making a bunch of phone calls or sending emails, everyone can go to the site, see who's bringing what and when, and sign up to participate.

In addition, they've launched Perfect Potluck, a similar site but for organizing potlucks. 

If you've ever had to coordinate meals for such events, you must check this out! It's simple to use, has a sample schedule, and eliminates all those headaches and phone calls/emails!

More time-saving tools:

Time Management Tip - Always Late? Start the Timer!

A Personalized Grocery List - Good Time Management

Piggy-Back Dinners


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Join me on Grace Cafe Radio Program

Join me tomorrow (Monday 12/13) at 11 am on Grace Cafe Radio Program as we discuss rethinking life - aligning our passions, priorities, gifts with our schedules. You can call in, too!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Organizing Gift-Making Stations

As I've already mentioned in other posts, we give our four foster daughters a little gift in their stockings each morning. One morning their gift was a paper mache ornament that they could paint, glitter glue, etc. 

To make it easy for them, I set up a station with all the supplies they'd need to decorate their ornaments - paint, glitter glue, paint brushes, paper cups for water, etc. And I covered the table with a plastic table cloth from the dollar store to make clean up easy. I also put out a container of other wooden and paper mache items they could decorate for gifts, if they were so inspired.

I set up another table with beads and and jewelry supplies so they could make jewelry for their friends and family should they choose to do so. I made a couple of sample Christmas earrings to give them ideas.

I also set up our Christmas cookie decorating supplies in the same way when we made Christmas cookies and decorated a gingerbread house. All the possibilities were at hand so their creativity could be unlimited! :)

By getting things ready ahead of time, everything is in plain sight so everyone knows what is available. It also saves people rummaging through drawers trying to find what they need. 

More on gift-making:

Storage Ideas for Crafts and Art Supplies

Saving Time by Cutting Out Craft Clean Up

Easy Decadent Fudge Recipe


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Organizing Your Christmas Spending

It's so easy to overspend at Christmas! Here's a method I use to avoid that problem.

First, I determine those for whom I'll purchase several gifts. I start with a single sheet of paper. I write each person's name on a different section of the paper, leaving enough room below the name to list expenditures. 

When I purchase something for one of the people on my  list, I write down the amount, and the item and/or the store where I purchased it. Not only does it help me keep track of expenditures, but the items purchased so I can make sure I've put everything on my list. 

Some people recommend keeping a notebook from year to year to track gifts and expenditures. Frankly, my life isn't that complicated. And I like being able to fold up my paper and slip it into my wallet, so it's with me all the time.

You can also list on your paper others for whom you need to shop, and your budget for each person. Everything is on one sheet of paper and you're more likely to live in reality when you write it down.

You can also track your purchases on your phone and eliminate the piece of paper.

More on shopping:

Organize Your Christmas Shopping with New Gifts HD iPad App

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 3 - Smart Gift Giving

10 Ways to Streamline Your Shopping Time


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Creating a Gift Wrapping Station

I created a gift wrapping station in our guest room. I went through my wrapping supplies and divided them up into tissue paper, gift wrap, gift bags, ribbons and gift tags. Each are in separate containers.


We have a desk in the room and it has become the wrapping surface. In the desk drawer are scissors and tape. 

The room allows privacy when people are wrapping for others in the house. And it keeps the mess in one location.

Even if you don't have an extra room, you could designate an area for wrapping. You could repurpose a game table or set up a card table for the wrapping surface and keep your supplies nearby. If you can locate the area in a less-used area, you won't have to move it around. And it won't be an eyesore.

More on Christmas wrapping:

Inventorying Your Christmas Supplies

10 Ways to Double Your Time

Destressing Christmas, Part 3 - Think through gifts


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Finally - An Easy Way to Organize Legos!

As you may recall from an earlier post, I didn't really see the point of organizing Legos - until now! I just saw this video about Box4Blox, and it convinced me. We don't have many Legos around our house these days, so I haven't tried it out, but it sure looks easy to me - even kids can do it!. The website says they are available at Amazon, but that is not the case at the moment.

Here are some other ideas, but I still prefer the Box4Blox.

