5 Ways to Create an Organized Home Without Going Overboard

5 Ways to Create an Organized Home Without Going Overboard

Everyone loves an immaculate, perfectly organized home. Very few people, though, have the time to actually create one. Here are five ways to create an organized home without going overboard that will fit into any schedule…

Create a common space to collect items – Do you have someone in your home who just throws their clothes on the floor? Have you tried establishing a home for the dirty clothes? Think function when selecting a laundry bin. If the person needs ease of use, don’t get them a bin that has a lid on it. They won’t put their dirty clothes in it. Rather, they need to be able to merely toss dirty items in. Look carefully at where clutter occurs and consider a better space or container to alleviate it.

Set routines for tasks – Creating a routine kind of becomes a no brainer in times when one is so busy. For example, get in the habit of washing your dishes after each meal. If that is too much to handle, at least do it after the last meal of the day. The bonus is a clean kitchen when you wake up and begin your day!

One in, one out – When you bring something into to a room, such as a glass of water or wine, make sure when you leave that room that you take that item out of the room, putting it where it belongs. This will help eliminate any excess clutter.

Return when done – If you get in the habit of returning any item you have taken out from its designated home, this too, will eliminate the need to clean up excess clutter. For example, when you are packaging up any returns or gifts to send in the mail, you may be using tape and scissors. When that task is completed, return them to their assigned home.

Take time each day – I am not talking about hours and hours spent organizing each day. Rather, what I mean is each day spend 5-10 minutes in a different area of your house. Start on the first floor of you home and work your way up or out. Begin in the entryway. Hanging infrequently used coats, corralling gloves and scarves into their designated home, or tidying up the in and out area will help make you and the area more organized.

Again, not everyone has the time to be constantly organizing every single minute of every day. If you set routines and spend time working on them with your housemates, you will get to the level of an organized home that will make you happy and feel less stressed.

Photo: Adobe Stock Photo

 

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How to Organize Your Holiday Gifts (and Shopping)

How to Organize Your Holiday Gifts (and Shopping)

Typically, holiday gift exchanges occur in person. This year, the risk of contracting COVID-19 coupled with social gathering restrictions, and the need to stop the spread of the virus itself are making that difficult. How do you make holiday gift-giving meaningful and ensure your gifts arrive at their destinations in time? With these handy tips…

  • Make a list, check it twice. Make a list of everyone you have to buy for, and a few ideas of what you want to get each person.
  • Shop Early, And Online, For Everything. Next to each idea on your list, list a few stores that you know will have it. Then check Amazon. You can find virtually anything on Amazon, meaning you can do most of your shopping in one place, in one delivery. This time of year, it is worth it to enroll in Amazon Prime for their 2-day shipping. If you are running late with your shopping, order online, and choose curbside delivery to ensure you don’t have to wait in lines in the store. If what you are purchasing is something you must see before you buy it, confirm the store you plan to buy it from has the item in stock in their store before you venture out.
  • Wrap It Up. Just because you’re shipping your carefully chosen presents doesn’t mean that they can’t be festive. They should be. Use the same wrapping paper, bows, Christmas stockings, etc. you would ordinarily package your gifts in. Place everything in a large cardboard box. For a fun touch, mark that box, “Do not open until December 25” to create some additional excitement.
  • Embellish Gift Card Envelopes Fancy. It’s perfectly okay to send gift cards. If you want to get fancy, wrap the gift card in an oversized piece of wrapping paper, or put it in a box. You can even print gift cards at home, put them in plain envelopes, and decorate the envelopes.
  • Make Your Shipping Box Memorable. To avoid delivery delays and to make it easy to find your box if it accidentally gets lost, write your full contact information, including your phone number, on your shipping box on both the shipping label AND on the box itself. If possible, write down the tracking number given to you by the shipping service on the box as well. Use labels, stickers, and black magic markers to cover any old shipping labels or bar codes you cannot remove from the box. This is important because, at this busiest time of year, the delivery personnel could accidentally scan the wrong bar code, sending your package somewhere else.
  • Ship Early. This year many more people than usual will be shipping holiday gifts. To make sure yours get there on time, plan to ship your gifts early. Make a note of when your local post office opens and arrive at opening time to avoid long lines. Alternately, you can use the post office’s “Schedule a Pickup” service to have packages picked up right at your door. You can also use FedEx or UPS to ship your packages.
  • Unwrap Together…Virtually. Choose a single day and time for the entire family to get together online via video chat to open gifts together. You can even use the phone. Sit under your respective Christmas trees with your box of holiday gifts and take turns opening each package. Thank each other for every gift, no matter how big or how small.

