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.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I'm Taking A Vacation!

Just wanted to let you know that I'm taking the rest of the month off from blogging. With some vacation days ahead, I'm trying to make sure to have a few restful days. With five teenage girls in the house, I'm ready for some days off! LOL!

I'll be speaking at the National Gift Basket Convention during my time off, but it will be a change of scenery and normal activity, which is refreshing and rejuvenating.

I'll be back on August 2.  


Friday, July 16, 2010

Decluttering Digital Photos

It's easy to end up with a massive sorting and purging job with digital photos - they accumulate so quickly! Here are a few tips to make it easier:

- Delete pictures on your camera you don't like. Do it immediately after each picture-taking session. You can determine which pictures are best, which are duplicates, etc.

- Use these filters: 
  • Is it blurry?  
  • Do you love it? 
  • Will you want it in five years? 
  • And my favorite - do I look better that I do in real life? LOL! I do NOT want to keep pictures of myself for posterity in which I look terrible!
- When going through old pictures, use the same filters. In addition, get rid of photos of people and places you don't remember or that are no longer meaningful.

- Back up files in several places: internally on your computer, externally on a DVD or external hard drive, on online digital sharing services (iPhoto, Snapfish, Flickr, Picasa, etc.)

- Periodically, go through your photos to see if they have lost appeal over time. By being ruthless before saving your photos, it will make this job easier.

More on photos:

Organizing Digital Photos

Storage Ideas for Crafts and Art Supplies



Thursday, July 15, 2010

Home Team 1, Squirrels 0 - or - Can Squirrels Smell PVC

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that squirrels have been the bane of my existence! They have eaten my plums, blueberries, and raspberries, destroyed my herb seedlings, and now - they can demolish a $15 bag of bird feed in two days! Do they have an Overeaters Anonymous for squirrels?!

After making a baffle that was unsuccessful, we hit upon a winner - PVC! We have a 4 x 4 post that holds our bird feeder. A genius at Lowe's told us that there are 4 x 4 PVC covers for wooden posts. I will forever be grateful to that man!

My husband removed the bird feeder and the bird house attached to the post. He then slipped the PVC cover down over the post and instant squirrel baffle! For the price of one bag of bird feed! The slippery surface of the PVC prevents the little critters from climbing up the post.

Can squirrels smell PVC? We haven't even seen a squirrel approach the bird feeder. We even set up our video camera so we can relish the sight of squirrels slipping off the PVC. And it has been several days since installing the PVC. Our only worry - that they will jump off the tree onto the bird feeder. Then it may be time for me to invest in an air gun! Just kidding!

 More on squirrels:

Feed the Squirrels? - Hah!

Score: Squirrels 1, Bev 0

Score: Herbs 1, Squirrels 0 ... So Far


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Are You Overscheduling Your Kids or Yourself?

Are you on the go continuously? Do your kids have activities scheduled several days a week?

I remember wondering if I would damage my child's potential if she didn't play on the select basketball team. As it turned out, she didn't pursue basketball beyond high school. 

But parents feel those pressures: 
- if I don't get him started in baseball now, he'll be behind his peers
- she is so talented in singing, I don't want to squelch her desire
- he wants to take art lessons, so why not?
- it's much easier for a child to learn a foreign language - an hour of Spanish lessons a week couldn't hurt.

I remember one of my daughters asking if we could reduce the number of activities (all were her choices) so she could have time to play. Argh! Her older sister liked to be active all the time, but she needed some space.

So another piece to this juggling act is to know your child, know yourself and know what you and your family can handle. Don't be afraid not to have your child enrolled in all the activities your friends' children are enrolled in. Don't be afraid to say no.

It is much more peaceful to give your child and yourself some space rather than overscheduling your child, and therefore, yourself.

