It’s May! Is Your Head Spinning, Too?

Hooooo boy, it’s May!

May seems like the busiest month of the year for us. Until a few years ago, I thought this was only my opinion, until a wise mom whose children are a little older than mine made the same observation to me.

May brings school picnics and field trips, weddings, graduations, concerts and end-of-the-school-year award events.  The school year is wrapping up, but we still have finals!  And as some activities wind down, others are gaining speed!
We have family members gearing up for house sales and moving.  We’re looking at camps and activities, and making summer travel plans with a college reunion, work conference, house guests, and weekends away.

And all this on top of – Oh Right! – the activities of daily living.

So, if you feel like your head is spinning this month, too – and it’s only the first week! – take a few moments today or tomorrow to make some plans, take care of business and set yourself up to have a great and busy May!

Here are a few ways to succeed:

  • Maintain your healthy habits.  When we are the busiest and want to skip our daily exercise,good night’s sleep or healthy eating is just when we need most to keep up!
  • Grab your calendar, pull up a seat and make a plan. Make sure all your events and responsibilities are listed.  Look ahead and take care of scheduling snags now instead of waiting until later!  (For example, 3 cars for 4 drivers and the teenager has job training this Thursday.  Time to get creative, now instead of Thursday!)
  • Pare Down. Review your To-Do list, and move everything that doesn’t absolutely have to be done right now to a different day, week or month .  Make notes for next month, when the schedule loosens up.
  • Review your upcoming events or responsibilities, and note the details and the other follow-up steps!  Jot down place and time of course, but the other steps, too!  For example, we received an invitation to a graduation party out of town and we will be unable to attend.  You and I know our job is not done when we RSVP – there is a card and gift to purchase and mail.  Add those shopping items and errands-to-run to the Master To-Do List so we don’t forget!
  • Run through the wardrobe options with EVERYONE!  Graduation? First Communion?  End of Year Concert?  Make sure NOW that the dress shoes still fit, the suit jacket isn’t stained, the favorite tie is back from the cleaner, etc.
  • Hooray, You Did It!” x 10!  Remember Christmas?  And how you have a few extra hostess gifts stashed, or generic greeting cards and gift cards?  Same idea, stock up on some gender neutral “Hooray, You Did It!” cards, gift cards, and bottles of wine for Just In Case.
  • Be Grateful, too.    In addition to the congratulations cards, grab a handful of Thank You Notes for teachers, car-pool buddies, coaches, etc.
  • Reach Out and Touch Someone.  Go ahead and make your appointments:  hair cuts, carpet cleaning, cholesterol screening, camp physical, summer dentist appointments – the list is endless.  Make the calls this week (before everyone else does), and note the events on your calendar.
  • Enjoy! The whole point of this super busy month is to celebrate all of life’s events!  Celebrate!

Practice Good Elf-I-Mean-Self Management This Week

More.

More, more, more, more, more, more.

This time of year, there is just More.

More events to attend, more pretty things to see, more fun to be had, more snacks and yummy things to eat, more service projects,  more items on the to-do lists, more stress and struggles.   More fun, sure, but also so many more expectations  for our time and energy and efforts.

But – wait!  We were already busy, even before there was More!  And now we are living our regular lives while trying to be great little Elves, bringing Christmas to our friends and family!  Aghhhh!!!!

Chances are, with this busy Christmas Season,  you are feeling a little maxed out, a little overwhelmed.  Chances are,  you are wearing your Elf-I-Mean-Self out.

If we are going to manage all those other things this week, first we need to manage our Elf-I-Mean-Self better.  This week, in the midst of all the MORE that you have… might I gently suggest that you spend a little time taking care of you?    (and I will try, too, I promise!)

Try these:

  • Grab a cup of hot cocoa, and take a few minutes to plan your day.
  • Collect all the stuff you need to take with you today into a tote, add a snack or two and a bottle of water, and go put it in the car right now while you are thinking about it.
  • Take a few more minutes, and look ahead at your week, and start smoothing out the bumps now!
  • Now, act!  I have to say, nothing saps my energy quicker than the mental nagging of those tasks that need to be completed.  Once you’ve made your plan for the day and week, implement it!
  • Embrace More short cuts.  Get More take-out? You bet.  Gift Cards and Gift Bags?  Yes, please. Send your Christmas Cards out the week after Christmas?  Go ahead.
  • Sing More Christmas carols.
  • Cut your Elf-I-Mean-Self some slack.
  • Take More deep breaths.
  • Drink More water.
  • Eat more actual food, and at regular intervals.
  • Take your vitamins.
  • Get More rest.
  • Accept More help.

And now, take care of your inner-Elf, wrap up this blog and go do something for You!

Mystery Meats and Burnt-Out Light Bulbs (National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day!)

national-clean-out-your-refrigerator-day-november-15-1-1024x512

I’m getting a jump on the November Holidays. Thanksgiving, of course, my favorite, but before that, National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day (nationally observed on 11/15, but any day is a good day for this project!).

This is a great project – an hour or so, and some elbow grease will reap big rewards!  Saturday afternoon found me cleaning out my refrigerator and freezer.  I needed to replace the light bulb anyway, and I was working on our weekly meal plan and grocery list.  Plus, I was clearing out to get ready for a new season, healthier eating and the holidays.

So, Lets’s Do This!  Here’s How:

  • Take out the trash, and re-line the can.  Then pull it on over next to the refrigerator.
  • Put on some music, of course, and grab a cold beverage from the fridge (you’re standing right there, after all!).
  • Clean off the closest counter for work space.
  • Run a sink full of hot and soapy water.  Then get to it!
  • Start with the vegetable bins.
    • Empty them out onto that clear counter, and review the contents;
    • Soak the bins in soapy water as you review;
    • Purge what is past its’ prime;
    • Plan your menus for the next week based on food you have on hand;
    • Add items to be replaced to your grocery list; and
    • Put your produce back, stocking like a store – oldest inventory on top, to be used first.
  • Hit the door compartments next.
    • Use the same plan of attack (empty and review; wash down; plan your menu and purge the icky stuff) but this time, review expiration dates and duplicates, too.
    • Make sure you rinse and and recycle the jars and containers you are purging.
    • Put it all back, grouping similar items together within compartments, like salad dressings together, and sandwich toppings together.
  • On to the shelves!
    • Address the shelves with the same process:  empty and review; wash down; plan your menu and purge the icky stuff.
    • Before you put the shelf contents back, consider adjusting the height of your shelves to make your fridge work better.  We have a tall top shelf, for milk jugs, juice bottles, water pitchers and left overs.  The other shelves are adjusted to be shorter, but so are their contents (egg cartons, 12 packs of soda, short bins of small items like yogurts and pudding cups) so this arrangement works well.
    • Group similar items on the shelves, as well.  For example, create a “left-over shelf” for already prepared and cooked meals, and make your grocery dollars stretch further!
  • Next, review your freezer contents.  I let go of anything that I couldn’t readily identify, hence the article title of “Mystery Meats”.  If I can’t identify a food, it is not something we should eat!  On the plus side, we have also been writing contents and dates on the freezer packaging (foil, freezer bags, etc.), so to not run into this challenge again!
  • Finally, take a moment to clean the outside, too!  Take all the magnets, photos and papers off, and wipe down the surfaces.  If the fridge front or side is home to soccer schedules or take out menus from 2 years ago, purge those, too!

Now, stand back and open the fridge door.  Bask in the glow of a clean space, and maybe even grab a snack.  Pat yourself on the back, then move on to something else!

P.S. If you have an old refrigerator to get rid of, here are two resources:
https://www.comed.com/WaysToSave/ForYourHome/Pages/Recycling.aspx
http://www.1800gotjunk.com/us_en/what-we-take/refrigerator_removal

To:

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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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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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When The Party Is Over… (A Plan For Your Party Clean-Up)

I was surprised to find that, in 6 years of blogging, I have not written a Post Party Clean-Up article.  So on the tail of a weekend full of parties, let me share my favorite tips for Post Party Clean-Up with you!

I know it’s tempting to leave your clean-up tasks until later or tomorrow, but an hour on clean-up today makes tomorrow so much brighter!  Consider, too, if your event is not at your home, you may need to clean up before you can leave, so it’s best to learn how to clean up-quickly and efficiently.

In addition to your other party prep steps (more on party prep here), make sure

  • the dishwasher is empty, and
  • you have take-home containers on hand to send leftovers home with your guests.

At the end of your event, here is your plan:

1.  Revel for a moment in the end-of-party glow, appreciating the awesome friends and family members that graced your home and / or event.

2.  Drink a very large glass of water, to stay hydrated and fend off any potential early hangover headache (just saying).

3.  If you haven’t eaten, put together a little plate now and grab a bite.  Maybe it’s just me, but I often forget to eat at our events, as I’m busy chatting and taking care of things.

4.  Take 2 minutes to change into something more suitable for an hour of cleaning, if you’re really dressed up.  Just DO NOT GET TOO COMFY!!

Now, roll up your sleeves and get to work!  Food and Floors are the biggest clean-up tasks.

5.  Empty the trash and recycling bins, and start fresh.

6.  Move all food and beverages to the kitchen!  Trash goes in the bin, recycling gets rinsed and goes to the bin, too.  We’ll get to food storage in a minute.

7.  Once the food and beverages are in the kitchen, restore order to the rest of your home:

  • Blow out all candles;
  • wipe down surfaces, clean the wine off the lamp shade (still just me?);
  • put the furniture away (folding chairs and tables), or back where it belongs; and
  • vacuum and run a quick mop if needed.
  • With a team approach, I usually handle the Restoring Order step, while my husband starts the kitchen tasks.
8.  Kitchen Clean-Up, tasks including: 
  • pack up left overs;
  • clean serving dishes;
  • load the dishwasher;
  • wipe down the counters; and
  • make sure everything is turned off before turning in.

9.  Day-After tasks may include:  

  • Empty the coolers;
  • put away the large serving items; and
  • take it easy and eat party left-overs (one of my favorite perks of hosting parties!).

With the next season of parties – First Communion, Mother’s Day, Graduations, etc. – upon us, keep these tips in mind the next time you host an event!

Dig Deep This Week, and Organize the Basement!

Basements are the hot organizing topic this week with my clients, how about you?

This phenomenon occurs this time every year.  We get a little stir crazy, perhaps with a touch of cabin fever.  We want to stretch out a little, but it’s still cold outside!  And so we look to those big spaces in our homes – the Basement!

Basements present great opportunities for family spaces, but we need to get them organized and functional before we can really enjoy our time down there!  So, how to organize that basement into fun and functional space?

The first step is my first step to every organizing project – grab a clipboard, start your lists and make a plan!

Ask the questions:  Who is using the space?  And for what purpose?  

Name Your Space.  When you call a room a junk room, guess what ends up in there?  Yes, junk. Every space needs a function or purpose, but not more than 2 or 3!  Imagine:  If you called your basement the Family / Toy  / Craft Space / Work Out Space  / Laundry Room, well, indeed, EVERYTHING would end up down there, and it would all be a hot mess!  Which leads me to…

Differentiate your spaces for separate functions.  If your basement is used to multi-tasking, make sure to set aside one corner for work out gear, and another corner for kid toys, instead of mixing the two.   You don’t have to build walls to separate spaces, either.  Imagine a couch set in the middle of room, with TV viewing / video game playing in front of the couch, and kid toy storage and play space behind the couch.  Something that simple can separate an overly large space into two more manageable and organized spaces.

Is there clutter that needs to leave?  Once you know who is using the space, and for what purposes, take a good hard look at what is already in the basement.  Are there items in the basement that do not match up with the newly decided purpose / functions?  Consider how to get rid of that crummy old couch, or plan a donation drop-off for those bags of clothes or books. Most basements I visit are in serious need of  de-furnishing!!

Plan a block of time, and enlist some aid!  If this basement space is going to be family space, it’s time to get the family involved!   Carve out a few hours on a Saturday morning, and make some big progress!

Decision making is still a stumbling block, I know.  We collect clutter from the rest of the house and let it pile up in the basement.  We delay the final decision of “Keep or Toss?” and just let it accumulate.  Then… the piles are just too overwhelming!  Therefore…

Make the Decisions, even when they’re hard.  Consider the piles in the basement.  Will the contents ever be brought up to the light of day again?  Come on… that old bedding, the wall art from 15 years ago, broken toys or dated holiday decorations?  Be honest, friend.  That stuff needs to go AWAY, and not into storage.  And you and I both know it.

One common function of basements is storage.  When it comes to long-term storage, please Remember your basement is a basement.  Protect items that you choose to store for a long time.  Basements may contain bugs, moisture, dirt, etc, so invest in sturdy plastic or Rubbermaid-type containers to store your stuff and treasures.  Soggy cardboard is not going to save those holiday treasures or family photos.

Spend a little time in your basement this week, and make fun and functional family space!

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!

 

To:

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
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Via Twitter, @ColleenCPO

 

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!

My Brain Was Tired When I Got Home: Dealing with Re-Entry

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I struggle with what I call Re-Entry.

Travel Luggage Chest Clipart

We are very lucky that we get to travel often to visit with family out of state. And I’ve gotten really good at the getting-ready-and-packing / coming-home-and-unpacking process over the years. But with this weekend marking the unofficial start of summer, I’m out of practice, it seems, as my brain was total mush when we got home today.

So, my first hour home was spent reminding myself how to manage Re-Entry, after a weekend away. Here’s what works for us, maybe it will work for you to!  First things first (30 minutes):

  • (5 minutes) Unload dirty clothes and start a load of laundry. (We carry a dirty laundry bag when we travel, to facilitate that first load of laundry when we get home and also to keep any left-over clothes we’ve packed smelling fresh.)
  • (1 min) Drink a really big glass of cold water. I don’t know about you, but I always seem to arrive home from trips slightly dehydrated.
  • (5 – 10 minutes) Unload the car all the way. Yes, ALL THE WAY.
  • (10 minutes) Put away perishable food from the cooler, grab a snack or start dinner (or lunch or breakfast, depending on the clock).  Like the commercial says, You aren’t you when you’re hungry. I find it easier to manage the unloading / unpacking / putting away tasks when I’m not also famished.
  • (5 minutes) Check the snail mail box, and any voice mail messages.

The next 45-60 minutes:

  • (5 minutes) Clean up from your snack / meal.
  • (10-20 minutes) Unpack your suitcases / bags, put away clean, un-worn clothes, shoes and toiletries. Yes, AWAY.
  • (5 minutes) Put the bags / suitcases away. Yes, AWAY!
  • (10 minutes) Depending on how you manage your tech, check your emails and such, but just for emergencies.  This is not time to get work done, just to make sure there’s nothing that needs your immediate attention.
  • (10 minutes) Move that laundry through the process. I didn’t have time for cleaning on Friday, before we left town. So this afternoon, I had a mound of clean but unfolded laundry to tackle before I could move today’s laundry along.
  • Head to the grocery? That’s where I’m headed. I am loathe to get back in my car, but we need some staples for the work and school week ahead, so I’m off.
  • If you’ve been on a long road-trip, or if there was a beach involved, stop off at a car wash and give your car a wash and your rugs a vacuum.

So, there you go.  If you struggle with that first hour at home after a weekend trip, keep this list in mind. And if you happen to have helpers with the unpacking process, this list will help you delegate tasks!

Happy and Safe Travels!