Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yeah, I've tried that diet...


Organizing is like dieting. You get all excited about it, you get on the bandwagon, you commit wholeheartedly! You pick a plan, you buy the stuff and you LOVE it. No, really, you love it. Because it was expensive. And this is good for you. You love it... well, sort of. Ok, you tolerate it. Actually, not really. You tried for a while and now you are back to brownies, pizza and throwing everything in the junk room (you know, that room other people call a dining room) so you can deal with it later. *sigh*

Well, like dieting, this is a lifestyle change. It’s little steps that add up to big accomplishments. It’s a learning process. You need to be taught how to use the resources available and find something that you can maintain long term. So many products out there are really pretty or seem like a good idea but are too complicated to maintain leaving you with yet another item cluttering your space.

For example, this item...



No offense to those of you who use this, but I found this to be ridiculous. The idea behind it is that there are 31 slots for you to put your bills in on the day they are due. This will allow you to send them out so they are paid on time. I bought it and put all my bills in all proud of my new system. At the time we were being paid bi-weekly so on the first payday, I wrote out our checks (yes, clearly this was a LONG time ago... writing checks... wow) paid the bills and sent them out. Wait... I didn’t save them in the holder to send them out before they were due? Of course not! I mailed them all at once. Second payday, the rest went out. It didn’t take me long to realize that one bill box was sufficient to hold the bills and if I really wanted to get crazy I could paperclip them into two stacks, one for each payday. If you are paid monthly this is even more pointless.

This is the organizational equivalent of a fad diet. Looks good on paper, sounds like a good idea, fails in practice. But how do you know what will work for you? How can you weed out the junk? Unfortunately, there is no way to know for certain but there are some guidelines you can follow. First and foremost, is it SIMPLE? Does it require a lot of time for you to maintain it? Would it be easier and less stressful for you to remain unorganized than to use this system? These questions can help you eliminate things that probably aren’t going to work well for you. Second, do some research. There is a lot of great information out there. Look for reviews from people who have bought the things you are looking at. And lastly, sometimes the best option is to have a fresh pair of eyes come in and look at the problem areas. A professional organizer can help assess the way you live and come up with practical solutions. The cost of the organizer can easily be justified by the time you’ll save and by money saved by not purchasing items you don’t need. (Both organizational items and items you buy duplicates of because you can’t find something you have!) Or bring in a trusted (and brutally honest) friend to come help you find solutions to your problems. You’d be surprised how many times someone else can suggest something you’d never even thought of.
My organizational diet is under control now I just have to figure out how to get my eating there too! If only that came as naturally...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Car Trip- Part 3



Well, car trip blog got put on the back burner due to jobs, surgery, general life craziness... so, here I am (on my shiny new laptop I might add... that should keep me blogging!) to finally fill you in how to travel with an infant!

First, this is a time when keeping a basic list is extremely helpful. There are things you will always need if you are leaving overnight with an infant (diapers, clothes, pacifiers, wipes) so if you have a list, all you’ll need to do is fill in how many of each thing you will need. Gauging how many you need can be a little tricker for a baby because the chances of needing to change clothes goes up. However, as you are packing, remind yourself that the more you pack, the more you have to keep track of and the heavier your bags are. How many times do you usually change your baby during the day at home? Think about what will be available to you at your location. Can you wash clothes? Can you stop at Target and buy diapers so they aren’t taking up car space? Do you really need to pack a snowsuit for your 3 month old?

On the flip side, you don’t want to forget anything. Does baby have a particular lovey they need to sleep? Medications? Sound machine? The easiest way to make sure you have it all is to plan ahead. Make a list in the week before you go of the things you are using throughout the day.

Now the big stuff. How does the smallest member of the family have the most junk to pack? Strollers, playpens, bouncy seats, exersaucers... it’s insane! The key here is to borrow where you can and buy one to leave anywhere you go regularly. If you go to grandma’s regularly, pick up an inexpensive pack and play to leave there. Same for a high chair. (Save space and money by getting the ones that strap to a dining chair.) If you are staying at a hotel, check to see what they have available before you pack. When it comes to the big items, try to pack things that can multitask. Use your car seat, Bumbo seat or stroller as your high chair.

And most importantly LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES!! If you pack your giant stroller and find you didn’t use it much consider packing an umbrella stroller or just a baby sling next time. Didn’t use all of those onsies? Pack fewer. Did you wash your bottles more than you expected? Pack three instead of six. Honestly, take inventory of what you don’t use so you can adjust for next time. Believe it or not, if you make your list in advance, update it for next time and be brutal about cutting the excess you can leave your house for more than 24 hours with everything you need.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Car trip part 2- What do you mean you forgot to pack underwear!?

Ok, rewind a day. Or a few days because now you are really going to be on top of it! Before you get to the point that entertainment and snacks matter, you need to pack your bags. Alright people... this is a vacation. You aren't moving out. You aren't choosing the shoes you love the most and leaving the rest behind to be poor little shoe orphans begging on the streets. You don't need to pack everything. It's about what you need. NEED.

I'm a fan of making lists for most things but this is a time when everyone should make one. Start your list well before your trip so you have time to add to it. My biggest trip for packing? It's really helpful to keep a basic list on your computer so you only need to add the trip specific things to it. Simple but SO incredibly helpful. List the items and when you print it off, write the number of how many you need for each item next to it. Break it into sections- clothes, accessories, toiletries, electronics and other work well for me but you may have others. (Toys, baby, sports equipment.) it depends on the types of trips you usually take. Just make sure you have space to add trip specific things in and don't be afraid to cross things off that you don't need.

Everyone needs shirts, pants, socks, undies, shoes, pj's etc... For a trip that is 5 days long pack 5 outfits. Yes people, that's right. One for each day!! Harsh, I know. Unless you are going somewhere where the weather wildly changes, this will work. I also advise checking the weather so you bag an idea what you are looking at for the time you are there. It will give you a basic idea. (Calm down... keep reading... it will be ok.) If its summer, pack 5 summer outfits. Fold each one together so you can see that it's all there when it goes in the bag. This also helps when getting dressed. Yes, weather can change so now, go grab a light jacket or sweatshirt and a pair of pants that you can grab if you do end up needing it. The other option is to pack outfits that layer. Put a tank under your shirt so if it starts cold and warms up you can just take a layer off. You don't need an entire new outfit. Consider doing laundry midway through and mixing and matching previous outfits so it looks different. This is especially helpful on long trips. You can pack 5-6 outfits for a 10 day trip this way.

Toiletries are one of the things that seem to trip people up... forgotten tooth brush or deodorant. This is another area that keeping a basic list is good. You'll always need the obvious so keep it on your list. Ziplock bags are your friend to keep things from leaking. (Or to keep things from getting tangled or keeping like things together.)

Travel size stuff can be helpful if your trip is short and you don't have a large family. In our case, a travel tooth paste would last a day. I'd need 3-4 of them and it's just cheaper to buy a regular sized one. Think about what is more cost and space efficient. You don't need everyone packing full tubes of toothpaste. Pack one for everyone to share. It also might be worth making a quick shopping trip when you get there if space is really an issue. Do you carry lotion in your purse already? Don't double pack. Save the space!

Ladies, not that we have issues with accessories, because we don't, but I do have a few tips for cutting down on what you need here too. Bring a few basics you can wear with more than one outfit. Do the same with makeup so you don't have to bring 50 tubes of lipstick and 20 eyeshadows. Think about shoes. Pick outfits that allow you to pack only 2-3 pairs of shoes. Five days, five pairs of shoes equals an entire suitcase of shoes!!

Now move on to trip specific items. Do you need something formal? Swimsuits? Workout clothes? Ski gear? Phone chargers? Laptop? Add these things to the list. But ask yourself... Do I NEED this? Will I use it? Can I bring fewer and we can share? Sometimes the answer is yes and you really do need it all. Sometimes you can trim it down. A good way to find out is to learn from past trips to pack for future trips. Look at what was used and what wasn't. Did you have multiple outfits go unused? Did you pack a ton of makeup you didn't wear? Jewelry? Coats? Take note and trim that area next time you travel.

When you come home, pack all clean clothes in a separate bag from the dirty clothes. That usually means I condense all of the family's clean clothes into one small bag. Easy to take all the dirty bags straight tithe laundry room.

To get you started on your own list, here are a few sites with examples or templates. Make sure you really customize your own list though so you don't forget your meds or that eye mask you absolutely have to have to sleep because those won't be on the templates.

http://www.travelsmith.com/TravelSmith/US/TravelCenter/guide-packing-checklist/landing-path
http://www.onebag.com/checklist.html

In the next car trip blog I'll address packing for baby. Yeah, that's a whole separate process, I know! Four kids in and I learned a few tricks.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Car trip part 1- Are we there yet? I'm bored.

We are currently on a 5 hour car trip from Omaha to my in laws house in South Dakota so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about traveling and the dreaded packing process. Even when you are well organized, packing for a family of six can be an undertaking. There is only so much space and so much to consider... clothes, toys, meds, toiletries, items for vacation activities... Where is the line? What is too much?

There are so many aspects to organizing a car trip that I'll break it up into a few blogs that I'll post over the course of this adventure! In part one of this blog we will cover snacks, entertainment and toys. These should all be packed in a separate bag that is easy to access.

Snacks. Unless you are down with replacing upholstery and hiring a cleaning lady for your vehicle, avoid anything sticky or that can melt. (Melts in your mouth not in your hand... yeah, right.) Gummy bears become permanent tattoos in carpet. Trust me. *sigh* Think things like crackers, hard fruits like apples, cereal, granola bars. It's also helpful to prepack things into individual sized bags for everyone. Also nice, bottled water with pull top lids. Easy to close and less likely to spill. Another must have, wipes. If your kids are all older and you don't regularly have them on hand, go get them! Perfect for cleanup. You should also be sure you have a bag available for trash.

Entertainment. Obviously this will depend on the ages of your kids... books, movies, travel games... I'm sure you have tons of ideas. By that's where things get messy, literally. Don't bring everything you own. It ends up everywhere and things get lost and broken. Pick a few. And don't give them everything at once. Give them something. When they lose interest give them something else. It will keep them entertained longer.

To help with some ideas, here are some links for some car games.

http://www.momsminivan.com/
http://www.tripbase.com/blog/55-ways-to-enjoy-a-long-car-ride/
http://www.airlinecreditcards.com/travelhacker/27-free-games-to-keep-your-kids-entertained-on-a-road-trip/

Other helpful tips... Be realistic. Plan for stops. Bathroom breaks will be necessary but if you can make them longer to let the kids out to run you'll save some sanity. Get out and play hard for 10-15 minutes and they'll be ready for another stint in the car.

Car trip no no's... toys without off switches or volume controls, toys that regularly cause fights, toys with a million pieces, any sippy cup that kids can take the lid off of, messy foods at mentioned above, uncomfortable clothes and bad attitudes! (Including adults!!)

I know you were hoping to read this entry and see some magic trick to keeping everyone happy and quiet or find some recipe for safe and legal tranquilizers but unfortunately, I have no magic to share. But if you do take these tips things will go much smoother, the car will be less messy and hopefully your stress level will only hover at a four rather than an eight. :)

Tune in next time for packing clothes. I may just have a little magic to share here. (Ok, not so much magic but some good tricks to deciding what makes the cut!)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Can you be TOO organized?

Ready for the answer... YES! I know, not what you were expecting, huh? How can a professional organizer say that you can be too organized? Simple really. As with everything in life, the key is balance. Too much of anything can be a bad thing.
Being organized properly should allow you to go through life oblivious to the systems you have. You don't notice how easy it is to get dressed when you can find everything but when something is missing it's frustrating. . I think most people can agree that organization makes life flow easily. But what happens when your systems are too complicated to maintain? 

For example... my clothes hang in the closet by color. I can always find what I'm looking for and it works well for me. Shawn, my husband, bless his heart, is a slob. For him, taking the time to hang clothes in order like that is so frustrating that he'd rather not do the laundry at all. Living out of baskets would be easier, faster and less frustrating. At that point, you lose. Organization that you can't maintain is too organized. And clearly, that is different things for different people. After living together for 13 years, we (ok, I) have learned how to compromise on how I do things. I don't bother with colors on his side of the closet. He doesn't care and it doesn't matter to him. His is more basic... dress pants, casual pants, dress shirts, casual shirts. I've also done this in the kids closets. Realistically, they won't be able to maintain my system either so why set them up for failure? This also means Shawn is able to help with the laundry (yay!) and the only clothes he leaves for me to hang up is mine. 

If you are spending so much time with maintaining your organization that you are frustrated something needs to change. Simplify. If you don't, you are more than likely going to give up all together. There is no way to be organized that requires no work but being organized should always be less frustrating than being unorganized. 

And learn when to let go. I did. Here's my dirty little organizational secret. I hate folding socks. So I don't. We have a sock basket and a few times a year (literally) I'll go match them and get rid of old ones. It's too much work. I hate it. I felt like a schmuck when my oldest son, Parker, got all excited when his sock drawer was full and he told me I was the best mom ever. Oh well. At least I have a birthday present idea. :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer time!

Now that summer is in full swing and all of my kids (plus a few extra!) are home all the time, it seems like my house is under attack and the battles are being fought on every front! My bathrooms never have toilet paper, Legos are hiding everywhere, bikes are taking over my three car garage to the point that I can't even park one car in it and my craftroom is the bloodiest battle ground of them all with colors, games, puzzles and stickers laying wounded on every surface. OK, maybe I am being a little dramatic about the situation but it became clear to me very quickly that we needed to make some summer changes.
I've found life is easier when expectations are clear and this is never more true than with kids. Surprising my kids with chores always results in whining and tasks taking entirely too long. But implementing a few simple rules and basic (yet flexible) schedule has made my house so much happier! Everyone knows what needs to be done and no one complains. Here are my basics...

1. No TV first thing in the morning. When you wake up you need to pick up your room, bathroom and closet. When this is done daily it takes 5-10 minutes. Pick up clothes, books and make sure your bathroom isn't caked with toothpaste. When you are done go play or read a book. TV can certainly wait until after breakfast. 

2. We have nap/quiet time in our house. It's required. Unless you'd like to buy your way out of it by doing an extra chore of my choosing. I usually pick things like, unloading the dishwasher, sweeping floors, spot cleaning the floors so mopping is easier later... The jobs usually take about 20 minutes and then you have the rest of quiet time to watch tv, play in the basement or go outside. They never complain about the chore since they are getting out of quiet time.

3. The main level must be picked up before you go to bed. I hate waking up to a mess. We try to clean up as we go but with four to a billion kids at my house at any given time, it just doesn't always happen. Before bed, we all pitch in to pick up.

4. Our basement is the playroom. Cleaning it happens on Fridays. It's their space to play and go crazy. I ignore it. It's the only way that my mess driven anxiety personality can cope. :) Fighting them to clean it all the time was more stress than it was worth. This was our compromise. It works well. 

5.The craftroom... this will always be a struggle because of it's inherent potential for messes. But I hold firm to the rule. You make a mess, you clean it. If you don't, the room is closed for use until you do. End of story. We've had it closed for long periods of time because no one wanted to clean it and I refused to do it so the kids know I'm serious. 

6. And lastly, I'm more than happy to have friends over. We are a big family and we are used to the chaos of a lot of kids. But be prepared, I have no problems making you help clean up the messes. The neighborhood kids catch on quickly and don't fight it. (Again, laying out expectations.) I think it's possible to be nice and still be firm. I can't take the stress of cleaning up after 10 kids (yes, we often have 10 kids running around) and I don't think I should have to. I also don't think it's fair to make my kids do it all. 

The point of this isn't to tell you to implement these rules or this schedule, but to make you see that by laying out a few simple expectations you can make things easier and delegate work to others. My kids like it too because they know I'm not going to assign a job in the middle of their playtime. My favorite Jammieism is "Being organized doesn't mean never having a mess, but having the ability to clean it up." This system has really helped with that. Now to figure out the toilet paper issue...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

One Size Fits All... Except

Ever go shopping for something to find that one size fits all means everyone but you? I did that this week. I needed a hat but apparently I have a HUGE melon. (I just keep telling myself it's because I have such a massive brain.) I kept trying hats on that fit "everyone" but they either squished my head so badly I couldn't bear to wear it for more than a few minutes or I couldn't even get it on. 

Organization is often like that. You buy all the gadgets, organizational systems and containers that are on the shelves. They look great and in theory, you should have it completely together. But in reality, it either works for a few days or you never even take the tags off because you have no idea how to incorporate it into your life. That's because one size fits SOME, not all! So that leaves you two choices... keep shopping and trial and error it until you figure things out. In the mean time, you lose things and live in frustration and spend money on things you'll never use. Or, you find someone like me who can help you assess what works best for you and see your space and situations in a different way. I can help you cut to the chase and find the solutions now that will work. I truly have a passion for organization and for finding ways to use your spaces to their fullest potential.

If this sounds good, give us a call. And keep following along with this blog for great tips, answers to questions and a lot of laughs along the way!