A Seasoned Mom’s Tips for Adventures with Kids

I love living in Chicago, with it’s great opportunities for field trips and adventures!   We had a great day at the Museum of Science and Industry yesterday, and as we wound our way through the awesome exhibits, I was reminded of some of the truths I’ve learned by experience over the years.

  1. Go early.  Check out your destination’s website, and find out how early you can enter (for example, MSI opened at 9:30 and we hit the door soon after).  Trust me, early is always better. Parking is quicker, lines are shorter, crowds are smaller.  Go Early.
  2. Plan ahead.  Check out the website for times, parking and logistics, or get the app if your destination offers one.  Buy tickets online, to avoid admission lines when you arrive.  Pick up a map right away, if it’s a new destination for you (and map reading is a great skill for your kids to learn).
  3. Ask for Memberships as gifts.  In 18 years of parenting, we’ve had annual memberships to Brookfield Zoo, the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium, receiving many of these as gifts for Christmas.  Just one trip to one of these locations can make the membership worth the price, and any additional visits through the year show how valuable that membership can be, with “free” admission, food and parking discounts, special events, etc.
  4. Don’t expect to experience the whole destination in one day.  Expecting to spend 10 hours at a zoo / museum / destination with small children is delusional, sorry to say.   I’m an adult, and I will admit to being fried after 5 or 6 hours.  By about 2 pm yesterday, we all were ready to head home.  2 pm was when all the exhibits got really crowded, so we didn’t mind leaving.  When my kids were younger, that 5 or 6 hour time limit usually had us hitting nap time on the drive home, which worked out for everyone (and having a membership means you can go back multiple times to explore).
  5. Pack a lunch. This is not just a money saving tactic, though it certainly will save money. Packing a lunch ensures there is food your child will actually eat; helps avoid long lines at lunch time; and enables occasional snacking when everyone starts to get a little hungry. Leave yourself a cooler in the car, for the ride home, too, with water bottles and more healthy snacks.
  6. Mandatory potty breaks from everyone.   When one person has to go, everyone goes.  And scout out those restrooms when you arrive.
  7. Review Rules of Conduct.  There was a lost little boy at the museum yesterday who just broke my heart.  Happily, he was found just moments after I first saw him, but he was so upset.  His mom did all the right things, though, hugging and calming first, then reminding of the rules.  So, what are your rules (and know that rules will change as your children age)? There are always the “Be Polite, Take Turns, Listen for Directions, etc”, but on adventures, we add: Don’t range too far ahead; check in occasionally; don’t leave an exhibit until you find me; if we get separated, stay where you are and ask for help, etc..
  8. Have your children memorize your cell phone number, or put a business card in their pocket.   Make sure they can say their own full name, your full name and cell phone number, in case they get separated from you.

Happy Adventures!!

Get back to ‘Everyday-ness’ first, THEN look at your New Year!

I love the holidays. I really do.  We’ve been blessed with wonderful times with friends and family, meaningful worship, rest and relaxation.

However, after 4 days  (or more!) of celebrations, I also love the return to “everyday-ness”. “Everyday-ness” was a term coined by Father Matt at Mass yesterday, in the context of “we need ‘everyday-ness’ to appreciate Celebrations”, and vice versa.

I liked the term, and it started me thinking.  We have to start with the basics, our routines, our ‘everyday-ness’ before we can move on to the bigger stuff, too.

Shower right away when you get up in the morning (unless you are that dedicated soul who actually exercises first thing).  I know, you may want to wake slowly or linger over coffee, but just shower already.  And if you’re thinking “well, I can do it later, or maybe i’ll work out later so I’m just going to sit around and stink until then”, just do it.  You can do it again later if you need to.

Have you ever noticed how your schedule gets snagged with “I”ll run my errands / get dressed / check in with work / leave the house / do anything productive AFTER I SHOWER” and then you delay this jump start to your day?  It’s not complicated, do it and get on with things.

Make your bed.
 Yes, seriously.  You can send me links on Facebook for the fear-inducing microscopic images of creatures that will grow in your bed if you make it every day, and I will still say Make Your Bed.  Studies show a strong correlation between happiness and productivity and daily bed making, look it up.  Plus, if you wash your body and your sheets regularly, those creatures in the facebook images won’t survive.

