Cleaning Up After The Holidays

How to Clean Up the Post-Celebratory Clutter and Set Up for a Fresh Start

It’s a brand new year. We are all (hopefully) somewhat inspired to start 2017 fresh and set ourselves up for the greatest year yet! But after all that holiday cheer (and after you’ve enjoyed a day or two of eating cookies for breakfast and watching the kids enjoy their new toys) it’s time to figure out where in the world you’re going to put all of this stuff.

In the midst of all the pine needles and strewn about presents, clean-up can seem overwhelming.

Here are a few strategies to help you get started and set up the house for a more simplified New Year ahead.

1. Inventory & Evaluate the Toys:

Oh, the toys! Even with the most valiant efforts to curb the influx of toys this time of year, you can find yourself with quite a pile once the glitter settles. 

Teach your kids that this is a great time to go through their toys and pass on what is no longer played with. Kids outgrow their once beloved toys very quickly and in this digital age, they are mainly on electronics in their spare time so they don’t need that much stuff. Sit with them and gather ALL THE TOYS in the house. Consider carefully those you choose to keep in your space, those you put away for later, and those you find another home for.

2. Set up a Donation Station:

While surely every gift was given in good cheer, it truly is the thought that counts. If items won’t be useful or enjoyed in your home, donate them to someone who will find value in them. With the aim of getting a fresh start in the new year and finding a new home for all of those holiday gifts, put those empty Amazon boxes and festive gift bags to good use by setting up an area of your home to collect items for donation. Encourage the whole family to fill those containers with items they no longer use or enjoy. 

3. NEW RULE-One in, Two out :

As you take stock of the new items that you’ve been gifted and begin to put them away, apply the one in, two out rule as you go. If you have a new shirt, find two old shirts you no longer wear and set them aside for donation. If you’ve been given a new book, replace two old books you know you won’t pick up again. Teach your children this rule with their toys as well.

4. Take Care in the Take Down:

When taking down the holiday decor, rather than fast as you can, pack things away neatly in ways that will make things easier next year. Discard broken items. Sort pieces by category. Use a cardboard tube to keep lights from tangling. Label your boxes. Only keep the things you love and donate the rest.

5. Deep Clean:

If you really want to start the New Year fresh, after the de-cluttering and the donating, take some time to deep clean your home. This is a great task to outsource if possible and a wonderful way to ensure a clean start to a healthy new year.

Cheers!

XO, Stacy

 

Helping Aging Parents

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  One of the most challenging things to do in our adult lives will be dealing with our aging parents. Many of us are sandwiched between elderly parents and young children. Nearly half of adults in their 40's have a parent age 70 or older and we are also either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child. Take a breath 'cuz it's a lot to handle!

It's time to face the reality and be as well equipped as possible to deal with the responsibilities that come with caring for parents and children simultanously.

Besides dealing with the usual unknowns of daily life, taking care of our parents may quickly become a daily responsibility. One of the hardest things to do will be to convince a parent to move out of their long-time home or get the care they need. Often they get to a point where they cannot live on their own and they will need more support.

Here are a few basic tips to use and to help things stay in perspective while in this extremely difficult process.

IMPORTANT ITEMS TO DISCUSS:

CAREGIVING - Caregiving is a family affair. Often the child who lives closest to the parent is going to handle most of the burden simply because of proximity. It is important to gather your brothers, sisters, children and uncles and aunts together to address an ailing loved ones needs. It is good to have a meeting and discuss the problem, without the parent present, and be realistic about the situation.

THE FUTURE: It’s never too early to start to have regular conversations about what the future holds. Approach it as your problem instead of your parent's problem, If you tell them 'you have to do this, or do that’, you'll lose them. Instead say something like, 'Mom, I'm concerned about you; it makes me worried to see you like this.'" Share your concerns from YOUR perspective and try to get a plan in place.

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POWER OF ATTORNEY: Important items to address include financial issues and who will act as the elder's durable power of attorney for health care. "One of the most important things is to decide who will make the critical decisions,". Typically a family approach is recommended where one capable person be appointed as the elder's primary advocate. This person, whether a son or daughter or adult grandchild, should be in charge of financial decisions and act as the elder's durable power of attorney for health care.

FINAL WISHES:

Although difficult, take the time to talk to your parent(s) about their final wishes. Do they have plans already made or do they avoid the discussion like the plague? The more you know, the less you have to worry about the "what if's". Traditions, buriel/cremation plans, financial situations and any other wishes should be discussed and ideally documented.

