Upgrade your kitchen with these simple five tips

Half our time is spent in the kitchen every day so why not boost it up a little aesthetically? You can make your kitchen comfortable, cozy along with keeping them stylish. We’ve got five incredibly trouble free and reliable tips to upgrade your kitchen.

  • Show Off Collectibles

Remove the cabinets and get some above-window shelving installed, and then add some collectibles or any vintage décor you would like to show off. The high window shelving will make the collectibles more attractive and aesthetically pleasing. It will be an incredibly bright spot. You can even use it as storage for beautiful things related to the kitchen that you don’t need in everyday use.

  • Install a Hands-Free Faucet

This will be the best swap in your kitchen and the best inclusion to the house. This just justifies the modern technology and has loads of advantages. You wouldn’t have to make the faucet dirty while touching it with dirty hands; it will sensor your hands below and ta da! You obtain clean and spotless hands without any effort. This also wastes less water, along with preserves water. It is incredibly easy to install and utilize. This will also go way easy on the wallet and will help save energy bills as well. Hygienic panacea.

  • Add Lights under the Cabinet

Adding lights to the cabinet will give a very decorative touch. They will also provide more attention to the decoration items or any flowers on the table below by shining on them. This will make the kitchen look full of energy and vigor rather than dull or depressed. Lights under the cabinets will also make working in the kitchen a whole lot fun. This will also lower your energy bill and is easy to induct. There will also be fewer shadows because no one will be standing in between the lights and the shelf. This is an incredibly good idea to make the kitchen more unique and to enhance interior value.

  • Show Off Dishes

Give dishes room to breathe and instate more shelves for dishes. Get your beautiful plates out and start setting them up in your dish rack. Dish racks are essential for every kitchen. They are also durable and easy to install but would come a little pricey. They are also incredibly safe for fragile dishes; by this dish rack they will be protected, and no harm will be able to come to them, unless you decide not to tighten the nails of the rack enough, oops.

  • Bench Seating

If you’ve got extra space in your kitchen for a bench, we would recommend you to get a bench on the corner. They are not very traditional in every kitchen. Thus they would make you unique or different from other kitchens. You can place one next to a table for your daily morning meal or to just read your morning newspaper on, since they are incredibly cozy and comfortable. You can get benches in different designs with extremely comfortable sizes, colors, and patterns.

  • Add Color

Add a splash of your favorite color to kitchen cabinets to really pack a punch and add flare. This apple green is a bold choice in a black and white kitchen but it definitely makes the space more cheery. Try out an accent color, even if it’s not on all your cabinets and see how it makes the room feel.

Author Bio:  Julie Austin is a blogger who loves to write about home improvement. She is sociable and kind and loves to decorate almost everything! In her free time, she enjoys sunset with her friends at the seashore. Read her posts at http//nurserygliderz.com/.

12 Surprising Ways Clutter Is Ruining Your Life

The leaning tower of pot lids that spills every time you open the cabinet door, that stash of unworn shirts taking up precious real estate in the back of your closet, the intimidating mountain of papers obstructing the view of your desk:  clutter: It happens to the best of us.

But if you think clutter is just a physical nuisance, it’s not. Studies show that sheer accumulation of stuff also takes a toll on our everyday lives.

All that mess can prevent us from relaxing and wreak havoc on our day-to-day mood. Too much clutter can also threaten our safety, seep into our professional lives, derail our careers, and drag us into debt.

And it’s not just us – that chaos can affect our loved ones, too. Those with hoarding disorder have significantly high divorce rates. And children especially are sensitive to severe clutter, which can continue to distress them even outside the home.

Curious to learn more about clutter’s negative impact on your life?

Take a look at the below infographic from full-service storage startup MakeSpace. They analyzed various international studies, and also interviewed psychotherapists and physicians.

The result: A comprehensive look at the very real, very tangible effects that clutter can have on all aspects of your life.

Clutter infographic by MakeSpace

via MakeSpace

 

 

5 Amazing Ideas That Will Make Your Home Look Trendy

Your home is your ultimate paradise on earth. It is the most comfortable zone that you can come into after a long tiring day at work. However, you got to break down the conventional methods of decorating your home and adapt to trendier ones so your home exhibits a look of glamour and coziness at the same time.

Everybody dreams of decorating their homes just like the way they have watched in their favorite TV serials or movies but it takes a lot of effort and real time planning to properly execute it. If you are wondering about how you can make your home look more chic and modern without having to make much effort about it; check out these 5 smart ideas.

  1. Accessorize It Well:

 

Little accessories, big accessories, all kinds of accessories! Accessories will define the overall outlook of your home and your selection about them is what counts here the most.

Often we tend to overstuff our home with useless accessories which would give it a very messy look so make sure that you analyze what kind of accessories you require in each room of your home and then buy them as per your desires.

  1. Beddings Matter:

 

Believe it or not! Your bedding choices can contribute a lot towards making your home look more modern and beautiful. Be it the comforter set in your bedroom or pairs of fluffy cushion sets on the sofa set of your living room; the curtains in your study room to pillows of your guest bedroom; beddings matter a lot.

So, choose your beddings wisely and follow the latest designs and trends before buying them.

  1. Wall Paints:

Give each room of your home the wall paint that it deserves. When it comes to choosing wall paints for your home; don’t forget to apply the mix and balance formula. Certain rooms demand specific type of wall paints for instance if you are interested in giving your living room a new wall paint; try using dark shades of blue or green, even brown can do wonders.

On the contrary; your bedroom will display a more elegant look when the wall paints are more sober colored like cream, white, grey or light shades of pink or purple.

  1. Go Vintage:

 

Want to give your home an old school, conventional look? Yes! They are back in fashion and home décor lovers have endorsed it very well.

Not only vintage styled furniture will give your living room an extra edge; it will blend it perfectly with the lamps, book shelves or even the curtains of your home or any particular room. So, go ahead and try this look today!

 

  1. Art Work:

 

Last but not the least! The artwork you choose for your home defines your taste and reflects the overall ambiance of your home. It is a direct reflection of how you want your home to be decorated. Try it out with all form of arts including the abstract one.

You can hang them on walls or get them shelved in the form of decorative items on the racks in your living room. Home décor knows no limits so make sure that you go for it after proper planning.

 

 

Author Bio:  This post is written by Julie Austin. She loves traveling, home decorating and hanging out with her friends. She regularly blogs at http://mybedcomforter.com/

The Power of One

 

Remember the scene in City Slickers where Curly reveals the secret of life?

It’s this – one thing. He says, “You stick to that and everything else don’t mean shit.” You gotta figure out what your one thing is. It’s different for each of us.

There is something so peaceful in thinking about that. And something so empowering when focusing on that concept, especially in 2017 when the world demands that we multi-task, and that we have to do everything well. As women we feel the need to be the high-powered corporate exec and the most engaging mom to our children. If not, we might as well hide out and not show our face on Facebook. Our children are pressured to be great at sports, excelled in their school work and well rounded enough to play in the symphony. If not, what are colleges going to think?

It’s all too much. We get caught up in the complexities and frenetic pace of life. But every once in awhile that scene comes to my mind and I think, “What’s my one thing?” And how can I stick to that? I guess there have been a few times in my life when I had the opportunity to do just one thing: When I was a stay at home mom and my life was taking care of my kids, my home and my husband. When I was writing my books and for at least two days a week, that’s all I did. And again when I was recovering from a heart operation, my one thing was getting better so I could live. Sad that it has to take a health crisis to bring us to that but it is one of those times when the pressure of society is off. No one expected me at the PTO meeting, or to be working or to make dinner for that matter! I could rest and recuperate.

So how can we use the power of one to simplify and calm our lives down?

I have a few suggestions:

  1. Don’t volunteer for every committee, chose one that makes you happy.
  2. Help your kids chose one sports team or activity per season.
  3. If you have a lot of one category of clothing, chose one that you love, one that makes you look fabulous, like one great winter coat, black dress, bathrobe or hat. Let go of the rest.
  4. In your kitchen chose one set of dishes, one set of glasses and one set of utensils – donate the odd pieces and all other sets.
  5. Are charities hounding you to donate? Find one that moves you and give all of your allotted charitable contributions to them. Really make a difference.
  6. Household chores driving you nuts? Do only one per day.
  7. Does your whole house need an overhaul? Focus on one room at a time. Don’t stop until you love that room. Then move on.
  8. Do birthdays and holidays leave you stressed out from overbuying? Chose one special gift for each person. Put thought into it all year long and write down your suggestions.
  9. Invited to multiple parties in one day? Chose one and have a great time.
  10. Does your business offer too many services but none are doing great? Focus on one and become the highly specialized expert in that field.

See there are so many ways we can become minimalistic by paring down to one in areas of our life that feel overwhelming.

What can you get to one?

No More New Year’s Resolutions!

How Clutter Affects Your Mental and Physical HealthI’m done with resolutions. Resolutions can be broken. Broken resolutions make us feel guilty. I was done with guilt a long time ago. I’m sure many of you may feel the same way. So what do we do to kick of the year? I feel like I have to plan something for 2017 even though big events are going to happen whether I like it or not. My one son is going off to college in the fall. The other one will be starting high school. I’m thinking about a career transition. So I know that we will all be going in new positive directions. But as an organized take-charge person I want to cause these good things to happen. I’m not the type to sit back and wait. (Remember waiting was what I did in December). So if you’re with me in wanting to look forward to this year, but you’re also done with the typical resolutions let’s try a new approach.