LEGO ® Storage Tray Unit

Iris Lego Project Case Chest

More on toys:

Organizing Legos - Or Not

Downsizing Toys before Christmas

Teaching Children to Organize


Monday, December 6, 2010

Time-Saving Steps For Rolled/Cut Out Cookies

Yesterday we made sugar cookies. I had read about using parchment paper to make the process less messy and less time consuming. So we tried it! You may have been doing this for years, but this was a first for us.

One part of the suggestion was to roll the dough on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. Then you remove the excess once the cookies are cut. That part didn't work for us, as our dough was too soft to remove successfully. If your cookie dough is a little stiffer than ours, this first step might work.

The part that did work was baking the cookies on parchment paper. Once the cookies were baked, we could slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the counter where the cookies cooled. We use cookie sheets that only have one raised side - it wouldn't work as nicely if your cookie sheets have sides.

We iced the cookies right on the parchment paper, too, saving another step. 

We didn't have to clean the cookie sheets! And by sliding the parchment paper off the cookie sheets, there wasn't the heartbreaking occurrence of breaking cookies while removing them with a spatula.

Making rolled cookies is a fun but time-consuming and messy process. Parchment paper makes it a little easier! It is now found in most grocery stores on the aisle with waxed paper and foil and such.

More on cookies:

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies

How Coffee Filters Can Help You Declutter Holiday Baking

Getting a Jump on Christmas Cookies


Friday, December 3, 2010

Hoarder or Collector?

An interesting article by Deborah M. Todd in yesterday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on determining the difference between hoarding and collecting. Here's an excerpt:

Robert Hudak, a psychiatrist with UPMC's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic who works with patients who hoard, said an official clinical definition for the disorder is not yet included in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But, he said, because research into the phenomenon has surged in the past two decades, he believes the next edition will define the disorder.

Criteria of a hoarder
The criteria that the American Psychiatric Association has proposed for defining hoarder in its diagnostic manual include these descriptions:
• "difficulty discarding or parting with possessions regardless of the value others attribute to the possessions,"
• "a strong urge to save items and stress associated with discarding items,"
• "symptoms so severe an accumulation of a large number of possessions fill up and clutter active living areas of the home so that their intended use is no longer possible,"
• "clinically significant distress or impairment in social functioning" due to the symptoms.

Dr. Hudak said hoarding has been considered a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the past, but many researchers today believe it is a separate illness.

He said he has never treated a case of animal hoarding but said severe cases  ... reflect a thought process that clearly separates hoarders from those who are merely disorganized or house massive collections.

"I think either you're a hoarder or you're not," he said. "Someone who's just a little sloppy and accumulates a lot of stuff on their desks and just doesn't get around to throwing things away, I don't think they're at any risk for becoming a hoarder. Hoarding is a specific illness."

But Vickie Dellaquila, owner of Organization Rules in McCandless and also a member of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization, said she has seen collectors with some degree of disorganization end up in hoarding situations following a trauma in their lives. One female client who had problems with compulsive shopping ended up collecting everything from beauty and household products to junk mail following the death of a loved one.

"She had already had tendencies of chronic disorganization, but [the death] triggered more hoarding when she couldn't deal with the loss. She's hoarding as a mechanism to cope," Ms. Dellaquila said.

One major difference between collectors who have hoarding tendencies and collectors who may have too much of an item on their hands is that the collectors without a true hoarding problem realize that the overabundance takes away from their ability to track and display their goods or interferes with their personal space, she said. ...

"We're not going to diagnose hoarding based on the amount of stuff that someone has per se. We diagnose hoarding with the person's unrealistic attachment to the possessions," (Hudak) said.

Mrs. McKee said that misusing the label of hoarder can be dangerous to a hidden but substantial population that all too easily will retreat to further isolation -- and away from help -- if the stigma surrounding the disorder is heightened.

"It's not OK to talk about hoarders like you would talk about everybody else because the cashier in line could be a hoarder. The person next to you could be a hoarder," she said.

"I hope that people will be more respectful of the disorder as they find it afflicts so many."

More on hoarding:

The Psychology Behind Hoarding

Self-Help Books for Hoarders and Their Families

When Clutter is Unhealthy

Three Steps to Decluttering

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Laudry Room Tips from Woman's Day

I came across the following laundry room tips in a Woman's Day article and thought they were helpful. 

• Stack plastic see-through shoeboxes or bins on a shelf with small laundry aids such as bleach pens, laundry markers and stain removers
• Use lazy Susans on shelves to make starch, suede cleaner and other seldom-used laundry items more convenient to grab. 

