Why I Never Find Money in Old Coat Pockets

One of the biggest Cold Weather challenges for me (aside from the cold, snow, chapped hands and lips, etc.) is… too many pockets.

Have you ever noticed?  Too many coats, too many layers, too many pockets – these make it difficult to keep track of things like receipts or car keys or that one thing that I just had… a minute ago… in my hand… hold on, maybe it’s over here… no, not there…

Well, you get the idea.

We can wait for Spring, certainly, which will solve the too-many-pockets challenge with fewer layers and, dare I say, coat-free days, but we may still be challenged with too many places to put things and no habit or routine to help us take care of those things.

The challenge of losing things in pockets can be addressed and resolved, like so many challenges, with better habits.

Working with a new client yesterday, we talked about Routines and checklists, and a Landing and Launch Pad for getting out the door on time.   Keeping track of our time and our stuff relies on Routines and habits, and setting up space in our homes and offices to nurture those routines and habits.

When you get home from your day, what’s in your pockets?  An informal survey this morning (thanks, FB Friends, for playing along!) reports many of us are walking around with:

from
makemesomethingspecial.co.uk

  • debit card;
  • car keys;
  • straw wrappers;
  • wallet;
  • Sharpie;
  • lint;
  • lip balm;
  • those little dental picks;
  • tissues, clean and dirty;
  • loose change, ranging from 30 to 76 cents;
  • receipts;
  • Legos;
  • dog treats;
  • key card for work;
  • Jewel monopoly pieces “that are probably duplicates”
  • good luck penny;
  • business card (cards to give out, or perhaps a card just received?);
  • rosary;
  • flash drive;
  • pocketknife;
  • medication;
  • “my precious” (thanks C!)
  • “my hand” (thanks  P!  And standing up, yes, it’s probably in your pocket!).

 

To track and manage the stuff in our pockets and in our lives, we need to

  • Create space to deal with the stuff;
  • Create habits around dealing with the stuff;
  • Encourage others around us to create space and habits for dealing with stuff; and
  • Maintain the habits once we’ve created them.

 

First, create space to manage the stuff in your pocket.  Near your entrance, have

  • a garbage can (for things like straw wrappers, lint, tissues, dental picks, etc.);
  • an envelope for catching receipts until you are ready to deal with them;
  • a jar for loose change;
  • a bowl or basket for the really important things you may need while you’re home, like your CELL PHONE or  READING GLASSES;
  • a bowl or basket, or the habit to put-in-your-handbag, for the things you will need again when you leave, like KEYS, WALLET, SUN GLASSES.
  • For me, these all reside on my desk, right next to the back door.

 

Create the Habit for yourself:

  • The items listed above offer a visual reminder for me when I walk in the door to empty the stuff out of my pockets.  Even if I’m not ready to deal with it all, at least it is out of my pockets (ever run pens or lip balm through the laundry!?! Or cell phones?!?!).
  • I take care of receipts and bookkeeping items with just a few minutes every day – it’s easier to recall details when I do this daily!
  • While I wish I could be one of those people who slips on a coat not worn recently and finds a $20 bill inside, I much prefer to be one of those people who knows where her money is!
  • Let me encourage you to establish this Space and this Habit near your entrance (instead of on your dresser or in the laundry room), since much of what you brought home with you will also probably leave with you.

If you live with other people, encourage them to create the space and habit for themselves, too. For example, with 4 drivers in our house, there is a specific place for car keys to live, so we can find what we need when we need them!

Once you’ve created the space and the habit, Keep Up Every Day.  And if you or a family member start to lag or drift on the habit, be ready to re-commit with reminders and routines until emptying out your pockets, taking care of business and preparing for a seamless next departure becomes a natural and comfortable action to complete!

To:

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Call / text 708.790.1940
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Winter Is Coming, As Are Allergies, Colds and the Flu. Sorry.

Get your Medicine Cabinet ready for a chilly winter!soup

I wish I didn’t have to say it, but here’s the deal – Winter is coming. We have yet to find a way around it, though many have tried.  Every Fall at the first hint of cold weather, my husband and a friend swear they are moving to the Equator.  But short of such hemispheric and drastic solutions, winter is inevitable.  Some parts of the country get off easy, I know, but here in Chicago?  Not so much.

teaThe natural progression of “cold weather is coming” is that with cold weather occasionally comes colds, flu and other bugs to make us feel crummy.  And NOW – while it’s not cold out and you’re feeling quite fine! – is the best time to prepare for cold and flu season.

A texted conversation with my friend in Myrtle Beach last week (she’s fine after the hurricane) mentioned that Hurricane Prep and Waiting is like a giant blizzard but no snow and great weather.  All the schools, offices and businesses are closed, so once you have battened down the hatches, you sit around and relax until the rain and wind begin.

Doesn’t that sound like a better way to handle cold and flu season, too?  Plan ahead, batten down the hatches, and then relax a bit for whatever life sends you.

Here’s how!

Gather up everything!
Take a basket and go to all the usual places in your home where you stash medications and supplies.  Medicine cabinet, of course, but also: linen closets; kitchen cabinets; the other bathrooms; bedroom dressers and night stands, etc.  Once you’ve gathered everything up…

 

Sort it all Out!
Sort your medications into categories.  Cold and Flu, Digestive Health, Vitamins, Aches and Pains, First Aid, Prescriptions, etc.    After you’ve sorted it all…

 

Purge the Old or Icky Stuff.
Check your expiration dates, and handle some quality control.   Remember, medicine and medications exist to make us feel better.  Using old or outdated medicines invites the potential for ineffectiveness or even unexpected side effects.

Saturday, October 22nd is National Take Back Day, so if you have outdated medications to purge, check this link to the DEA website, and find an prescription medication Take Back event in your area.

 

Put Your Medicine and Supplies Away in a way that makes sense.
Consider who will use certain items, where you will use them, and what needs to be kept out of reach of children.  Also, prolonged heat and moisture can damage medicines, so DO NOT store medications long term in the bathroom or on the kitchen window sill.

We use a plastic basket in the hall linen closet to store most of our medicines for the Cold and Flu Season.  The basket is easy to access when someone is feeling poorly, and gets tucked back away when we’re done.  The basket keeps things together, and makes any spills easy to clean up, too, so we don’t have a large shelf with dozens of small bottles toppling every which way (which I see in houses often!).

In some homes, the medications are kept in a kitchen cabinet.  This works just fine, too, however still invest in a basket or two, to keep things together and save shelf space.

 

Finally, Stock Up:
Add missing items to your grocery list now, so when you really need cough medicine in the middle of the night, you don’t have to run out to the pharmacy.  Here is a comprehensive list of suggested medications and items from Real Simple (“Medicine Cabinet Essentials Checklist”), plus a few items I added:

  • Aspirin
  • Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol)
  • Ibuprofen (such as Advil and Motrin)
  • Thermometer

For Congestion, Colds, and Coughs

  • Cough medicine
  • Decongestant (such as Sudafed or Dristan)
  • Throat lozengesFor Allergies and Itching
  • Antihistamine (such as Benadryl)
  • Hydrocortisone cream (for persistent itching)
  • Calamine lotion
  • Eyedrops

For Digestive Issues

  • Antacids (in tablet or liquid form)
  • Antidiarrheal treatment
  • Laxatives

For Cuts and Burns

  • Gauze, bandages, and medical tape
  • Antiseptic for wound cleaning (such as hydrogen peroxide)
  • Antibiotic ointment for preventing infections from wounds
  • Aloe vera gel
  • Miscellaneous
  • Sunscreen
  • Antifungal creams (athlete’s foot relief)

Antibacterial Wipes
Tissues, boxes and personal pocket packs
Lip balm

So clean out and stock up this week, while you’re feeling great and the weather is fine! You will thank yourself later!

To:

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“If You Call It a Junk Drawer, Guess What Ends Up Inside?”

Last week, a friend reached out to me, sharing pictures of her morning’s organizing projects. (I love that!) The conversation went like this:after

Friend:  (Below a picture of school papers) “Making Decisions.”
Me:  “Ooh, those are tough, I know.”
Friend: “Yes, well, once you explained clutter as unmade decisions [Barbara Hemphill], I have been able to get rid of most of it.  This mess was from my China / @##$@ cabinet.”
Me: (laughing) “Decisions are tough, but making them strengthens our decision muscles – it does get easier!”
Friend: “It is laughbable.  I had 6 junk drawers.  Down to 2 now.”
Me: “Woo hoo!  And never call them junk drawers, as, well, that’s what will end up in them! Better to name it, whether its a “school supply drawer”, “household hardware” or “party and baking drawer”!
Friend: “Yes. Good Tip”.
Me:  “Hmm, maybe that should be my next blog topic!”
Friend: “Yes, it should.  I’m buying a label maker today.”

Inspired by this exchange, I asked my FB friends to share photos of their junk drawers for this article (In no particular order, and with no identifying tags!).  And for the friends who asked if junk corners or junk rooms counted, these same suggestions will apply to those spaces, too!!

Just start!  Drawers are great and rewarding little projects!  You can make a lot of progress in little pieces!

Grab a garbage bag and a note-pad to jot down ideas that come to you.  Then set a timer for 20 minutes or so, if you’d like, and get to it!  If the drawer is dirty, dump the contents out on the counter and wipe / wash out the drawer before you put anything back.

The Organizing Process is the same (per Julie Morgenstern), whether a small drawer or a big room:

  1. Sort Your Stuff.  Common categories of junk drawer contents:
  • pens / pencils / markers (working and not)junk-drawer-1
  • paper clips, safety pins, clips of all sizes
  • coupons, expired and not
  • recipes, good and not
  • take-out menus, old and current
  • toothpicks
  • paper clips
  • random photos
  • note paper and post-its, used and unused, and business cards
  • hardware, screws, tacks, small tools
  • snacks, gum, candy (edible and not, who knows which is which?!)
  • glue, tape, string, rubber bands
  • first aid items, band-aids, inhalers, nail files
  • small toys, broken jewelry, hair ties, etc.
  • candles and matches
  • plastic silverware and old napkinsHow am I doing?  Sound familiar?  Sort what is there, and then head to the next step – purging.

0072. Purging.  This is where that garbage bags come in handy.  We can all agree, much of what is in a junk drawer is probably, well, junk, and can therefore be tossed.  So part with the old papers, dried out pens, questionable food items and anything else that you don’t need or love.

 

3.  Assign a Home.   Decide what categories you have present, and what categories of stuff you want to keep and where.  Consider where you use certain items, or how often you need to access those certain items.  NAME YOUR DRAWER, for goodness sake.  And let everyone in your house know what the drawer’s name and purpose is!  I have said this before, a space009 needs a name and a purpose.  If you call your drawer a junk drawer, or your room a junk room, junk will end up there.  So, as you assign a home for your items, group them logically and by purpose.  Perhaps you end up with:

  • A meal-planning drawer, with: menus; gift certificates and coupons; and recipes.
  • An office or school supply drawer, with: tapa and glue; pens, pencils and markers; notepads and post-its; paperclips, etc.
  • A tool and household drawer with: tools, heavy-duty tape, flashlights.
  • An extra utensil drawer, with: the kitchen items you want to keep but don’t use regularly. Or
  • Some other category you choose.  Just name it, and stick with it.

4.  Containerize.   Look around your house, you probably have containers you can use to corral your items in your newly cleaned and NAMED drawers.  (Finally, a use for some of those mismatched storage containers?)  And I snapped a picture of the new containers on a client’s table, she loves the dollar store for inexpensive drawer inserts.  If you can’t track down old check boxes or small cardboard jewelry boxes around the house, trays similar to the photo below (of my desk drawer) can be found at home stores like Target, or office supply stores like Office Depot or Staples.
003 011

0065.  Finally, the 5th step is Equalize, which is Julie Morgenstern’s snazzy word for MAINTENANCE! Once your drawers are organized, keeping them that way takes a lot less time and hassle. You can maintain them every day by putting stuff away in the right drawer and space.  And once in a while, if you pull open a drawer and it has gotten a little messy, setting it back to rights takes just a few minutes, using the same Sort / Purge / Assign a Home / Containerize / Maintain process.

Tackle this small but awesome project this week!

To:

Receive more ideas and suggestions like these;
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Find 5 Minutes in Your Morning

“We need to leave earlier for school” said one of my sons this week.images

And he’s right.  His school day starts a few minutes earlier this year, and we need to adjust our mornings accordingly.

(I wish that, way back when, a more seasoned parent had told me that when School says “The doors open at 8:15, the day begins at 8:25”, what they really mean is “make sure your child is already in line at 8:15 when the door opens”.  I’ve wised up a lot in 15 years.)

In typical Me / Mom fashion, I reminded my son that being on time is ultimately up to him.  But also in typical Me / Mom fashion, I know there are things I can do to make an earlier departure happen.

Where do we find an extra 10 minutes in the morning?  To be early instead of on-time, or on-time instead of late?  To catch an earlier train or bus, or meet with a teacher for help with an assignment?

Everyone, STEP AWAY FROM THE DEVICES! 

hand-apple-iphone-smartphone-large (1)
Your kids, your spouse, your co-worker, You!
Showering and brushing your teeth?  These must be done, and they must be done at home.

Checking FB or email, posting to Instagram or texting while someone else drives?  These can all wait.