The more open and honest everyone is the better the outcome. This is often a challenging time for most families but you need to try and look at the bright side. Life is short, the people that drive you crazy are the ones you're going to miss the most!

Try to stay present, get support, communicate effectively (not emotionally) and be grateful every day.  It's also good to keep in mind the way you treat/talk about your parents in front of your children. They are also learning about caring for people and what they see from you sets the tone for their general compassion.

Try to come from a place of love. This is what being an adult is all about!

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

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It’s already February! Well basically. It’s January 31. How did that happen so fast?

Here we are in 2016. Our kids are older and changing every day. We’re older. We’re finally settled into the new year and the holidays feel like a distant memory.

As we have thoughtfully planed for the year ahead, many of us may have high expectations for ourselves (not to mention our kids!). There's probably so much going on in your life right now that you need to STOP for one moment and take a breath.

We want to accomplish all we set out to do. But first, we must set ourselves up for greatness and success. Let's start by evaluating our (often overwhelming) expectations.

Be realistic and respectful of yourself. What are your goals? Can you just make a sudden shift and turn tired old habits into new productive ones? Or, do you need to make shifts more gradually with a lot of support?

I personally like to set goals. Goals can be set small or high but there is less pressure attached to the idea of a goal, than making an "instant" shift. Know your patterns. Set smaller, easily attainable goals that will eventually lead you to the bigger accomplishments you want to make down the road. They also keep me focused.

Here are my goals for 2016:

  • Exercise at least 30-50 minutes/ 4-5 days a week
  • Take my vitamins daily and be more conscious of “white food” intake. Eat more veggies!
  • Take classes.
  • Meet new people and try new things.
  • Have lower expectations of others & try to not take things personally.
  • Practice gratitude.

I have many other things I want to accomplish (photography classes, sustainable gardening, learning another language, getting my Nutritionist certification…) but I feel these few are the most important to get me in a good head space. I have simplified all of my goals into these six "self-improvement" goals, this way, I am setting myself up for success. The more success I have, the more likely I am to set and maintain higher goals down the road.

Most importantly be nice to yourself! If you are making positive changes and listening to your inner voice, you will feel so good! Be your best self and give yourself a pat on the back for making any positive changes in your life.

If you can simplify your life one goal at a time, you cannot fail. Take one step at a time and believe in yourself. You are the master of your choices!

Blessings and love,

Stacy

Good Morning!

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Let's face it, we could all use a better routine in the morning. Mornings are tough for most of us. With spouses, kids and jobs it's amazing we get anywhere on time some days! But, the good news is that I am here to make your morning a little less stressfulI. 

I have put together some simple tips that are very easy to implement into your morning routine. Creating just a few new habits will help you to easily get out the door and onto a productive, successful day.

If all you take from this is one new habit at all, I would highly suggest getting prepared the night before. This applies for you and your kids and really helps cut down on wasted time in the morning therefor reducing overall stress.

Here are a few of the things I do that help me have easier mornings;

  1. Lay out your clothes/kids clothes the night before. This is especially helpful so your not searching for an appropriate outfit for a meeting with your boss, an important interview or a workout with a friend.
  2. Plan breakfast and coffee the night before. Put out anything you can ahead of time (cereal, oatmeal, fruit...) and set your coffee maker to brew on auto.
  3. If your going to work out, plan this the night before. If you are taking a class, make sure you know what time it starts and when to get there so your prepared (and get a good spot). Some people even suggest sleeping in your gym clothes so you’re REALLY ready to go!
  4. Get ready to go. Have everything by the door the night before, kids backpacks, keys, sunglasses, purse, important papers etc.

Another important habit to follow is, DO NOT HIT SNOOZE!  Try to get up at least 15 minutes earlier than you know you have to. Unless you have a tremendous amount of self control, try not to look at your phone (I know this is a tough one) but this can turn into a HUGE time trap really throwing you off schedule. If your phone is your alarm clock, turn it off and put it down once awake. GET UP AND MOVE!

In terms of self care, the earlier you get yourself ready, the more time you have to monitor your time. Once your up, get done what you need to. For some this may be shower, make-up and full hair, others maybe just brushing their teeth and splashing cold water on their face. Whatever your routine is, try to be prepared ahead of time by keeping your bathroom as clutter-free as possible. Get dressed and get your nourishment for the day.

TIME TO EAT-Keep breakfast simple, but make sure not to skip it. If you prepare the night before this will ensure you leave the house with something to eat (even a banana or apple is better than nothing).

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MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR COMMUTE

If you drive to work, use your Bluetooth to roll calls. Set up your phone with numbers you frequently dial so you can just give a voice command and be connected. If you're driving-NO TEXTING! If you take the train or subway, try to get your e-mails or any other computer work done while en route.

The more you get done early on, the more time you will have throughout the day.

Building a routine that gives you a calm, efficient, organized morning can be a difficult task. It is definitely a matter of trial and error. Try a few of these tip and let me know if it helps you! I'd love to hear any other suggestions too.

Have a beautiful day! xo

Books

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One thing I know for sure is that everyone I adore loves their books. We can't seem to let go of them even after we've read them. I mean who doesn't love curling up in a comfy chair and reading a favorite novel? That being said, there is a fine line between holding on to favorite books and letting "collections" become out of control. Perhaps we all have a fantasy in our heads that one day we might have a library of our very own? Or, maybe we keep them to remind ourselves of our accomplishments? All those great books we're holding on to from College Psychology textbooks to Fifty Shades of Grey. We've already read them (or plan to) so why are we hanging on to them and letting them clutter our space?

The reason is simple. Books are associated with knowledge. We want to be considered knowledgeable and by showcasing all the books we've acquired (read, plan to read, gifted or looked through) we can feel productive and scholarly. Maybe we miss the person we once were and having the books surround you keeps you in your nostalgic space. Whatever reason, it's time to take inventory.

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Just the idea of organizing your books can be overwhelming. Your book collection is very personal, filled with favorites you cherish, childhood classics, cookbooks and how-to's you use for reference repeatedly.

And then, there's the rest: the books you bought at the airport, the one your book club briefly mentioned at last month's meeting, the one your friend lent you on the beach last summer and, of course, all the books you've bought and intend to read but have not. Truth the reality is, if you haven't already read it, you are not going to. Really.

Don't get me wrong, everyone should have a nice collection but, it really must be maintained and curated.

So, now that you're willing to part with a few, how do you know what books to keep and what to get rid of?

I have put together  a few basic guidelines to help you. Here's the breakdown:

  • Reference Books (Cookbooks, Dictionaries, handbooks etc.) If it’s a book that you  use, can pass down to a child, or has sentimental or monetary value and you still want it – keep it.
  • If you LOVE it - keep it.
  • If it’s tattered, torn, you've already  – donate it.
  • If it’s taking up space and you haven't read it – donate it.
  • Not sure?  Put it in a box in your basement and if you don’t come back to it in 6 months – it can go

WHERE TO DONATE:

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Bag or box up all books to donate. There are several venues that will accept used books:

  • Libraries (Public and school)
  • Charitable organizations
  • Senior centers
  • Local book drives

Ideally you want to do your book purge in one day (or a few days depending on how many books you have), but if that's simply not possible, take a 1/2 hour here and there. Every book you let go of is a great accomplishment!

I know this is a difficult, emotional task for many of you! I feel your pain! But, I promise, if you do your purging calmly and thoughtfully, there will be no regrets.

So, how many can you get rid of? The challenge is on!

xo

 

Purging Kids Clothes

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If you’ve got kids, you’ve got clothes. TONS of clothes! And as your kids grow, all those little pants, tops and dresses just keeps multiplying! As clothes begin to take over their rooms, drawers and closets, it’s time for you to take back control. In an ideal world, we would all have the time to go through our kids clothes, shoes and sports uniforms and discard what is no longer needed on a regular basis. But, let’s face it, life as a parent is way too crammed with activities that we barely have time to take a shower let alone organizing our kids socks!

Here are a few basic steps to help you on your way to retain control and set up systems to help you keep on top of their clothes BEFORE they take over their rooms.

Find a common item to tackle and don’t stray. For example, if your child has overflowing drawers in his or her room, start there, in the room, next to the dresser.

  1. Grab some empty bags or boxes. Trash bags or store bags with handles work fine for donation items.
  2. Label the bags and/or boxes KEEP, DONATE, RECYCLE & TOSS
  3. Dump EVERYTHING out. Even if you think you’ve looked through there recently, do it anyway.
  4. Go through piece by piece.
  5. Dispose of accordingly

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I know this may be hard, but try to be mindful in this process. Be SELECTIVE about what you are keeping. Use your best judgment.

Anything too small should be donated and anything stained or torn should be tossed.

If you have hand-me-downs that don’t quite fit, go through those and take out what you want, place in a box or bag and label with the clothing size and or/season. Store extra items in child's closet (or garage if there is no room).

IF you have items to pass on to family or friend, make a separate pile and be sure to plan delivery of said items in the immediate future so they don’t accidentally get donated, tossed or mixed back in with the keepers. Place in a labeled bins or boxes and make arrangements to drop off as soon as possible.