• Place a small bowl or basket near the washing machine to catch stray buttons, coins and anything else you find in pockets.

• Utilize unused space by placing hooks on the wall to hold hangers or a bag for dry-clean-only items.

• Mount a retractable clothesline or accordion drying rack on the wall, or use a tension rod set high in a door frame for hanging drip-dry items.

• Keep a trash can handy so you’ll always remember to clean the dryer’s lint screen.

• Store messy items such as detergent and bleach bottles in plastic bins or dish pans to catch drips and residue. If you buy extra-large containers at warehouse clubs, transfer to smaller jugs so they’re more manageable. And keep extra laundry supplies in your bulk storage area.

• Keep hampers near where each family member undresses. If there's space, a sectioned hamper in the laundry room makes sorting easier. 

• Hang an organizer to hold your iron and ironing board over a door or on the wall. If space is limited, consider a wall-mounted ironing board."

Photo: Anthony-Masterson/Getty Images

More on laundry:

Shaving a Few Minutes Off Laundry Time

Shaving a Few Minutes Off Laundry Time, Part 2

Organizing Laundry

Three Steps to Clever Cleaning

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Juggling Priorities During the Holidays

When you add all the shopping, special events, and more to an already busy schedule, life can get confusing! It requires juggling schedules and priorities as needed. 

Today started our stocking stuffer gifts for our foster daughters - one gift in each of their stockings each day until Christmas. I'm rather proud of myself - I have bought all the stocking stuffers and wrapped up through the 13th. 

Only problem - I was missing a couple of stockings. Last year when we became permanent house parents for our teenage foster daughters, I made stockings for the girls. They are made out of Christmas fabric with a cross-stitched cuff. Two of the girls had theirs from last year, but we have two new girls this year. 

So ... every free moment lately I've been cross-stitching in order to finish by last night. In light of this deadline, I postponed some things that could wait until later and simplified other things. 

That's what the holiday season requires - evaluating which tasks get top billing, which ones can wait, and which ones get marked off the list or simplified.

By doing so, we'll be doing those things that are most important. Can't do better than that, can we?

More on priorities:

Your Priorities, Passions, and Gifts Create Context for Your Clutter

Priorities and Perspective from a Ninety-Year-Old

Getting Rid of Guilt-Producing Expectations

Three Steps to Time Management


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Decluttering Your Medicine Cabinet - Proper Storage and Disposal of Medications

The following article in USA Today by Liz Szabo explains the danger of improper drug storage and disposal - very helpful when you declutter your medicine cabinet. As foster parents, we are required to keep all medications in a locked location - not a bad idea for any home with children!

"Old or expired medications do more than clutter the bathroom. They can fall into the wrong hands — or even local drinking water.

One in nine kids abuse prescription pain relievers, says Sandra Schneider of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Meds also pose a risk to babies and toddlers, says Lara McKenzie of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Nearly 10,000 small children accidentally swallowed opiate painkillers between 2003 and 2006, says a report in Annals of Emergency Medicine. A single dose of some heart medications or pain pills can kill a child, Schneider says.

Medications kill more people than any other source of poisoning, says the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Some, such as the antibiotic tetracycline, can degrade into a toxic form over time, Schneider says.

Medications flushed down the toilet can end up in drinking water, says Jeanie Jaramillo of the Texas Panhandle Poison Center in Amarillo, which has held drug "take-back" programs for years. Water treatment plants typically can't filter out medications, she says.

People who don't live near a drop-off site should throw them out only after taking precautions. The Food and Drug Administration recommends these steps:
•Take meds out of their original packaging and put them in a container that can be tightly sealed, such as a coffee can.
•Mix them with coffee grounds, kitty litter or anything that makes them undesirable.
•Scratch out identifying information on the original package.

The FDA recommends flushing only a handful of particularly risky medications — such as narcotic pain patches — when drug take-back programs aren't available. A list of these is at fda.gov. People with medication safety concerns can call a local poison control center at 800-222-1222."

Note: Take Back programs have ceased at this time of writing. 

