How organizing is easier when your children get older. #5 of 5

As your children get older, you (and they) get busier, which is why I haven’t posted in a while. Not sure about you, but I am happy to have May over and done! Here, finally, is #5!

The 5th reason organizing can be easier once your children get older – You can reason with them and actually involve them in a solution.  This is really helpful when you are trying to turn your home around and create systems that allow you to live a more organized life. Since they (and their stuff) are part of the “problem,” let’s make them part of the solution.

Play a game of “stump the chump” by asking them how to solve your organization frustrations. You can throw these questions out to the family over dinner, or if your people respond better to competition, ask each family member to come up with their own ideas and then you all can merge those into one solution.  Collaboration is key to buy in from all parties. It might sound something like this…

I need help figuring out how to keep better track of your stuff for sports/camp/summer school/work. The mornings are so hectic and I want us all to leave the house in a good mood and on time.

  • What kind of organizational system would work best for you?
  • Where can we put your stuff the night before so we know that we have everything?
  • Where should we put your stuff when you come home?
  • What bag/bin should we use? (Go get something fun and cool if that actually will make a difference)
  • What role will you play in keeping your stuff together?

I cannot take the mess by the backdoor anymore.

  • Can you help me come up with a better place for your shoes, towel, bag, etc?
  • Can you help me by ALWAYS putting that there after ____________?
  • Can we agree to keep all the ______________ here?
  • What can I count on you to do to help keep the area picked up?

You might just need a defined process, or you might need something more elaborate like shelves, drawers, baskets, folders, etc.  Whatever it is – find something that is going to work for you AND your family. Once the system is defined, everyone who uses it should agree on the expectations and be trained on how to use it. At the end of the day (or right after the activity), ask all necessary parties to make sure their stuff is where it should be. That will only take 5 minutes if everyone participates.

The big catch here is accountability. If you involve everyone in the development of the new process/system and then continue to insist that everyone use it appropriately, it will become a routine. Don’t have them create a system that you have to keep up unless you want to be the primary housekeeper. The younger you can get the kids involved, the better.

I often hear, “I organized this space and it looked so nice. I have to reorganize every month because everyone else messes it up.” My response: “Your organizational system isn’t working for all who are using it. It is missing something.”

If your organized spaces keep getting messed up…

  1. The system doesn’t meet everyone’s needs. What else should it include?
  2. The system is NOT self explanatory and/or your family doesn’t know how to use it. Did you actually share with them what you were trying to accomplish and how to use it?
  3. You aren’t holding all accountable for using the defined system. ACCOUNTABILITY is key.

So, call the family meeting and get everyone involved.  The 2 most important pieces of an organized home are 1) well defined systems and 2) willing participants.  Both are much easier to obtain if you get everyone involved.

1 or 2 hours out of a lazy summer day can be a good time to do this, but if your family is going 100 MPH this summer, you might need to schedule time so it actually happens. If it is that important to you, you will need to make it happen. How important is it?

As always, I’m here and ready to help. Happy organizing! 

Organizing gets easier as your kids get older! #4 of 5

#4 of 5 ways it is easier to organize as your children get older…

Set your kids up for success by creating zones in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Not only does this look nicer and make you feel more organized, but it also helps eliminate the obstacles that keep your children from taking care of themselves. By the time your children are able to stay home alone, they should also be able to get themselves ready for the day and feed themselves. By doing some of what I mention below, your spaces will be more organized, you will have created a home for everything so that it is easy to pick-up/put away, and you are setting expectations of self-sufficiency for your children. Win-Win!

In the kitchen… Create Prep Bins: Sandwich prep bin, Breakfast bin, Snack Bin

Bins in your refrigerator and pantry area are great if you are trying to encourage your kids to take care of themselves. If they want a snack, they know where to look. If they want a sandwich, they know where all the fixings are and can easily do it themselves. Limiting the excuses and obstacles encourages self-sufficiency, and makes clean up fairly simple.
Designate a section of the freezer for easy to make meals, frozen veggie bags, and other easy to make food. Having the pizza pockets and bags of microwavable broccoli all in one area can be helpful. When you call home and say you are going to be late and they say they are starving, you can tell them where to find something other than cereal and sandwiches. Be sure they know how to use the microwave or toaster oven before doing this.
Sounds simple, but you would be surprised how many of us end up with teenagers who still wait until their mom or dad gets home to eat a regular meal. My kids would have starved by now!