More on discernment:

Living with Imperfection

Organizing An Intentional Summer for Your Children

Functioning at Peak Performance by Planning Quiet Moments

Rethinking Life

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: A Unique Dinner

To continue my series on Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: A unique dinner is a bit complicated but a lot of fun. You give your family/guests menus (see below) which have strange names for the items served. They choose what they’d like to eat for four courses. They don’t know that their utensils are included in the unusual descriptions below. 

It makes for a unique experience to see what people end up with for each course - applesauce, fork, butter, and ranch dressing, for example. Dish up each course and laugh! 

Change the menu and make up your own names for them, if you wish. Even teenagers like this dinner! :) 


Unique Dinner

Welcome to your unique dinner – a luxurious four-course meal.  Please choose what you’d like to have for each course – four per course.

Souper scoop            Cluck and muck            Green mush
Mud                           Cool and refreshing       A la mode
Stabber                     Farm sauce                    White mountain
Hockey puck             A dab here, a dab there  Chop stick
Cow spread              Smashed Jonathan         Slices and spices
Larry slices

1st Course         ______________________
                                    (your name)

2nd Course         ______________________
                                    (your name)

3rd Course         ______________________
                                    (your name)

4th Course         ______________________
                                    (your name)

Unique Dinner Translations:

Spoon - Souper scooper
Chicken Parmesan - Cluck and muck
Green Bean Casserole - Green mush
Glass of water - Cool and refreshing
Mashed potatoes - White mountain
Fork - Stabber
Knife – chop stick
Napkin - A dab here, a dab there
Roll – Hockey puck
Butter – Cow spread
Applesauce- Smashed Jonathan
Apple Pie – Slices and spices
Sliced Cucumbers - Larry slices
Ranch dressing - Farm sauce
Vanilla Ice Cream – A la mode
Gravy – Mud

More summer fun:

101 Things to Do this Summer

Organizing Your Fun Time

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: Treasure Hunt Dinner 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Planning for Your Child's Reading Success - A Book Review of "Anytime Reading Readiness"

I recently read Anytime Reading Readiness by Cathy Puett Miller. What a gold mine of information - a must-read for all parents of pre-readers and early readers. The book details how we as parents can instill a love of reading in our children, from infancy and beyond. My philosophy: if you can read, you can learn to do anything! 

Cathy teaches read-aloud skills that guarantee great story times. And she shows us how our conversation with our small children can contribute to successful reading. Who knew?

A plethora of games helps make pre-reading and reading skills fun for our children. And pages of resources insure that we'll never run out of ideas.

This book is not a "teach your child to read by age two" kind of book. It is a balanced guide to help your child read when he or she is ready. As a parent you are empowered to look for signs that your child is ready to read and use those moments.

Don't be tempted to skip over the introduction - it lays the foundation for years of successful reading with your child!  

Anytime Reading Readiness would be a very meaningful baby gift or an anytime gift for someone you love with small children - or for yourself!

More on helping your child succeed:

Insuring Peak Performance: Sleep 101

Getting Organized for School - Learning Styles



Friday, July 9, 2010

How to Stay Organized During a Crisis

Here's a first-hand report from professional organizer Debbie Bowie about how to manage when you encounter crises in your life. 

“ 'Things went downhill when we had three family crises in a year,' said a new client who was explaining how her lovely home had evolved into a cluttered, chaotic mess.

It is very common for people to lose control of the order in their homes during times of crisis. Crisis situations that go on for an extended period of time consume time, energy and the motivation required to maintain an organized home.

It’s not uncommon for people to find that once they’ve gotten past the personal crisis–illness, death in the family, caregiving for aging or sick relatives, recovery from surgery–they have another crisis on their hands, a living space that is such a mess that they have no idea how they will ever get it back to its more orderly state.

Twice in the past year I’ve been thrown into crisis mode, first when my step-father began deteriorating mentally and had to have brain surgery and then when my disabled brother developed a serious infection in his artificial knee joint requiring surgery, weeks of IV antibiotics and another knee replacement. 