More on medicines:

What Every Medicine Cabinet Needs

National Preparedness Month - Emergency Kit #4 - First Aid Kit

Get Organizing Month - Decluttering Your Bathroom Storage


Monday, November 29, 2010

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 9 - Guard Your Health

With so much going around these days, it makes you think twice about shopping and socializing! But there are other health issues to think about during the holiday season. It’s very easy to abuse your health during the holiday season – parties, rich food, a busier schedule, and less time for exercise. Here are a few suggestions for maintaining your health:

- Don't go to a party hungry. Eat something before you go so you're not ravenous. Think ahead of time about the amount of food you will eat. Just a taste of those tasty morsels is usually enough to satisfy your palette. No need for excess eating or drinking!

- Don't give up your workout. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress. As your schedule gets more hectic, make sure to guard your exercise time. Eliminate something less important if you must eliminate something.

- Don’t neglect your sleep – you’ll be irritable and less able than usual to deal with stress. Research shows that your emotions will rollercoaster and your logic powers will suffer without sleep.

- Make sure your family members are getting enough sleep, too. Try to keep normal bedtimes and naptimes.

- Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds after or while you are attending an event to get rid of those germs passed around by shaking hands, hugging and kissing. Carry some hand sanitizer with you, but it’s not as effective as soap and water.

Wouldn’t it be nice to go through the holiday season without gaining weight, getting sick, being stressed-out, and feeling grouchy? It’s possible, but you’ll need to be very intentional in order to do it! It’s worth the effort, though!

More on reducing Christmas stress:

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 1 - Expectations

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 2 - Thinking Through the Needs of Your Family and Friends

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 5 - Mapping Out Your Calendar


Friday, November 26, 2010

Maximizing Time - What To Do While Waiting

Life is a hurry-up-and-wait game, isn't it? We wait in carpool lanes, appointments, traffic, for our children's lessons or sports to conclude, etc. Why not make the most of it? Every scrap of time you can use while waiting means you'll have more time later!

Here are a few ideas:
- Listen to a recorded book. Even when traffic is irritating or there is road construction, it goes by so much more pleasantly when you have something to engage your mind.
- Carry a nail file to do touch ups while sitting at lights, and other times you're waiting.
- Write thank you notes, birthday cards, etc.
- Make a quick phone call (not while driving!).
- Plan menus.
- Work on a grocery list or to do list.
- Pick up the trash in the car.
- Clean out your purse, wallet, or briefcase.
- Read a book. Sometimes I bring a pleasure book if I think I'm going to be waiting long. It keeps me from being as irritated by the wait.
- Take a magazine from home you've been wanting to read. Tear out the pages you want to keep. (I did this once in a doctor's office and one of my foster daughters thought I was ripping up the doctor's magazines. LOL!)
- Listen to some calming music if you need that, or some upbeat music if that's what you need. 
- Do some mending.
- Catch up on emails or social networks.

If you have kids in the car:
- Use the time to catch up on each other's day. To promote conversation, avoid using questions that have yes and no answers.
- Play a game like 20 questions, I Spy, or something similar to pass the time.
- Pop in a recorded book geared toward your child's age. 
- Listen to some music your child enjoys. Sing along!
- Have a book of five-minute mysteries you can read to your child.
- Have a "car book" - a book you read together while waiting in the car.
- Have a stocked activity box or bag for your child to enjoy while waiting.
- Carry non-messy snacks in the car to get through the "grumpy, hungry" stage.

We only get 24 hours in each day - let's stretch it!

More on maximizing time:

How to Buy Some Extra Time

10 Ways to Streamline Your Shopping Time

Increasing Efficiency

Three Steps to Time Management

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a blessed day! It's a wonderful day to think about all those things for which we're thankful. 

I'm so thankful for the parents I have - what a great heritage they have given me! I'm grateful for my husband who loves me unconditionally and is always so encouraging. Our daughters and son-in-law are amazing and such gifts. Our foster daughters, our family and friends are truly blessings, too. None of us perfect, but so thankful for those in my life!

I wouldn't trade the journey my life has taken for anything - not always easy or fun, but I grow. I'm thankful most of all for the faith journey I've traveled, giving me meaning and purpose in life. 

What are you thankful for today? No matter how difficult life is, we can always find reasons to be thankful. I hope you have time to ponder your blessings.



What's In Your Clutter?

I saw this article in the UK Express. Doesn't it make you want to search through your clutter for hidden treasure?


"AN 18th century Chinese vase found buried in a pile of clutter at a house clearance stunned the antiques world last night after fetching a record £51.6million at auction. 