In the bathroom… Create two bins.

The Daily Bin: This bin includes their toothbrush, tooth paste, brush, face soap, retainer and anything else they need daily. They can leave it all in the bin and pull it out of the cabinet every morning – use it – and put it away before leaving the bathroom. You can also give each person a drawer and accomplish the same thing. All of your stuff is right HERE…

The cleaning bin: Everyone should know how to clean the bathroom. Picking up your room/bathroom for the housekeeper is not the same as cleaning the room/bathroom. It is helpful if you keep all of the tools in one place, again, so there are very few obstacles to actually doing the job. If all of the products and brushes are easily accessible, the job is simpler and more likely to happen.

As always, I am here to help. Contact me directly to set up a consultation.

Organizing gets easier as your children get older… #3

#3 of 5 ways it is easier to organize as your children get older…
Just like the need to have toys in every room and snacks in every bag/car decreases as your children get older, so does the need for duplicates of many other items.

You do not need as many craft supplies, school project supplies, throw-down birthday gifts, wrapping supplies, and medicines.

Craft projects – Many children grow out of the crafting phase when their lives get busier. If this is the case in your house – find a younger boy and girl and gift them with all the slime making materials they could possibly want!

School Supplies – As your children get older, they do more of their work in school and the nature of their projects change. You won’t be making dioramas in every class, or science fair style presentations regularly once the kids hit middle school and high school.   You probably don’t need an abundance of  dye cut letters, stickers and colored paper. Go ahead and consolidate and donate what you don’t need. Then, go and buy or borrow supplies for projects as they come up.  One of my favorite neighborhood Facebook groups is “buynothinggreathills”, where people in my neighborhood post things they are giving away, and you can ask for things you need. It is a great place to get science fair supplies, sports equipment and so much more.  Look for similar social media groups in your neighborhood.

Gifts and Wrapping – As the children get older they give gift cards and cash more than actual presents. So, not only do you need fewer items in your “gift closet,” but also less wrapping supplies. Consolidate and donate what you don’t need.

Medicine – Once the kiddos start swallowing pills the need for all the liquid Motrin, as well as many other forms of children’s medicine, decreases dramatically . In addition to the need – have you checked the expiration date on your medicines? It is amazing how much old medicine we all still have.  Clean out your medicine cabinets, properly discard what you don’t need/is expired, and lock up the rest.  Most pharmacies will take your old and expired medicine – DO NOT FLUSH IT.

As always, I am here to help. Contact me directly to set up a consultation.

Organizing gets easier as they get older. #2 of 5

One of the questions I get asked most often is: Where do I put all of the papers my kids bring home from school? My answer usually includes, “it depends on what it is, but you need to have a home base.” Elementary schoolers have flyers, permission slips, art projects and so much more. Luckily, once you hit middle school and then high school the volume decreases dramatically, which makes managing the paper a little bit easier.

#2 of 5 ways it is easier to organize as your children get older…

Create a home base – for everyone.

The home base concept is one that I share with many of my clients. It is the place where all papers should go when they come into the home. That includes school papers, bills, mail, and all other papers related to your action items. Some of the documents will stay there and others will go, but all will cross home base at some point. It is a living file system and should not grow in size indefinitely because papers only stay there until they are no longer needed. My favorite tool is a stand-up file box that is kept in an easily accessible area of the home like the corner of the kitchen, the office, or even in an area by the back door. Here is one of many options that I like.

Just create a space and tell everyone in the family about it. The hope is that everyone will bring home their documents/papers, mail, bills, etc. and put them all in one place. Then, you (or someone who is the designated person) will go through the papers and decide where they go and determine with the help of others what action needs to be taken.