  1. Consider what do you want MORE or LESS of in your life this year?  I want more time with old friends so I’ve already started some initiatives to do this. I’m making plans to renew my play subscription at a local theatre for this year. That means I will see two of my closest friends at least 5 times for dinner and a show. I’m also making vacation plans to see my college friends, to take a trip with my daughter and to spend time with my family. These highlights will give me something to look forward to almost every month!  I also want fewer emails that I have to read, and act on, so I’m stepping down from volunteer commitments that cause me to receive so many. This will free up time for productive work and personal endeavors.
  1. What’s been on your TO DO list for a long time? Can you make that happen this year? What will it take?  For example, I want to update my bathroom. I secured estimates a few years ago but then the money wasn’t available so the project stalled. Since then, we’ve taken care of several other home improvements that were less expensive so I feel like we can do it this year. I’ll go back to the contractors, get new estimates and when I have a clear cost, I will start socking away the money until we can pay for the whole project. Then I will schedule it in a month when it makes sense, maybe in the fall when 2/3 kids will be away at school. For major home improvements you really need to think through the project: resources, cost, schedule. Then start making calls!
  1. Who can help you with making your dreams a reality?  If you want to get organized but haven’t been able to do it on your own, hire a professional. Likewise, if you’ve been thinking about a career transition and haven’t made much progress, hire a business coach like I did! I’ve been working with her for a few months and she knows the process so all I have to do is follow her steps and do my homework. That takes a big burden off my shoulders. Maybe you’re tired of cleaning your own house – hiring a cleaning person is a treat that many hard working women deserve. Just do it and save the money somewhere else in your budget. Most of us can’t reach our dreams without a little help.
  1. What’s something you can do every week to make you happy?  Is it mediation, an exercise class or a group that you can join to pursue a passion? Maybe you’ve done it once and just need to continue. Maybe you need time to think about what it is that makes YOU happy. Or maybe you need to do a little research on your options. For instance, I got back into yoga over the holidays when my daughter was home. I remembered that I loved it and I wasn’t doing it enough. So I’m going to continue every week doing yoga for my health and sanity.
  1. Put it all down in your calendar.  Once you have some plans, or ideas for the New Year, write them down on a one sheet Year-At-A –Glance calendar. That way you can see on your big ideas, events and goals for each month. Move things around as necessary. Look forward to the social plans, get excited about your home projects and fill in the blanks where there’s nothing good going on.

I hope you have a happy and fulfilling 2017!

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

spring fever
I don’t like waiting. I like initiating action, following a plan and getting things done. Anyone else with me on this?

And yet, here I am, waiting. Waiting for Christmas like many people are, but on other things as well.

Waiting for Amazon to ship.

Waiting for college kids to come home.

Waiting on insurance to come back with an estimate on my car that’s been totaled.

Waiting for my niece to get out of the hospital.

Waiting to hear if my daughter got the part, if my son got into the college of his dreams, if my other son earned a scholarship to high school.

Waiting stinks. Waiting feels helpless. But then maybe it’s an appropriate mode for this season of Advent. We make as many preparations as we can, but in the end we still wait. Everything is not in our control and things will happen. Hopefully good things will happen in their own time. Someone once told me, “We make plans and God laughs.” He must laugh at me a lot because I make a lot of plans. Many work out. Some don’t at least in my timeframe. And let’s face it, some don’t work out at all, so we go to plan B.

So what’s an organized, Type A personality to do in this state? The best I can come up with is making a list and checking it twice. Making a list is simply a way to keep track of projects or tasks that are not complete. This can be done in a planner or on a smart phone or just by having a visual reminder. I always have a “Waiting on” clear plastic folder that sits on my desk so I know what’s out there, beyond my control until it swings back around. “Checking it twice” just means I look in the folder every couple days to remind myself, and record any progress or see if there’s something I can do to move the process along. Yesterday I found something I could do to move the insurance company along – they needed the car accident police report so I went and picked it up, scanned and emailed it to them. And yet I’m still waiting, but maybe that check will arrive one day sooner.

The other thing to do is focus on what I can control. I can do my work, prepare for Christmas, and make myself a better person through reading, exercising, or taking a seminar. I can take on a creative project just to see some results. And through it all I will learn patience. It’s a virtue, my mother tells me.

So what is it you are waiting on? Can you take some action today to move it along? If not, what can you do to divert your attention?

 

8 Rules to Manage Your Money

moneyWith the holidays coming some of you may be worried about the money factor. So many gifts to buy, big meals to plan and outfits for the festivities just adds to the stress of the season.   If you don’t worry about the expenses or at least plan them out, you run the risk of maxing out your credit cards and then dealing with the shock in January.

I was recently re-reading one of my favorite books, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach and she reminded me of another book with great advice: The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. So I want to share with you some solid advice on how to think about and manage your money, not just at the holiday time but all year and life long. I also believe that passing this wisdom on to your children is a smart way to teach them to live within their means and save for the future.

Clason’s principles of wealth are:

  1. Regular saving and sharing – taking what you earn and keep 10% for yourself and giving 10% to charity. The other 80% use to pay your bills
  1. Controlling expenditures – these are the bills. Make sure they are no more than 80% of your income. Keep a household budget and review it annually to see where you can make cuts if necessary.
  1. Living debt-free – some debt is fine and necessary like a mortgage or student loans for college. Make sure that you get the lowest interest rate and are able to make the monthly payment so that the debt will go away in a limited amount of time.
  1. Increasing prosperity through prudent investment – Think about your ROI (return on investment) for every major purchase. I recently heard a schoolteacher say that if he had thought it through, he wouldn’t have taken on so much college debt to go to his dream school only to get out and make a teacher’s salary. Many kids today take on $200,000 worth of college debt or more without calculating how long that will take to pay off. A state school at $6-10,000 a year may allow them to get the same job. My advice: do the math with your child before they enroll in college.
  1. Protecting the bulk of your wealth from loss – safe, not risky investments or bank accounts.
  1. Owning property – it’s the one thing that typically appreciates over time, you just have to buy low and sell high
  1. Establishing a future income for old age – Think about it in your twenties and start saving/planning. Most of us can’t count on pensions or social security, so have a plan and then a plan B.
  1. Increasing the ability to earn money through perseverance – This could start with a part time job in high school and lead to multiple avenues of income as an adult. When you make a job move, look for higher hourly rates, or more consistent hours or cheaper associated job expenses to keep more money flowing your way. Look for opportunities for passive income.

And finally, there is one other concept that George Clason talks about: the money magnet. I like this one because it’s kind of “woo woo” but I’ve seen it work. Keep a hundred dollar bill tucked away in your wallet to attract more money. It’s based on the law of attraction and helps you live with a feeling of abundance instead of scarcity. You can also examine your bank accounts monthly to appreciate how much you have. And if you are not happy with the bottom line, cross it out and write a number that makes you happy. Focus on that and next month, see if you get there.

What do you do to have a good relationship with money? Leave a comment.

5 Tips for Running Your Business Efficiently

compter person

 

Most people think a professional organizer is a little like a house cleaner, but many of my clients run small businesses or have me come to their professional offices. In thirteen years I’ve seen a lot of these offices and have come up with 5 pieces of advice for how to run your small business or professional office efficiently. These stem from the common mistakes that I see business owners make over and over again.

 

  1. Have Job Descriptions for every employee – Even if your employees have been with you for many years. In fact, they can even help you develop the job description. Find out what they are doing day to day, then compare that with what you want them to be doing for your business. A lot of issues can be resolved with clear job descriptions. Plus, it makes it easier to do a six-month or annual review; compare their performance against the job expectations. And it makes it easier to replace an employee who quits or moves on.

2. Divide and conquer – Too many small businesses have workers who they expect to be the Jack or Jill of all trades. The “generalist” is often pulled in many directions and does not have time to put a lot of thought or effort into any one task. But if you have more than one employee or consultant, find out their forte, their specialty what they really enjoy and let them do it well. Then you as the business owner or principal can focus on what you do best. For many business owners, that is business development or sales. Let others run the day-to-day operations and only get involved if there’s a problem.

3. Avoid the threat of “the bosses wife.” – I know that may sound sexist but I’ve seen it many times. A man owns a business and the wife “helps out.” If her role is not defined, if she doesn’t have a title then the workers might feel she is only there to spy on them or to have her opinion heard on how things should run in the office. If she is a partner, give her that title and specific roles. If she is an employee, like anyone else she needs a clear job description.

4. Have a plan for Financials, Customer Service and Marketing your business and review it every 6 months. So many small business people get caught up in working in their business that they forget to plan and work on their business until it’s too late. And that usually happens when you lose a major client or your leads dry up. It is a constant cycle of managing the money, having a Customer Service plan and routine to keep your customers happy and then a Marketing plan to keep new clients coming in. Some basic software that can help with these tasks are: Quickbooks, Constant Contact, and Survey Monkey.

