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, February 29, 2012

Closet Space-Savers and Organizers

Looking to get more mileage out of your closet? I've compiled a collection of space-savers and organizers on my Pinterest board so such resources are in one place for you and my clients. I've chosen those with the highest reviews in an effort to provide the best quality. 

Click here to take a look. Hope you enjoy them. :) I have boards on shoe storage and closet organizing systems, too, if you're interested.

More on closets:

Don't Make the #1 Organizing Mistake

Closet Mapping

Get Oranized Month 2009 - Organizing Your Clothes Closet


Monday, February 27, 2012

Wunderkit - An iPhone app for Collaborative Projects

According to Steve Werning at AppPicker,  "Wunderkit is a collaborative productivity app that allows users to jointly set to do lists, organize projects, and work on them remotely via shared workspaces accesible on mobile devices as well as desktop computers and laptops. 

Wunderkit’s interface and functionality are both straightforward, smooth and easy to get used to and operate. These factors are sometimes cast aside by productivity apps in favor of more complex in-depth features but this thankfully isn’t the case with Wunderkit.

Wunderkit allows users to set up multiple ‘workspaces’ where one can set up to do lists, tasks to be done, and track the progress of various projects. Users can also log in to the Wunderkit website to keep track of their assorted projects, add new projects, edit existing projects, and sync up all of this with other users. All of this things can be done via the mobile app as well, but being able to use either platform and sync them together is particularly useful."

Read more of Werning's review

More on apps:

Time Management App for iPhone - Lucid Lists Free

Declutter Your Key Ring with a Free Smart Phone App

myHomework iPhone App Helps Students Get Organized


Friday, February 24, 2012

The Washington Post: Organizing a Homework Space for Special Needs Children


The Washington Post ran two articles yesterday on creating functional and attractive spaces for special needs children. The following August 2011 article about creating homework spaces for special needs kids by Delece Smith-Barrow was referenced. The other two articles are linked below. All three are great reads on a topic rarely addressed.

"For children with special needs or mild learning disabilities, homework often becomes a responsibility shared with their parents. Mom or Dad may spend an hour or two helping them complete math problems, and all the teacher sees is the A paper turned in the next day.

'Oftentimes [these students] kind of fly under the radar screen because parents help them so much at home,' says Ann Dolin, a former Fairfax special-education teacher and founder of the local tutoring service Educational Connections. 'Lots of times kids come back to school with a beautiful paper. Everything’s done. The teacher has no idea what it took to get that child to do it.'

Dolin, with her army of 163 tutors, helps children of all learning capabilities complete class assignments in a timely manner and figures out the best way for them to focus at home.

'They don’t have to sit down at the desk the whole time,' she says. 'They could have a lap desk or sit down on the floor. Some kids may pace around the house and read their notes . . . That type of movement during homework is important to many kids.'

We spoke with Dolin by phone about creating a homework space for young children with special needs, which school supplies work best for these students and how to make a homework area fun. Here are edited excerpts.
Q. Where is the best place to set up a homework station?
A. It really needs to be in earshot of the parent. Many kids with learning disabilities can’t really be left on their own and be expected to get their homework done independently. For example, the kitchen might be too distracting for some children, so a good alternative would be the dining room because it’s not right in the middle of a really busy location, but the parent can walk around the corner and check up on the child.

Generally the bedroom is not a good place for elementary-schoolers to do homework unless they are really motivated. It is far too distracting.

You kind of have to identify the needs of your child. Some kids like the hum of a busy area, like the kitchen. Some kids can’t stand the noise and the other goings-on, and they really need a quiet place. But in general you don’t want a place where the TV is on and there is a lot of stimulation from other distractions.
Q. How should you set it up?
A. The main thing is that you want to have everything together. For example, you could have an old shoe box lying around and put everything the student needs in that shoe box: pencils, markers, ruler, calculator.