Home base can include files for:

  • Each child or school – This is where the yearbook order form that you need to keep until you get the yearbook and bus route documentation might go.
  • Action Items – This could be a permission slip for a field trip in a week, a fundraiser form, or documentation for other things that you need to act on for the family in the near future.
  • Bills to pay – If you still get paper bills (like me) you might want a file in your home base box so that you don’t have to take them to your office or where ever you pay bills every day when you go through the mail. This is a great way to not lose your bills among stacks and stacks of magazines and junk mail.
  • Receipts – If you collect receipts for budget purposes, or hold on to some for returns purposes a small file might be helpful. HOWEVER, you do not need to store a year’s worth of gas receipts in your home base. Those should be filed with your other family/household files in a larger, more permanent solution.
  • Pending Activities/Projects – This system also helps keep your volunteer paperwork, party invitations and regular household stuff organized.

Most of the items listed above end up stacked in a corner on one of many surfaces and before you know it, you have multiple stack of paper in all areas of your home. The home base filing system will take up less space and give you the peace of mind that you know where to look when you need to find something.

Some of you with younger children might be thinking… What do I do with artwork and school work? Here are my thoughts on that…

Artwork: When it comes home from school you have some choices.

1 . Display the art. If you like to display every piece of your child’s work, commit to a 1-2 week showing on the refrigerator, playroom wall, etc. Then rotate it out with the new stuff. After the showing is over, move to #2.

2. Immediately document, highlight, discard or put the work into storage.

  • Document: You can take pictures of the artwork and create a digital scrap book or just let the artwork stack up on your computer. (digital clutter takes up less space but is still clutter!)
  • Highlight: Framing is a more permanent solution, can be expensive and takes up wall space – so be smart when framing. My favorite art frame when my kids were little was an Aaron Brothers shadow box style art frame that had elastic bands on the sides so I was able to easily stack several different pieces of art in there and rotate them as desired. I ended up picking my favorite piece for each holiday/season and storing them all in the frame and changing them as the seasons changed. One for each child makes for a fun wall display.
  • Discard: Only keep the stuff you LOVE and would want to look at later. When you child isn’t looking, gently recycle what you don’t love. I starting including my kids in this decision as they got older. There is no need to keep everything that your child creates or completes in school. Hand print art is fun to keep to look at later, but 1 a year is plenty. New year’s resolution projects are fun too. Handwriting worksheets with a picture on top – not so exciting. I don’t believe that what artwork you keep and discard will come into play when making a final decision on how good of a parent you are.
  • Put it into storage: Get a box/bin that is big enough to hold 11×17 art. That is the most commonly used project paper at school. This should NOT be as big of a bin as you use for your holiday storage. Then, go through that box at least once a year. After a year or so, you are able to prioritize the art work and decide what you like more and what you can discard. Consider something like this: https://www.containerstore.com/s/bigso-art-storage-boxes/d?productId=10018672&q=art storage

School work & Assignments: We had a year where the teacher wasn’t my son’s biggest fan and the grades reported weren’t always correct, so I needed to save all of the school work just in case. I ended up using the recycling bin in my office as the storage point. I put it all in there when it came home from school and didn’t discard it until the end of the grading period. It was a good storage place because I wasn’t going to keep it forever, and it was out of the way. I only rifled through the bin when I needed to find an old assignment. Pick a space that isn’t prime real estate in your home to store items like this. It could be in a basket in your child’s room, on their desk or in a drawer. Just be sure to clean it out regularly.

As your children get older, include them in this keep/discard process. It is amazing what they will say when you tell them it is going to be stored in their room and given to them when they graduate from college. Only what they really love will make the cut! If your child is older and you have bins of projects and artwork – get on this immediately!

As always, I am here to help. Contact me directly to set up a consultation.

Organizing Can Be a Little Easier When the Kids Are Older

I found that once my children hit the 9-11 year old age range, organizing was a little bit easier. Not only can you rationalize with your children at this point, but you also can set basic expectations for how you keep your environment. Once a child hits double digits (and maybe even sooner), it is reasonable to ask and expect them to pick up their stuff and put it away on their own. The catch is that you have to have a system, or a home for everything so they know where to put it. Many of us used basket and bin systems in the very early years in our children’s rooms or the playroom just to keep the place orderly. Rarely can young kids maintain these systems. However, older children can and should be able to do so making your job a little bit easier.

