Organize Your Children’s Artwork

Here’s a category that seems to have a life of its own. Depending on how creative you and your children are, you can accumulate from 1-5 pieces of kiddy art per day for each child. No mother wants to trash her child’s creation but then again not many moms have room for all that creativity. The key is balancing sensitivity and realism. You want to treasure your child’s creation but be realistic about how long to keep each piece. Here are some options:

Display it …

* on the refrigerator, but limit it to one creation per child. Make it like an art gallery that gets updated on a regular basis.

* on a cork board or bulletin board in the play area or a child’s bedroom.

* in a plastic box frame if it’s a really good drawing or painting.

* on a display shelf if it’s a sculpture or chunky piece of art.

Stash it…

* in a desk drawer if there’s no more room to display it.

* in a portfolio labeled with the child’s name and year.

* in a plastic container under their bed if there’s no other place.

* in a memory box if it’s a piece of art that was done a while ago but is “a keeper.”

 

Trash it…

* once it has had its time on display.

* after you have taken a picture of it

* if it’s a sculpture that has deteriorated or gone bad (like a macaroni necklace).

* if you have multiple versions of the same drawing, painting or art piece.

* after the child has decided they no longer like it or want it.

 

With September just around the corner, now is the time to set up your system for artwork done in the new school year. Go through all the old stuff you’ve already accumulated, and have those bins, corkboards or desk drawers ready for the new school year! Take heart, after 4th grade or so the volume of artwork slows down for most kids!

What’s so Zen about a hotel room?

Did you ever think about why it’s so relaxing to stay in a hotel? The obvious answer is that most people are on vacation when they’re in a hotel. But there are some certain organizational and zen qualities to hotels that really force us to live simply, if only for a few days.  As an organizer and someone who is always in search of making her life more simple, I have thought about what it is that makes me relax in a hotel and how we can incorporate those elements into our own bedrooms and homes.

  1. No clutter – right off the bat we know that hotel rooms do not come with clutter. Dressers are cleared, nightstands have only the essentials:  a lamp, clock-radio and a pen & paper for notes. How about your bedroom – is it clutter free?
  2. Everything in the room serves a function – The function of a hotel room is mainly to sleep. Subordinate functions would be to watch TV, eat, use a computer, shower & dress.  No extraneous equipment is found in the room. Can you say the same about the rooms in your home?
  3. Furniture & appliances are the appropriate size – The biggest furniture in the room is usually the bed because that is the main function. No one is cooking three course meals so the refrigerator is appropriately small. How many times do we have oversized or undersized furniture in our own homes?
  4. Decorations are coordinated and neutral – I’m speaking about most mid-range hotels. I realize some budget hotels might have tacky or bad décor and some theme hotels might have extreme designs. Most hotels have neutral colors that don’t offend and room darkening curtains which make it easier to sleep. How about your bedroom? Is it coordinated and decorated completely with curtains, artwork on the wall?
  5. Most hotels blend with their natural surroundings – By this I mean that a hotel in the mountains will have a “woodsy” feel. One at the beach will have a nautical or beachy vibe.  What is the vibe you want your house to give off? Can you incorporate that into each room so there is a natural flow from the outside in? Harmony with your surroundings is another way to feel the Zen.

The next time you’re at a hotel, take notice. With less clutter, and more harmony are you able to focus better? Relax? What is it that appeals to you about the room? Then take that home as your souvenir, (not literally please) but take the concept and use it at home. Create a calm oasis, preferably in your bedroom where there is no clutter, distractions, stress and a way to shut out the light when it’s time to sleep.

What do you like best about staying in hotels?

Time for the Great Toy Clean Out!

 Summer is a great time to help your kids do a Great Toy Clean Out! You have to call it that so it seems fun. And it really can be. Motivate your kids by finding a second hand kids store that will buy toys in good condition. Then let the kids keep the money. Or you can just make their toy room more colorful and fun after you’ve de-cluttered with a fresh coat of paint, new curtains or hang their artwork! My kids often find toys they forgot they had and just enjoy discovering old favorites.  In any case, once you have them motivated you have to keep them focused and moving fast so it doesn’t take all day! Here are my simple steps to cleaning out the toy room:

1. Gather all the toys in one room. If they are scattered throughout the house, have the kids collect them. Set a timer to make it fun.

2. Once all the toys are in one room, categorize. You can separate by child or by type of toy. Some categories are: arts & crafts, balls, games & puzzles, little toys, building toys (Legos & Lincoln Logs, K’Nex), outside toys. Just make piles on the floor to start.

3. As you are categorizing, you can purge – trash any broken toys and box up any toys that do not get played with. These can be donated or sold.

4. Decide if any categories should be kept in another room, for instance, outside toys may be kept in the garage or shed.

5. Find appropriate storage bins for each category. Nicer toys can be kept on a shelf, balls and soft toys in a big plastic tub or bin, small toys in a basket or little bin. If you’ve outgrown your storage bins, these may be sold or donated as well.

6. If you don’t have the appropriate sized bins, use cardboard boxes for temporary storage and then make a shopping list of what you need.