For a lot of kids with learning disabilities, an electronic spell-checker is fabulous. I usually order them from Amazon because they are a lot cheaper. It helps them be more independent. Instead of saying, 'Mom, how do you spell this or how do you spell that?' Mom can say, 'I will spell this one for you, but you can look up the next one on your Spelling Ace.' Many kids with special needs are really frustrated with using a dictionary. Kids with learning problems often spell phonetically. So for example, they might spell phone f-o-n-e, and they’re never going to find it in a dictionary. A Spelling Ace picks up phonetic variations of words.

I like to keep things in a box rather than in a place. This way the supplies are portable.
Q. Besides a desk, what else works well for doing homework?
A. Many kids have a hard time sitting still at a desk. One of my favorite things is a lap desk. You’ve probably seen it at Office Depot or Barnes & Noble where it’s a cushion on the underside and the top is a hard, flat surface. I like them because the child can really sit anywhere comfortably. And oftentimes, if you let children pick it out, they are more likely to use it.

There is a Web site called Room It Up that has really colorful lap desks and Pottery Barn Kids has really cool lap desks.

Q. What’s something fun parents can add to a homework space that’s not too distracting?
A. There is this really neat product called Tangle Jr. It’s a fidget toy. For kids who are hyperactive, they are always grabbing at things or flicking their hair and they’re craving sensory input. They are doing that to help sustain their attention. And so as parents, often when we see our kids doing that, fidgeting with a pencil or flicking a paper clip, it’s our first inclination to say, 'Stop doing that. Focus on your homework.' Instead of something dangerous like a paper clip, you can give them Tangle Jr.

The other thing I always suggest to parents is to have a timer. I really love timers for kids, especially those with ADHD. I call them Super Bowl kids. The Super Bowl is on for hours, but the amount of playing time is probably 40 minutes. Sometimes kids are like that when they do their homework. They might sit there for two hours, but the amount of time they actually do homework is a half-hour.

What we know is that when you say to a child, 'Okay, you have spelling, math and reading assignments, so start your homework,' and it seems like this really big task to them, they’re likely to procrastinate and drag it on. But if you say, 'I’m setting the timer for 15 minutes, and I want you to work as hard as you can for 15 minutes and then when the timer goes off you can daydream or you can take a break,' what parents will find is children are far more productive in that 15 minutes than they would be alone for that half hour. And it doesn’t have to be 15 minutes. It depends on the age of the child. For a little kid, it can be seven minutes; for an older kid, it can be 20 minutes.

Q. Are there certain school supplies you recommend for students with special needs?
A. Some kids like raised line paper so that kids with a writing disability can feel the lines on the paper, and it helps them write neater. Many kids with a disorder called dysgraphia use it. Their writing can be illegible, and the paper helps them stay on the line.

Also, the E.Z.C. Reader. They are really cool, colored reading guides. Not only does color help with attention, using the guides helps them read more fluidly because their eyes are able to track the lines better. Color has been proved with research to help with attention, and the tracking helps kids’ eyes move more fluidly from left to right.

Q. Are chalkboards or dry-erase boards helpful for certain tasks?

A. Kids are much more likely to write on a dry-erase board than a piece of paper. But you can’t turn in a dry-erase board. But if a parent is practicing math problems or helping with spelling, then a white board is the way to go.

I’m not sure what it is about a pencil, but for kids with sensory issues, the feeling of a pencil on paper is uncomfortable for them. When you write with a pencil, there’s friction between the pencil and paper. And that pulling or tugging is not as appealing as white boards because the marker just glides across the board.

Kids also like erasing, so it’s not set in stone. When it’s wrong, you can erase it so much faster with a white board. 

Q. How should parents set up the area if there are multiple kids doing homework?
A. They should purchase study carrels. Those are just inexpensive cardboard dividers that can fold up and be put away at the end of homework. And they really prohibit kids from making faces at each other or poking each other. They’re really good at allowing a child to focus on his work and not worry about what another child is doing across the table. We get our study carrels from Calloway House.

Further reading:
If you would like to read more on this topic, Dolin suggests the following books: “The Organized Student,” (Fireside, 2005) by Donna Goldberg, “Organizing the Disorganized Child,” (HarperCollins, 2009) by Martin L. Kutscher and Marcella Moran and “Homework Without Tears,” (Canter & Associates) by Lee Canter and Lee Hausner."

More on special needs:
Decorating for a Child with Special Needs 
Designing Rooms for Children with Special Needs 
Help for Parents of Disorganized, Inattentive and Forgetful Kids

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Warning: Organizing Your Interests on Pinterest Could Be Harmful to Your Productivity!

If you haven't gotten hooked on Pinterest yet, watch out! It's a wonderful site where you can organize your various interests on the web in one place. No longer do you need to keep a list of places you want to remember. Or create massive folders with ideas you want to use.

You can create various boards (like bulletin boards), and pin different web pages on each one. For example, some of my boards include:

Recipes I Want to Try
Books Worth Reading
For the Home

When you find a page on the web you like, click on your bookmarks icon, and there should be included in your list "Pin it." Just click it and it will bring up pictures that are included on that page. Click the one you want on your board.

Next you will choose a category for that pin or create a new one. When you save your pin, it goes on your board. You can move pins from board to board, and you can rearrange the pins on each board. 

When you want to go back to a page listed on your board, simply click the picture and it will take you back to the original page you wanted to save.

You can peruse the boards of other people, repin their pins, and more. And you can also add comments to your pin.  

Just be careful - it can be addictive! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Overcoming Procrastination - Starting Small

When life seems overwhelming and you're procrastinating, start small! 

- Think of three or four items you need to tackle today, including that dreaded chore about which you are procrastinating.

- Plan your day, starting with the most pleasant task.

- Choose time limits for each activity. 

- Start with short amounts of time, especially on those dreaded, procrastinated items. For example, if you are putting off a major project, schedule 30 minutes on it, just to get started.

- Alternate pleasant and unpleasant tasks, if possible. This will act as a reward system for completing unpleasant tasks. If you can make it through 30 minutes of that dreaded project, you'll have something to look forward to.

- Once you have broken through the barrier of starting your dreaded task, it may not seem so daunting. If it still is, schedule short bursts of work on it, several times over the next week, rather than prolonged work times. A small dose is much easier to swallow than a large one.

- Give yourself short-term and long-term rewards upon completion of sections of your project. 

- Before long, your dreaded project will be behind you and you will have the satisfaction of a job well done. 

Bite-sized chunks of work on an overwhelming project helps conquer procrastination!

More on procrastination:

Overcoming Procrastination - Schedule those Appointments!

Five Ways to Prevent Procrastination from Zapping Your Energy and Productivity

A Simple Way to Stay Focused on Decluttering/Cleaning


Friday, February 17, 2012

Deadly Clutter

It has begun. News stories about people dying in house fires because they couldn't be found amidst their clutter.

I've already seen several such articles this year. One firefighter in the recent Portland, Oregon blaze says that one in four of the fires he works is due to uncontrolled clutter.

In the winter we have fireplaces and heaters going. If there's abundant clutter, this combination can be literally deadly.

If you know someone who is struggling with dangerous clutter, at least help him or her remove clutter from around heat sources. Cleaning up the clutter is a monumental job, but this would be a beginning. Clutter is not worth a life!

More on decluttering:
Three Steps to Decluttering (print)
Three Steps to Decluttering (kindle) 
Don't Let Clutter Create a Fire Hazard

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Quick and Tasty Chicken with Artichokes, and Mushrooms

I'm always on the lookout for quick, easy and delicious dinner recipes. Here's one I adapted from another recipe. I cooked it for dinner last night in about 15 minutes, and we both really enjoyed it!