My goal with these tips is to take something off your plate. If you can create the systems at home so others can keep your home like you want it kept – you won’t have to do it all the time! However, in order to make this happen, you must be willing to create the system, train all involved, and set the expectation that all maintain the system. Buy-in or willingness from all parties is a must. Many times we create the system and don’t tell anyone, of if we do tell them what we want, when they don’t do it we don’t follow up. The easier the system – the easier it is for all to keep.

#1 of 5 ways it is easier to organize as your children get older…
Designate “kid-free” common areas in your home. These are areas where your children ARE allowed, but their stuff cannot LIVE. These areas are for living in, but not for storing your children’s belongings. This automatically creates the appearance of a neater, more organized home.

When the children were little, you needed a basket for toys and a stash of diapers and wipes in every room, and a bag of snacks in every car or purse just in case. As your children get older those requirements change and there is generally less stuff that you have to keep within an arm’s length. They are able to walk into a playroom or their own bedroom to find their shoes, toys, school papers and other belongings.

I took great joy in creating areas in our home that did not have any kid related items in them. Our formal living room has always been my favorite room in a home and was the most obvious starting point for me. As my sons got older, the family room downstairs was my next space to outlaw storage of kid-stuff. I moved all the toys upstairs into the playroom and all of the other random items that I had stored downstairs because it was easier back into my sons’ rooms. They were welcome to bring them downstairs on any occasion, but had to take them back to their room when they were finished playing/using, etc. When they leave stuff sitting around, I either put it on the stairs for them to take up later or ask them to do it right then, and some days I am generous enough to do it myself. By creating a designated space in the appropriate room, putting everything away is fairly easy to do.

We have all been in and maybe even had ourselves a main room/common area that looked like a daycare center because we wanted to be able to keep an eye on our children while they were playing, or our home was limited in space and that was the only place for them to play. As our kids get older, those needs change, and so can your home. If you want a grown up looking home – create it.

So… if you haven’t already, look around your home. Do you have baskets of stuff in the corner of the room or in the cabinets that have been there for years and don’t need to be there? Does that stuff need to LIVE in that room? Can it live elsewhere? Do you have backpacks and stinky shoes right by the front door? Is there a better place for these so they don’t greet you when you come home? Maybe a basket of shoes is all you need and the books and backpacks can go into their room? Its up to you. Take some time to visualize what you want for yourself – then go create it. As always, I am happy to help. Contact me directly to set up a consultation. 

Stay tuned for 7 more ways to organize your home.

 

 

10 ways to declutter and simplify your life this holiday season that take little or no time.

#1 focuses on holiday specific gift wrapping…Do not buy any more holiday wrapping paper, bags, tags and ribbon! Use up what you have. You know you have plenty. If you run out, use non-holiday wrapping. Next year just buy what you need or, wait for it, DON’T! White, craft brown, blue and green paper and bags can be used all year. Just change your ribbon, tag or gift topper color.

#2 still focuses on gift wrapping…
My sister taught me this! If you have children or people who receive multiple gifts from you, designate a different wrapping paper/bag/style for each one of them. Doing this saves you the time and energy of labeling your gifts. So, little Johnny gets the green bags and Santa paper, while little Sally gets the red bags and snowflake paper. Simplify!

#3 focuses on your pantry…
Most of us cook or bake more this time of year, and are spending more time in our pantry. If yours is driving you crazy, spend 30 minutes cleaning out one section – whatever is driving you most crazy. Spices and canned goods are the low-hanging fruit in most pantries. Many of those items are expired, and whereas they might not be “bad,” they might not be “good” and obviously aren’t a regular part of your menu that will be consumed soon. If they are expired or not needed for a dish you are about to make, I recommend discarding them. If they are still good and you don’t need/want them, donate them to someone on a street corner, the food bank or a friend who will use it.
Other easy areas to hit: chips, crackers and coffee/tea mixes.
Hint: If you received your spice rack when you got married 10+ years ago, whatever is still in there probably isn’t very potent. Let it go-the whole thing! Now go buy a small amount of each spice as you need it. Most of my clients go from 50+ jars to about 10 regularly used items in a typical pantry declutter.