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On to the organization part:

  • Take all the KEEPERS and put back in categories. Shorts, dresses, tee's. pants, swim, athletic... All like items together in their place.
  • You can also use dividers in the drawers to customize and maximize the space.

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  • Next, take ALL DONATIONS down to your car and drop off (or schedule a pick-up) ASAP!
  • TOSS unwanted items in the trash.

CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve now set your child up for a streamlined wardrobe, one that he/she can easily navigate.

With kids, it really is less = more. The less they have to choose from the easier it will be for them to make decisions. Often while trying to empower our children we end up overwhelming them with too many choices.

Take the time to do this on a regular basis; I suggest every three-four months if your kids are under ten. Mark it down on your calendar and make it a priority. Cleaning and going through your kids stuff on a regular basis is part of being a parent. Think about it as taking inventory. Now you know what items are where when you need to find them.

You’ve also done a good deed and potentially helped someone else by donating. In addition, this sets a good example for your kids to learn about being charitable and not excessive.

Now your kids will find it so much easier to get dressed when you’ve eliminated the things they don’t wear. This leads to happier more harmonious mornings for everyone!  Remember, LESS IS MORE!!! xo

 

 

 

Homework "HELP!"

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Welcome back! Today we are talking about homework. Now that school is back in session, your kids are probably bringing home lots and lots of papers. These papers seem to be taking over your life! Everything from important information, class syllabi, forms to sign, school calendars, menus, scholastic book forms, and, best of all, the ever-dreaded homework has found its way into your home! Well, before you tear all your hair out, I have a few basic tips to help you stay on top of all those papers and help your kids develop a positive attitude and make homework time a little easier.

Depending on their age, ability and temperament, all kids have different challenges when it comes to getting homework done. One of the best ways to get children to improve their homework organization skills is by establishing a routine. Be consistent. If they learn to do the same thing each day, they will develop the skills to become more independent and get their homework and projects done in a timely manner.

First, designate one place for homework. A “Homework Station” if you will. Identify a clean, well-lit, non-distracting area for your kids to do their homework. We use our kitchen table and nearby desk where the main computer and printer are. Large tables in common areas are perfect for doing homework. If you set your kids up in their rooms you may not be able to monitor what they are actually doing. Again, this depends on their age, how many distractions are in the rest of house and their own level of focus. If they are self-regulated and good at working independently, then their room may just be the best spot for them to get their assignments done.

Whichever area you choose, keep it well stocked. Have plenty of paper (printer, college ruled, construction, graph...), pencils, erasers, crayons, markers, index cards, extra folders and notebooks, tape, rulers, stapler, printer ink... organized and accesible. If you are always prepared with basic (of which there are many) supplies, your kids will know that you see their work as a priority and you won't have to run out at midnight to get necessary items.

Store important school information in ONE PLACE. Use a filing system or extra bins and shelving for current projects and important papers. If you don’t have any shelving space available, you can purchase a number of portable storage bins anywhere from Target or office supply stores to Pottery Barn.

Papers with passwords to classroom sites, upcoming field trip forms, after-school enrichment schedules and anything else that you need to frequently look at, can be tacked onto a bulletin board or kept in a file (I tape mine onto the inside of my desk cabinet doors). It is so important to have ONE PLACE for everything school related to “live”. This way, things don’t go missing or get lost.

Set-up a backpack home. In your homework station area, include a place for their backpacks to live. I simply put up hooks next to the table where they do their work. Create a routine with them so when they come home, they empty their backpacks, set out their work and hang their backpacks up in their designated place. When homework is complete, they put everything back in their backpacks and are ready and prepared for the next school day. This is super-helpful for getting their things ready for the next morning. They know exactly where everything is and are ready to “Grab & Go”.

We have had the same after school routine for the past 5 years and it works very well for us.

  1. Arrive home, hang backpacks and take out work.
  2. Wash hands (and change clothes if necessary) and have a snack.
  3. Homework-starting with most challenging or time-consuming assignment
  4. Sport or instrument practice
  5. Dinner
  6. Shower (or bath) read and bed.

This routine has worked very well for our family. Obviously things come up and this may not be practical every day. But if you set yourself up and try to be consistent I assure you homework time will be a MUCH more pleasent experience for everyone involved!

Organized Lunch Packing

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Hallelujah!

For us, school starts tomorrow. Many of your kids may not go back tomorrow but within the next few weeks we will all have to face the dreaded, daily lunch packing challenge! Being prepared is crucial to staying organized for this daily task. Here are a few tips to make the process easier and maybe even a little bit fun!