Put actual clothes on,
if you, too, have been lounging for a few days. Nothing productive ever happens in your fuzzy bathrobe or yesterday’s sweat pants.

Put stuff AWAY!   Have piles of things lingering around?  Unopened mail, opened Christmas gifts, clean dishes, clean laundry  (These are the things that I needed to put away this morning)? What’s in your piles?  Well, put it all away!

Feeling productive yet?  I bet you are!  NOW……   On to the Big Stuff!  This is a great week for planning.  This bonus week before Christmas and New Years presents a great opportunity to do some Big-Picture dreaming / planning / imagining for your 2016.

Here are two resources for Goal Setting, check these out!
  • http://davecrenshaw.com/business-goal/
  • http://acuff.me/2015/12/16-minutes-to-an-awesome-2016/

We’ll talk more about resolutions in the weeks to come, as well as strategic planning your whole house organizing, cleaning your virtual work space, organizing your finances for the new year, and that’s just January (can you tell I planned my blog topics today?)!  Happy New Year!



Receive more ideas and suggestions like these;
Book time with me in person or virtually;
Arrange a presentation for your upcoming event; or
Discover the benefits of Organizational Coaching;

Please contact me.

Call / text 708.790.1940
Online at  http://peaceofmindpo.com
Via Twitter, @ColleenCPO


Tips for Getting Our Christmas Shopping Done!

The irony is not lost on me, friends.  A month ago, I decided this week’s blog topic would be christmas-present-lgabout gift buying /  wrapping, and I am not done with buying or wrapping.  So this will be a learning week for all of us.
Can I be honest here? I really dislike shopping.  I love giving gifts, but I hate to shop.  So, handling this necessary evil as efficiently and effectively as possible over the next few days will allow me to get on with the more enjoyable parts of the Christmas Season!

So how are we going to get this all done?  Buck up, little camper – We can do this, I promise!  Here’s how:
1. Start with Gratitude. Gratitude for the people in your life.  Gratitude for the Holidays, however you choose to celebrate.  Gratitude for the means to give gifts and share love.
2. Make the list and check it twice.  Naughty? Nice? really, who am I to judge?  To whom are you giving gifts?  This isn’t just the gifts you will exchange, go ahead and list everyone you need to buy for, like thank you gifts for teachers and coaches, or service people.
3. Cha-ching:  Add a budgeted dollar amount next to each person’s name, to keep you on track.
4. Ideas: Add any ideas that you have for each person on the list. Don’t wrack your brain (yet), just list the ideas that you have.  We’ll get to the brainstorming for more ideas in a bit.
5.  Review any gifts you’ve already purchased, and note that on the list, too.
6. Go through the gift stash. Do you have a Gift Stash somewhere in your home?  You should.  Basic Hostess Gifts, candles and nice bottles of wine are always welcome.
7.  Take Care of Business.  You have your list, your ideas, your budget and what you’ve already purchased.  Now we start to match things up.  Is there anyone on your list that you’re done shopping for?  Pat yourself on the back, and then move them to the Done List!  Can any of the gifts you have on hand (gift cards, candles, etc.) go to anyone on the list?
8.  If you still need ideas, now is the time to brainstorm:  Ask friends, ask family, google “popular gifts for xxx age kids/women/men”, etc.  I plowed through my reading pile while traveling last week, and found some great ideas in my favorite magazines (like Real Simple).
9. Get Shopping:  So, since I started this blog article this morning, I have made some progress.  I stocked up on hostess gifts, added errands to my to-do list for the next few days, and assembled my coupons and gift cards to do my on-line shopping in the next few days. Now I just need to spend an hour or two plowing through the rest of my list.
So stop reading, and get to it!  I hope by this time next week, we’re all done with our shopping and doing something more fun (like wrapping the gifts?)!

An Organized “Deck the Halls”!

It’s time to deck those halls!  Boughs of holly, optional.  Here are 6 tips to help with christmas-clip-art-holidays_christmas_holly_1the process!