Photo: Adobe Stock

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WFH Ergonomic Products We Love

WFH Ergonomic Products We Love

These days, everyone is working from home. Working at your kitchen table or in your bedroom can place even more stress on your back, neck, legs, and arms. Here are some WFH (Working From Home) ergonomic products we love and tested that provide real relief from and aim to prevent pain. 

NOTE: Some of these items are pricey, but you really do get what you pay for.

Monitor Risers. Your monitor should be at eye level, so you can sit up straight. The bonus is that you can store some office items under the riser! 

Laptop Stands – If you are using a laptop and have been experiencing any neck or shoulder issues, you may want to investigate these. I, personally, use the Roost Laptop Stand. I love that it is lightweight and comes with a carrying pouch.

A Vertical Mouse. This one takes some getting used to, and is a bit pricey for a mouse, but once you have it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

The Purple Royal Seat Cushion: Everything they say about Purple products is true. This one transfers easily to the car, too.

A great footrest. This one is highly recommended by the New York Times. Being tall I don’t personally need a footrest; however, I have a client who swears by this product. It was a game-changer for her as she is only 5’2”.

An Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse Set: This set can only be used with Windows-based PC. We Mac folks won’t be able to use this product.

A mesh chair with lumbar, neck support, and arms: This chair also has flip-up arms to allow one to move closer to a desk or table if needed.

A lot of people thought that working from home was not going to be long term. With the pandemic numbers rising again, one may be at home longer than originally planned. Having the best ergonomic items in your home office will save you lots of aches and pains.

Photo: Pixaby

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How to Plan the Perfectly Socially Distanced Thanksgiving Holiday

How to Plan the Perfectly Socially Distanced Thanksgiving Holiday

Unfortunately, the number of cases of COVID-19 is rising. In light of these startling statistics, we are all wondering how to plan the perfectly socially distanced Thanksgiving holiday this year. Here are a few tips for spending time with friends and family while still partaking in Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings without contributing to the spread of COVID-19.

Have a small dinner with just the people who live in your home. You may choose to continue your traditional family favorites or stir things up and NOT serve turkey and all the fixings. For all the cooks, it may be a nice change to simplify the menu, and therefore, spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the members of your household.

Alternatively, you could always consider having a virtual dinner with family and friends. Agree ahead of time on a mutual time to sit down to eat. Each household will need to have some version of a computer/tablet/smartphone in order to see everyone. You may choose to share only the beginning or end of the meal online with each other or to just keep the cameras rolling for the entire meal so as to feel like you are all really together. In a sense, you truly will be…

Why not utilize your outdoor space to host dinner for local family and friends? Try to contain the folks you invite to members of your current bubble. Don’t let your guard down. Wear masks unless you are eating. Try to limit alcohol or choose not to serve any as you may not be a sharp as you normally would be.

Use social media such as Facetime, Skype, or Zoom to communicate with family. If you live in different time zones or can’t coordinate a mutual dining time, set up a meeting to be able to spend some time together and catch up.

For some families, Thanksgiving is the time of year to select their secret Santa partners for gift exchanges. Go ahead and do so! Try to continue as many traditions as you are able with the realization that this is a year like none before. All in all, enjoy your day and give thanks for all the blessings you do have in your life.

Photo: Pixaby

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What to Grab in an Emergency?

What to Grab in an Emergency?

Over the past few months, the United States has had wildfires, hurricanes, and tropical storms. Last month was dubbed Disaster Preparedness month. While gathered with a few friends via Zoom, we got talking and wondered what would we gather in an emergency if we only had 30 minutes to evacuate? Here are a few of the items we thought we would grab in an emergency.

Electronics – Let’s face it, technology is all around us whether we like it or not. Therefore, it is a no brainer for our group to grab our smartphones, computers, and all the necessary cables associated with each device. If you have battery backup chargers, make sure those are charged and ready to use. One of my family members pulls out and starts charging all of hers the minute she hears of inclement weather, no matter the season.

Everyday items – This too was an easy category. Clothes, toiletries, shoes, and medication for at least three days need to be gathered. Just pack one suitcase per household member as there is only so much room in a car. Every person needs to decide what they need on a daily basis. If you have children, make sure to bring their favorite toys, blankets, and whatever they use to comfort themselves. If you have pets, make sure you have enough food and water for them for a minimum of three days plus leashes, water/food bowls, and their favorite toys/blankets/beds.

Emergency kit – Grabbing a first aid kit and items such as flashlights, batteries, one blanket/person, gloves, hats, warm coats, rain gear, and water (3 gallons per person for 3 days) are the basic items. Taking non-perishable food in case you get stranded is also important.

Papers – This is one reason you should have important papers stored electronically for easy access. You are going to need contact info for your insurance broker, mortgage company, financial institutions, and information relating to your home. It is obvious that you need to grab birth certificates and other legal documents. If you have the originals stored off-site, that is very good as they too should be safe. These important papers should be kept in a plastic, waterproof bag/case. You may need to prove who you are, so have your driver’s license, passport, social security card, proof of insurance, the deed to your home, and medical records with you.

If you feel you would not be ready in 30 minutes, perhaps now is the time to take inventory of what you may want to be gathered together, so grabbing necessary items is easily accomplished. Think about having your near and dear photos scanned in. This will alleviate the need to grab photo albums and take up precious space in your car. The same goes for creating an emergency contact list of everyone you and your family deal with. Having peace of mind is a great incentive. Why not plan to start working on this during the long winter months? You will glad you did should the unthinkable ever materialize. After all, who could have anticipated what we’ve all been enduring in 2020?

Photo: Pixabay

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Five Safe and Socially Distanced Activities to Enjoy With the Family This Fall

Five Safe and Social Distanced Activities to Enjoy With the Family This Fall

Social distancing has changed the autumn activity landscape. So many of the fun things in which families typically partake – and which they look forward to – can’t be undertaken because of social distancing rules. Alternatively, they put so many restrictions upon us that they become downright too stress-inducing to enjoy. However, take heart. Here are five safe and socially distanced activities to enjoy with your family this fall.

Visit tourist sites – In Massachusetts, folks love to go to the Cape in the summer. However, traffic can be horrendous! If you are looking for a day trip or weekend getaway, the fall is a great time to go. I am sure you will find a similar location in your area that is more enjoyable to visit when it is not high season or a popular tourist attraction in the summer months.

Bake – Tis the season for apples and pumpkins galore. Pick a weekend day for the entire family to bake an apple pie, apple crisp, pumpkin pie, or any recipe that uses these fall specialties. A bonus is that if you have a freezer and can get a pie or two done now in time for Thanksgiving, so doing will afford you one less item to bake when your time is so precious, and your kitchen is so busy.

Revisit crafting – If you know how to sew, you may want to create a Halloween costume for yourself or your family members. Your family can help by dividing tasks such as laying out the pattern, cutting the pattern, pinning the fabric, ironing seams, or actually using the sewing machine. If you know how to knit or crochet, teach your children. They can use these skills to make Christmas or Hannukah gifts. Indeed, for my sister and me, some of the fondest memories of childhood involve learning these domestic skills at the knees of Mom and Grandma. Provide the same for your children and grandchildren. What pride they will take, making something with their own two hands and offering it as a gift out of love.

Tour – There are biking, walking, and driving tours you can take in your area. Google the activity you want to do in the area you want to go, and you will get a lot of choices from which to pick your favorite or to explore an area you haven’t been to before. Leaf peeping is an age-old, tried and true – not to mention –  a fun activity to do this time of the year. Get out and commune with Mother Nature. Perhaps no mask will be necessary…

Decorate for Halloween or Harvest – Have a pumpkin carving contest with members of your family. Each person gets a pumpkin with the best and scariest pumpkin winning! Save the pumpkin seeds to roast and eat. While carving, make hot apple cider and eat apple cider donuts. Who doesn’t love apples and pumpkin? If you want to take Halloween outside and decorate your front lawn or your house, do it while the weather is still nice to avoid freezing your fingers and toes as Father Frost sets in later. Create family memories.