  1. Involve your kids. Sit down with your kids ahead of time to plan out some good balanced lunch options. Use the simple guidelines below to create yummy and healthy snack/lunch ideas that are easy to pack. Pay attention to what they like. If you're just packing what you think they should eat, it will probably just get thrown out. Work with them to create a lunch they will actually eat and give them the energy they need to get through the day.
  2. Make lunch cards. Grab some index cards and write down their lunch options. Create at least 5 different, balanced lunches on paper. Involve your kids in this process. Now that you have your lunches planned out, they can select which one they want for the next day. Keep cards clipped on the fridge or in an accessible jar or bin in the kitchen. Pick a card, pack it up, throw in a water and you're set to go!
  3. Make their lunch the day before. I always pack their lunches after I empty out the lunch box they brought home that day. After school, have them empty out their lunch box and set it on the counter. Depending on their age, they can pack it themselves or you can do it together. Store packed lunch in the fridge. In the morning put an ice pack in to keep things cool.
  4. Be prepared: They may not be the healthiest but buy some pre-packed snacks so they are easy to just throw in. Coupled with some protein, fresh fruit and veggies these are fine in moderation and make lunch making a whole lot easier. Some good options are: yogurt tubes, string cheese, chips or Goldfish, hummus with pretzels, crackers, KIND bars, Z bars... You get the idea. You can also pre-pack fruits and veggies. Carrots, celery, cucumber, frozen grapes, tangerine slices etc. pre-packed in baggies will stay fresh a few days in the fridge. Keep these items stocked and stored together in the fridge or pantry. Let everyone know those are for lunches and off-limits while at home.
  5. Have supplies handy. Make sure you have a few good lunch boxes, water bottles, baggies, spoons, forks and plastic containers with lids on hand. There are so many options and many reusable baggies and containers to use too. Know what works for your child. If he/she is always losing his/her expensive water bottle and lunch box, try a paper bag, disposable baggies and store-bought plastic water bottles.
  6. Send love. Have a few cute "love" notes already cut out to pop in for your little cutie! Pinterest has some awesome "lunch box note" printables available for free. No matter how old your child is, seeing a little note from you will always put a smile on their face!

Be realistic. Staying organized is really just some thoughtful thinking and planning ahead. If you turn this "chore" into a habit, involve your kids and have the right items on hand, you'll be setting yourself up for success and your kids will be well nourished and able to focus in class.

So...pack on CHEERS to a great, first week back at school!352bb167cde8da81a21f0d5dc29b3b8c

Accessible Medications

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One very important thing to keep organized is your medications. It is crucial to stay current with these in case of emergency. Especially with kids or elderly people in your home you want to know that you have everything you need in case of an emergency.

With just a few, simple steps you too can be super organized and will no longer  have expired meds, vitamins and ointments taking up space in your medicine cabinets. So gather all your meds, first-aid kits, band-aids and vitamins and lets get started!

FIRST:

Asses your situation:

Where are all of your meds? In case of emergency, do you have everything you need in one place? If not start by gathering all meds and first-aid items, including band-aids and emergency items such as Epi-Pens or Antihistamines.

You should now think about WHERE you take your vitamins and meds and keep them in one container in that room. You can use items like plastic shoe boxes, small lazy susans or drawer organizers or whatever you may have to consolidate like items together.

I like to keep our daily vitamins and meds in the kitchen so I can take them and give to my kids at breakfast. Any meds or vitamins I take at night, I keep that in my night-stand drawer and I keep all First Aid items and extra supplies in our hall linen closet in labeled bins:

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NEXT:

Gather ALL meds, first aid items, creams and vitamins. Go through all items one by one reading the dates and the pertinent information.

Any expired meds and creams should be put into one "discard" pile. Any medications you no longer use or were for a past infection or illness should also be put into the discard pile.

Take all other like items and store together in the place you will be using them. Organize by type and label for easy accessibility.

FINALLY

Getting rid of the expired stuff:

There are many improper ways to dispose of meds, like tossing in the trash or flushing down the toilet. Here is what I like to do to insure they don’t get into the wrong hands or filtered into our water system.

According to the FDA, they give the following suggestions when throwing out expired, unwanted, or unused medicines:

  • Some pharmacies have Medicine Take-Back Programs, if you have a large number of meds to dispose of, I suggest finding a pharmacy that offers this.
  • If you choose to dispose of items at home:
    • Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds;
    • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag; and
    • Throw the container in your household trash.

Before throwing out your empty pill bottles or other labeled packaging, remember to scratch out (or tear off) all information on the prescription label to make it unreadable.