5. Hire Sub Contractors as needed – If your business is not lucrative enough or steady enough to employee people then consider hiring sub contractors on an “as needed” basis. With subcontractors, like employees you should have a written agreement which includes pay scale, confidentiality and insurance information if you have a job that requires them to carry insurance. With sub-contractors there is less pressure on the business owner to keep them busy a certain number of hours per week. But you have the ability to again “divide and conquer.” If you’re not good at bookkeeping or marketing, hire someone to do that for your business.

What do you find difficult about running your business efficiently?

What you really need for back to school with teenagers

So if you follow me, you know that I’ve been in the organizing business for thirteen years now. I started when my kids were young and I was for the most part a “stay at home” mom. Things have changed as my family has grown up. What I used to like about back to school and back to routines is now a double edged sword. While the kids will be out of the house for the most part of the day, some things are harder. Like trying to wake them up, or remember to do homework, or remembering everything they need for after school sports, and helping them with homework (my kids passed my math levels a few years ago.) So while the stress is different, I still strive to teach my children organizational skills that I think will carry them on to their first job in the “real world” and hopefully make them better students. I do still believe that an organized person can do anything and be productive. While I watch the TV segments and read the articles in magazines about “back to school” I sometimes think, I’ve heard it all but sometimes the bright backpack or cute locker accessories are not really what it’s all about. So I’ve compiled here five of my favorite things which just might help you and your teenagers get organized this school year:

timetimerTime Timer – Because in a digital age, kids really don’t see time as concrete. This device makes it visual. Whenever I say to my kids “quarter of” or “quarter after” an hour, they give me a quizzical look. This only has meaning if you are looking at a round clock with hands. So consequently they may not understand how much they can get done in 15 minutes or half an hour. Try this test: ask your child how long will homework take? If they need to break it down by subject, do that. Then set the Time Timer and see how close they were to the estimate. Going forward they should have a better feel for how long it takes to do 2 pages of math, read a chapter in Science, etc. and that leads to better planning. If you have 4 hours of homework one night, you may have to skip a practice or give up TV

2015-16-oooc-academic-plannerPlanner – This is a great tool for writing down all your daily TO Do’s in each subject as well as keeping track of all your after school activities. With everything on one week or month at a glance, you can plan ahead for big projects. And having every s ubject written on the left hand column forces you to remember each one and consider it by the end of the day. I’ve us ed a planner since my first job out of college and I can’t imagine keeping track of things any other way!

IMG_1707Coat Tree – or a series of hooks in a mudroom setting is a great place to keep “activity bags” hanging and ready to go. Whether it’s a sport or dance class or karate, a small sinch ask or tote bag is a great place to keep all you need for an after school activity. Just grab it and go! The coat tree is also a great way for girls to keep all their scarves, purses and hats off the floor and easily accessible using vertical space.

 

 

 

charging station

Family charging station for iPhones – I can’t say enough about this subject. It serves multiple functions to have the whole family’s iPhones out of the bedrooms for the night. One, you’ll remember to charge them, Two, you won’t be awakened by beeps and buzzes to disturb your sleep. And three, the kids will not be texting late into the evening when they should be doing homework or sleeping. Decide on a time that works for your family and put the phones to bed. I strongly encourage parents to have the password for your kids’ devices so you can randomly check them. I tell my kids, if you don’t want me to see it, you shouldn’t be texting it or tweeting it, or sending that picture.

notebookThe 5 subject notebook – it’s been around awhile but it makes so much sense. Keep all your major subjects in one place. Often the divider is a pocket folder so you can keep loose papers here too. Less for your kids to remember to bring to class and bring home. When one gets filled, buy another for the next semester. This is great for middle school up through college.

Tips for Organizing and Cleaning for Spring 2016

 

spring clean

 

Guest Post by:  Kaitlin Krull of Modernize

After the dark, cold days of winter pass and the weather finally begins to take a turn for the better, most homeowners start to think about warm spring afternoons spent relaxing and entertaining. Unfortunately, one thing stands in between you and your daydreams: spring cleaning. If you’re anything like us over at Modernize, your spring cleaning to-do list is a mile long and full of tasks that seem impossible to tackle. Well, we are here to tell you that you can do it, and it’s not as difficult as it might seem. Here are some tips to help you organize and spring clean your way through to summer.

Tackle your home room by room

When you feel overwhelmed about all the spring cleaning jobs you have ahead of you, it’s best to take it one task at a time. We recommend splitting your to-do list into rooms, so that you feel a sense of accomplishment after completing each space. Start with high traffic areas such as your home’s entryway, the living room, and the kitchen, concentrating on one task at a time in order to achieve the best results. Make sure to complete an entire room before moving on to the next, or else you risk missing important organization and cleaning jobs.

Love it or leave it

The first step in your room-by-room spring clean should be organization. The best and most efficient way to go about organizing your belongings is a love-it-or-leave-it approach. As you’ve seen time and again on Space to Spare, a sort-purge-organize method works like a charm for virtually everything you own. Sort your stuff into piles according to what you want to keep, donate, throw away, and recycle, purge your home of the donations, trash, and recyclables, and organize the rest. Remember that it is 2016, so unless they are something you truly love and want to have as keepsakes or special memories, it might be time to let some of your ancient things go.

Clean as you go

Before moving on from any one space, remember to clean everything thoroughly during the organization process. Take the time now to move furniture, sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming underneath and behind larger pieces. Clean all surfaces, wipe down the insides of drawers and storage units, remove cobwebs from corners, and clean skirting boards and other dusty wall surfaces. Finally, if you haven’t done so since your last spring clean, it’s probably a good idea to wash or steam clean your upholstery, curtains, and other textiles. We promise you that your effort now will be worth it in the long run.

Get ready for summer

Remember that summer is just around the corner, so in addition to cleaning and organizing your home, begin to think about the changing seasons. Place winter clothing and accessories into storage and take out summer items to save yourself time later on. During your regular spring cleaning tasks, spend a little extra time in your mudroom, laundry room, and entryway, since these areas will inevitably see increased use in the summer months. Finally, clean all your windows, both inside and out. If you have time and energy to spare, now would be a great time to think about tackling the exterior of your home (including power washing your siding, dealing with lawns and landscaping, and tidying up your outdoor entertaining areas).

No excuses!

If a particular task seems too much of a hassle to you, we have one recommendation: don’t put it off! That extra elbow grease takes time but will set you in good stead for the summer, or at least for the next few months!

Magical Move Ins

How to Organize your Kitchen

 

There is a trend in moving now that was even discussed by one celebrity in a Howard Stern interview. This trend is a dream come true for both the person or family who is moving and professional organizers across the country. I like to call this service, “The Magical Move-In.” It’s like when you go to a Disney resort and your bags magically get to your hotel room from the airport and you don’t have to lift a finger!

Basically what happens is that a professional organizer or team of organizers moves you into your new home. You and your family can walk through the door on Day 1 and everything is put away in an organized manner and you can begin your new life. Who wouldn’t love that? Especially after all the stress of selling a home, buying a home, packing up and relocating.

Benefits for the family

I want to share some experiences my team has had while working on a “Magical Move-In.” My first experience with this service was with a family. The mother and father had very high-level jobs and were in the process of relocating  for work. They also had two small children who were being uprooted from the only home they knew. The parents’ goal was for their children to walk in, feel comfortable and have their bedroom and play room set up. Clothes were put in the closets, beds were made, towels were hung in the bathrooms, food was placed in the pantry…you get the picture. For the children, this meant their new space would look a little like their old space because all the furniture and toys and linens were the same. For the parents, who had to move and get right back to work, this meant they didn’t have to take a week off to get settled. It also meant that no matter what the old house looked like, this new place would be organized from the start. How many people can say that?

Another client we worked with was a single dad. He traveled for work and really didn’t have the time to set up his townhouse. So my team and I unpacked, hung artwork, built shelves, got rid of duplicate kitchen utensils and household items and he continued with his life while we did this. He was happy to come home after a trip and find his new home all set up. Except the TV and stereo – that was his area of expertise.

Why Organizers Love It

From the organizers’ perspective – this is a dream job! We have a clean slate to start with and depending on the amount of direction or free range we receive from the client, we can really have a ball setting up an entire house. It’s a chance for us to suggest uniform bins for closets and shelves, set up a kitchen efficiently, organize the toys and do a little decorating too. We can also help the homeowner get rid of anything they really don’t need, want or use. Ideally this step is done before the move but we realize, that is not always possible.

What it takes

For an average size home with an average amount of stuff, a magical move in can take anywhere from a couple days to a full week with 2-3 organizers. If you are working and can pay the organizers less than what you make in a week, I think it’s worth the investment for your comfort and peace of mind. Something to consider the next time you make a move.

7 Tips for Staying Focused at Work

spring feverHas Spring Fever hit you yet? Do you find yourself gazing out the window and losing focus at work? Is it harder to come back after your lunch break? I think we all can relate to that. So here are a few productivity tips that can help you focus on your work while you are there. And on the flip side, these tips may help you clear your mind when you’re not there!

  1. As you drive to work, pick a focal point on your normal drive and don’t think about the office until you hit that point. It’s like a visual reminder that you are switching your brain on to work mode. Likewise, do the same on the ride home. Give yourself a few minutes to power down from your busy work day and then let your mind wander for the rest of the ride home and allow yourself to think about what’s happening there or what will happen once you walk through the door.

    2. Start your day with a list of the 6 most important things you have to do. Prioritize them and schedule the hardest work when your mind is clear and engaged. Schedule easier items or low energy tasks for that part of the day when you feel sluggish.

