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.


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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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How to Endure a Layoff with Grace

How to Endure a Layoff with Grace

COVID-19 and the closing of the economy has resulted in a lot of layoffs, temporary and permanent. Being let go from a job because of cutbacks is even harder than being fired. You know you’ve done nothing wrong. You understand why it’s happening, still, you feel that you have done something wrong or that your employer didn’t value you. In case you have fallen victim to the corona virus in the way, here are some do’s and don’ts of how to endure a layoff with grace.

Don’t rush to sign exit paperwork. You have the right to ask for a reasonable time to review the documents and to be able to show it to your accountant, lawyer, and family. Make sure to read the paperwork carefully and ask questions before you sign.

Do follow up with your former employer if you don’t get things such as a final paycheck or COBRA paperwork in a timely manner. Make sure your health insurance won’t be canceled. If it will be, shop for health insurance on your state or federal websites.

Do pack up and/or turn in equipment without taking or copying files. Depending on the company culture, you may not have a lot of time to pack up your belongings. They may offer to have it packed up for you and mailed to your home

Do say goodbye. Shake hands – or bump elbows – and say thank you as you leave. You never know when you will run into a former colleague or boss. Take the high road; don’t burn any bridges. Acknowledge those who helped you and wish everyone well. Let everyone’s final impression of you be an upbeat, positive, and encouraging one.

Do ask for a laid off letter. Review the content and make sure the details are correct. Having this letter will be evidence that you were not fired when looking for another job.

Do ask for a letter of recommendation from your boss. Asking now will ensure you get it. What if your boss is in the next round of layoffs? Then it is too late to ask.

Do file for unemployment. You are entitled to unemployment when you are laid off. Now is not the time to be shy or embarrassed over applying.

Don’t immediately start looking for another job. This is a major upheaval in your life. Allow yourself time to grieve. You may be angry but try not to bad mouth the company. Take a positive spin on this. You may use this as an opportunity to reevaluate your career and even go in a totally different direction.

Do update your social network such as LinkedIn and your resume. Make sure your social media sites do not have pictures of you that would embarrass you when a future employer looks at your posts. Scrub any inappropriate, compromising, and unprofessional comments.

This too shall pass, and you may come to see that this unpleasant time in your life was actually a truly important turning point in your career. You just may emerge with a better job than your previous.

Photo: Unsplash

How to Declutter and Organize Your Garage or Garage Space

How to Declutter and Organize Your Garage or Garage Space

Not everyone has a garage, but most have a place where they store garage-like items, such as house paint, automotive supplies like snow tires or all weather tires depending on the season, shovels, indoor/outdoor gardening supplies, and tools. This is how to declutter and organize your garage or garage space.

Proper supplies – Gather large trash bags, broom & dustpan, shop vac (if you have one), and containers for sorting.

Dividing and conquering – As with any organizing project, create spaces/bags/containers for items to either donate, toss, or keep. The keepers will be further divided into categories in the next phase.

Keepers – Items you are keeping in the garage will have common themes such as gardening, sports, winter shovels, seasonal decorations, and tools. Place items of each theme together so you will be able to determine the best storage solution.

Zones – Based on the quantity of items you have for each category; you can then determine which area of the garage is best suited for each. Think of your child’s kindergarten classroom where there was an area for reading, coloring, and games. Use this same concept in your garage for storing like items together in zones.

Storage – Like most garages, floor space may be limited. Think vertically. What items are best hung on the wall? Tools such as ladders, rakes, and shovels are best stored on the wall. Before investing in an elaborate system, see what containers you have and repurpose them to make sure you are happy with the layout and storage space in your garage.

Maintenance – Use seasonal changes as opportunities to reset your garage back to its proper order. You may have to reshuffle the winter/summer items to make it easier to grab what you need for the current season.

Revisit your garage organization at least twice a year to avoid another laborious task. To be truly efficient as you do so, continue to edit out items you no longer use or want.

Photo: Unsplash

Clean Out Your Junk Drawer

Clean Out Your Junk Drawer

Ahhh…Junk drawers… We all have them. We also all have drawers designated for a specific purpose that ultimately become unruly and unorganized as we toss more stuff into them. Here’s another possible way of how to clean out your junk drawers of items you no longer need or use.  (For more ideas, go to another one of my blog posts on Junk Drawer Organization)

1) Dump the contents of a particularly cluttered drawer or drawers into a large plastic crate. Call it the Crate of Unorganized Things.

2) Set the crate of unorganized things aside for a week to a month. See how often you go back to it for items you actually need.