Both events were incredibly energy consuming for me because I was a key decision-maker, the coordinator of communication between family members, a key source of emotional support, and I had my own fears and other feelings to manage.

It was all I could do to get through each day dealing with the crisis at hand, much less tend to my small business and maintain order in my home. Those two crises were an opportunity for me to learn how to get through difficult times without losing control of other parts of my life. 

Here are 6 of the important lessons I learned: 

1. Identify tasks to be done no matter what.

Then do them! I am the money manager in our house. So, making sure bills got paid and that money was in the right accounts at the right time were two tasks I had to get done so we could avoid consequences like ruining our credit rating. Keeping us afloat financially during those difficult times helped ground me. I liked knowing that no matter what else happened, we were operating on a firm financial foundation.

2. Defer whatever tasks you can to other people.


Instead of trying to keep everything in order by myself, I asked my husband to do many tasks that normally I would have done to maintain our home and our lives together.

Also, people offer help during times of crisis. Let them! Last summer when I had bi-lateral bunion surgery I asked friends to help provide food and walk my dogs. They were happy to have something to do that would help me, and their help provided a type of emotional support I really needed.

3. Lighten your load by eliminating obligations.


It became clear to me pretty quickly that helping my mother and step-father through my step-father’s health crisis and staying healthy myself during that stressful process was more important than writing checks for a professional organization. I actually chose to resign from two volunteer positions because taking care of family and myself were the priority.

4. Control paper flow even if you can’t regularly process it.


You may not have time to do much with paper that flows into your house on a daily basis, but you can make sure that it all flows to the same place. That way, when you need to find something in that pile of paper, you have only one place to look. You might stack it in piles in your home office or get an open box and store it there. Just don’t let it float throughout your space!

If you want to go one step further, pull out bills and magazines/catalogs/newsletters. Put the bills in a highly visible location so you don’t forget about them and so they are easily accessible when you are ready to pay them. Place the magazine, catalogs and other reading materials in a location where you spend time reading. Removing those items from your paper pile will make it shrink and also make it easier to access things to read when you need a source of distraction.

5. Resist the urge to do nothing.


In times of personal crisis it is very normal to shut down because of overwhelm, fatigue, or just not knowing what to do. While it is important to take breaks to rest, recharge, and recover, it is not a good idea to go to ground and let everything go. 

It takes only a day or two for your space to go from being a peaceful haven to a chaotic nightmare. Then you not only have a crisis going on outside your home, but also inside your home. You have no safe place to retreat. Messy houses scream, “You slob! Why don’t you do something about this mess!” 

Make yourself do at least the bare minimum to maintain order, like controlling the paper flow, washing the dishes, straightening up daily.

6. Remember that maintaining a basic order will ground you during difficult times.


You may resist doing maintenance activities because you are exhausted, but if you override the urge to stop and plop on the sofa and instead do a few tasks to keep your space neat and organized, you will find that doing those things will help ground and calm you. 

You will then be better able to go out and deal with whatever challenge is going on. If you are physically incapable of maintaining order yourself, because of illness or disability, ask others to help you do that. Many people want to help in some way. Let them know that their help will ground you and facilitate your recovery."

More on crisis management:

Declutter as You Spring Clean - Just in Case

When Clutter is Unhealthy

10 Signs That Your Parent Shouldn't Be Living Alone


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Time Management Solutions - How to Discourage Tardiness

We have a couple of foster daughters who make others late. One has terrible organizational and time management skills. But both make others wait because of control and power issues. 

So I have decided on this strategy: when we designate a time when we must leave, if someone holds the rest of us up, that person must repay that amount of time to each person kept waiting. And ... the person(s) who was kept waiting gets to decide what the tardy person must do for her during those minutes.

So far, we've not had anyone be late. But I can imagine what nasty chores will be chosen when it does happen! LOL 

By knowing ahead of time the consequence of tardiness, people may be more considerate and not waste others' time. The tardy one will not be allowed to hold the rest hostage without recourse. 