    3. Don’t answer emails first thing in the morning. Instead, triage them. Take a look, see if anything is urgent, delete what is unnecessary and if you must answer some, set a timer on your cell phone so you don’t get sucked in for longer than 15 minutes. Remember, answering other’s emails is taking care of their “To Do” list, not yours.

    4. This goes against Feng Shui, but if you work in a cubicle, have your back to the opening. It keeps you from being distracted by passers by.

    5. Set up your desk like an assembly line – left to right or right to left. Have your “To Do” pile on one side, an open work area in the middle and a “Going Out” pile on the other end.  At the end of the day, move out what needs to be delivered, mailed, etc. and straighten your To Do pile with the most urgent item on top. Use this pile to create your list for the next day.

    6. Obviously, things come up during the day that may distract you from your plan. So take a moment at lunch to reprioritize. You may also have to do this at 3 pm to determine what will get done today and what will have to move to another day of the week.

    7. If you work in a high stress or fast paced environment, get up and walk outside during your breaks. This will clear your head and renew your energy to go on to the next thing.

What do you do to stay focused at work? I’d love to hear!

How Organizers Help Their Children

abs-coverHaving been in this business for thirteen years now, I have met many professional organizers like me who have children. I have been in their homes, heard their stories and it’s very clear that the organizational skills we possess are used not only in our businesses, but in our parenting skills as well. I was at one friend’s home last night and I had to laugh when I saw the “visual reminder” posted for her two young children in her kitchen. I recently put one on my own refrigerator to remind my boys of all the good/healthy things they should be doing every day; things that I find myself nagging them about constantly. To save myself some breath, I typed it up in a colorful professional memo. This list includes tasks like, floss, exercise, read a chapter in a book or an article, do something nice for someone else, etc. They are teenagers and I’m trying to get them to think outside of their own little world as well as to remember all the things I use to do for them when they were little.

So I thought about what our kids are exposed to in an organized household. There’s a lot of good there, but there is also a fine line. Too much structure, and the kids will rebel. So I’ve boiled it down to a few skills or lessons that you can learn from the professional organizer parent and apply in your own home if you are eager to calm the chaos and teach your children some life skills before they pack up and move away.

  1. Visual Reminders – Like the notes on the frig, anything that reminds a child to do something without mom or dad having to say it a million times is helpful. (I recommend the daily chore chart which can be downloaded from my Products page.) One of my absolutes is “put it where you use it.” So if your child needs to brush their retainer every night, put it on the bathroom sink. Need a bag for sports? Put it by your front door. But too many visuals can be overwhelming so limit the number.
  2. Routines – My daughter in college still likes to do her nightly routine. Her friends tease her as she brushes her teeth, washes her face, puts on PJ’s and starts to unwind. Many of them just crash in their bed whenever they get exhausted. But routines bring comfort. So help your children develop their own, like reading before bed, packing their lunch and schoolbag in the evening or cleaning out their locker every Friday. These routines will help their day and their weeks run smoothly.
  3. Time Management – As children get into middle school, help them find a planner that makes sense. Write down all their activities, part -time work and homework assignments. For long-term projects, help them work backwards from the deadline to meet certain milestones. Using a planner where they can see a month at a glance, a week at a glance and still have room for daily tasks will help them with meeting their goals. (Check out the Student planner on my Products page.)
  4. Goal Setting/Prioritizing –On more than one occasion I have sat down with my children and talked about their priorities. When so much is going on from exams to college applications to tryouts it’s easy to lose focus and get stressed out. It helps to talk it out and write it down. Ask questions like, what do you need to do first? How important is this? Limit the priority list to 3-4 items, so when daily stresses and decisions come up, they can ask themselves, “Is this supporting one of my priorities?” It also helps when they are bored and don’t know what to do. You can always do something to work towards your next goal.
  5. Decision Making – Any organizer will tell you that the crux of disorganization is the lack of decision-making. You can teach your children at an early age to make simple decisions. I encourage parents to do this with school art projects: go through the pile and let your child decide Yes or No to keep something. Then move on. They can do this with clothing, toys, etc. When they get older, it may be about activities to join, or colleges to apply to. Make sure they have some criteria for making the bigger decisions and that they think it through on the front end. Some people go through life avoiding decisions and second-guessing themselves, these people are usually unhappy.
  6. Money management – One thing organized parents do is give their children chores and pay them an allowance. This may be in the form of money or a point system. With a point system, the child can redeem points for extra screen time or a special treat. It all teaches them the value of work and money. When they start earning money through their part time job, it’s a great idea to have them put half in the bank and keep the other half for discretionary spending. Before they go away to college, make a budget plan with them. I suggested my daughter take the same amount of cash out of the ATM every week, this is her spending money. I discourage the use of debit cards because it’s easy to deplete your savings and not even know where the money went. It’s more “real” to spend cash. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Credit cards are even worse for college kids because they tend to live beyond their means, which is a bad habit to get into as an adult. As soon as they have a part time job, your kids could be paying for some of their living expenses like car insurance, and phone bills. If kids never know the cost of their own luxuries they will be in for a rude awakening when they start to live on their own.

So these are a few areas where I see many organized parents really instill good habits in their children. I hope you can take some or all of these tips and try them in your own family. If you think your kids won’t listen to you or if you want your kids to be more organized than you are, we are happy to work with your child directly. It’s my observation that children of really disorganized parents tend to be neater. And some children of perfectionists tend to rebel against the order imposed on them. So as with all things, moderation is key. If they have a good homework routine, and can make practical decisions, then dirty clothes on the floor may not be a big deal.

What organization skills have you taught (or would like to teach) your children?

Organize Before You Move

boxesMoving out of your home and into a new space is one of the most disconcerting events in someone’s life. Even the most organized person can be stressed out at the concept of boxing up your life and moving it. There is an emotional side to the transition and there is also a very physical and practical side to a move. Regardless of the reason for moving, look at it as an opportunity to “right size” your belongings and create a fresh start to your life.

I have helped clients organize their current homes as they are boxing up and preparing to move. On the flip side, I have also helped clients set up their new homes in an organized, functional way so they can feel settled in their new space as soon as possible. Here are some tips on how you can organize before your move to make your transition a little easier:

  1. Do the math:

  • If you have your moving date, plan backwards from there. Count the number of rooms in your home and figure that each room is going to take 1-2 days to pack up. Of course bigger rooms and those with more “stuff” in them will take more time. A room with more furniture and fewer small items may only take one day. If you work full time and are only packing at night, figure on 2 days per room just to be safe.
  • Have the measurements of each room in your new home so you can determine what furniture will fit. Identify what is moving with you and what furniture will be sold or given away. You can do this with a list or by putting colored stickers on the furniture, one color for keep and one for give away.
  • Have the measurements of closet space for every room in the new house. If your bedroom closet is half the size, you may have to part with half of your wardrobe, or consider where out-of-season clothing will be stored. Don’t rely on eyeballing it. Size really does matter in this case!
  1. Start with storage areas:

  • Your basement, garage and attic are the places in your home where you can downsize the most. Obviously, much of what is stored there is not used on a regular basis so start by categorizing and purging here. Box up what you definitely want to keep (I suggest uniform plastic bins for storage areas) and label the box with where these items will be stored in the new home.
  • If you have items in your storage areas that belong to other people (your grown children for instance) label the boxes with their names and give them a deadline for coming by and going through their belongings. Or make a phone call and ask what they want you to do with it. Respect their decision and let it go!
  • Designate a spot in one of these storage areas for donations. As you pack up your home, move donations to that place so they can all be hauled out at once.
  1. Work your way around the house room by room:

  • Once storage areas are organized and all boxed up, go through one room at a time and categorize what you have, purge what you don’t need, want or love and then box up what you will take with you.
  • Label boxes with the category and the room to which it will go in your new home. Leave the boxes in the room where they are.
  • If your move is 2-3 weeks away, only keep out what you will use in that time frame. You may need to be a minimalist for a while, but that’s ok. It may feel good.
  • Determine how many boxes you will need to finish up the room and leave empty boxes there for the last minute pack up.
  1. Last minute items:

  • A day or two before the movers come go around to each room again and pack whatever is left. Label boxes with, “daily essentials” so they are easily identified when you get to your new place.
  • Linens and towels can be easily packed in extra large SpaceBags. Just make sure you have your vacuum handy to vacuum seal them!
  • Put remaining clean clothes and personal items in a suitcase, as if you were packing for a trip.
  • Bathroom sundries should be packed in plastic bins and labeled by category (i.e. medicine, makeup, first aid)
  • Schedule a pick up for donations if you have a large amount. Otherwise, drive to your local Green Drop, Goodwill or food pantry.
  • Clean out the refrigerator, and put out any trash or recycling.
  1. When you arrive at your new home:

  • Set up your bathroom with a trash can, hand soap, toilet paper and towels.
  • Set up your bedroom with linens and the clothes & personal items from your suitcase.
  • Set up your kitchen with any food that you’ve transported, everyday dishes and utensils and some paper products like cups, plates and napkins.
  • Make sure each room has a light in it and window coverings.

Take a deep breath, sit down and don’t try to set it all up in one day. If you’ve done a good job of paring down, and labeling the moving boxes, all you have to do is make sure each box and piece of furniture gets to the correct room. You’ll have your necessities out for the first few days so you can eat, sleep and use the bathroom. Use the room-by-room approach once again as you unpack your boxes and start living in your new home.

7 Steps to Organize Your Health

woman with fruitIt’s the beginning of the year and most of us are working towards our New Year’s resolution. Not surprisingly, two of the most common goals are: loose weight and get organized. As an organizer and someone who has had “lose 20 lbs” on my list for the last 10 years (even though I was 15 lbs lighter back then) I always think about how doing both together might be the right combination to finally achieve my elusive ideal.

I can be organized about many things in my life: paperwork, household chores, party planning and running my business but somehow the key to weight loss is the brass ring I’m still reaching for. I do not like the idea of a fad diet or starving myself so I stick with the traditional approach: to burn more calories than I eat.

Here are seven tips that you can follow to get started on your weight loss plan, whatever that may be:

  1. Schedule your exercise for regular days & times: If you try to get exercise in whenever you have time, it’s probably not going to be a routine. Instead, look at your typical week and decide when you can exercise, then put it in your calendar. Better yet, find a buddy to go with you so you can motivate each other! My schedule fluctuates so I do this on Sundays. I look at the week ahead and find 3 one-hour slots or 5 half hour slots where I can go to the gym or do exercise at home. I know I’m better in the morning so I try to do it before work. But if your only option is after a full day of work, have a standard time to do this so you create a routine.
  1. Plan your meals: Go food shopping once a week but plan out your meals before hand. You may only want to do dinners but you can also plan what you will have for lunch each day, especially if you eat at home or pack it. Only buy what is healthy and on your eating plan. Create a list and stick to it! Resist those impulse buys at the supermarket.
  1. Put healthy food at eye level: Let’s face it, when we’re hungry we grab what is closest and easiest. So, after food shopping cut up celery, carrots and fruit and have them at eye level in small containers in your refrigerator. Or put a bowl of fruit on the table. It’s decorative and appetizing. With nuts or granola bars – put them in easy grab containers in the cabinet or pantry.
  1. If you can’t see everything in your refrigerator or pantry – clean it out. This may happen once a month or just before you embark on a new way of eating. Take everything out and categorize it: proteins, veggies, fruits, dairy, drinks, etc. Then wipe down the shelves and toss anything that has expired or that you know is not a fit for your diet. Put everything back in categories so all your choices are healthy!
  1. Create a medical file for every member of the family. It starts with immunizations for the children, and should include all test results, doctor’s recommendations, treatment descriptions and MRI’s and x-rays. Put the latest papers in front of each file so you have a chronological history of all your medical ailments and procedures. Keep medical bills separate. This file is for medical history, not cost. It should be a permanent file, as long as the person lives in your home.
  1. Make follow-up appointments while you are at the doctors and put them in your calendar right away. Put any prescriptions that have to be filled or test requests in your TO DO bin.
  1. Use apps or a FitBit to track your progress on movement per day, heart rate, calories consumed, weight, etc. There is no sense in setting a goal if you are not going to measure it.

For more tips on how to organize your health, check out my booklet, 52 Practical Organizing Tips for Busy Moms sold on the Products page of my website.

How do you organize your health? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

 

Lessons from Groundhog Day – The Movie

billmurrayI hadn’t watched the movie, Groundhog Day in a long time but with the snow melting outside and thoughts of the new year, Time Management Month and personal life-changes in my head, I decided to watch it again. It’s a classic and there’s no other movie like it. I find there is something comforting about this movie with scenes of a cozy small town getting so excited about an age-old tradition like watching a groundhog and predicting the length of winter. I also think there are some life lessons to be learned from Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors.

To summarize the plot: Phil is a self-entered jerk of an anchorman who gets caught in the loop of waking up everyday in the same place, Punxsutawney, PA where he is covering the events on Groundhog Day. At first his reaction is disbelief and curiosity about what is happening. Then he decides to take advantage of the situation and steals money, picks up women, etc. He then starts to wonder about how he can break this spell. When he believes he can’t, his mood turns to depression and he even attempts suicide. For a while he is just apathetic, going through the motions of the day not caring about what he does because it has no effect. He will still wake up and tomorrow will be Feb. 2nd again. Finally, he decides to use this time warp to his betterment. He takes piano lessons, learns to speak French, and make ice sculptures, etc. At least he is getting more out of life!  When he finally decides to use his predictable life to help those in need, he finds happiness and love and the spell is broken.

Lessons I pull from this story:

  1. We’ve all had a point in our life when we wake up and feel like we are stuck doing the same thing everyday and not liking it
  2. Routines can make us feel safe, calm, relaxed and comfortable but…
  3. Doing the same thing everyday can quickly get boring and leave us miserable, or apathetic
  4. Taken to an extreme, that boredom can turn to carelessness & hopelessness
  5. If we change the way we look at our routine we can make the most of our time each day
  6. Taking up a hobby or learning something new is a great way to break up the monotony
  7. There are people we see everyday. We can choose to ignore them, or talk to them and take an interest
  8. If we use our time to help others and make them feel good, life will turn around for the better
  9. Even if our life is predictable, changing our attitude and our actions can make us feel more productive, happy and hopeful.
  10. Don’t drive angry.

Leave a comment about what you think of the movie:

Organize Your Home-Based Business

cover shotMany moms I know are trying to create that life balance with a home-based business. It’s a great idea, and I should know because I’ve tried a few! When my first child was young, I sold Mary Kay. That was a great way to go out in the evening, meet with other women and make a little extra money. I also got my own products at a discount, which saved money too. But I soon decided I did not want to be out at night when my kids were in school all day. And keeping inventory was becoming a problem. So I created my organizing business, which had no inventory, and the hours I work evolved every year as my children grew along with my client base. So here are some tips I’ve learned along the way to help keep my business running smoothly. Keep in mind, that you’re never finished with this process, it’s more a “rinse & repeat.” You find what works well with your life as it is now and stick to the basics.

  1. Decide your hours – when the kids are small, working at night and on weekends might be a good idea if your spouse can take care of them while you’re out. When they are in full time school though, I found I wanted to work 9-4 so I could be there when they left and when they got home. Whatever works for your family – set the hours and stick to them. Take off your business hat when it’s time to be mom and vice versa.
  2. Create an office – Believe it or not I see people who work from home and drag their laptop all around the house, have paperwork everywhere and wonder why their business is not organized. Even if you have a small desk and 2-drawer file cabinet in the corner of a room, you can make it an office. I find it’s easier to concentrate on work when I sit there with everything I need at my fingertips.
  3. Keep a list of clients – From your first one to the person who calls you on the phone just to ask about your pricing. This will give you a list to go back to when business is slow. You can use a simple Excel spreadsheet or go to a Contact management system so you can send them information via email.
  4. Communicate regularly – Speaking of list of clients, what can you say to them? Well, a blog that goes out the same time each week, a monthly newsletter with some tips or news or an Evite for a special event. These are all ways to get in front of your customers over and over again. You never know what will spark their interest!
  5. Be easy to deal with – I see so many people caught up in logistics of running their business that they fail to just listen to what the customer needs and fulfill that need. Too much formality may scare some people off. Whether it has to do with payment, or scheduling or what type of work you are doing, try to be flexible and meet the customer’s needs.
  6. Use the phone! Given all the ways to communicate with people now, we often forget the phone. It is personal so that is key in a service-based business. Pick up the phone and check in with a no-pressure question that is specific to your client’s situation. When my appointment calendar is empty, I call it dialing for dollars. Just by making phone calls I will start booking with people who had been “meaning to call me.”
  7. Always look professional – in my business we get dirty but professional, and I always error on the side of being a little dressed up especially on my first meeting. As I get to know a client, I mirror their image and then step it up one notch. So if the client wears sweats, I might wear jeans and a casual top. If I’m working in an office of course I wear dress pants and a blouse.
  8. Share some personal info – but not too much! In a service business we get to know our customers pretty intimately. It’s good to share your own stories so they feel comfortable with you. But hesitate from giving too much information to where it becomes a discussion all about you. You are the professional; they are the clients so it’s really all about them.
  9. Say Thank You and ask for referrals – No surprise here but referrals are a big part of a small business. Many of us forget to ask for them! Make a point of this a few times a year and maybe offer an incentive to your clients for sending you their friends.
  10. Assess your financials monthly, quarterly and annually – When you love what you do and the checks are coming in, don’t forget to record them! Keeping track of your income & expenses may surprise you. You may be making less than you think or you might have peaks and valleys throughout the year. Use Excel or QuickBooks to track your money so you know what is worth doing over and where you may plan ahead for slow times of the year. Quarterly reports can help you predict the rest of the year and annual assessments can help you adjust your overall business plan.

What do you find hard about running your small business?

How Clutter Affects Your Mental and Physical Health

How Clutter Affects Your Mental and Physical HealthOverflowing closets and shelves, disorganized desks and tables and excessive amount of stuff can be overwhelming. Clutter affects most of us and can get to the point when it’s dragging you down .Many people fail to address the aggravating problem until they start feeling mentally exhausted. The negative effects of clutter go beyond the messy home and impact your physical and mental health.

More items mean more cleaning. The excess of stuff can cause allergies by attracting dust, dander and mold or it can impose a risk of household injuries. Clutter can also increase your stress levels by influencing your routine.