In regards to expired liquids and syrups, these can be poured down the drain. Expired creams can safely be tossed in the trash.

Please take the time to do this. It is so important to take inventory on a yearly basis. You do not want to be caught unprepared.

Cheers to your health!

 

 

 

 

 

Paperless Trail; The Art of Going Paperless

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Interested in going paperless? Sounds intriguing, right? It’s pretty easy to do and you may have already implemented some of these paper-saving strategies into your daily routine. Paper is something we have to deal with every day. Some of our every-day sources of paper clutter include mail, newspapers, magazines, junk mail, fliers, homework and art projects from school and so on. If you don’t address your daily papers at a minimum (ideally) of twice a week, it will get out of control.

As far as I am aware, it is impossible to be entirely paper free, but here are a few tips to help you to significantly cut down your paper load.

  1. Online Banking and Bill Pay.

Most banks offer online banking and bill pay. If you haven’t already looked into this, it should be simple enough to get started. Look up your bank online and see what they offer. It makes it so easy to stay on top of your daily finances, transfer money and pay bills all from the comfort of your home computer, laptop or even smart phone.

  1. Switch to Paperless Statements and Bills.

Contact your credit card companies, banks, utility companies, and other financial services and request paperless statements. They will send your statements via e-mail and you can store them in folders in your Inbox (you already have these right?). They will usually offer incentives for doing this. Sometimes you can even get a better interest rate or additional perks for going paperless.

  1. Sign up for Direct Deposit.

Most companies offer direct deposit where they will automatically deposit your paycheck into your bank account. This will eliminate paper checks and records and save you tons of shredding time in the long run. Many banks also waive checking and general banking fee’s when you add this service to your account. Talk with your employer and your financial institution to set up today.

  1. Subscribe to Newspapers and Magazines Online or via App.

Many print publications are also available (for a reduced rate) through an on-line subscription or app on your smart phone. For online subscription, go to your publication’s website and see if they offer it. For and app look on iTunes to see if your favorite mag. has it’s own app. You will still get all the same content…just with less clutter!

  1. Find Owner’s Manuals Online.

When you purchase something that comes with a manual, visit the manufacturer’s website and check to see if you can download the manual instead. Then, create a folder on your computer labeled “Owner’s Manuals” and trash your paper copies.

  1. Create a Digital Recipe Box.

Subscribe for a FREE service over at AllRecipes.com.  Then search through thousands of recipes to find ones you love and store them in your digital recipe box. The next time you need a recipe, just log onto their site.

  1. Store Pictures Digitally.

Only print the pictures you love and keep the rest on iPhoto and on a portable storage drive (a back up in case something happens to your computer), or on CD’s. It’s OK to take lots of pictures, but printing ALL of them is just a waste of time, space, and money. I take this one step further by creating digital photo albums atShutterfly.com. You can set up your account and upload as many photo albums, as you want. You can order prints, books, cards, calendars and more.

  1. Scan Important Documents into Your Computer.

This is pretty self-explanatory, but if you can get in the habit of scanning your receipts and other document into your computer and organizing them into specific folders on your desktop, you will nearly eliminate all the rest of your paper.

Keeping a organized filing system for papers you DO need to keep will help you maintain a clutter free desktop and allow you the ability to access forms, receipts or bills when you need them.

Our society, as a whole, is moving slowly towards the paperless route — YOU CAN DO IT TOO! Implement a few of these basic ideas today. You’ll save yourself a lot of shredding in the long run and won’t be overwhelmed by your paper clutter anymore.

Organized Shopping

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I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. How many times have you gone into a store to buy one or two things and $200.00 (or more!) later, you have a car full of stuff you didn’t intend to buy? We are all guilty of buying things that we simply just don’t need. Whether we are at the grocery store, Nordstrom, Costco or Target (my personal faves.) we all could use more help when it comes to shopping more thoughtfully. Luckily for you, I am here to give you some tips on how to change all that and stay on task when in the stores so... listen up!

Tip 1: Figure out what your weekly financial allotment is for shopping; food, necessities, clothing, auto, pet supplies etc. and set a realistic budget that you can stick to. If you have a joint account with your spouse, make sure he or she is on the same page as you. Work this out as a team, otherwise you are headed for some heated arguments and possibly the couch!

If you need help creating a budget, there are dozens of interactive tools available online, including your bank. If you have a smartphone, apps are handy for managing your spending on the go. Once you are able to recognize certain spending patterns, you can decide what it is that you would like to change. Do some research and you will be on your way to setting up an easy to follow shopping budget for you and your family.