#4 focuses on traditions and your own expectations…
I highly recommend everyone do a quick self-analysis of their holiday traditions and own expectations (coffee and or wine go nicely with any self analysis!). Some questions to consider…
What do you do?
Why do you do it?
Do you enjoy it?
Does it still make sense? (Time, finances, personal preferences and schedules should be considered)
Do you want to keep doing it?
Do you care if you don’t do it?
If you find that something you have always done has lost its charm or isn’t enjoyable, it is time to make a change. If you find that something YOU think you “need” to do is causing great stress, ask yourself if you really need to do it. Can you outsource it or just let it go this year?
Simplify this holiday season, take control of your calendar, and use your time wisely- it is limited!

#5 focuses on decorations…
Is your house all decorated for the holidays? What is left over in the attic or garage? Are you holding onto decorations but not using them?
If so, I propose you let go of the stuff you do not like or are not using. (Unless you are in transition, moving, this is an off year, etc.) Chances are you will not like them next year either. You can donate them, return them to the family member who passed them down to you, or give them to a friend. No need to store something for a year that you aren’t planning on using. This includes the punch bowl and ceramic Santa that your grandmother had and used! She used it – why aren’t you? ** Note: my friend Pam, emailed me after posting this on Facebook and told me that she did this a few years ago. Before she donated what she didn’t want, she offered it to her children. They each picked what they liked and she boxed it up for them. Those boxes will go to their house when they move out. The rest was donated.**

#6 focuses on gifts…
What do you give your lovely friend that has everything? Not another candle or hand towel – give her flowers in one of your vases! Clean out your vase cabinet and deliver beautiful flowers to your friends and neighbors. Then encourage them to do the same for their friends. It’s a gift that keeps on giving!
While you are at it, get rid of half of your vases. Unless you have big parties or keep fresh flowers in your home regularly, you don’t need 20+ vases. Keep a few of each size and style. They multiply like water bottles and so few of them actually get used.

#7 focuses on your mental and physical clutter…
I am a big fan of the 15 minute daily sweep and find it very helpful this time of year. Basically you spend 15 minutes walking through your house room by room picking up stuff that doesn’t belong in one room and placing it in the room where it does belong. This is a quick and easy way to keep the clutter from accumulating in your home. With house guests this time of year, this can be a great use of your 15 minutes. You can read more about that here: declutteritall.com/the-daily-sweep/
In addition to physical clutter, I recommend you do the same with your brain. Some house guests have strong opinions, sitting in traffic, searching for last minute gifts and fitting in all the “must-do’s and must-go’s” is rough. Brain overload is very likely. Spend 5-15 minutes each day (anytime, but I prefer morning) to declutter your thoughts. What has to get done today, what do you want to get out of the day, what will be your trigger to leave the room instead of a chiming in during the family get together?
Preparation is the key to success in so many areas of life. Prepare your mind for what is ahead, so you can accomplish what is important to you. Prepare your home for the next day – so you can wake up and enjoy what is going on around you – not the dishes.

#8 focuses on your disposable container collection (aka – Tupperware)…
If you are hosting a holiday dinner this year, you might have the opportunity to send left-overs home with someone. While you are spreading the cheer with food – include your least favorite disposable container. Be sure to tell the recipient to keep the container or dispose of it responsibly. Even if you are not hosting dinner – keep reading for tips on how to organize your disposable containers.
Take all of the containers out of the cabinet and see what you have. What has a lid and what does not? What is gross looking and overused or what is in good condition? If it doesn’t have a lid, can you put foil or plastic wrap over it and still use it? If yes, put it aside for one of your guests left-overs.
If it doesn’t have a lid or you cannot use it – donate, recycle or use it in a drawer as a drawer divider (great for junk drawers!). If you have extra lids – recycle them.
Now look at what you have left. Do you like those containers? Will you use them regularly? Do they nest for easy storage? If yes – put them back in the cabinet neatly. If not – donate, recycle or use them elsewhere in the house/garage.
Some of us prefer the glass containers, others like the good thick plastic containers and others like the inexpensive ones that you buy at the grocery store. Decide what is best for you and/or your family and go with that. Go get yourself some new ones if you need to. I prefer the finding containers where each size has a different color lid. That way it is easy to find (and keep track of) the lid for each container.
Buy a few of each size and store them properly. I like to put all of my small containers in one container and all my lids in another container. This is my favorite storage solution for the smaller containers and all my lids because it uses vertical space: https://www.containerstore.com/s/multi-purpose-bins/d… purpose