The Origins of Clutter

You collect clutter for a various reasons. Maybe it has sentimental value or you spent a good amount of money on it and you feel reluctant to simply throw it away even if you haven’t used for some time. In other cases, the items may serve to fulfill needs like security, self-worth, comfort or excitement. Your belongings may turn into a connection with the past or a symbol of being loved. Whatever the case, it can be literally painful to give up of your possessions.

According to a study at the Yale University the two areas of the brain associated with pain –the anterior cingulated cortex and insula, are invigorated when a person is faced with the situation to let go of items. This means that your brain perceives the loss of a valued possession the same way as if something caused you physical pain. The more financially or emotionally commited you are to an item, the more you want to keep it around. Don’t feel ashamed about being a hoarder or “clutter bug.” It’s your mind that plays tricks on you.

Effects on Physical Health

Clutter can have negative influence on your day-to-day activities. You will have difficulties finding what you need in the huge pile of mess and often be late for work or an appointment. It may sound surprising, but clutter also decreases the odds for exercising. Not only that, it can make you fat. Researchers have found a link between overconsumption of things and overconsumption of food. In general, the clutter drains your energy.

Effects on Mental Health

The excess of things in your surroundings can affect your ability to focus and process information. Physical clutter can overload your sense and weaken your decision-making skills, making you more stressed and less creative. The disorganization constantly bombards your brain with stimuli, informing it that something is not finished. As a result you get anxious or experience more severe mental issues. Clutter may strengthen existing bad habits like procrastination. It may also prevent you from living in the moment or block out new things from coming into your life.

The Solution

Try cleaning up the clutter one room or category at a time. It often helps to have another person do this with you, whether it’s a trusted friend or professional. When you’ve cleared an area, enjoy the feel of that room. Treat yourself appropriately. Recognize that disorganization is not beneficial for you and let go of the unnecessary. Ask yourself, do I feel better now that I’ve de-cluttered? If yes, move on to the next area. After cleaning the mess, it is essential to set up an ongoing organizational system to prevent the things from piling up again. A good habit is to put things back to their assigned places at the end of each day or at least at the end of the week. Most importantly, you should break the habit of accumulating things you don’t need. Only shop for what you absolutely need and what brings you joy.

This is a guest post by Ella Andrews. More on cleaning and organizing read at: dagenhamcarpetcleaners.org.uk

Getting over “overwhelmed”

secretary

If there is one word we organizers hear more than others, it is “OVERWHELMED.” Our clients are overwhelmed by: emails, paper, hectic schedules, work, kids activities, toys, clothes, you name it.

So how can we get over this state of mind, or state of being? There are several approaches.

  1. Write a list – This may sound like a small solution to a big problem, but consider this. All this stuff is on your mind and stressing you out in your head. If you make a list of what needs to be done, you can free your mind and make some sense of it. For example if you have projects at home, write them down in groups. Maybe inside projects, projects for the kids to help with and outside projects can be your groups. When the lists are made, then assign projects to a certain day or month. Great method for do-it-yourselfers.
  1. Call in a truck – Let’s face it, if you have a house full of clutter and you want to deal with it fast, you can call in a truck for either donations (like Purple Heart or Goodwill) or junk removal. Some junk removal companies will even sort through your stuff and donate and recycle what they can. All you have to do is point out what you want to go. Not a lot of tedious decisions to be made with this method.
  1. Sort, Purge and get organized – This is the method employed by most professional organizers. This works well for people who want to tackle one room or area of their home at a time. And for those who want to look at everything and decide what should stay and what should go. This will take time but with a third party to keep you focused it will get done.
  1. Learn to say NO – If you are overwhelmed by your schedule, then maybe a series of calls to get off certain committees is in order. I’ve had years where I’ve said yes to every volunteer duty asked of me and then I’ve had years where I completed my commitment and politely ducked out. Sometimes a year of doing nothing extra helps you decide where your priorities are. And with kids’ activities, I recommend one per child per season. They have to learn to make choices. You can lead by example in this area.
  1. Take a day off – Many of us work constantly. In fact, I heard the other day that we Americans only take 51% of our vacation days. So take a day off! Don’t wait for a major event to do this. A day off in the fall for a walk outside or day at the spa can be so rejuvenating. Or a day off in the winter to stay home by the fire and drink cocoa and watch movies can also be good for the soul.

How do you get over “overwhelmed?”

Creating a Fun & Safe Backyard

playhouseBy Marie Nieves

Seeing kids play in my yard brings back many memories. Those days seem so far away now, the days of freedom, playfulness, creativity and adventure, when we had all the time in the world and our back yard was our universe. The modest tree-house my father had made by himself had a lot to do with it – it was enough to create the sense of magic for us being our hiding place, our adventure base and our headquarters in the endless summer days.

The preparations

Creating something similar for our kids has always been at the back of my mind, but I never got around to it. So, what is the plan? You want everything to be renovated so that it fits perfectly. Check the pipes you use to water the yard. In addition, checking whether the drainage in the yard is good shows the state of indoor pipes. This might be odd but this is usually the sign of blockage or broken pipes. Consult with your local plumber and you are on your way.

The grass

If you want to do everything from scratch, think about the grass. Some may think this factor is irrelevant, remember that this will be the grass that your kids will run on when the weather is nice. There are different types according to the color, density, and leaf width. Higher grass quality requires more maintenance and, thus, more money. It’s not just about that. You need to be aware of your ground’s fertility, the amount of sunlight and rainfall the area where you live is exposed to. When buying the seed grass, know that the packages come with a mix of several seeds. For a low-maintenance lawn, I recommend the following mix: 65% of fine fescue blend, 15% of perennial ryegrasses and finally 20% of Kentucky bluegrass blend.

A tree house!

We’re getting a tree-house! It will be without a tree though, and on the ground, but the design will be that of a tree-house, so that the kids can use it as their little outdoors house. What do you need to know when building a tree house? We decided to play it safe and build it on the ground. If you are planning to build it on a tree, try not to make it too high, as a precaution. The ultimate checklist for this yard gem is as follows:

  • planning (determine the type and design, the location, draw plans or buy them and create a budget)
  • resources (find all the necessary information on the material and tools, consult with friends who are good at making this kind of constructions or call a professional for a consultation)
  • construction (once you have all the necessary things, begin building the tree house)

Mounting up the wall

I’m also thinking about including more natural materials in our garden, like stone and wood. I will always remember the exterior Cotswold-style wall cladding on our garden walls above which I could see the tip of my neighbors’ apple tree. The stone wall is the best option because it is durable. Additionally, do think of the height. If you want more privacy, build it higher. If you plan on saving the money on the material, the best option is to go with wall of plants. When they grow high enough, they will compensate for the lack of stone material and provide you seclusion.

Our playground

We also used to have an improvised sandpit in our yard, so I’m thinking about getting or making a sandpit for the kids. When building a sandpit, remember you are making it for the kids. Choose a place that is receives enough sunlight but is also shaded in certain parts of the day. Don’t forget about drainage, so build it a bit higher. How do you determine the size? Observe your kids’ playing routine and see how much space they require. Get some lumber and make a frame for your sandpit. Place it on the intended spot and mark the edges on the ground. Start digging. Once you are finished, place an inner frame inside the hole, and line it with landscaping fabric. This will keep the weed out and help with the drainage. Place the frame you made earlier and fill it with sand. And you are done.

These are just some of the suggestions you can use to renovate your yard so that it is a perfect playground for your daughters and sons. It will definitely not stop here. There are many ideas online that can help you spark your imagination for the renovation projects and even make you re-live your childhood.

Shake Up Your Email Inbox

compter personOk, so it’s the end of the week and I like to wrap things up so when Monday morning comes, I know exactly what I have to do. Also, if there are any responses I can get in before the week is up, I like to do those too. But like many of you I have a full inbox in my email. By the end of the week I’m tired of looking at certain messages. They are in there because I don’t want to deal with them or I’m waiting on something. Let me explain that I use my email “inbox” as sort of a TO DO bin. If it’s in there, I have to do something with it. And if it’s been there for a while, it means it’s not urgent. So I think I need to shake up my in bin – just like I would do with a stack of papers that has been sitting too long on my desk. Re-arrange it and take a fresh look and maybe something magical will happen! Here are a few ideas to help you as I help myself get that mailbox as close to 0 as I possibly can:

  1. Tri-age your inbox every day – delete what you don’t want right now or don’t have time to read right now. If you find yourself deleting the same messages daily, consider “unsubscribing” to certain email lists.
  2. If you can answer it now – DO IT! The ball is in receiver’s court once you answer.
  3. Leave messages in your inbox if you will answer them at a later time. Hence creating your virtual “TO DO” bin.
  4. Try sorting your inbox by “sender.” That way you can see all messages from one person and possibly handle all the issues with one phone call. Then delete those messages.
  5. Try sorting your inbox by date received. You can start with the oldest dates and then decide if something is more than a week old, for example, it’s over. Let it go. Delete and move on. Ok maybe a month old is more reasonable.
  6. If you sort with the latest dates on top, handle what you can first then as you go down in the list you may be able to delete some items that are no longer urgent.
  7. You can also sort your inbox by the subject. That way you can pull together all comments on a certain subject and possibly eliminate a few or keep the latest.
  8. If you’ve got some important information in your inbox that you need to save for future reference, make a file folder -just like you would do with paper. Don’t forget to peruse your file folders occasionally to see if anything is irrelevant and can be deleted. Remember the bigger the file, the less likely you are to use it. So keep files specific.
  9. If the virtual TO DO bin is not working for you, consider transcribing all these TO Do’s into your daily planner. Assign each to a reasonable day of the next week when you can handle them. Everybody remembers differently but writing and seeing these items on a daily calendar will make them more tangible than a list on a computer.
  10. Shut down your email and enjoy your weekend!