The 16-inch tall Qianlong dynasty porcelain ornament smashed all expectations, selling to a Chinese buyer for more than 50 times its original estimate.

A middle-aged brother and sister, who wish to remain anonymous, stumbled upon the elaborately decorated piece as they cleared out their former family home in the north-west London suburb of Pinner following the death of their parents.   

It was taken to Bainbridge’s auction house in Ruislip, Middlesex, where it was estimated to fetch between £800,000 and £1.2 million. However, yesterday it smashed the record for any piece of Chinese artwork sold at auction, going under the hammer for £43million, with auctioneers’ fees taking the price to £51.6million. 

It is not known how the vase found its way to the London suburbs, but since the news of the find broke the small auction house has been inundated with queries from all over the world. 

Helen Porter, of Bainbridge’s, said: “We are absolutely stunned. This must be one of the most important Chinese vases to be offered for sale this century. Our previous highest sale was £100,000 for a Ming enamel piece a couple of years ago. 

'It came from an ordinary house clearance. We’re just a very typical local auction house so, as you can imagine, it was something of a surprise.' 

Experts believe the vase, in near enough perfect condition, was fired in the imperial kilns in the 1740s and would have been part of a collection that was kept in the Chinese royal palace."

More on benefiting from decluttering:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 8 - Give Memories, Not Clutter

It seems that our country is drowning in clutter! Our kids have so many toys, their rooms are overflowing. We have to rent storage units to hold our excess stuff. 

This Christmas and throughout the year, consider giving memories instead of clutter. Give experiences! I've talked about some of these before, but they are worth repeating. :)

One year my parents were visiting us at Christmas when we lived in the DC area. Their gift from us: tickets for them to take our daughters to the Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center.

For one daughter's 16th birthday, we took her and her boyfriend (now husband) to see Stomp! in lieu of having a party. For our other daughter's birthday one year, we went to the play Little Women (one of her favorite books) followed by high tea, reminiscent of our time living in Kenya.

I have a dear friend who has four boys. Each time one graduates from high school, he gets to pick where in the country the family will go for vacation that year. 

For my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, all four of us siblings typed out a tribute to them, framed them in gold frames, and presented them on a family vacation.

This year we celebrated their 60th and my brother created a video incorporating interviews he had done with mom and dad as well as photos throughout their lives. It was just a family affair - the four siblings and our children. We siblings each toasted my parents - what a wonderful memory and special time together! 

Speaking of my parents, once when our girls stayed with them, my mom walked them around the neighborhood telling them about our neighbors who lived there when I was growing up. It included a trip to Midway Grocery, a tiny little grocery store where I and my siblings would go to buy candy. They still have fond memories of that experience!

When we lived in Kenya, my gift to the guys on our team was a dozen cookies every month for a year. Even though they were material objects, they didn't stay around long enough to create clutter!

When we visited one of our daughters this year, we decided to choose one five-star restaurant rather than several average places to eat. It made a fun and delicious memory! 

Considering what your loved one or friend likes is the key. Here are some other ideas:

- If it is expensive, you may be able to team up with others. If Uncle Jim wants to celebrate his 80th birthday by sky diving or going for a hot-air balloon ride, have family members chip in. 

- Share the experience. Accompany your friends or family to the event to make a joint memory.

- Give your time. Bring lunch over to auntie's and spend a couple of hours with her. Or babysit for a young mom who needs some time out of the house. 

Your gift experiences don't need to cost a lot. The only limit is your creativity!

More on no-clutter gifts:

A Last-Minute Clutterless Gift Idea - BookSwim

Easy Decadent Fudge Recipe

Destressing Christmas, Part 11 - Meaningful Gifts with No Clutter


Monday, November 22, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Recycle Those Fall Pumpkins into Good Eats!

It makes me somewhat sad to see jack-o-lanterns turning black inside after they've been carved. I know lots of fun was had carving them and decorating with them, but think of the wasted pumpkin that could have been used for tantalizing recipes! 

No, I don't feel that strongly about it, but I do like to use my pumpkins. We give our foster daughters a choice as to whether they'd like to carve or color their pumpkins with markers. Markers are a nice alternative for those who don't like the slimy insides.

Last weekend I cut a couple of the small pumpkins and baked them. You can also microwave or steam them. Take out the seeds and scrape the slimy parts. Cover the pumpkin pieces with foil if you're going to bake them. It will take 1-2 hours at 350 degrees, depending on how big and thick your pieces are.

Check the pumpkin with a knife - when it can easily slide into the pumpkin, you know it's soft. When it has cooled, scrape out the meat with a spoon and puree it in your blender. 

I freeze what I'm not going to use immediately into two-cup servings, as that is what most of my recipes require. I place a quart-size freezer bag in a tall drinking glass and open the edges over the lip of the glass. This serves as a third hand, holding the bag while filling it. When filled, I flatten the bag so it's easy to store in the freezer.

Here are my favorite pumpkin recipes:

1. Side dish. Serve warmed pumpkin with brown sugar as an interesting side dish.

2. Roasted pumpkin seeds. Rinse the slime off the pumpkin seeds in a colander. Take a paper towel and rub it through the seeds to remove some of the moisture. Line a jelly roll pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place the seeds on the pan, preferably one layer thick. Salt and stir gently. Bake at 400 degrees until light brown and crisp (about 15-20 minutes), flipping seeds over halfway through. 

3. Pumpkin bread. Makes two loaves. From Three Steps to Planning Dinner.

3 1/2 c. flour                  3 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. salt                    1 c. oil (I use 1/2 c. oil. and 1/2 c.
1 t. nutmeg                        nonfat plain yogurt or applesauce)
2 t. cinnamon                 4 eggs
2 t. soda                         2 c. pumpkin
2/3 c. water

Sift dry ingredients into large bowl.  Add sugar.  Combine oil, eggs, pumpkin and water and add to dry ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.  Pour into two loaf pans sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake at 325 for 1-1 1/2 hours.

Variation:  Sometimes I will substitute bananas or other fruit for the pumpkin and leave out the nutmeg and cinnamon.

4. Curried Pumpkin Soup (the numbers in parentheses represent 2, 4, and 6 servings respectively). From Hassle Free Dinners.

Onion (1/6, 1/3, 1/2 c.)
Minced garlic (1/2, 1, 1 1/2 t.)
Curry powder (1/2, 1, 1 1/2 t.)
Butter (1, 2, 3 t.)
Pureed pumpkin or canned pumpkin (1/2, 1, 1 1/2 c.)
Nutmeg (1/8, 1/4, 3/8 t.)
Sugar (1/16, 1/8, 3/16 t.)
Bay leaf (1/2, 1, 1 1/2)
Vegetable or chicken broth (1, 2, 3 c.)
Milk (3/4, 1 1/2, 2 1/4 c.)
Cornstarch (1/2, 1, 1 1/2 T.)

- Preheat skillet to medium high.  Chop onion.  Saute onion, garlic and curry powder in butter until onion is tender. 
- Add pumpkin, nutmeg, sugar, and bay leaf.  Stir in the broth and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes.  Take out bay leaf.  Stir in 2/3 of the milk and cook over low heat for a few minutes.  In another bowl, stir together remaining milk and cornstarch until dissolved; then add it to the soup.
- Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.  Cook a couple more minutes. 

- I doubled this recipe recently and put half in the freezer for Christmas. 

More on cooking:

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 6 - Planning Holiday Meals

Getting the Most Bang Out of Your Produce Buck

Planning Ahead for Dinner


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Planning Ahead for Thanksgiving

As far as I know, I will be the only one cooking for our Thanksgiving dinner. I'm not sure which of our four foster daughters will be here, if any. One of our daughters will be here, but she'll be traveling. So, I need to plan ahead so I'm not exhausted on Thanksgiving!

I've already done my major shopping - turkey, dressing, potatoes, sandwich stuff for turkey sandwiches, etc. We'll be having a broccoli casserole which uses cooked broccoli. So I'll cook some broccoli some time before Thanksgiving, making enough extra for the casserole. I'll make up the casserole and put it in the fridge.

I may make some homemade cornbread stuffing in addition to the boxed kind, so I'll plan to make some cornbread to go along with the chili I'm making next Wednesday. 

I'm not a whiz at gravy, so I have canned gravy. I'll also make giblet gravy ahead of time. I usually make mashed potatoes with red skin potatoes so I don't have to peel them. If everyone is okay with it, I'll make them garlic mashed potatoes.

I'll also make what our family calls cranberry fluff. I can make most of it on Wednesday and add the final ingredients on Thursday. And I'll just bake some sweet potatoes as things are baking on Thursday - nothing fancy, just plain baked sweet potatoes. 

Hmmm ... pies. Guess I'll make a pecan and a pumpkin. I'll use Betty Crocker's refrigerated pie crusts, which taste like homemade, so that will make it easy.

Rolls? Do we really need those with all the starch in the meal? If so, I'll use the frozen kind that just need to thaw and bake - I have some in the freezer. 

As the time gets closer, I'll figure out how many days it will take to thaw the turkey, and how long it will need to cook. I always cook mine in an oven bag, which reduces cooking time significantly. I'll allow for the turkey to be ready about an hour before we eat so it can sit for a bit before being carved.

That will give me time to cook the other side dishes. I'll make a list of when each item needs to go into the oven. I'll also figure out which dishes will go in which serving pieces. 

So, hopefully, by planning ahead, Thanksgiving Day will be as stress-free as possible. I'm sure whoever is here will give me a hand. 

If you're worried about hosting Thanksgiving, plan it out ahead of time, cook or prepare as much as you can early, let others help by bringing something or by helping you cook, simplify as much as you can, and enjoy your day!

More on holiday meals:

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 6 - Planning Holiday Meals

Organizing Holiday Meals with Safety in Mind

Three Steps to Planning Dinner

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Efficient Leaf Raking

This is the week the city is coming by to collect our leaves from the curb. If you live in a warmer climate where the leaves don't change, you're missing out!!

My husband and I have a few days off as foster parents, which has mixed blessings. We have a break, but unfortunately, we didn't manage to fit leaf raking into our schedule while our four foster daughters were at home, so the leaf raking falls to us!

Today and the rest of the week has a forecast of rain, so last night was our chance. My husband made quick work of it, even though we have a very large yard. He started on the outside edges of the yard and mowed in circles with the mower blowing toward the middle of the yard. Not only did he give the lawn its final cut for the year, but all the leaves were blown toward the middle of yard.

He and I then raked the leaves onto a tarp, folded it up burrito-style so the leaves wouldn't fall out, and dragged it to the curb. Thankfully, a hurricane-type wind had already blown most of the leaves away in our front yard, so all that was left was our back and side yards. 

Instead of breaking your back with hours of raking, try my husband's method of circling the leaves. So efficient!

More on getting organized for winter:

Using Your Snow Shovel Year Round - Another Gardening Tip

Getting Organized for Winter - Trees and Gutters

Getting Organized for Winter - Your Garage


Monday, November 15, 2010

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 7 - Christmas Card Tips

I got a little more Christmas shopping done over the weekend. I have all the stocking stuffers I'll put in our foster daughters' stockings during the month of December - one each day until Christmas. And I had a great time speaking on Decluttering at the Kent Free Library - great audience! Now on to our topic for today ...

Sending out Christmas cards can seem like an overwhelming and costly task. Here are some ways to make it more doable.

- Send out digital Christmas cards or letters to as many people as possible. I know this offends some, but at least your message gets out. I like sending and receiving letters - catching up with our friends. When I receive a Christmas card with only a signature, I know my friends are alive, but that's about all!

You can email your letters or you can use an email service. I use iContact to send out emails for my business, and it allows me to divide my contacts into different groups, one being my Christmas card list.

If you have a blog, you can post your Christmas letter on your blog, too. If you want to get fancy, you could make a video Christmas greeting and put the link on your social networks. 

- If you write a Christmas letter, make it no longer than one side of a page. It's cheaper to print and most people won't read more than that. It forces you to be economical with your words! 

- Use your TV time or traveling time (if you're the passenger!) to address Christmas cards. You're doubling your time while enjoying yourself, too!

- Get the family involved. Your family members can help fold, stuff, seal, and stamp your cards and letters.

- In January, update your snail mail Christmas card list as you sort through your Christmas cards. Then you're set when it comes time to send out your cards.

However you do Christmas cards, your friends and family will love to hear from you! 

More on reducing Christmas stress:

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 6 - Planning Holiday Meals

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 5 - Mapping Out Your Calendar

Reduce Christmas Stress by Organizing Now, Part 4 - Organizing Your Cleaning and Decorating