Turn off the TV, too.
Have you noticed?  If the TV is on, people must stare at it. It could be a test pattern (do they even have those anymore) or a lame commercial, and people will still stop and stare.  TURN IT OFF, and remove the temptation.


Take breakfast with you.
Grab and go with a granola or Clif Bar, banana, a Tervis go-mug with milk, juice or hot chocolate (when it’s cold!)?  Looks like breakfast to me.  For next time, create a breakfast basket, stocked with nutritious, quick and easy options like apples, bananas, granola and breakfast bars.


Get over carrying your favorite.
Got a favorite mug or cup?  Is it still dirty from yesterday?  Tough love here, but get over it, find a new favorite for today, and get on with things. (If you think I am only talking about little kids with this one, you’re wrong.  I’ve seen many cabinets stuffed with re-useable coffee mugs or water bottles that never get used, while the favorite gets used every day).


No, you do not have time for one more thing.

Do you ever find your self thinking “I know we need to leave in 3 minutes, certainly I have time to start a load of laundry, send off an email and wash some dishes.”  Yeah, me, too.  I used to fall victim to this One More Thing thinking, and then the kids and I would feel rushed or stressed.
So, take it from me – No, you don’t have time for one more thing.  Cut and Run.


Know the difference between Needs and Wants.

We need to bathe and eat and wear clothes and brush our teeth.  That’s about it for the Needs. The rest of our morning efforts are more likely Wants than Needs.  Take care of needs first, and then start taking care of wants, if time allows


Invest in duplicates.

Buy extra socks.  Or umbrellas, go-mugs,  phone charger or earphones.  Buy extras of that thing that you or your kids or co-workers always seem to have to run back in the house to retrieve before you can leave (for us, it seems to be the last minute search for the correct black socks.)

With focus, clarity of purpose, and some clever time management skills, you can be on time, and find an extra few minutes in your busy mornings!
To:

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It’s Your Turn to Choose. What’ll It Be?

This week, it’s your turn.

pink magic 8 ball

Labor Day / Back to School provides a re-start button, whether you sent yourself or kids back to  school or not.  We just started a new month, we’re in the last third of 2016. What will it hold for you?  It’s your turn to start fresh, make changes, clear mental or real clutter, set goals, dream big!

It’s your chance to choose.  Here are a handful of ideas, to jump-start the process:

 

Spend a  little time with your clothes and closet.
This morning, I refreshed my closet a bit.  I set aside items that I know I won’t wear again this season, even though it is 92 degrees today in Chicago!   I also thought about the other closets in the house, and added a few problem-solvers (a tie hanger for the teenager, over-sized Command Hooks ) to the Target shopping list.

What can you do this week to streamline your closet and clothes?

 

Plan your Menu for the next few weeks.

It may be warm today, but my thoughts (and taste buds) are turning to soups and stews!  Inventory your cabinets and freezer, check out your schedule for the next few weeks, and write down 7-10 dinners you have the ingredients for and want to make.  Leave the list where you can see it, and save yourself time and energy, while eating better and saving $$.  Win win win!  What’s for Dinner?

 

Strategize for for your house projects, inside and out.

Fall is a great time to complete those house projects!  It’s not too hot or too cold to work outside, and there are many community shred and recycle events to utilize, as people clean out for Fall.  Walk around your house, inside and out, this week with a clipboard and make notes for what needs to be accomplished.  Then, note some upcoming Saturday mornings for completing those projects.  You’ll be happy they’re done, with cold weather and the holidays coming sooner than we think!  What’s the first project to tackle?

 

Set Goals.

     I took this very simple step last week, with amazing results.  I decided to set Goals for the rest of 2016 for the business, to help me focus and measure success.  I stated I wanted to book 10 more presentations for 2017 in the next month.  And I booked 8 in a 24 hour period.  The POWER of Goal Setting!
The other side of Goal setting is determining what we DO NOT want to do.  We set our goals to achieve positive outcomes.  Once we know what we seek to achieve, we can look at our habits or obligations, and make sure that how we live and act supports our Goals (and can clean out habits and obligations that don’t support those positive outcomes!).  Make sure the How and Who you spend your time on is in sync with your goals.

 

 

Focus on your Health and Wellness this week.
This is a great time to schedule your health and wellness appointments for the rest of 2016 (for example, I need to have my cholesterol checked again and will need a flu shot in October).  Set up your appointments, or check out a local yoga class or gym membership (before the weather gets cold!).  A conversation with a family member over the weekend inspired me to think differently about health and wellness, and with my birthday coming up, I set some health goals this morning to work towards.  Goals order our steps, and illuminate our paths.

So, this week it’s your turn to start fresh, set goals and dream big.  What will it be?  It’s Your Turn, Take It!

To:

Receive more ideas and suggestions like these;
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Call / text 708.790.1940
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Summer Projects! Life Lessons in an Ikea Box.

003
We spent some quality time at Ikea yesterday.

If you’ve ever been to Ikea, you know that you can’t rush through Ikea, or go in for just one thing. Ikea includes a restaurant on premises because, truly, shopping there can be an all-day adventure.  It can be overwhelming, but we were prepared and we did the conquering!

I will share the entire project (basement bathroom wardrobe / big closet re-set) once it is all done, but we went to Ikea to purchase a wardrobe / standing cabinet for our bathroom.

Have I mentioned?  I LOVE assembling furniture.  It’s gratifying, and because I have an amazing job, I get called upon to assemble furniture quite often!  Particularly gratifying is assembling my own furniture, which is how I spent the afternoon.  Since I have assembled so many of these furniture pieces, from Ikea and elsewhere, I thought I would share my wisdom to help you on your next project whether simple book shelves or something more complicated like our wardrobe!

020
  1. This should go without saying, but I will say it anyway: Read the directions.  Read them ALL THE WAY TO THE END, before you do anything.  I realize that we can’t actually read Ikea instructions because, oh right, there are no words.  But you can still look at EVERY PICTURE in the provided booklet before you take anything else out of the box. Trust me on this one, and you can thank me later.
  2. Collect Your Tools.  The instruction booklet suggested only a hammer and Philips 6f489834-7ed2-4a5c-babf-497374e960a6_1000head screwdriver were needed for assembly of our particular unit, but my new power screwdriver could make the job go much easier.  Also, grab a cold beverage and put on some music (again, trust me on this one).
  3. 021Lay out all the hardware, sort it all into little piles, and count everything to make sure you have what you need.  I’ve had good experiences with Ikea kits, with the necessary pieces all intact. This is really good news since their customer service line left a bit to be desired when I actually had to call about something.  Reviewing everything first is better than having to call and wait on hold halfway through.
  4. Lay out all the big pieces, match them up with the instructions.   Imagine all the pieces fitting together in the finished projects.  Make sure the unfinished surfaces are the hidden sides of your item!
  5. Do Not Rush. Let me say it again.  DO NOT RUSH.  Review the directions, check your tools and supplies, turn on your tunes.  Estimate how long the assembly should take, then double it. Take  your time, check your directions, tighten down your screws and connections.
  6. Once your item is assembled, take a moment and appreciate your success.  Raise your right 004hand, reach around and pat yourself on the back.  Then … clean up your mess and put your tools away!
Hmmm… I am re-reading this, and realizing that these instructions about instructions apply to pretty much every project!!
Read your instructions.
Assemble your tools.
Lay out your pieces and supplies.
Grab a beverage.
Music makes the job go better.
Don’t rush, take your time.
Appreciate your successes and clean up your messes.Yep, sounds like sound advice for life, not just for furniture assembling!  Happy Building!

Project #7: Menu Planning. I Blame the Gumbo Recipe.

 I like recipes. There is something enticing about those shiny pictures in a magazine, or the appetizing headlines in my daily All Recipes email that arrives just as I start to ponder “what’s for dinner” (Coincidence? I think not!).002

Obviously, Recipes and Meal Planning go hand in hand.

We always rely on Meal Planning, but especially at these busy transitional times of year. With the boys back to school, and my own attempts to eat better and healthier, last week I went looking for a crock pot gumbo recipe we have used before, and… I couldn’t find it.  Since I don’t often lose or misplace things, when I can’t find something, I get really irked! I decided then and there to get my burgeoning recipe collection back in order!

So, if you’re looking to get a handle on your Menu Planning and / or your Recipes, like me, here are a a few strategies that may help!

Tip #1:  Assemble Your Own Cookbook.
Over the years, I’ve made my own “cookbook”, collecting our favorites and new recipes to try into a 2″ binder.  This system works great, and the binder has become my go-to for menu planning.  The original binder was falling apart after much use, so over the weekend I purged a bunch of old / unloved / unlikely recipes and condensed the rest into a new and shiny 1 ” binder.  I slide recipes into page protectors (so I can wipe them clean if I splatter) and add them to the binder.  The binder has 4 simple categories, Baking / Beverages, Appetizers, Meals and Sides / Salads.  I don’t worry about alphabetizing since recipes can come and go.  Our favorites end up in the front of the category, which works just fine.

Tip #2:  Make Better Decisions.

Create criteria for choosing / purging recipes.  I often think with my eyes and stomach when I pull a recipe out of a magazine, so I have to review them again before I actually choose to keep them. You should ask your own questions, of course, but maybe mine will help get you started. Try these (or make up your own):011
  • Can I pronounce and readily identify all the ingredients? (if not, it can probably go.)
  • Do I actually own or regularly buy the ingredients?  (this, too, may indicate this is not the recipe for me.)
  • Do I have similar recipes already?  If so, what makes this one better?  (If it’s not better, toss it!)
  • Will anyone in my family EVER eat this with me?  (Rarely will I prepare a dish for only me, so a recipe had better appeal to others in my house!)
  • Does this recipe fit into my prescribed diet (if you’re supposed to eat  / avoid certain things)?
  • I just applied these criteria to a handful of recipes I had collected over the summer. I tossed most (see picture!) in the recycling bin, as victims of the “I have similar recipes to this” and “No one else will ever eat this” rules.

 

Tip #3: I stopped buying cookbooks (except for the one my friend wrote, of course!!).
I love cookbooks.  They’re so beautiful and full of promise.  BUT I usually go to favorites or magazines or the internet for recipe ideas.  So I don’t buy cookbooks anymore.  And I have even purged some over the years, when I realized I never opened certain ones.

Tip #4: If you regularly find new recipes, regularly try new recipes.
If you tend to collect new recipes, like I do, make time to try new recipes. Pull one out every week or so, and give it a whirl.  If you and the family like it, it stays.  If not… recycling bin!

Tip #5: Use the technology available.
I will not even begin to list all the cool websites and apps available for recipe and meal ideas.  I you’re reading this article, you can certainly google types of recipes or ingredients yourself.  Once you find blogs or websites with recipes you like, find the app, bookmark the website, or subscribe to the blogs to keep the good ideas coming.

 

Get a handle on your Recipes and Meal Planning this week, and your tummy and family will thank you!

 

P.S. I found the gumbo recipe and it’s on the menu for Saturday!

 

 

To:

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Tech and Back To School: Update your Home, Habits and Devices

c89201_usb_phone_pakGetting your Tech and Home organized for family productivity is a great idea any time,  but especially for Back To School! Read on for 11 tips for getting your Tech and Home in order!

Update Your Home for Tech.

  • Centralize your office supplies and printers.  Have you noticed?  As our capacity to work anywhere in the house has expanded, so has the spread of office supplies and clutter. Establish one printer space and a wireless network for printing.  Then, collect all the supplies stashed all over the house, and create office supply (pens, papers, post-its, etc.) storage near the printer.  This will: save time searching for items; save money when we can find what we need and don’t have to buy more (I found lots of new items that we can use for back-to-school); and cut stress when we don’t have cabinets in every room dedicated to half-used notebooks or derelict writing supplies.
  • Work Stations Are Good. Consider your favorite library or coffee house – flat work space, no storage.  Have specific spots available for family members to work – home office, kitchen counter, traditional desks –  and let folks be flexible and share the spaces.  At these specific spots, make sure there is good lighting, access to an outlet, a comfortable chair (or make it a standing work station, also awesome!).   Keeping specific work stations makes it easier to find that rogue charging cord or book left behind.51L838PvfDL._AC_US200_
  • Desks are Bad.  Have you also noticed? New desks have changed a lot.  New desks (more likely to be called a Work Station) don’t offer drawers these day, and that’s a good thing (see the centralized supplies idea above!).  Traditional desks with multiple drawers full of paper and supplies and clutter are just waiting to drive us crazy!
  • Establish a Charging Station.  Find a convenient-to-everyone counter or shelf, NOT on your surge protector with usbkitchen counter where you need to make dinner; add storage for cords not being used; and a surge protector (new ones include USB ports).  We mounted ours on the wall, to cut down on counter clutter.  And here’s an idea – if your cords “wander off” sometimes, like mine, label the chargers and cords with a sharpie or label maker, or choose a color per person (once I started buying pink earphones and cords, they stopped disappearing.  Go figure!).

 

 

Update your Habits.

  • Pick Your Battles.  In recent history, I have advocated for keeping tech and charging out of bedrooms.  The light of technology devices disrupts our sleep signals, texting and notifications can occur 24/7, and even the fields generated by electronics can disrupt sleep in some sensitive folks.
         However, slowly the chargers have moved into the bedrooms, which aggravates me, but my 16 and 18 year old offer solid arguments, and need to learn to manage themselves.  I am reminded often that the world they are growing up in looks a lot different than the one I grew up in.  So, I have stopped pushing so hard on that, though I still encourage screen-free time and getting enough sleep.
  • Using your cool new charging station, make charging your devices a habit, part of your routine.  We have extra charging cords stashed in the car and at work, just in case!
  • Use On-Line Portals for School. Most schools have on-line parent / student portals these days, and some teachers have websites for their classrooms, where students can access homework and educational resources.  Make checking on things part of your habits (for example, I have a item on my daily to-do list to remind me to check the on-line announcement page for the high school).
  • Passwords and Log-Ins. Keep a page for each child’s passwords and login info for their student portals and on-line resources (these often go missing in our house!).

 

Update your Devices.

  • Buy the warranty.  Since our tech devices go with us everywhere, chances increase that something bad may happen to them.
  • Stay up to date!  Automate your device or computer udpates, or add “check updates” etc. to your weekly routine.41DGbXhN5zL._AC_US160_
  • Keep the college laptop safe.  (Love these, thanks MJS!) College students should invest in and use a lock to tether a laptop to a desk at the library or in a dorm room.  Also, buy an extra long charging cord in case your student is on the top bunk.
Save yourself hassle later, and invest time a little time and energy this week getting your home, tech stuff and tech habits ready for Back-To-School.
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Sticky Habits

The topic of habits came up repeatedly with clients last week.

We can all agree that bad habits can be tough to break, but we also need to recognize that good habits may be tough to establish, requiring consistent time and energy and intention.  Research says that a new habit needs 3 weeks of adherence before it is likely to stick.

Yet, to get and stay organized, we need to make those Good Habits stick.

We set out with the best intentions to get organized.  We analyze our process, spend hours purging clutter, buy the right containers, and organize our lives and brains and homes.  But if we don’t create habits around maintaining that organization, we’ve wasted a lot of energy, time and money.

Ooh, ouch.  Re-reading that last statement, I hope it doesn’t sound too harsh.  It is true, though, friends, harsh or not.

I recognize that the rush that accompanies a big success or a finished project is difficult to maintain for the long term.  And so we have to rely on other forms of motivation to keep us on the path to Good and Organized Habits.   What can we do about this?

Use technology.hand-apple-iphone-smartphone-large (1)

     Take advantage of the technology available. My smart phone helps me with my Wellness habits.  I love my Fitbit. It syncs with the Fitbit app on my phone, and tracks my exercise and how many steps I walk.  It sends me reminders to reach my 10,000 steps-a-day goal, and motivational boosts through the day.  I thought these reminders were silly at first, but they work!
      I have a couple of new apps that help me remember and reinforce other good habits, too.
     My Plant Nanny app (free), introduced by two wonderful friends (thanks PM and JM!), reminds me to drink water every hour during the day.  A sound accompanies the reminder, then I open the app and water my plant when I water me.  It may seem silly, but those little plants and the app make me smile and work really well!
     My newest app is called Habit List ($3.99). I list the habits I want to establish or maintain (Water the Garden Daily, and Post On Twitter Daily, for example), determine how often I want to complete the task (daily, every two days, etc.) and the time of day I want to receive a reminder.  Again, this app sends reminders, and tracks my progress.

    If I wanted to add home organizing tasks to the App, I could add habits like Take out the Recycling, Change the Bedding, Pay the Bills, etc. to the list, too., with dates and reminders attached.

You’re never too grown-up for a gold star.  

     A client, a retired educator, uses a star chart just like a student might, to track progress on circle_star_goldgood habits and keep her motivated to keep up the good work. A star for each day a certain task is completed, and a full week of stars on the chart earns a prize for the weekend (Special outing with a friend, fresh flowers for her home, perhaps a special snack or prize?).  This tried and true motivator works for kids AND adults!

Use reminders that play to your strengths.

post its     Are you or a loved one a visual learner?  As you establish new Good Habits, use visual reminders like lists, post-it notes, highlighters or REALLY BIG CLOCKS, or have your technology send you text messages.
     Are you an auditory learner?  I am.  I learn well by hearing things.  Hearing the chiming clock in the dining room ring on the hour and half hour helps me stay on track.  In addition, all the apps I mentioned earlier send me notifications with sounds, like the alerts to drink more water, check my Habit List, or alert me 15 minutes before an appointment so I’m more likely to be on time.  And if I’m struggling with focus, I can set timers or use other sounds, like a favorite playlist, to keep me on task.
     Do you learn by doing / touching / moving things around (kinesthetic)?  For you (or your family member), the physical act of writing and then checking off tasks or habits on a list may be useful, or using chore cards or magnets or other things that you can move around may help.

       Some of us learn by saying things out loud, too.  If this describes you or a family member, try describing your habits to others, or creating a mantra or single sentence to repeat to yourself to help you focus on your good habits.

Good Habits may take time and energy to create, but having them and sticking with them will serve you well for years to come.  Find ways to make those Good Habits stick!

Paper Management for Evolving Humans (Summer Project #4)

We are all evolving humans, isn’t that cool?  But I am referring to paper management and kids.

I spent a few hours on Sunday organizing papers.  More importantly, this time I involved my evolving humans (my kids) in the process, since they will need to manage their own papers some day.  My boys are tweens and teens, but even little kids can get in on the process, sorting last year’s school papers, using the shredder (with guidance), or taking out the recycling!  We just have to set the example!

There are three main types of paper – Active, Archival and Passive. Each requires specific handling and storage.  One of my sons had the the opportunity to touch all three types of paper this week, this is how it went.

Active Paper: Definition

     Active Papers Require Action.  Mail to open, forms to complete, bills to pay, phone calls to make, etc.

Active Paper: Everyone needs an In-Box.

     As I reviewed papers, I established an in-box for each of my sons.  Each of them now has a 851604_scene7labeled folder in the command center in the kitchen.  I shared the location and purpose with them, I will add to the folders as mail or info comes in, and they will check the folders every couple of days (at least that is the plan!!).  No more counter piles – yeah!!

Active Papers: Even I Need an In-Box.
There is also a folder for me, containing active papers pertaining to my sons that I need to act upon.  For example, it now holds registration info for the middle schooler (8/1), and the photo order form for the high schooler (that he will need on the first day of school 8/18).

Active Papers: Need a Process for Action.

     Establishing a home for active papers keeps them from getting lost and ensures the “action” actually occurs!

Active Papers: Technology is changing how we handle papers.

     Technology is increasingly useful and pervasive in managing paper and information, and our kids are on the ground floor.  Last week, we ordered the high school text books on-line, including the digital texts for my son’s Chromebook.  Few papers come home from school anymore, and much of the kids’ work is completed and even submitted digitally on their tech devices.

Archival Papers: Definition.

     Archival papers are a very important, small and specific category of papers.   Very few papers become archival items.  Archival papers are the papers that we will need today or in 20 years. Birth certificates, sacramental certificates, social security cards, passports.  As we grow up, we may add items like car titles,  mortgage papers or insurance policies.  Again, a small and specific type of paper.

Archival Papers: Safe Storage and Retrieval. 

      One of my sons got his drivers license last week.  The Secretary of State required his SS card  256564_p_open_leftand birth certificate, so he learned where we keep them (a small fireproof portable safe) and how to access them.  The very nice lady at the Sec of State also reminded him that he needs to learn his Social Security # (we’ve told him this, but it means more coming from someone else!!).

     I also cleaned up everyone’s academic binders over the weekend (click here for info).  I weeded out old school news and duplicate event programs, filed each kids’ papers by year in the binder pocket, and generally cleaned up the cabinet where the binders live.  We’ve added to these binders every school year since preschool, and we can refer to them as academic and achievement record.

Passive Papers: Definition.

      Passive papers don’t require action (Active Paper ) nor will they stand the test of time (archival). They just require retention for a certain amount of time, for reference.

Passive Papers:  Keep them for Reference.  

     Passive Papers are the ones that tend to give us the most grief, as this is the biggest category.
We keep passive papers around because we might need to refer back to them, at least for a certain amount of time.   For example, the Sec of State requires two other documents for a driver license, recent mail with a home address on them (we brought a savings account bank statement and a final grade report).

     My high schooler also went through all the papers in his room.  128585_pHe mentioned that he had thrown a lot away (hooray) and sorted the rest into broad categories, like school and music and college.  I suggested 2 other categories, Boy Scouts and bank statements.  We went to Office Depot, bought a $15 file tote, and made hanging file holders for each of his categories.

Decision Making Made Easier.

     There is great power in knowing what papers to keep, because we then know what we can toss.  When you look at a piece of paper, and it doesn’t fall into the three broad types of papers above, or the categories within your Passive Papers, its likely that you don’t need to keep it at all.
 So, tackle your papers this week WITH YOUR KIDS, and let everyone learn from the process!