You have many choices to enjoy autumn. Heck, if you have a ton of leaves in your yard, rake them into a huge pile and run and jump into them. Think of the closeness and alone time you get to spend with your family. That is one blessing to come out of this pandemic. In all you do, stay safe.

Photo: Pixabay

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Fresh and Unexpected Ways to Make Time for Yourself

Fresh and Unexpected Ways to Make Time for Yourself

Now more than ever we may feel we are doing way too much. With either working from home or having our children learning from home, let’s face it, life has changed. Some of it is for the better, and some not so much. Before you find yourself facing burnout, why not seek out fresh and unexpected ways to make time for yourself.

Create a list – Look at your calendar for the past month and write down everything you did. Generalize the list by combining shopping (for example groceries, school supplies, and holiday decorations) as one category. Some tasks won’t find their way on your calendar such as household chores, reading, helping your children with their homework, and going for a walk or doing some form of exercise not at a gym. Make sure to include those tasks on your list.

Divide – Take the list and now divide it into what you WANT to do vs. what HAVE to do.

Evaluate – Carefully review the category of what you WANT to do. Ask yourself whether each task adds actual value to your life. If it doesn’t, let it go. Now, look at the HAVE to do category. Really scrutinize it to determine whether what you think you have to do is real. How much are you able to delegate or even totally eliminate it. A perfect example would be does the house really have to be scoured, not merely cleaned every week? Would your husband by chance be able to drop off or pick up your child from activities or school?

Schedule – One of the best ways to ensure you accomplish both tasks that you HAVE to do and those you WANT to do is to map them out in your calendar. You need to start by putting in the HAVE to do items first or they may not get done. Then look at the list of the things you want to do and schedule them. Make sure you aren’t scheduled every single minute of the day; otherwise, you can be sure that you are setting yourself up for burnout. If you find this to be the case, you need to delegate, delete, or re-evaluate each of the items on your WANT to and HAVE to lists.

Please do make time for yourself. Try to picture yourself relaxing by taking a long hot bath, or going to a lake, ocean, or pond to breathe in the good fresh air and to be near water. Taking time for yourself will make you a happier, more productive, and more balanced person.

Photo: Pixabay

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How to Avoid Purging Too Much

How to Avoid Purging Too Much

Living here in the northeast, we often do a bi-annual seasonal swap of all manner of things. It is a built-in time to reevaluate the past season’s items as we have to touch each one in order to put it away. Nevertheless, there are definitely items about which you should think twice before purging.

Paperwork – We know (or at least I hope you know!) we need to keep important papers such as previous years’ taxes, real estate transactions, and some medical records, to name a few. Often in the haste and thrill of the moment, people toss some papers that they regret years later having disposed of. What if it was a journal that would help you when you write a memoir? Maybe it’s cards or letters from a loved one that has passed. The important point is to make sure you are making the right decision for YOU today and in the future. I am not suggesting you hold on to every paper. Rather, pause for a moment to consider what you may be throwing away while sorting through your various papers.

Jewelry – The biggest mistake that can happen when sorting through jewelry is getting rid of real jewelry, erroneously believing it to be costume jewelry. Similarly, going through your jewelry too quickly can mistakenly lead to your tossing out the genuine article.

Family Items – When parents or grandparents are downsizing, they would love nothing better but to have a family member lovingly accept their castaways. Bear this in mind as passing on any item you deem not necessary at this point in your life may be a mistake. I always loved my Grandmother’s dining room table. When my grandparents both passed, my Mom stored this dining room table (Thankfully, it collapsed into a 32” wide table.) until I was able to take possession of it. My parents recently downsized, and I was in a dilemma over taking it or not. I agonized for a few months and finally decided to take it. I was discussing the table with friends, and they helped me realize how it could fit into my space. I was looking for a dining room table, and I am so happy I now have this beloved family treasure. Be careful not to make a hasty decision based on your current life situation. Alternatively, you could feel obligated to take those yellow plastic daffodils from Grandma’s annual springtime decorating when she offers them, teary-eyed, smiling, and reminiscing about all the beautiful spring times she shared with your Grandpa and your mother as a child. Oh, my… to take them, knowing full well that they will only end up in your basement like so many other things, or to later toss or donate them, or far worst,  to insult Grandma by outright refusing them? It is a universal quandary summed up by my sister and her best friend who quipped, “From my basement to yours…with love!”