How do you clean out your email? I would love to see your comments:

Don’t Fear the Bills!

debreceipts-150x150I have found an interesting trend with my clients. They are afraid of the bills. Unopened bills. Seriously. They don’t’ want to deal with them so they stay in the envelope, in a pile of other mail and usually that pile moves around a few times, and eventually ends up in a bag (cleared the table for company). When the client reaches the point where their office is filled with bags of mail, I get the call, “Debbie help!”

Now let me mention that these clients are not broke, they have the money to pay the bills so it’s not like when you graduated college and feared the bills that kept coming and suddenly realized your parents were paying for a lot of intangible things. No, they can pay them. And these are intelligent people; they do complicated things in their day to day lives. So it’s not the money, it’s not the degree of difficulty. Frankly I don’t know what it is that creates this mental block about bills. But I do have a solution.

  • First of all, gather them all together no matter how intimidating the pile.
  • Then open them! Half the stuff in that envelope is irrelevant. Recycle or shred the parts you don’t need.
  • Next, categorize them. You can do medical – taxes – utilities – credit cards – other. Or you can categorize them by company.
  • Pare them down. If you have several months worth of bills, you’re going to have duplicates. Keep the latest bill from each company. With medical bills check the patient and date of service to make sure you’re really looking at a duplicate bill. Make sure it has gone through insurance first.
  • If you get paper from a company and you pay them automatically on line, consider eliminating the paper bills.
  • Call the company if you have a question about the bill. So you might need a “Call” and a “Pay” pile when you’re finished.
  • Consider paying some bills on-line. I recommend regular payments that are the same amount or utility bills. Credit card bills and medical bills are ones that you want to look at the statement to make sure there are no errors.
  • File the statements and only keep out the stub and the envelope.
  • Put the bills in due date order
  • Pay all the older bills that you possibly can to avoid any more late fees
  • With medical bills you can often make a payment plan
  • If you are mailing a check, do it one week before the due date

That clears the backlog. Now decide if you are going to deal with the mail daily or weekly. Then decide if you are going to pay bills weekly or bi-weekly. That’s the only way to stay on top of it.

 

Any questions about dealing with bills? Leave a comment.

Clothes Organizing Made Easy

Clothes Organizing Made Easy

If you are sick of looking at the chaos in your wardrobe or wardrobes, and you are tired of going through all the piles just to find that one shirt, you should probably think about organizing your clothes. Here is a quick guide on how to do that with the least effort.

Empty your wardrobes. Yes, start with that. If you are going to look for a place for everything, you need to know what you actually have. The amounts of clothes you can take out of your wardrobe may surprise you. This way you will also see what kind of space you have – it is very possible that the only reason the wardrobe held everything is because you shoved and pushed everything in.

Start making piles. This is where the organization begins. Separate your clothes in two piles – used and never used. Take the latter pile and find it a different storage altogether – a closet, or cellar, or why not even give them away? Surely, there are some clothes that don’t fit you, or have gone out of fashion, or had been just a gift which you never liked and don’t plan on using anyway. Fix your attention to the former pile. This needs some more effort. You should probably make four more piles, dividing the clothes into seasonal uses. If it’s summer now, you probably don’t need the winter clothes in the front. Fold the clothing for the farthest away season and place them at the back of the wardrobe. Separate the clothes in the other piles into upper-body wear, lower-body wear and underwear. It’s time to make use of your wardrobe’s sections. Find a section for every clothes type and place them there. If your wardrobe is section-rich, you can even further sort your piles by color.

Deal with coats and shirts. These types of clothes go on hangers in the more spacious parts of your wardrobe. Coats and jackets for the season shouldn’t take up space there, though. Take them to your coat stand or closet for more convenient access when going out.

Small spaces for small items. Ideally, socks, underwear and accessories should have no place in your wardrobe. Get them their own cabinet or dresser drawers. With proper folding you should have no trouble going through them and finding exactly what you need in no time at all.

A well-organized closet and dresser will make you feel like you have a new wardrobe and will save you (and your family members) lots of time getting dressed each morning. As a reward for a job well done, go shopping for wardrobe staples if you don’t have them, like black dress pants, a nice pair of jeans or a crisp white blouse. Or go for a fancy dress and some great shoes.

To maintain the order in your closet, put everything back in its place on a weekly basis. And clean out the closet seasonally.

 

Article granted by Ella Andrews-n freelance writer and home décor specialist – on behalf of: http://bromptoncleaners.co.uk/sw10-carpet-cleaning-brompton-sw3/

How to make your bathroom kid-friendly

Pic 1 - Kids Bathroom

 

Once we have children, our whole life gets turned upside down. We sleep less, worry more, work harder, etc. Among things parents should do for their children is home redecoration and adaptation of certain rooms. This includes baby proofing and making your existing bathroom more kid-friendly. This does not mean you have to renovate the bathroom just for your children, but changing a few things around the existing one to make it safer will suffice. Here are some of ideas:

 

Going Up on a Step Stool

Reaching the sink, the toothbrush or an item on the washing machine might be hard for some youngsters, which is why step stools are a good introduction to your bathroom. They are inexpensive and easily placed on the most convenient locations and more than helpful.

Playhouse in the Bathroom

Playing with toys in the bathroom does not seem like something every parent would allow, but they could not be more wrong. Moreover, it is fun to see your child enjoy taking a bath for a change, just because there are some toys around. They can be stored all over the place, do not take too much room, but provide lots of entertainment.

Keep the Important Stuff to Yourself

Do not forget how dangerous razors, shaving machines or medicine can be for a child. Thus, keep them out of their reach and make their visits to the bathroom safer. With high wall cabinets equipped with a lock, you are doing a sensible thing for everyone involved.

Decorations

We all know that children love colors! That is why you decorate their rooms in a colorful way and introduce themes that make them feel special. However, do not stop at that – playful bathrooms are much more child-appropriate so install a few accessories like radiant wall posters, intriguing tile prints, decorated mirrors, and so on. With more details like these, your child will fall in love with the bathroom instantly.

Heating

Not all homes have good heating and it is essential for your bathroom to be warm when you have a child in your life. There are several bathroom heating options and you can choose between floor heating, heated towel raids and heat lamps. All of these do the trick and are sufficient to create appropriate temperature, but floor heating might be the most sensible solution as most children often walk barefoot all the time anyways.

To Each His Own

All those who have more than one child know the everyday struggle over toothbrush/towel/soap/everything else. That is why it is vital to separate your children’s things and teach them to use their own. Individual towel hooks and plastic glasses with toothbrushes will help you more than you could imagine.

Final Ideas

When decorating a bathroom that your child uses, you can never go wrong if you make it colorful, shiny and playful. Figure out their favorite toys and activities and try to incorporate them into the bathroom as well. Ultimately, be absolutely sure to stay away from sharp edges and slippery surfaces at any cost!

About the author

Marie Nieves is student of economics who loves unusual trips, gadgets and creative ideas. She is an avid lover of photography and she loves to talk about her experiences. You can find Marie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and G+.

Mind The Cents: Smart Tricks To Save Money

green home

 

In times of global economic crisis and shrinking employment opportunities, having some extra cash on the side is always welcome. Still, how can you save up without having to compromise on the bare necessities of modern life? Well, if you didn’t pay attention in your economics class or don’t know where to start cutting your bills, we have several tips and tricks on where and how to reduce your monthly costs to your budget’s advantage.

 

A vicious circle: Give up costly habits

Though you may consider yourself a frugal person, you probably have pet habits that cost you more than you can afford in the long run. For instance, if you’re a smoker, you’re probably losing hundreds to your vice on a monthly basis – thousands even in the course of the year. Similarly, regular beer intake can set you back a lot even with an ample budget, so you’d better find a more satisfying and cost-effective pastime.

Reduce you water and electricity bill: Cut shower time

Enjoying a long hot-water bath at the end of your day is not as budget-friendly as you may think. In fact, keeping your water-heater on 24/7 will add a pretty penny to your electricity bill, while a full tub will up your water consumption to the max with regular use. For optimal water temperature and lower energy bill, turn your thermostat to 120 degrees or less – that should be enough for a quick shower without wasted electricity and cold water-induced goose bumps. Check out some more tips on how to save money on utility bills.

Use ATM cards wisely: Use cash instead of plastic

With the plastic card era at its peak, most people don’t think twice before they whip out their payment card to pay for a grocery bill, especially if they know they have an extra dozen on their bank account. Even if you’re a hardcore ‘shopping list only’ enthusiast, you may be leaking money with your credit card payments. It runs out people are likely to spend more when using payment cards than when paying cash for services and goods because hard money feels more real than plastics, so sticking to cash may be a better option than flashing around your ATM cards at the counter.