1. First-Out-Last-In Box: There was a moment over the weekend when I silently thanked my January 2015 self for taking a little extra time and care putting stuff away after last Christmas.  Our First-Out-Last-In Box is just that – the box of decorations that comes out at the beginning of Advent, and most of the stuff in it stays out until after New Years.  In January, the box sits, mostly filled, in my laundry room for a few weeks as the last few straggling decorations get corralled and put away until the next Christmas.   Which leads me to….

2. Remember what is important.  For me, Christmas is about the spirituality of Advent, the birth of our Lord, and spending special time with family and friends.  Therefore, we put out our Advent wreath and Calendar and and Nativity Scene first.  The creche stays up until we celebrate the Epiphany on January 6th.  We add table runners, candles and a wreath on the door, and the tree and the rest of the decorations wait until mid-December.

Edited, 11/29/2016: 

2.5. As you decorate your home this year, Consider the scary and unloved decorations that haven’t made it out of the box this year, or for the past few years (see my recent Halloween Decor article, http://peaceofmindpo.com/2016/10/18/what-if-your-hal…ot-in-a-good-way/!). Now is the time to toss the icky stuff!  Pass things along to loved ones, sell stuff on FB, donate items to your local charity – NOW, while they are accepting and re-selling Holiday decorations.

3.  You have two options, pick your favorite.  One option is to bring all your holiday decorations into your main living space, unload them all and distribute your stuff (then put the boxes away).  The other option is to open the boxes in your storage area, take out just what you need and leave the boxes in storage, then decorate a bit at a time.   Both options work, just choose.

And when you’re ready to put up your holiday decor:

4. De-decorate.  Take down the every-day decor.  Honestly, there’s not always room for both. every day and holiday.  Dedicate one of the empty holiday decoration containers (you have nice, solid, plastic water-and-bug proof containers, right?) to the non-holiday decor, and leave that container close to your storage access. This will make re-decorating after the holidays so much easier!

5.  De-decorate,  then dust.  Then decorate for Christmas.  Then vacuum.  Glitter, pine needles, glitter, scraps of paper, glitter.

6.  Put your empty decoration containers away.  Yes, all the way away.  Don’t tuck them in a closet, or leave them piled in your basement. Put them back in the crawl space / attic, etc.  Your holiday stuff could be out for a month, do you really want to stumble over empty boxes for that long?

Enjoy!!  Fa-la-la-la-laaaaa- la-la-la-la!


Receive more ideas and suggestions like these;
Book time with me in person or virtually;
Arrange a presentation for your upcoming event; or
Discover the benefits of Organizational Coaching;

Please contact me.

Call / text 708.790.1940
Online at  http://peaceofmindpo.com
Via Twitter, @ColleenCPO
Via LinkedIn, M. Colleen Klimczak, CPO

Organize Your Kitchen for the Holidays: Do This, Not That

Success is not always about getting everything just right.

Instead, success may be about doing the fewest things wrong.

My priest at Mass this weekend made this statement, referencing a recent high school football game where the winning team had fewer penalties than their opponents, and therefore more opportunities to score (In full disclosure, my husband had to explain to me – the football novice – why fewer penalties might lead to higher scoring).

This week’s blog topic was swirling in my head this weekend, too, and I realized that Organizing your Kitchen successfully (or anything else) can be about doing fewer things wrong, too.   And ‘doing fewer things wrong’ may feel more attainable than doing everything just right!

So if you are familiar with these Wrongs, we can make them right!

1.  Wrong: Starting an Organizing Project Without a Plan.

Right: The quickest way to derail a project is to start without a plan.  Assemble your kitchen organizing tools (garbage and recycling bags, your grocery list, some good music and a timer set for 30-60 minutes), and get started.  Pick a starting spot (like the fridge), systematically decide to keep or toss your items, put back the keepers, and then move on.  DO NOT just dive in or take everything out of every cabinet all at once!

2.  Wrong: Neither Knowing Nor Using What You Have.

Right:  Regularly check your cabinets and refrigerator, and use the food you have on hand before buying more. Always check before you shop!  Leave a shopping list on the fridge, and add items to the list as you run out.

3. Wrong: Procrastinating.

Right:  Well, procrastinating is almost always wrong, but it can cause unnecessary stress around the holidays, and we all know – the holidays are stressful enough!  Pull out the recipes now, start the Who’s-bringing-what conversations with family members now, and start stocking up on holiday specific foods now, just a few things every week.