#9 is a spin on the old 1-in-1-out concept.
Did you accumulate some new “stuff” over Christmas, Hanukah, or even just the last month? You probably did. Many of you have heard of the 1 in – 1 out method. This is where you get rid of one item for every item you bring into the home. I would recommend you boost that challenge to 1 in – 2 out (or 3 or 4 if you are really looking to make a change).
So for every new item you bring into your home, 2 must go. Most of us can easily identify a few things in our closet/home that we don’t like or rarely use. Here are a few ideas…
-the old tank top that you maybe wear once each summer
-the pair of shoes that kill your feet and you rarely wear
-the bathing suit/shorts/dress that you bought 5 years ago for your trip to Vegas and you wouldn’t dare put on today
-the set of holiday chargers that are great in theory, but you never use
-the pewter bowl that you bought in Mexico in 2000 that hasn’t seen the light of day since 2005
-the board game that has been in the playroom that no one ever plays, but you have kept it because you have visions of family game night
-the extra hair and face product under your sink that was too expensive, but you never use
-the travel shampoo, etc that you keep collecting but never use when you travel… WHY?
Those are just a few ideas to get you started. What should you do with those items? You can donate them, you can sell them or you can look on Facebook for your area free-cycle group. Just get busy and get them out of the house.
Most important part of this tip – DO NOT go buy more platters, DO NOT bring home more shampoo home from your next trip unless you actually use it, DO NOT buy uncomfortable shoes, etc.

Here we go! Are you ready for #10? This one is not quite as easy as the others, but it is not that hard either.
This one focuses on your mindset and intentions for yourself in 2018. #10 is to commit to doing something different in 2018. If you are unhappy with the space around you, commit to making a change. If you are unhappy with the way your favorite jeans fit, commit to making a change. If you are unhappy with the way you spend your time, commit to making a change.
I have heard (and used) all the same excuses you might have heard (and used). Bottom line is they are excuses, not reasons for you to give up on your space, self and time. If it is important enough to you, you will be able to commit to a change in 2018. Everyday ask yourself- how important is this to me? How bad do I want this?

I wish you all the best in 2018. If you are looking for assistance with any of the above- please keep me in mind. Declutter It All provides coaching, decluttering and organizing services.

Lessons from Hurricane Harvey

My parents were fortunate to survive the floods of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, but their house wasn’t so lucky. Most everything downstairs was wet and ruined, and they were faced with many difficult decisions. My sister and I went to Houston for 4 days to help them navigate through the water damaged house and the sea of decisions in front of them. Here is what I learned.

LESSON: It is “just stuff” until it is your stuff.  As a professional organizer who declutters homes regularly, it is pretty easy for me to say several times a day “it is just stuff” or “do you need all this stuff?” I learned quickly that if all you have left from your family is your “stuff”, the sentimental value increases dramatically. When you are forced to let go of your last family “memory” you have to grieve just like you did when you lost your family.  It is tough and deserves some time to be processed.

LESSON: If something is “valuable” to you, it deserves a place of value in your home.  If the book your grandmother read to you every night is on the floor in your closet – it must not be of value to you. That is not a place of value. Put the things you love, appreciate, and want to honor on a bookshelf or somewhere in your home where you can see and enjoy them. Now go honor them! If they are packed away in the attic, they are not being valued or honored – are they?

LESSON: If you are holding on to things because you aren’t sure what to do with them – let them go. Call Salvation Army, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity or any of the other great organizations that will come and pick up your donations.  Let someone else have them that does know what to do with them.  Do it now, so you don’t have to sort through them after a flood and wish you had sold or donated them when they were in good condition.

In a time of trauma, like Hurricane Harvey, the less decisions the better.  Make the tough choices about what to do with your stuff when you are in a regular state of mind.  Traumatic events do not help your decision making abilities, and most of us don’t like the decisions being made for us. Need help? Contact me directly at Meredith@declutteritall.com to set up a consultation.