And it takes some of the emotional stress out of the situation because there is a cost incurred when someone is late. By calmly noting the number of late minutes to be repaid, it is not necessary to escalate, taking the power away from the controlling person. 

One of the girls asked if it applies to us adults, and it does. As long as the girls do not  ask for things at the last minute that make us late.

More on time management:

Posting a Weekly Schedule

Teaching Children to Organize

Five Ways to Prevent Procrastination from Zapping Your Energy and Productivity

Time Management for the Working Mom


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How to Avoid a Clutter Explosion When You Walk in the Door

After a long day at work, school or play, it's easy to just dump your stuff when you walk in the door. And your house looks like it has exploded!

By taking a few steps, you'll be able to avoid the explosion and relocate essentials without digging through rubble.

- Create a location to store larger items such as book bags, brief cases, purses, diaper bags, sports equipment, etc. You might use hooks on the wall or inside a closet, shelves in a closet, one-foot square cubbies - one for each person, a coat rack - whatever works for you and the space.

- Have an unloading zone - a small container, a decorative bowl, a basket, a drawer, a shelf, etc. where you can put small things like keys, sunglasses, mail, papers to be signed for school and the like. 

- After things have settled down a bit, go through your unloading zone - read and sort the mail, sign that permission slip, put things away, etc.

By taking these few steps, it will eliminate an explosion when you walk in the door and a frantic search for your keys when you need to go out again.

Similar posts:

Organizing Your Mud Room

Decluttering in 10 - Entry Way

Expert Organizing and Design Tips for Your Foyer

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Intentional Contentment - An Antidote to Clutter

Sometimes when there is something lacking in our lives, we soothe ourselves with "retail therapy." Why does it feel so good to go out and spend money to fill up those holes in our lives? But that feeling is short-lived, and we're left with the clutter.

So what should we do instead? We can decide to be content! Even though there may be hard things going on in our lives, there have to be things for which we are thankful, too! 

Did you know that naming those things for which we are thankful each night at bedtime is more effective than seeing a therapist?

Here are some ideas to get you going:
- People in your life, now and in the past, who have been a positive influence.
- Events in your life that have had a good impact in your life (even if they were difficult to endure).
- Material provisions - housing, food, clothes, furniture, etc.
- Your gifts and talents. Be happy you can use them to enhance your life and that of others.
- Your job, if you have one, even if it's not your #1 choice.
- Your health, if applicable. It doesn't take long to look around and see someone who is in worse physical condition.
- Ways in which you are rich.

Even if life is very difficult for you right now, there must be things for which you are thankful.  

By choosing to be content, you're less likely to go out and buy things that will end up cluttering your house because your contentment doesn't come from things.

More on contentment:

5-Minute Stress Relievers - Change Your Attitude

Think Positively

5-Minute Stress Relievers - Music: The Great Stress Reliever


Monday, July 5, 2010

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: A Tacky Party

Hope you had a nice Fourth! We went swimming, continued the fun by coming home and having a water balloon fight, and s'mores for dinner last night! Just by saying that the s'mores were for dinner made it deliciously naughty because you're not supposed to do that! On to more fun ...

A tacky party works best with a large group. We've done this with our daughters' youth groups and soccer team.

Here's how it works: take everyone to the thrift store. Give them $5 to spend (or have them bring $5) to find the tackiest outfit. Come home, have them change into their outfits. Take them bowling in their tackiness. 

We did this once with a youth group of about 30-40 kids. People stopped and stared when we entered the bowling alley. 

We did it here with four foster girls, too. Not quite the show-stopper, though. They thought we were from the clown university! LOL!

Give prizes at the end of the event. 