4. Wrong: Re-Purchasing Something Because You Can’t Find The First One.

Right: Establish a home for certain types of items, so you can check your inventory.  Re-buying items wastes money and contributes to kitchen clutter.  Imagine – If all the canned goods always live on the same cabinet shelf, you can check your inventory at a glance. Establish homes, let everyone know where the home is, and make a habit of putting things AWAY.

5. Wrong: Buying Big Specialty Items That You Only Use Once a Year.

Right: Talk to your friends and family members now, or go on Facebook and find out who has chafing dishes / holiday cookie cutters / a really big turkey platter, and borrow it!  Do not clutter up your kitchen with these specialty items: borrow them, take really good care of them and then give them back!

6. Wrong: Having Stuff on Your Kitchen Counters.

Right: Kitchens are very personal spaces, but they also need to be functional spaces.  Keep your counters clear of stuff – all the time! With clear counters, everything – unpacking grocery bags, making dinner, baking cookies, cleaning up – becomes easier!

So, this week, the pressure is off.  You don’t have to do everything just right!  Doing fewer things wrong is progress enough!

Prioritize your Big Rocks This Week

Pressure.  I’m feeling the pressure.  This week’s blog marks my 300th published blog.  That’s a big deal, right?  I mean, wow, a major milestone.  And my grand idea is… non-existent.  I have a vague idea to write a blog about the life on a solo entrepreneur some day, and I thought that would be today.  But I’m just not feeling it.  I want my blogs to be about You, MY Readers, not about me.

But…. still…. nothing.

After a client cancellation this morning, I found myself with a few free hours.  Presented with a few unscheduled hours  – what to do?  Being the responsible sort, I took care of A LOT of work, woo hoo!!  I followed up with clients, booked appointments, and scheduled a speaking gig for November 7th.  Of 2016!!!  Wow!  Cleared out 2 inboxes, yeah!  Plus mowed and raked, since it is a lovely day.

But mostly, today I wrestled with priorities and how to fit all the big rocks in my jar for the next 2 months ( click here if you don’t know the reference:  http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=264  ) .

I wonder if any of you wrestle with your priorities, too?

Take 30 minutes this week to map out the last two months of 2015, making space for your important priorities!    Here are mine, for the next two months:

Family:  We sent out emails to our fabulous families over the weekend and today about upcoming events, dinners and holidays, to carve out and protect important family time.  (and my brother recently shared this article with me, love it!  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/secrets-danish-happiness_5630f211e4b06317991050dc )

Faith:  My Catholic Faith is very important to me, and with Advent and Christmas coming, I added daily Mass back to my calendar when possible.  And Christmas and all its wonder, of course, but I’m not ready to jump into that pool yet!

Money:  This morning, for the business I paid my bills and balanced my check book.  Better decisions come from being fully informed, so I started there.

Home: We ordered new bedding yesterday, which will get the bedroom paint project moving. There will be more to say in this category, but it was good enough to just put it on my list today.

Business: As mentioned, I have been very productive these last few days, professionally speaking.  I want to end 2015, my highest producing year EVER, strong.  So I cleared away some nagging to-dos, and made positive steps serving a lot of clients in the next few months.

Health:  After a weekend of over-consumption, I recommitted to eating healthier and avoiding sugar and white flour, and making time to exercise.

Saying Yes while Saying No:  I said Yes to events in 2016, but  I’m cautious about saying yes to any more 2015 events.

Fun:  I want something fun every weekend for the rest of the year.  When our travel plans changed this past Sunday, I sat at my computer all day and plowed through a long list of tasks.  Productive and necessary, yes.  Gratifiying, indeed.  Fun or family oriented? Nope, not at all.  So I want movies, hiking, road trips, etc.  Something fun every weekend.

What are your Big Rocks?  This week, plan the rest of 2015 and make room for your important priorities.

A Better Way to Hang, for National Get Organized Month!


Have I ever talked about Hangers?