7. Decide where the bins will be kept and have the kids help you put things back. Now they will know how to straighten up on a daily basis if that’s one of your kids’ chores.

8. Take a look around the room and consider anything else that may need to be done like painting, cleaning or adding something new. I recommend the toy clean out once a year, maybe in the summer or before the holidays as a seasonal clean out.

9. Move the trash & donations out of the room and into your car so you are reminded to drop them off somewhere.

10. Let the kids enjoy their new found toys in a nice neat playroom!

The Basics of Clutter

Some common questions I get about the business of Organizing from both clients and reporters: 

  • What’s the difference between “Collecting” and being a Hoarder?

The people I see do less “collecting” and more impulsive shopping. Sometimes that shopping is for products called organizers in an effort to get them organized. In reality a product can’t get you organized but can help maintain your system. That is if you have one. I think the abundance of stuff that we Americans have in our lives is a result of megastores, easy credit cards and an overload of advertising from many sources. So we see the ads, we decide we want something (although we don’t always need it) then those things are easy to purchase and because of credit cards we don’t even feel the pain of parting with our money! It’s instant gratification with a delayed consequence. Unfortunately sometimes that consequence is a loss of living space. So we get depressed or stressed out about that and we want to de-clutter. If our efforts are unsuccessful and shopping makes us feel better, the cycle continues. One client I work with who is a hoarder calls it retail therapy. But I contend that is not therapy if it ultimately robs us of a nice place to live and alienates us from friends and family coming over.

  • What are the pitfalls you see when people try to de-clutter themselves?

Biggest pitfalls I see in de-cluttering efforts are first buying bins, baskets and organizers without really knowing what you need to keep and how big a container is necessary. I also ask my clients before starting any project, “What is the function of this room?” Then everything in there should serve that function.   I recommend a process called “CPR.” It works whether you are organizing a junk drawer, a closet or an entire room.  First categorize everything in that space and keep the categories big, like paperwork, office supplies, toys, clothes. You can break them down into more specifics later.  Second, Purge. This does not necessarily mean throw it in the trash. I usually have a recycle pile, a donation pile and a move to another room pile when working with clients. You can even purge as you categorize but it’s helpful once you see how large each category is to pare down to what your really use, need and love.  The last step is Re-Arrange. This is when you put the pieces of the puzzle together. You decide where you want to keep each category and then what container or organizer would be helpful to keep it neat. Before you buy anything, measure the space and decide the look you want. Organizing products come in all shapes and sizes now so you can find one that matches your style.

The hardest part is then maintaining what you have done to organize. For this, you need routines! I recommend straightening daily, cleaning weekly and cleaning out seasonally.  In my home I clean out my garage twice a year at the change of seasons. I also clean out clothes closets and toys about the same time of year; this keeps the clutter down and gets things back to normal.

 

  • If there were three things you can recommend that we do to prevent cluttering our lives, what would they be?

 

  1. Throw out the junk mail/sales circulars as soon as they come in. Better yet – get your name off of mailing lists by going to dmachoice.org.
  2. Always shop with a list and buy what you need whether that’s clothing, food, or items for your home.
  3. Find a charity or donation bin that is convenient to you. Put donations in the car and drop them off as you go to school, work or the supermarket. Make it easy to purge!

What questions or suggestions do you have about de-cluttering our lives?

“Are we having fun yet?”

There are certain times of my life when I am so thankful that my family is organized and hasroutines. Getting ready for vacations under extreme circumstances is one of them. Last year our family headed to the New Jersey shore just 5 days after I got out of the hospital after heart surgery. “Crazy” you might think but it was actually a great way & place for me to recuperate. Because we have a system and a packing list that resides on my computer it was really easy. For the heavy lifting and running around, my big sister was a big help. She came by the day before we left and loaded up food, towels & sheets and even took my kids shopping for what they were missing. I just orchestrated. Once there, I had lazy days and walks on the boardwalk – exactly what the doctor ordered. Here is our family system:

  1. Pack up your family in one week – As a general rule, getting ready to go on vacation shouldn’t take longer than the vacation itself. 

Typical schedule the week before vacation:

Sun – Check the weather for the place you are going so you can pack appropriate clothing.  Go on-line and cancel your paper/mail for the days you won’t be home.

Mon – Clean the house. Print out your packing list.

Tues – Run to stores to pick up sundries you will need.

Wed – Pack toys, books, music etc.

Thurs – Wash and pack clothes.

Fri – Pack dry food.  Drop off your pet if necessary.

Sat – Pack cold food in cooler, and pack the car.