Bonus tip: try to use cash when you go shopping. You will DEFINITELY stay within budget if all you have is the cash in your wallet.

Tip 2: After you have the financials figured out, encourage yourself, every day, to shop with intention. Before you head into a store, set your limits. Come equipped with a well thought out list and consider the following questions when you veer into dangerous territory and are tempted to buy off the list:

  1. Did I come into this store for this particular item?
  2. What will I use this item for?
  3. Why do I need it? (“Because I want it” isn’t a sufficient answer)
  4. Do I already have something like it?
  5. Where will it “live” in my house
  6. Am I 100% sure I need it?
  7. Is it returnable (make sure of the store policy) if I find I don’t really need it?
  8. Can I really afford this right now?

Creating a list and sticking to it is critical to organized shopping. And now, it’s easier than ever especially if you have a cell phone (everyone does, right?). Use the tools and apps available to you. They will help you tremendously in getting organized and staying on financial track.

Tip 3 (and most importantly): Be honest with yourself. Stay within your own personal means when shopping, especially for “non-necessities”. Don’t let the excitement of the moment encourage you to purchase something when you know, deep down inside, that it’s not the best decision.

I know, it’s hard to avoid that when you feel you deserve it for working hard, or something is really cute, or the kids would love it... but those justifications will lead you off track when shopping and, possibly, even closer to debt.

Number one: DON'T BLAME YOURSELF! We are a nation addicted to instant gratification. Daily we are encouraged to BUY BUY BUY! Unfortunately, this can lead to overspending and clutter in our homes. Back in the day people used to save their money to buy things they really wanted. Remember lay-a-way? Today with the overuse of credit cards, and the pressure of “keeping up with the Joneses” we just don’t practice that same discipline.

But, the good news is that you CAN make changes. YOU have the power! I now command you to take control of your actions! Use the tools that are available to you and you too will be on the road to successful, organized shopping. You will find you feel a lot better about yourself when you maintain control and within budget than you would if you were toting around a $1,400.00 Louis Vuitton purse you really couldn’t afford.

Remember; less is more.

CLUTTER INTERVENTION!

ATTENTION! This is for those of you who need to address some serious clutter issues! You know you need to but you keep putting it off. No more! Get to this ASAP! Let me explain why. Yesterday I was working with a client who I have done a few projects for. She is a lovely woman in her early 60’s who lives on her own and works full-time. Her home, which she has lived for the past 25 years, is beautiful. It is very welcoming and cozy. On the surface it looks very clean and tidy.  But, once you look in the cupboards and closets (of which there are many!) you will see complete clutter and chaos. I went over yesterday to work on our current project, her two hallway linen closets.

Automatically, my assumption is that she probably has things in here that haven’t seen the light of day for 20-25 years. Most of which is old medications, beauty products, hair, bath and body care, far past expiration, that will need to be tossed. She however, like a lot of clients, is reluctant to even begin the process of going through it. These areas of her home are attached to emotional feelings like shame, embarrassment, failure etc. and are difficult to confront, it doesn’t even matter what the stuff is. Subliminally, the STUFF acts as a sort of layer of protection. Unfortunately, this negative energy is a part of your house and you need to get confront it and move it on out.

While I always like to remain empathetic to the client, I also have to move right on in and begin. I take out all items shelf by shelf and before you know it, we are onto our second Hefty bag and moving quickly. As I had suspected, I found old hairdryers, curlers, toothbrushes, heating pads, 23 tubes of toothpaste and loads of unused STUFF that just needed to be tossed. I also found good things that just needed to be categorized, organized and made accessible.

I then proceeded onto the linen cabinet. As I started to pull out OLD sheets and towels (that had not been used in 25 years) I noticed something strange. It looked like old diapers. Then I saw the hole in the wall. And then, I spotted mouse feces. Now, rodents are not something I’ve ever had to face head on with a client before, but I remained very calm since I knew this was going to embarrass her and potentially affect, or even halt, this process.

I calmly and quickly proceeded to throw everything away and clean up the mess and reassured her that this was going to be fine. The feces were not fresh so we don’t actually know how long ago this “mouse party” occurred or if dead mice are living in her walls but that, I will leave for her and her pest control company to find out. Everything in the cupboard was trashed except for a few white towels. We found an old piece of ply board in the garage and I covered up the hole, took off the old contact paper and wiped it down clean.

So, my friends, the moral of the story is do not let your clutter take over. We tossed at least 80% of what was in there. She didn’t need it or use it. She was completely unaware that she had mice living in her home, building a nest out of her clutter. Now she knows what can happen if you neglect spaces in your home. With my help, she now has a massive, empty, clean cupboard to put down some pretty contact paper and start over fresh.