023Since January is National Get Organized Month, I have worked on a number of closet projects recently, helping my clients organize their clothes and closets for the new year.  As I begin to write this, I have over $500 in hangers in my van, with a return order for one client, and Container Store order to install for another.

Using good quality hangers is worth the time and money.  Why?

  • Good hangers are better for your clothing than the disposable wire ones. They provide support and leave enough room on the closet rod for each item so your clothes are less likely to get crushed and wrinkled.
  • Good hangers put some space between your clothes. For example, a client invested in wooden suit hangers for her husband’s suits, and the width of the woods and curve of the hanger provide a little space between each suit, for protection and ventilation.
  • When used together, good hangers (heavyweight tubular plastic, flocked covered or wooden) create a great visual image when you open your closet. If you are a person impacted by what and how you see (most of us are), a calming visual in our closet can help us feel cool and confident as we get ready for the day.
  • Hanging up our clothes helps us see and use what we have better.

There is a Better Way to Hang!  Here’s What to Do:

  • As your professional organizer, I will always suggest reviewing your clothes and getting rid of anything you don’t need, use or love. This hanger project provides a great opportunity to look at your clothes and purge clutter.
  • Look around your home, you may already have some of the hangers you need. If not,
  • Invest in matching hangers: tubular plastic (cheapest), the snazzy flock covered one, or even wood (most expensive). This is one instance when I suggest you shop.  You can transition your clothes slowly to the new hangers, and spread out the expense.
  • Count your current hangers (after the review and purge!), and buy the new hangers you need and just a few more. Once all the hangers are full again, you have to purge before anything else can come in. And no cheating, you are only cheating yourself!
  • Another hanger tip I heard long ago suggests “At the beginning of a season, hang all your hangers from the back of the closet rod. Then, when you wear an item, hang it back up over the front. At the end of the season, you can see at a glance what really did not leave your closet this winter. Let those items go.”
  • Use different color hangers for different family members. In our home, my oldest son has green hangers, the middle has black, and the youngest has white. We parents have our own colors, too.  This makes sorting clean laundry a breeze, and helps us find what we need when we need it.
  • Invest in really nice sturdy wooden suit hangers for your coat closet. The matching wooden hangers create a pleasing visual image when a guest opens the closet door, and the wide wood keeps space between the items.
  • Break free of old wire hangers, and recycle them at your local dry cleaners.

Spend a little quality time in your closets this week, and perhaps a little time and money at your local retailer (Bed, Bath and Beyond or Target will have the hangers you need) or on-line.  Get a new view on hangers, and improve the state of your clothes, your closets and your brain!

P.S., a few additional thoughts posted a few weeks after:

Thanks for the great feedback! I have a few more things to add, about Kid clothes hangers:
  • Tubular plastic hangers (instead of the flock covered ones) are better for kids since they can easily slide their clothes off the smooth plastic.
  • No, you do not need to buy smaller child-sized hangers for your kids’ clothing. Save the money, and use regular ones since most baby clothes will fit even on the full sizd hangers, and if not, just fold the items over the pants bar on the hanger.  

Back to Normal, Only Better. Because I am Grateful.

For me, this week has been about getting Back to Normal.  Normal, only better.

Because I am grateful, and gratitude makes everything better.

Gratitude is central to getting organized.

Gratitude elevates even the everyday stuff to Better.

Gratitude helps us prioritize our time and efforts around the people and things that we value most.

Gratitude for what we have makes us want … less.  Less clutter, less drama, less stuff.   Gratitude helps us get organized when we can appreciate the stuff we have and purge the stuff we don’t need.

You see, while I love Advent, Christmas and New Years, I am also relieved as they draw to a close. We will keep our Nativity up until the Christmas Season’s official end on Sunday, January 11th with the Baptism of Our Lord, but we are getting back to Normal in most other areas.

And I am grateful. This Season was wonderful, and then I had the flu for a week.  I am just so thankful for our wonderful Christmas, and now to feel better, to have my family healthy and happy, to be able to do normal things again.

Expected house guests motivated me to thoroughly clean my house and get to the grocery, then the guests cancelled their plans.  So my house is clean and fully stocked, and I am grateful for our home and health, and ready for our guests when they reschedule!