  1. Packing list – Keep a general list on your computer so you don’t have to create it every year.  For example write “5 shorts outfits, 3 pajamas” instead of “green shorts, tan t-shirt, blue pajamas, plaid boxers.”  Have the children pack their own clothes and toys, but give them the guidelines. Give them each a  bag to fill it with toys, videos and books of their choosing.
  2. Meal planning – Plan out dinners for the week and make sure you have some staples for lunch and breakfast. For the first night, it’s easier to pack something pre-made so you just have to pop it in the oven.  For the last night of vacation, don’t plan a meal, just eat left-overs so there’s less to bring home.
  3. Prepare for the weather – I once heard someone say, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” How true this is! You don’t have to let bad weather spoil your vacation; you just have to have a Plan B.  Check the weather for wherever you are headed so you at least have an idea about the temperature and precipitation.  Even if it’s supposed to be dry, I usually pack umbrellas and water proof jackets for everyone in my family. 
  4. Don’t over-schedule – Have you ever had a vacation that was so packed with activities you needed another vacation when you came home?  Think      about that before you take your next vacation.  You want everyone to have fun, but you  also want to have some relaxation built in.  In my experience the kids are usually worn out by mid week of the first week of vacation.  Whether it’s experiencing Disney World,  going to a beach or visiting friends out of town, the change in schedules will affect the children, so plan on it. Take one day and don’t do anything extra.  Sleep late, go to bed early, lie around and watch movies or whatever suits your family.  Take a “Sunday” in the middle of your vacation week and recharge everyone’s energy.

My system came in handy again this year when a funny thing happened. We found out that the house my mother-in-law booked at the beach was actually booked a week before we all planned! (She had not looked at the dates on the lease.) We found this out 5 days before our start date. Needless to say we had to shorten the plan and adapt, but we made it down a few days late and relaxed anyway!

What’s your vacation strategy?

Words of Wisdom from Ben Franklin

Those who know me know that I love the Franklin planner system. It’s so logical, simple and tactile. It helps me start every day with a plan and priorities. When I need to juggle several schedules this is where I go to gain sanity. So as we celebrate the Fourth of July in Philadelphia, I was thinking about one of our favorite sons, Benjamin Franklin. The man did everything! He wrote, he governed, he invented – he created systems. Here are 5 of his most famous quotes and my comments on how they can help us structure our lives to be as productive as he. Well, almost as productive.

  1. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” So when deciding where to spend your business dollars, investing in your training or that of your workers is always a smart move. With regard to raising our own families, putting academic pursuits before social, monetary or leisure, is also prudent.
  2. “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Try telling that to a teenager who is sleeping-in all summer! But seriously, I think we working women don’t put enough emphasis on sleep. It is essential to our well being. We need at least 8 hours every night and should be encouraging our children to get the same. Routine is the only way to do this. Go to bed the same time each night and wake up at the same time.  Try getting up a half hour earlier than usual, and write your list of the 6 most important things to do.  You will feel refreshed and productive.
  3. “Drive the business or it will drive thee.” I think I want to post this above my home office desk. How many times do we let our business drive our life? That’s why it’s important to have a business plan, a marketing plan and a daily routine, especially if you have your own business. Revisit these when things seem out of control or off track. Re-write them if necessary at the beginning of each year. Be proactive, not reactive.
  4. “Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to get leisure.” This is another way of saying, be productive with your work and earn your leisure time. First of all you won’t be able to afford the leisure you seek unless you are making money. And secondly for those who procrastinate or work with no plan, the work never seems to end. With daily goals you can finish when you’ve checked off the last item on your list. Then you can enjoy a daily leisure or a full fledged vacation with a clear mind.
  5. “If you know how to spend less than you get, then you have the philosopher’s stone.” How appropriate that I just looked at my company’s financials. The year is half over and I wanted to see how I was doing. Confession, I spent more than I saved – however not more than I earned! So it’s just a matter of re-allocating funds first into savings before spending.  How many people in this world keep spending without a glance at what they have made? How many are living on credit? Live within your means and set budgets to control your spending.

What other founding fathers have inspired the way you live or do business?

Independence – A Great Thing to Teach Your Kids!

This post is for busy moms who can’t find time to do everything for their families, although you want to! If you want your children to be organized for themselves and to help around the house, you’ve got to teach them the skills – even if you haven’t mastered them yourself. Here’s a list of suggested tasks or chores you can teach your children at various ages. Obviously children learn at different speeds but this is a guideline. The goal here is to delegate some chores to them early on and give them mini lessons in organizing. By 18, let them declare their independence!

At age … Teach them to…
Age 3-4
  • Clear their plate after meals
  • dress themselves
  • Match up socks when you’re folding wash
  • Put their toys away with a simple instruction such as “put all the  blocks in the red bin.”
Age 5-6
  • Join in a seasonal clean out like picking up leaves or  organizing the garage.
  • have a morning routine to get ready for school  (write it down in on an index card and place it in a strategic place)
  • set the table
  • put their clean laundry in their drawers
  • straighten their room
Age   7-10
  • clean their own rooms
  • help serve meals
  • bathe or shower themselves
  • decide which activities and sports they will join

 

Age   11-13
  • take on certain weekly chores like taking out the trash, doing the dishes, folding the wash, mowing the lawn, etc.
  • plan out how they will achieve goals like long term projects for school. (i.e. set interim deadlines on a calendar)

 

Age 14 – 18
  • babysit younger siblings
  • make a meal for the family
  • have a part-time job and budget their money
  • make important decisions about college and their future
Age 18 and older
  •  be an independent adult – at this point the “child” should be treated like a roommate with regard to sharing the household work load and contributing to the household budget.

 Have you tried any of these or others? Let me know.