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 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.

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.