I worked over the weekend, first with a wonderful coaching client and then with a new client as we reclaimed her second bedroom.  I am so grateful for what I do professionally!

As I put away our Christmas decorations, I spent a few extra minutes purging the old and broken ones, and fitting everything back in fewer storage bins.  I’ll be grateful next December that I cleaned up the decorations.

The boys went back to school, so we all returned to better routines.

I backed up, cleaned off and updated my IPhone and IPad.  And I am so grateful for technology, for keeping in touch and running a business from home.  And for making the flu a little more bearable, with downloadable books on my Kindle App, and movies via Amazon Prime.

So life is getting back to normal, only better.  Because I am grateful for normal.  We always should be grateful for all that we have, but sometimes we forget.

Today and this week and this month and this year, it’s your opportunity be grateful and to get back to normal-only-better. Be grateful for you what you have.  Let Gratitude help you focus on the important parts of your life.  Wrap around all the good things, and make room for more by letting go of clutter and want.

Bonus / Cherry-On-Top / Strategic Planning / Stay-in-your-PJs Week

I love this week between Christmas and New Years.  The Bonus Week, Cherry-On-Top Week, Strategic Planning Week, sundaeStay-in-your-PJs-all-week Week.  A lot of offices are closed this week, but whether you are off or not, I hope you still spend some concentrated focus time, looking back and around and ahead at the days to come.  Spend a little time planning this week, and reap the benefits all year long.

(Click here for Dave Crenshaw’s ideas on what he calls HeadStart Week).

Look back.  If you don’t already have a Done List for 2014, make one now.  Skim your 2014 calendar, maybe review your email subject lines.  If you are a social media person, look through your own posts.  My family had a really good year.  Major life events, like Sacraments and Graduations and Awards.  Between the 5 of us, we traveled to over 20 states in 2014.  We’re healthy and happy and stronger than we were 12 months ago.  My business had a great year, the biggest one so far.  We appreciated our friends and family, made a few new ones and sadly lost a few this year, too.   I have touted my professional Done List in a blog last February, but it’s nice to have a personal Done List, too.

Look Around.  Appreciate what you have and where you are right now.

Now Look Ahead.  It is easier to see where you are going once you know where you have been.  Consider all the different facets of you – personally, professionally, spiritually, physically, emotionally.  I am on the fence about New Years Resolutions, per se, but I do know that now that the holiday rush has slowed, there are some areas of my life I would like to work on – like health and nutrition, and professional development – two areas that get neglected in December!

So what will you do with your extra special extra week?  What will you do this week, that you can look back at 12 months from now?  Get to it!

The Gift Of “Completion”

The Gift Of “Completion”.  Done.  Good enough.  Followed-through. Tied up the loose ends.


Give yourself and others the gift of “Completion” this week.  The gift of “Done”.

We all know what we are supposed to do, but we don’t always do it.  Go ahead and do it this week.

A client and her spouse challenged each other to complete the homework I assigned a month ago, before taking on more projects.  Completion.  Done.

“Completed” is powerful.  “Done” feels great.

I worked in a client’s home recently, and we discussed “Done” in terms of the items in her dining room awaiting delivery to other destinations (like donated books and a table destined for a co-worker’s art room).  She planned to have her teenagers drop off the items that day, to complete those final steps to clearing out their home space.

I ordered and picked up 20 more photo Christmas cards yesterday, went home, assembled them and sent them out.  Done. I balanced my business check book, updated my bookkeeping and paid my bills today instead of next week, to financially finish (almost) 2014.  I encouraged (nagged) my sons to finish wrapping their gifts so we could be done with the gift wrap.  I dropped off bags of donations, just to get them out of my house.  I went to my annual physical today. Done, done, done.   Whew.

Some days it seems that the last few steps of a project are the hardest to get motivated to complete (and therefore never seem to get done).  But please, push through those last steps, and then revel in Completion and Done.

“Completion” helps us breathe deeply, un-clutter our brain, feel lighter, look up and around, and think about something new for a change.

2014 is quickly wrapping up, and 2015 is almost here!  In what areas can you tie up the loose ends this week and next? Work? Personal?  Correspondence?  Small home projects?  What requires Follow-through?   Take time to wrap up those last steps and complete your projects!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!