Cost-efficient combinations: All-in-one TV packages

Most modern households have a TV, a compute, a landline and several cell phones per family members. That’s all fine and well until you get down to the bill figures: with separate phone bills, internet costs and TV packages, you may as well be burning money. If you want to save up on these modern utilities, try a combined TV and internet package that delivers the same service at lower costs. For instance, you may want to get a Compare Broadband Bundle that merges TV, internet and phone service in one cost-effective package and guarantees all time internet access with your favorite TV show on and your phone open for calls 24/7.

Turn off water when not necessary: A small splash goes a long way

Keeping your tap running while washing teeth or scrubbing the dishes is completely needless and it can also prove costly in the long run. A small splash can go a long way if deployed wisely, so turn off your faucet when you’re not directly using water from it – this will help you save some extra dozen or even hundred on you water bill without jeopardizing your personal and homeware hygiene.

Eliminate phantom power: Switch off unnecessary appliances and devices

Our household devices and gadgets discreetly use up electricity even when not in use. Cords and wires attached to outlets with connected devices on the off or stand-by mode leak energy, and so do the phone charges and similar gadgets which we usually live plugged in through neglect. To counter phantom power, unplug your coffee maker, printer, wall chargers and similar appliances when you’re not using them – you may be surprised by the trimmed down figure on your next electricity bill.
These are just a few simple solutions that could help you save money in the long run, so it’s crucial that you stick to them permanently and not just “once in a while.” Developing money-saving habits takes time much as any other. It might be a little difficult in the beginning but when you reap the rewards you’ll be glad you made them stick.

Guest blog by: John Stone, Editor, Smooth Decorator

WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE TO SAVE MONEY? LEAVE A COMMENT:

Living With Gratitude & Trust

G&T summit

Last week I had the unique opportunity to speak at the Gratitude & Trust Summit in New York City. This event was organized by Paul Williams & Tracy Jackson, the authors of a book by the same name. It was a different kind of speaking opportunity for me but I’m so glad that I got outside my comfort zone and took a chance.

Those of you who have heard me speak know that I can talk for hours on the “how to” of organizing. This event was more like a Ted Talk in that I had just 10 minutes to talk about the “why” of organizing. The common theme running throughout the day was how to change your life for the better. For some that means overcoming an addiction or a bad habit, and we had speakers who talked about therapy, fitness and meditation. Other speakers shared their own private experience with overcoming major obstacles in their lives from abandonment, to incarceration, to hitting rock bottom from a substance addiction. All, of course, wove the theme of gratitude and trust throughout their talks.

I was amazed at how unselfish some of these people are. One woman gave up a job as an attorney to open up two homes for women in recovery. She was inspired by her own recovery from alcoholism and every month she barely makes the bills but she has the strength and fortitude to go on. Talk about trust! Another man devotes most of his life to documenting the plight of the homeless in America. After suffering from addiction himself, he was homeless for a time. He now advocates on their behalf. He does have a day job to pay the bills but his cause: invisiblepeople.com is his passion.

I came away with inspiration from each of these people who so generously shared their deepest darkest secrets and raw feelings. The human spirit is amazingly resilient. With the right attitude and a belief in a higher being, we can overcome anything. When I got home from the conference I found out that my husband did not get a job he was applying for and that our health insurance plan will be cancelled at the end of this year. But I didn’t panic. These problems seemed minimal in light of all I had heard on Wednesday. Instead of complaining, I went to gratitude. We have until December to figure out our health insurance. My husband and I both have work and even though we may not have all the amenities of life that some of our neighbors do, we are blessed with three healthy kids, a nice community and loving family and friends.

I am honored to have shared the stage with this group. And although getting our homes organized may seem like a frivolous “nice to have” I hope that I conveyed the message that for some people, getting organized and de-cluttering their life is a way to change their life and often their relationships with loved ones. If we start with gratitude for all that we do have, we don’t have the need to keep buying more. If we trust that we will have all that we need when we need it, it makes it easier to let go of all the things that are not bringing value to our lives.

If you would like to listen/see the full summit go here: . http://livestream.com/accounts/1249127/events/4138114

How to Organize your Kitchen

How to Organize your KitchenThe kitchen is one of the most important rooms in your home. Whether you have just moved in a new home or you want to make some renovations, a lot of effort and planning should be put in the kitchen. What you want to achieve is have a kitchen arrangement that flows smoothly and allows you to work in there without too much trouble.

It is not always easy to achieve this, however, because you have to take into account the space in your kitchen as well as overall shape of the room. In order to create your dream kitchen, you can consider some clearance as well as creativity tips to help you.

  • Start with some home clearance – if there is one thing you cannot have in your kitchen it is things you do not use. The idea of the kitchen is to be practical, functional, a place where you can work fast and effectively and where you can have lovely family meetings at dinner and breakfast. For this to be true, you cannot afford to have a cluttered kitchen with outdated appliances and equipment you have used in the past but never recently. You can either give the excess to friends or relatives, or you can organize a garage sale. Also you can always consider donating to charity organization. Regardless of what you decide, you will be thankful for this clearance and see a lot of room for improvement in your kitchen.
  • Replace appliances and broken equipment – a great kitchen is one that does not have any flaws. If you think that there is faulty equipment in yours, or perhaps some tools that have outlived their usefulness, maybe it is time to let go of them and replace them. For this reason some clearance will be necessary. Give yourself a day to go through your entire kitchen inventory and see what needs replacing.
  • Consider what you use most often – normally you want to keep your most frequently used items within easy reach. That way you can have everything you need fast and have your kitchen organized in such a way to allow easy access to this equipment. As for things you rarely use, you can consider moving those to your garage, attic, basement, or elsewhere you consider fitting.
  • Consider the centers of activity in your kitchen – think of the most common activities you find yourself engaged in while in the kitchen, and organize it accordingly. For example, if you bake often, you should store the flour, sugar, all of your measuring cups and mixing bowls in one place so that you can easily take all of them out. Keep the napkins, trivets, tableware and dishes all nearby so that when time for serving comes you can easily take it out and prepare the table.
  • Keep your counter clutter-free – you don’t want to have objects constantly sitting on your counter, because this is your main workspace. It needs regular cleaning and for this reason you should try to find alternative place for objects that normally lie around there. Consider domestic clearance if space is a problem.

It is by following these tips that you can have a kitchen that is well organized and convenient. Definitely implement these suggestions and you will have a truly great kitchen.

Article granted by Ella Andrews-n freelance writer and home décor specialist – on behalf of: professional home clearance in Chelsea.

What’s your biggest challenge with keeping your kitchen organized? Leave a comment or question:

10 Tips for Using Visual Reminders

chartimageThe more I work with busy parents, the more I see the need for visual reminders. If you’re not familiar with this term, these are items that remind us to do something. It may be a box or bag with returns in it, or a simple post-it strategically place around the house so you don’t forget. I see that my clients have a need for this in their hectic lives but I also see that there is a point of diminishing return. If your house is packed with visual reminders that clutter up every flat surface, you’re not going to see them for what they are.

 

 

I consider myself a visual person too. I like to have a big family calendar in my kitchen, I use a Franklin planner so I can see an entire month at a glance – to me it’s like looking at a jigsaw puzzle as I try to see what I can fit in where. Sorry, but a dot on a phone calendar does nothing for me. So I use visual reminders in my day-to-day life but there are a few tips to using them effectively.

  1. The majority of your house needs to be straightened up and items put away in their assigned places in order for your visual reminders to STAND OUT. Don’t put a reminder on top of a pile of clutter.
  2. You need to put visual reminders in consistent places. For instance, if there are things you want to remember before you leave your bedroom, put a post-it on the mirror. If there are items you need to take out of your house, put them in your car or on a table near the door. I call this the GOING OUT TABLE.
  3. If you are going to be out and about running errands on a Saturday for instance, put items in the passenger seat of the car so you see them and take care of them. This could be returns to stores, or deliveries. Anything you are bringing home can go in the back seat or trunk to keep it straight.
  4. If the pile of TO DO’s on your desk is falling over, break it down further. You might categorize items into: calls, computer research, shopping or projects.
  5. Gift cards are a common item that I see people tuck away and forget about. So think about putting them in your wallet – they are like money! Or have one card-holder just for them. Or simply put the ones you will use on-line in the top drawer of your desk and put the others in an envelope in your car. The key is easy access when you want to use them.
  6. Dry cleaning and clothing repairs are another category that I find all over people’s homes. Put them in the same bag each week and place the bag in your bedroom until it’s full.
  7. If you are a major visual person who cuts out magazine articles for ideas on decorating, recipes, and home improvement projects, consider making binders for each and placing the articles in plastic sleeves.
  8. Realize that everything can’t be out. You have to prioritize and only keep out what you are going to work on in the next week or so. Use a planner (electronic or paper) for any projects that need to happen in the future. Label files clearly and you’ll be able to find what you need when you are ready. Leaving just a few projects out is less overwhelming.
  9. Have a “Pending” or “Waiting On” folder on your desk. This is a visual reminder of who needs to get back to you or what you are waiting for to come in the mail. I use this for on-line orders, invoices and anything related to a call back.
  10. If you use visual reminders for your kids, keep it simple. Use pictures for little ones and stick to three items. Check out the chore chart on my Products page for a way to keep everyone’s chores and activities straight in your family!