Chicken with Artichokes and Mushrooms

1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast tenders
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 (14 ounce) can marinated quartered artichoke hearts, drained, liquid   reserved
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon capers
4 t.  cornstarch

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown chicken in oil and butter for 3-5 minutes per side; remove from skillet, and set aside.

2. Place artichoke hearts and mushrooms in the skillet, and saute until mushrooms are brown and tender. Return chicken to skillet, and pour in reserved artichoke liquid and stock.

3. Mix cornstarch with equal amount of liquid from pan. Add to pan.

4. Stir in capers, and simmer for another 5 minutes until sauce is thickened and chicken is no longer pink.

Serves 4

More quick, tasty recipes:

Piggy-Back Dinners

Dinner in 20 - Lime Chicken

Planning Dinner (kindle book)

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Green Moving Soluton - Now You Can Rent Moving Boxes!

Don't want to purchase moving boxes? Rent instead! Yes, BungoBoxes can be rented and returned after your move.


These sturdy plastic boxes hold up better than cardboard and protect against rain. And they protect your valuables better than cardboard when stacked. 

They come in large (27 x 17 x 12 = 2.5 Cubic Feet) and extra large (28 x 20 x 15 = 3.8 Cubic Feet), and be rented separately or in packages based on the number of bedrooms you are moving. 

Also available are wardrobe boxes, dollies and straps, and wheels that fit under the boxes.

BungoBoxes are delivered to your door and picked up after your move. Call to see if BungoBoxes are available in your area. What a green moving solution!
(Disclaimer: I don't receive a commission from BungoBoxes. I just think it's a great idea!)

More on moving:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Not Sure if It's Recyclable?

If you have something you'd like to recycle, but you're not sure if it is acceptable or where it might be recycled, check with Earth911.

This is especially helpful for those items that may not have a recycling number on it. You can type in your product description and your zip code, and it will list locations that take that product. 

For example, not all grocery stores here recycle plastic grocery bags, and we've been having trouble finding a place that accepts them. When I typed in plastic bags, several locations popped up. 

Our local recycling locations do not accept glass. When I typed in glass nothing came up. I know that you can hire a company to collect your recyclables, but it doesn't appear there are free methods to recycling glass. 

We don't have curbside recycling here, which surprises me in such a green state as Montana. Maybe soon. 

More on recycling:

A Refresher on Recycling Plastics

Recycling Electronics and Appliances

Animal Shelters Accept What Other Charities Can't Use


Monday, February 6, 2012

Organizing for an Evacuation

If your smoke alarm went off, and you needed to evacuate quickly, you wouldn't have time to go through your house and collect your purse or wallet, cell phone, laptop, car keys, etc.

Not that I want to be gruesome, but the thought of losing everything in a fire is bad enough. But what if you had to go through the agony of getting a new driver's license, a new insurance card, new credit cards, a new cell phone, etc. If you had them all in one place, and you could grab it all as you leave, at least you wouldn't have that headache to contend with.

At night when I go to bed, I've started putting my laptop in my large bag that I carry every day. It holds my wallet and car keys already. I place it next to my bed. And my cell phone is plugged in next to my bed. So if we have an emergency, I just need to grab my phone and bag. 

Just something to think about.

More on evacuating:

How Quickly Could You Evacuate?

National Preparedness Month - Evacuation Plan

National Preparedness Month - Making a Plan


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Getting Organized for Baby

Since our first grandchild is due in less than two months, my thoughts are turning to organizing for her, naturally! So I took a look at Amazon to see what was available, as it has been over 30 years since we've had a baby in the house! 

I've had trouble all day trying to publish this post, and had to take off several of the cute organizing products. So I'll only publish three today, and see if my blog likes me better another day. 

There are so many cute things out there! And they are pretty reasonably priced, I thought. Here are some of my favorites: 

Baby Care Cart

Nursery Organizer

Four-in-One Stage Crib
More on organizing for baby:

Preserving and Organizing Your Child's Memorable Moments

Baby Planners - A New Organizing Service

Green Baby Gifts