3) As you pull the items you actually need out of the crate, put them in a designated container or bag. These might include kitchen utensils, office supplies, cables, and extension cords…

4) Anything you haven’t looked at in that crate within a month’s time can be tossed or donated.

5) Now take the designated containers of items you actually use from step 4. If these items already have a designated drawer or place in your home, put them where they belong.

6) The remaining items will now be the contents of your junk drawer.

Limit the contents of this junk drawer to just one drawer. Do try to limit those items to what you truly need to have closest at hand, or it will be difficult to find what you need.

Photo: Unslash

What to Do When a Spouse Dies

What to Do When a Spouse Dies

Being prepared for whatever life throws at you is so important. This became glaringly so to me recently as a client of mine suddenly lost her husband. One of the first questions she had for me was what to do when a spouse dies. Isn’t there a checklist? As a result, I hope this will help any of you who may need this or at least prove to be a source of help to which to refer.

Veterans – Notify your local Veterans Administration to see if you quality for any assistance with the funeral, burial, or anything else. You will need a copy of the discharge papers.

Death Certificate – The funeral director will provide this to you. If you need additional copies, you can contact the city hall in the place where they died. Get at least 10 – 12 original copies so that you have them when you need them. Some companies just need a copy of the death certificate; others need an original.

Social Security – If your spouse received Social Security, you need to notify the office of the date of death, so all benefits stop and to inquire about any death benefit to which you are entitled. If you are the surviving spouse, you will need to also ask if you are eligible for an increase to your own benefit. If you have minor children, ask about their benefits as well.

Employer – Let your spouse’s employer know of the death. Ask is there are any benefits you are entitled to and if so, how to obtain them.

Health Insurance – Contact your health insurance provider to see how the death of your loved one will affect anyone else on the policy and how to keep coverage for the survivors.

Life Insurance – You will need to fill out a form the company provides along with a death certificate once you notify them of the death. Most important and often neglected is investigating whether your loved one is listed as a beneficiary on another policy. Change that immediately to avoid issues later on.

Credit Cards – Notify all credit card companies of your loved one’s passing. If you are a co-signer on the credit card or you are associated with that credit card, ask how you may continue to use that card or get one issued in your name.

Accountant, Financial Advisor, and Lawyer – Let your accountant, financial advisor, and lawyer know immediately so they can begin to advise you of what information you need to gather or forms to complete to help make it an easier time for all when the final tax and legal papers are filed.

Bank – If you have a joint account, change it to just your name. Investigate if there are any other accounts at the bank such as a trust account.

Car – Have the deceased name removed from the title of the car and transfer it to your name.

Bill Paying – If you do not get paper bills in the mail, you may need to contact the companies to have them change the email address and name associated with the bills. Put everything in your name. During this very stressful time, make sure that you are paying your bills. Make a list of all the bills you can remember that need to be paid such as mortgage, insurance (home, auto, umbrella, etc.), utilities (gas, electric, water, cable, phone, internet), mobile phone, condo fees, credit cards, and any other bills that you or your spouse paid.

I have mentioned a few documents that you need to gather but it is also helpful to have your hands on:

Social Security Card

Birth Corticate

Marriage License

Deed/Title to Property (home, car, etc.)

Insurance Policies

Stock Certificates

Tax Forms for Recent Year

My heart goes out to all of you who have lost loved ones. During such a painful time, it is regrettable that there still remains a lot to do, but it is manageable if you take a day at a time and ask for help as needed.

Photo: Photo by Kristina Litvjak on Unsplash

Organize Your Children’s School Records

Organize Your Children’s School Records

This may be an ideal time to organize your children’s school records before they head back to school, whether it be in person or virtual for the upcoming academic year.

1) Sort – Gather all their papers and separate everything into piles per child. Then further break down the pile for each child by school year.

2) Separate – If you already have their papers sorted by school year, then you could further separate the schoolwork from any sports or clubs in which they participated Create a file for each child if you have more than one.

3) Storage – Store commonly requested documents such as vaccine records and birth certificates, among others, at the front of each child’s folder for easy access.

4) Digitize – As records come in, digitize them, and keep on a single USB or external drive organized by child and year, Ideally, one labeled drive per child.

5) Maintain Lists – Keep a list of school websites, teachers’ emails, and school phone numbers. Keep this handy, but in a secure location. 

You will be so happy to have this project completed by the time your children return to school. It may even be a fun, rainy day activity to work together, reviewing with them what they did when they were younger.

Photo: Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash