Garage! Take Care of Your Car, Not Your Clutter!

Alternate titles for this week’s article involved fun with spelling:  

“Garbage / Garage”, or  “Take Care of Your Car, Not Your Crap”.  I stuck with the least offensive, please see above.

This warm weather we’re having offers a great opportunity to clear out and Organize Your Garage Before Winter!  We need to take care of our cars instead of our clutter!

Our garages can sometime be a place of wonder.  Not “Wow, how Wonderful”, but,  instead,

  • “I wonder what That is?” or
  • “I wonder what happened to the (fill in the blank here)?” or
  • “Hmm,  I wonder how that got here?” or
  • “I wonder who that belongs to?” or
  • “I wonder how to get rid of that?”

It is time to answer these questions and restore some order in your garage this week!

  • First things first, purge the garbage / recycling / donations.  And pull out the cars while you work!
  • Next, break down boxes.  It’s astonishing how much space is taken up by empty boxes.  I know, it’s tough to decide  do we keep the box the vacuum / lamp / appliance came in or recycle it? However, we’ve discovered that if we do need to pack the item up or return it, we can find another box (more come all the time!) or return the item without it.  If you just can’t part with the boxes, break them down and store them flat.
  • Now, Pick A Spot To Start.  Just one spot.  And just start.
    Work methodically clockwise around the room, so you know where to focus your efforts.  Garages are big spaces, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  Pick just one spot, and start making decisions about what to purge, what to keep and where to keep it.
  • Corral the yard implements.
    In two recent garage projects, we made lots of progress by simply gathering up the brooms / shovels / rakes / etc., that were leaning against (read BLOCKING) everything!  Vertical storage for such items, like wall hooks or a peg board, would be best, but if you don’t have that, a re-purposed garbage can will work.
  • Consider and store kid / adult toys.
    I took a batch of stuff to Play It Again Sports this summer.  I walked in with a bag of my sons’ outgrown sports items, chose to leave the items there (instead of hassling with selling them on consignment), they cut me a check.  Beautiful!   Try listing outgrown bikes and scooters on Facebook sell pages, there is a market for such things!  And, thinking vertically again – install some hooks on the walls or beams, to get those summer toys and bikes off the garage floor for winter!
  • Recycle!
    E-Waste (old computers, TVs, etc.) and other household items: Keep your eyes open for local E-Waste collections, very popular this time of year!   And try the ultimate recycling tactic – if you have an item that someone else may want (furniture, scrap metal, etc.), put it out early the day before trash day.  That sort of stuff is usually gone by the next morning!
  • Paint and other Hazardous Waste.
    I’ve gotten the “what do I do with old paint / paint cans?” question  a lot lately.  Here is the answer:  If the paint is dried, toss it in the regular trash.  If the paint is even a little wet?  Water based paint will dry out eventually if you pry off the top and leave the cans open to air (be careful of pets and small children).  If you want to speed up the process, or if your paint is oil-based, you can buy packets of paint thickener at a home Improvement store like Home Depot, or add kitty litter to dry up the paint quickly.  Once the paint is hardened, with the thickener or kitty litter, it is safe to toss on the regular trash.  In addition, many communities have Hazardous Waste collections in the Fall and Spring, so keep an eye out for local events to collect paint and other hazardous waste.

Get out there this week, and clear some clutter from one of your hardest working spaces – the garage!


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
Via Twitter, @ColleenCPO

Organize Your Car This Week (a.k.a. What’s That Smell?)

This is not my car. But it looks nice, doesn’t it?

Mobile office, changing room, dining room, way-to-get-from-here-to-there, home away from home … our car.

My van ticked over 94,000 miles today.

I spend lots of time in my van.  For work and clients, sure, but also for life.  We do a lot of interstate traveling, and have no problem with a 3-hour drive for an overnight visit or lunch with the family.

With lots of time spent in our cars, they can get a little cluttered… and grubby… and… well, smelly.  Our family joke was that when we decided to buy our current van, my youngest said “Good, because this one smells like french fries”.  Old beverage containers, fast food wrappers, dirty laundry, sports equipment – Who knows what is rolling around back there?!

The first thing that people do when they see my “Professional Organizer” magnets on my van is peek in my windows to see if my car is organized (of course it is).  Our cars are an extension of our homes and of ourselves, which means we can reap benefits from organizing our car and travels.  Luckily, the process is the same, whether we ‘re organizing a kitchen or hard drive or pile of mail or car.

Here is what to do:

  • Take out all the stuff out of your car.  Throw away the obvious garbage.
  • While it’s cleaned out, take your car to the car wash and splurge on the interior cleaning and vacuum, too.
  • Now that it’s clean, Do NOT just put everything back in your car!  Take a good look at the stuff that came out!
  • Grab another garbage bag and a notebook.
  • Sort the pile into categories: Car maintenance (wipes, oil); Car repair (tools, jumper cables); Important car related papers (manual, registration and proof of insurance); safety / first aid (first aid kit, blanket, non perishable snacks, water bottles); personal convenience (umbrella, lint brush, hand wipes, car pillow); or perhaps work related items (I have my briefcase and step stool in my van all the time).
  • A note on safety: Whatever you choose to keep in your car needs to be strapped in.  Any time we slam on the brakes, stuff can shift or fly, becoming a dangerous projectile.  Strap it down and keep it safe!
  • Contain your categories together (for example, a tote in the trunk for tools?), and stow them safely in your car.
  • And, if you have 10 minutes or 2 days, check Pinterest for more “car organizing” ideas – wow!!!

What should not be in the car:

  • important papers, like your mail or pay stubs with personal info;
  • your car title and maintenance records (keep these safely at home);
  • dead electronics (old phone chargers, random mystery cords);
  • school papers / text books / other books;
  • items to drop off to others / returns / recycling – add the errands to your to-do list, and make an effort to get that stuff dropped off.

Your car is an extension of you and your home, give it some love, attention and organizing this week!

Put Stuff Away Before You Take Anything Else Out

Have you ever noticed?  When we are excited about an upcoming adventure / event / road trip, our first reaction is to jump in and start pulling things out to get ready.

Perhaps we are packing for a trip.  We’re leaving in the morning, so we run to the closet or dresser drawers, and start pulling out clothes and piling them on top of a potentially already cluttered dresser or bed.

Sometimes, we have a project for work that must be done right away, and we spread it out on top of the projects already on our desk or work space.

Maybe we’re famished and we need to start dinner, so we pull things out of the fridge to the already crowded counter and then wonder why cooking is such a hassle.

AHHHHH!!! Let me suggest a better way:

  • STOP!
  • Put your stuff away before you start pulling more things out.
  • Just 5 or 10 minutes of clearing out and cleaning up will help you find focus and clarity and a clear work space!
  • As you tidy up, craft your packing list or project plan in your mind.   Then, when your mind and space are de-cluttered, jump in to action!

Let’s go back to packing for that trip.  Take 5 minutes and hang up that pile of stuff on the dresser or bedpost (you know, THAT pile).  Locate and put away your clean laundry, pulling out items you want to take along with you.  Then pull out your suitcase or satchel and get packing!

Need to pack up more orders for shipment?  Finish the ones from yesterday and load them in the van.  THEN… start on the new ones.  A clear work space is always going to make the job go more smoothly!

Back to that new project for work?  Take the 5 minutes to clear up the old project, so the two don’t get mixed up.

Friends coming for dinner, and you just got home with all the groceries? Before you turn on the oven or open one package, take 5 minutes and put your groceries away, setting aside the supplies you need to make dinner on a tray or cookie sheet, and wipe clean the counter.  Just those few moments of putting away and getting ready will make your meal prep a lot easier!

I always encourage action instead of inaction, but we should also be taking the RIGHT action. So, clear and clean up before you leap in and give your next actions some thought.  Then go ahead and jump!

National Clean Out Your Closet Week: What’s In Your Suitcase?

Did you know?  The 3rd week of March is National Clean Out Your Closet Week.  Here are simple questions to ask and an easy activity to help you clear your closet clutter!

I have been thinking a lot about closets today.

I spent some time in a closet this afternoon (I love saying that), offering suggestions on how to put it back together after a recent paint job.  My client and her husband have a good selection of clothes but not too much, so we didn’t have to talk about clearing clutter.  We could focus on solving storage challenges (more shelves, higher closet rod so we can double hang one side of the closet, etc.), instead of trying to stuff too much in too small of a space.  It was a pleasure!

This morning’s client has been traveling a lot these last 6 months.  And I am sure that there are clothes in her closet that have not traveled with her on her recent adventures.  So, the question is – does she really need those left-behind items at all?  Her travels remind me of a decision tool I’ve used with clients:

  • Imagine you are packing for a 2 week trip.  Perhaps a new outfit every day, but re-use favorite items if you’d like?
  • Pile up all the items that you would take with you. Then..
  • Look at what is left in your closet   Perhaps there is A LOT left in your closet?

Perhaps it is time to clear some closet clutter?

Let’s look at those items that aren’t going with you.  Ask the question of each piece:  Why wouldn’t it make the trip?

Too formal:  Keep a few, of course – we do need at least some dressy clothing.  But, not too much.  Unless we wear really dressy clothes all the time, the selection should not outnumber or overcrowd the other items in your closet.

Too casual:  We don’t need too many of these, either!  A client had an entire pile of worn out t-shirts for “walking the dog or washing the car”, which is a great idea, but  – a Whole Pile of beat up t-shirts?  We reviewed the pile, kept the best 5 or 6 and freed up shelf space for more important items.

Uniforms or specifically work clothes:  True, work clothes may not go on vacation with you, but we can still look objectively at our work clothes, and recognize how much is enough and how many is too many.  30 pairs of pants?  42 dress shirts?  Too many.

Wrong season?   These can stay, but perhaps it’s time to swap out your closet seasonally, to create more space for moving around and using your day to day wardrobe.  I took my big Irish sweater off the shelf today – I only wear it for St. Patrick’s Day, so now is the time to put it away for the season!

Needs repaired, but I still love it: The answer, of course, is to get it repaired.  In the past 6 months, I have had a skirt shortened, shoes fixed and a leather backpack repaired.  Invest a little time and money in your favorites, and put them back to work!

Needs repaired, but I don’t care about it much anymore:  donate, sell, toss. Don’t let it occupy another minute of your time and attention, let it go.

Stained?  Old?  Scratchy?  No longer stylish?  You will NEVER choose these items as you get dressed in the morning.  Let them go.

I have no feelings for the item, one way or the other:  If you are battling clutter or looking for more room in your closet, you may want to go ahead and donate / sell  / purge your ambivalent items.  Using the Vacation analogy, it is highly unlikely that those uninspiring items will be your choice as you get dressed in the morning, either!  These items will never make the cut, which means they should not stay.

Spend a little quality time in your closet this week and play this game to make decisions easier!

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:


  • 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!


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
Via Twitter, @ColleenCPO

Six and a Half Pounds

6 and a half pounds.
That’s how much the average handbag weighs.  And that doesn’t include a lap top.
6.5 pounds look like:
  • A Mr. Coffee 12-cup Coffeemaker;  bag
  • 6 1/2 bottles of water;
  • A pair of men’s size 10 hiking boots;
  • A two liter bottle of soda (from;
  • 67 hershey bars;
  • 520 pencils;
  • 1170 pennies; or
  • a 5 pound bag of sugar and a pound of butter.
And we’re schlepping that around on our shoulder every day.  (Fellas, don’t think I am not talking to you today.  I see those messenger bags you haul around, and the bulging wallet with receipts, store cards and ancient business cards but no actual cash.)

I saw a woman walking to her car today with 4 – count them 4! – bags on her shoulder.  She still looked confident and awesome doing it, too.  If I had to guess, she had a bag for the gym, a healthy lunch, a great handbag and a tote for work.  She was doing it all, and doing it well, but she could make her load lighter, in every way!

I’m suggesting that we all carry around a lot more than we need, and our joints and backs and shoulders often pay the price.  My challenge to you this week is to lighten your load, and clear the clutter out of your bags!

Here’s how:

  • Clear off a counter, or your dining table.  Dump the contents of your handbag / back back / messenger bag / gym bag out completely.
  • Now, tackle this project just like any other organizing project (per Julie Morgenstern), with our usual 5 step process:
  1. Sort: Sort the contents by category.  Receipts, dirty tissues, cosmetics, pens / pencils / paper clips / notebooks, novels, ear buds, money including 7.50 in loose change, unopened and opened mail, work papers… well, you get the picture.
  2. Purge: Now that you can see what you have, purge the clutter that can go.  Toss the trash, file or shred the mail and receipts, keep a few pencils and one notebook, put the change in a jar for later and get rid of any other clutter.
  3. Assign a Home:  Once you have established what stuff you need to carry with you, determine how you can store it better.  In my bag, I have: a first aid kit / cosmetics bag (yes, a first aid kit because I am a terrible klutz); my wallet which has a wrist strap and I can carry solo with my cards, receipts, cash and change; a few pens and index cards, sunglasses, some lotion and antibacterial hand cleaner; and an envelope with store coupons for when I run my errands.  The whole thing weighs a couple pounds.
  4. Containerize: A handbag or back pack is a container itself, but we do better with sub categories in smaller containers in our bags.  Try a pencil case (just like in school), a cosmetic bag or small bag for personal items, or an envelope for receipts.
  5. Equalize: A fancy word for Maintenance.  Once you have cleared bag clutter, keep it from coming back!
    1. Bigger bags versus Smaller Bags:  I’ve used this logic at times – instead of two or three bags, why don’t I just use one really big bag to carry everything?  Well, of course the problem with that is that we end up carrying around everything all the time in one really heavy bag, instead of just what we need! So Go for the SMALLER BAG!
    2. Receipts are a challenge: provide temporary storage, and a process for getting them out of your handbag and on to their final destination.
    3. Clean out your bag regularly (I have to admit, I use waiting-for-kids-at-practice time to clean out my bag if it needs cleaning).
    4. Unpack your extra bag.  I don’t always carry a tote, but when I do, I empty it out every day and put today’s business away.  If I need the tote again tomorrow, I will only put in it the business I need for the day.
So, carve out 20 minutes this week and lighten your load in all sorts of ways!

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!!

Experimenting with a Spending Diet – Who’s With Me?

I’m tired of spending money.

We’re enjoying Summer, and just got home from a lovely long weekend away.  But travel brings expenses: gas, car snacks, hotel room, restaurant, a few souvenirs. Money just flies out of my wallet – poof!

I read an article about a mom who instituted a Spending Fast.  The deal was, the family bought nothing for a prescribed amount of time, to use up their inventory and save money.  They paid regular monthly bills like utilities, cable and mortgage, but nothing else.

It’s certainly time to slow down our spending.  Yet, we can’t stop spending altogether.  We have high school textbooks to order, and a few other small but necessary expenses.  And with August (the month I refer to as the “Month of Writing Checks”) comes back-to-school expenses like registration, supplies and clothes.

So, I am trying a Spending Diet.

And why do we diet? With food, we decrease overall consumption.  We want to feel healthier. lighter and better overall; and we want to regain control over an area of our lives where we feel a little out of control. So, we will go on a Spending Diet for the next few weeks, for the same reasons!

It may seem counter-intuitive, but I started my spending diet by handing out money.  I paid allowances, and set aside $40 that my business owes a friend.  I can now see more clearly what I need for the next few weeks.

A glance at our checkbook indicates that most of our non-monthly bill expenses are on food, either groceries or at restaurants.  Sooooo…..

  • I planned our menu for the next two weeks incorporating food we already have. Our grocery expenses will be for perishables only, like produce and milk, and I’ll pay for these groceries with already purchased gift cards.
  • I skipped my bi-weekly Target trip for toiletries and household items, and will get creative with what we have in the linen closet (saving approx $100).
  • I also moved my Coscto trip to two weeks from now, skipping this week (saving approx $200).
  • We got take-out for dinner (we do this occasionally on the weekend), but we chose the restaurant based on gift certificates and coupons we had on hand. Dinner plus a few days of leftovers cost less than $6.
  • We celebrated National Ice Cream Month on Sunday, on the last leg of our vacation, but we used gift cards to pay for our treats. Total out of pocket was $7.
  • I collected and reviewed all the other gift cards we have, to determine what we can use over the next few weeks (side note, we purchase gift cards through a tuition reimbursement program at our sons’ high school.)
  • And finally, I packed my lunch for work, and will continue to do so for the next two weeks. It is so easy to fall into the bad habit of grabbing fast food between clients, and I can spend $10 a day on such a habit.
  • There is nothing else that we NEED right now.  My husband and I visited my favorite little boutique in the resort town we went to over the weekend.  Everything there was lovely, but I did not touch a thing.  We have all we need, and most everything we want.  And just a guess, you probably do, too.
  • With more planning, we could cut spending even more, by cutting reducing our monthly bill expenses and eliminating eating out altogether, but we’ll see how we do with these changes to start.

So, how can you pare down your spending this week?

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!

5 Ways to Find Productivity in Little Bits of Time

Since Chicago is a transportation hub, we have train and truck traffic in my neighborhood, and we hourglassget stuck by trains.  Drivers get justifiably aggravated with train traffic.  My Village of Evergreen Park listed the customer service number for a troublesome train line on their lighted marquee… right next to an intersection often blocked by those trains.  Genius!

I confess, I enjoy getting stopped by a train, so long as it’s a brief stop.  It is a reasonable excuse for being a few minutes late – texting “Train.  Sorry.  Be there soon”, folks will understand.  And it’s a mini-break in the midst of a busy day.  I grab a productive few minutes to check email, make a call, send a text, clean out my bag or car, or just play a game of Sudoku on my Iphone. As an added bonus, I find having something to do while I wait distracts me from getting aggravated, too.

We all benefit from improved time management and productivity.  Productivity means getting things done, managing our tasks and time well, taking good care of our responsibilities and relationships.  It means taking care of business effectively, so we can move on to something else.  I prefer to work in large, uninterrupted blocks of time, but rarely get that luxury.  Subsequently, I work hard to make the most of little bits of time, stuck by a train or between appointments, tasks, obligations and fun, especially in the summer!

Ideas for Finding Productivity in Little Pieces:

  1. Recognize that large tasks are comprised of related small tasks.  For example, I have “Client Care” on my to-do list every Tuesday.  “Client care” consists of emailing, texting or calling 5-10 clients, to arrange or confirm appointments, or just check in, and can occur in little pieces around other appointments and activities.  Any 2 or 3 minute pause can be used for “Client Care”.
  2. Keep a detailed to-do list.  “Run Errands” is not detailed enough.  “1. Drop off donations; 2. Pick up order at doctor’s office; 3. Make banking deposit; and 4. Drop off dry cleaning” is detailed.  And with today’s personal to-do list in hand, you can accomplish these tasks around other blocks of time on your schedule.  An errand or two on the way to work, at lunch and on the way home.  Details are key.
  3. Set your brain on a task or a question, and be open to the answer.  At the top of my to-do list I write “Unique gift idea for wedding?”  Or “Creative blog topic for next Tuesday?”  I’m always amazed at the people or ideas that come to me when I do this, providing inspiration!  Perhaps song lyrics, a client question, an on-line article, even a billboard.  I could waste a lot of time and mental energy forcing ideas or I can just let them come to me in small pieces.
  4. Boost productivity and assign “time allotments” to your tasks.  Looking at today’s tasks, I assign 5-10-15-30 and 60 minute labels to them.  Then throughout my day, when I have a few minutes, I can reach for the 5 or 10 minute tasks (make appointment, confirm client, make grocery list) and complete them in those little bits of time.
  5. Create a habit of checking and re-checking your efforts during your day. Many times a day, I stop and ask myself if I am working on what I need to be working on.  Or, am I aimlessly following links on Facebook?  I am not suggesting that you can’t just relax for a few minutes – relaxing is necessary for productivity, too!  But I am suggesting that we relax for a few minutes, and then return to the task at hand.

Next time you find yourself stuck by a train, in line at Starbuck’s, or waiting for your kids to get out of practice, seize the moment.  Breathe deeply and gently stretch your neck from side to side.  Then think through today’s tasks and spend a productive few minutes.  These little bits of productive time really add up by the end of the day!

Dedicated to JS, thanks for editing with me!