More on summer fun:

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: Outdoor Decathlon

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: Treasure Hunt Dinner

Organizing Summer Fun When Everyone is Bored: A Random Act of Kindness


Friday, July 2, 2010

4 Signs that You Need to Reorganize

Sometimes we drift into disorganization. We organize an area, but after a while it's not working for us. Here are some signs that organizational drift is upon you:

1. It's messy. New items have been added since you organized and they don't have a home.

2. Misplaced items. Some of the things you thought you would use in the area are no longer contributing toward the function of the space.

3. Systems are not working. As you have used the systems you put into place, you've found that they need to be tweaked.

4. The storage you're using doesn't work well for what you're storing.

This was what was going on in our bedroom closet. When we moved last September, some things just got dumped in our closet. We really haven't had the time or the motivation to tackle it until now. But it was getting so annoying we had to do something!

It was getting messy, so we identified what didn't have homes. We grouped them in like piles.  

And we definitely had misplaced items - things that really needed to be stored away or gotten rid of entirely or placed in a better location. So we took those out of the closet, and placed them in the locations where they should go.

One system that wasn't working was our laundry. We had laundry baskets in our closet (our closet is very large), but it made it difficult to get to some areas of the closet. So we took out the bottom shelf in our bathroom closet, and lined up our laundry baskets there. It made a lot more sense to have them in the bathroom as that's where we take off our clothes. (I'm sorry that's probably too much information! LOL!)

Once we removed the laundry baskets and misplaced items, it created room for those things without homes. 

I have a bunch of bags, some I use often and some not so often. But I like to be able to find the one I want to use when I want to use it. So we bought some hooks (half price, total $18!) to hang them on, which makes them much more available. 

Even though it was a big project and made a big mess at first, it is so nice to have a well-functioning closet! Definitely worth the work.

More on closets:

Closet Mapping

Thinking Through Your Closets

Make it Easy to Get Rid of Things


Thursday, July 1, 2010

How Being Medically Organized Could Save Your Life

Great broadcast by Chasity Mayes at KSMU radio station - here's the transcript:

It’s one of the easiest life saving measures you can take for you and your family, but very few people take the time to do it. KSMU’s Chasity Mayes tells us how organizing your family’s medical information could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation.

"A recent survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 96 percent of Americans believe that knowing their family history is important. Yet, the same survey found that only one-third of Americans have ever tried to document their family's medical history.

Connie Meier is an infection preventionist at Skaggs Regional Medical Center in Branson. She says there are a couple of reasons why people aren’t getting 'medically organized.'

'Some of it is because in years past that we’ve had one doctor that takes care of all of our medical needs and we think that the doctor should know when we go see the doctor. However, that’s not the case now when we see different specialties as far as doctors. And it’s just a matter of taking the time to sit down and write this information out,' says Meier.

Meier says creating a medical history for your family should include things like past surgeries, illnesses, and current medications for each family member. She says keeping that history with you at all times is especially important.

'If you were in an accident somewhere and have to be taken to the hospital they would want to know that information about you and it would make it easier for the providers at that time,' says Meier.
Meier also added that there are many consequences to not having a family medical history on hand in emergency situations. She says you’re at a much greater risk for receiving medication that you’re allergic to and those reactions can be fatal.

Most medical officials agree that major holidays like the upcoming Fourth of July, can be the perfect time for people to get 'medically organized.' Meier says having medical information at your disposal can keep your children safe.

'If your child would happen to go to visit grandma and grandpa or go on vacation and then get sick we would not have that child’s past history. The child also needs to know your history because on down the line if you’re not around and the child develops problems the doctors really need to know the family history,' says Meier.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says tracing common diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes suffered by your parents, or other blood relatives can help your doctor be proactive in preventing disorders that are common in past generations.
Writing down your family’s medical history is one way of getting organized. Many websites, including that of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers an online tool to help you document your family’s medical history."

More on medical organization:

National Preparedness Month - Emergency Kit #7 - Medications and Medical Supplies

Getting Your Affairs in Order

Can Your Loved Ones Find Your Important Documents?