Stay on top of your things and you will find that you will be in control of your life in many other ways as well. Stuff does not protect us. It actually holds us back from getting to what we really need to be doing.

Get rid of the things you no longer use! Donate old sheets and towels to animal or homeless shelters. There will never be an occasion where you are going to have a use for 45 old, stained towels. I promise!

If you are just too overwhelmed and don’t even know where to begin, try to get some help. Professional organizers are great as we only see your things as “stuff” and can be 100% objective so we can help you get through the process in a quick and super effective manner. Many offer package deals so it may even be more affordable that you would think.

If you are out of my location, check outhttp://www.napo.net to find a professional organizer in your area.

Move on and let go!

Peaceful Functional Bathrooms

Peaceful Functional Bathrooms

First of all, a bathroom should be a simple, yet functional space. For many of us, yes I'm talking to all you busy mommies out there, being alone in the bathroom is the only ALONE time we get all day! Let's take some time to make it a nice, relaxing, super-functional space to be in.

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10 STEPS TO DE-CLUTTERING

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If you’re feeling overwhelmed, drained and stressed while you are in your home, you need to seriously evaluate your space. Ideally, your home should be a place to relax, unwind and spend time with your loved ones. Your very own oasis!

If “stuff” has taken over, and you can’t take it anymore, here are a few tips to help YOU take back control over your space.

  1. Start with one room or a small area. Take a look at your space and try to envision how you really want it to look. We often think we need to buy new things to create the space we desire, but really we just need to get rid of the things that we no longer have use for. Try to picture your space clutter-free and use that as your motivation to get you going.
  2. Give yourself a good amount of time to get in there and evaluate what things you can easily get rid of. Be honest with yourself. Don’t just take items out and move them to another room, really pull out items that you no longer have a use for. Maybe you’re hanging on to an old treadmill? Passed down furniture? Old clothes that no longer fit? If these items don’t fill you with peace and happiness, it’s probably time for them to go.
  3. Create piles; DONATE, TOSS and KEEP. I know getting rid of things you’ve spent good money on is difficult. For most of us, this is the main cause of clutter and unhappiness. The “I bought it, I should use it” mentality is always present when confronted with getting rid of our things. Again, be honest. Maybe someone else would get some use out of it? Be charitable and consider donating any items that you really just don’t use. Whether we re-sell our possessions, donate them to charity, or give them to a friend, they are immediately put to use by those who need them.
  4. Stick with it. De-cluttering brings up many emotions when you are faced with having to really evaluate your belongings. Childhood memories, past relationships, failed diet and exercise plans, often bring up feelings of guilt, shame, loss and anger. As hard as it may be, acknowledge those feelings. Try to look at getting rid of these emotion-filled items as a way to move forward towards the life that suits you NOW.
  5. When in doubt, toss it out! If you’re just not sure if you love it or need it, if it’s something you forgot you had, you don’t need it. Remember your vision. Was this item in your vision? No? I didn’t think so. Toss, donate or sell.
  6. Shift your perspective. We’ve grown up in a culture of more is more, but to be truly happy, less really is more. More space for new experiences, more time and energy for you. Less stuff, less to clean, keep organized and maintain. You will have more time, space and energy to enjoy the things you want to do.
  7. Drop off or schedule your donation pick up ASAP. If you have a large amount to donate, many organizations will pick up for you and give you a receipt to write-off at tax time. Please consider donating old towels, pillows, blankets, pet toys and pet gear to your local animal shelter.
  8. Go easy on yourself. Your possessions weren’t collected in one day and your de-cluttering process can take anywhere from 3 days to 6 months depending on how much stuff, time and help you have. De-cluttering is a very difficult process for most. The process of de-cluttering also creates a big mess so be patient. You can DO IT!
  9. Enlist some help. If you started on your own and find it’s just too much for one person, try to motivate your spouse and kids to help you. If you live alone, ask a friend or a near-by relative. When you communicate effectively and ask for help, you may be surprised by who steps up.
  10. Schedule your next de-cluttering session. By committing time to de-cluttering, you strengthen motivation and embrace the goal of a clutter-free home. By keeping the de-clutter appointments, you will prove to yourself that your home, your sanity, your time and, most importantly, your happiness are worth the effort.

A clutter-free life is possible if you keep up with it. Parting with items can be emotional and stressful but with a little work, I promise you will reap the rewards of a space you can enjoy and relax in. The more you start to see the benefits, the more motivated you will be to continue on.