Clothing – Some articles of clothing are just too classic or iconic to let go. If you loved your mother’s poodle skirt or high school class jacket, keep it. You will be all set for a future theme party! These items capture a time in your life and don’t really take up too much space. You can revisit the need to keep them whenever you come upon them and make a more informed decision.

Photos – Looking through photos can be an easy exercise. It’s obvious to delete or throw out blurry photos and multiple shots of the same theme. When it comes to photos that are of people, it can be trickier. We all change in looks as we age. No matter how bad you think you look, retaining those photos may be a way to capture a particular time in your life. No one has to see the photos you choose to keep unless you want to share. Again,               s-l-o-w-l-y go through the task of sorting all your precious photos.

With all that said, I am not trying to make you keep unnecessary items. There obviously are space considerations. My word of caution to you is this: take some time to thoughtfully consider what you are decluttering. If you are unsure about a given item, create a box into which to place it. Let the box “ripen” for a month, and then go back to it with a clear head to make a decision.

Photo: Pixabay.com

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Common Household Items You Need to Get Rid of Now

Common Household Items You Need to Get Rid of Now

As we approach fall, the cooler temps may compel us to be inside more. Thoughts may just turn to tackling some cleaning out, weeding out, and sorting. As a result, today we will explore common household items you need to get rid of now based on expiration dates, potency, or flavor.

Makeup – Don’t you really hate it when you spend good money on makeup and either forget you bought it or haven’t used it EVER. Contrary to what you may have heard, makeup does have a shelf life. One should toss their makeup based on these guidelines. It is not worth getting a rash or infection due to using old items, no matter how much you spent on them.

Spices – Opening a spice jar is such a symphony of smell. When you open spices that have been sitting around in your cupboard or pantry and there is an off smell or no smell at all, time to toss. Using these guidelines will help you ascertain what spice is still good to use to enhance your latest culinary concoction.

Over the Counter Medication – What exactly does the expiration date on these meds mean? Is this the date that the stores should no longer sell the product? How long are the meds safe to use? I turn to Common Sense Home for guidance.

Personal Care Items – Items such as shampoo, conditioner, and hand lotion do eventually need to be tossed. Once you see the breakdown of the product or its separation, do not use these items. A general guideline is to dispose of them after 2 -3 years if opened, 3 -4 years if unopened.

To help you remember when you bought any of the items we are talking about today, label each new purchase as soon as you come home. Take the guesswork out of remembering. See my previous blog to learn more about one of my favorite organizing tools, the label maker.

Photo: Pixabay

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How to Engage Your Children in Their Education

How to Engage Your Children in Their Education

Depending on where you live, your children may be either attending school full time or with a hybrid schedule of online and in-person learning. Most homes are not set up to have multiple people working/attending school from home. Here is how to help you engage your children in their education.

Space – Having a dedicated learning space is going to be one of the most important tasks. Try not to have your children attend school from their beds. Not only does it look terrible, but it is bad for their backs and does not set them up with the right frame of mind for learning. Create a desk area with all their necessary supplies. If you have younger children, you will want them in a different room or space from yours, but close enough so you can listen passively while you work.

Online Learning – Reinforce skills such as ½ hour of independent reading. Have earphones so they can concentrate on hearing only their teacher and not all the other sounds around them. Create a barrier around them if they are easily distracted. A folding room divider or a 3-panel display board is easy to set up and fold away when no one is online.

Step Away from your Computer – Everyone working on a computer needs to take a break and stretch or look away. Follow the guidelines from the WebMD website. Make sure you are blinking often to avoid dry eyes. Bring water or your beverage of choice with you when in front of your computer for any length of time to keep yourself hydrated. Getting up to use the bathroom will force you to step away.

Getting Outside – After sitting in front of a computer monitor all day, one needs to get up and move around. What about a scavenger hunt? When the children come back in, they will have gotten some fresh air and exercise and will again be ready to work on their homework.

Learning from home may not be the ideal situation for everyone. Nevertheless, if you adjust your surroundings for your children, you will be setting them up for success this academic year!

Photo: Pixabay

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