Friday, June 25, 2010

Strategies for a Stress-free Summer

With warm temperatures, no school, and family vacations, summer can be a wonderful chance to unwind and spend quality time with friends and family. But summer also has its organizational challenges thanks to less structured or at least different schedules. Here are some simple ideas for enjoying a less-stressed, more fun summer for the whole family.

Wrap Up the School Year in Style - Before you get too far into summer, be sure to wrap up the previous school year so you're not tripping over it all season long. Empty the school bags, get rid of stuff that's seen better days and store school supplies you can use again. Work with your child to review school and art work from the year - pick out the special stuff and store it in a flat box or a fun binder with plastic sleeves. Last but not least, take a rainy afternoon to review your digital photos from the year - clean them up by deleting less-than-great shots and labeling what's left. You can also take this a step further by creating a photo book with the highlights from the year.

Stay Organized with a Summer Fun Binder - While summer schedules are different, there's still a lot going on. Make your life easier by stowing all the reference materials you need such as camp schedules, babysitter contact info, party invitations, tickets and trip itineraries in a fun binder with plastic sheet protectors. If you have lots going on, you might want to use dividers to separate items by person or type of activity. This is also a great place to store ideas for fun rain or shine outings.

Gear Up for Fun in the Sun - If you haven't done so already, make sure your children's summer clothes are now front and center in their closets and drawers. Take stock of any additional items they need and be sure to donate what no longer fits. Stow warmer weather clothing in clear, labeled bins under the bed or other storage space in your home. Do yourself a favor and donate items that aren't likely to be used next season.

Warning: Summer Fun Zone – Summer comes with lots of gear - outdoor toys, beach supplies and camp equipment. To make things easy, clear the off-season gear out and set up a summer fun zone in your entry way, garage or other easy in-and-out location. Use large tubs or baskets to store items like balls and frisbees. A set of drawers or a bench with baskets can be good for smaller items like sunscreen, bug repellent, and flip-flops. Keep must-haves like helmets on easy-to-reach hooks. Get a head-start on packing for upcoming trips or camp by keeping a tote bag or bin to collect items you know you'll need or want.

Rainy Day Fun Indoors - Keeping your indoor toys and spaces under control can keep a rainy day inside from turning into chaos. Check out our Organizing Tips for Kids for a little help in this department. If you need to get out of the house, check your summer fun binder for indoor activity ideas and schedules.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Would you strip down for a better life?

A couple of weeks ago, I caught an episode of Oprah during which famed organizing expert Peter Walsh guided a ‘plugged in’ family of four through his Stripped Down program in hopes of leading them from disconnected (from each other) and disorganized to calm, cool and connected.

In order to strip down, the family agreed to the following rules for one week:

  1. No cell phones or texting
  2. No electronics
  3. Prepare and eat healthy meals together
  4. Clean and organize their home (previously covered in laundry and clutter)
  5. Hug and tell each family member something they love about them (every day)

While the first two may seem extreme, the point of the above rules was to get the family’s home and routines back into shape and more importantly to re-connect with each other rather than simply living together like ships in the night. I was immediately intrigued by the program and the obvious results. With Peter by their side to help them dig out from their piles and dig into the family dynamics, it was very clear that everyone, from the parents to the 5 year old and even the fifteen year old son benefited individually and as a family. At the end of the process, they tweaked the extreme rules to be slightly more manageable in the long term, while still effective. The revised rules looked something like this:

  1. No cell phones or texting between 6:00 and 9:00 pm
  2. No TV before school or during meals
  3. Sunday breakfast and 3 dinners together, plus a weekly meal plan
  4. Saturday morning clean up and family help with the laundry
  5. Keeping up with the daily sentiments, plus a weekly family night and regular date night for the parents

Would you be willing to make similar stripped down changes if it would improve your family relationships, decrease stress, and keep your home in better shape? Sign me up!

Of course, the connection between a clean, organized home and a healthy, happy family life is no surprise to me and probably not to you. As Peter and Oprah pointed out, if your home is a place you love, that will carry through to your relationships – not to mention alleviating mess and chore-related tension. Whip your home into shape one space at a time, starting with the hot spots that cause the most stress. Make it a family affair so everyone is invested in the process and the results. If you’re overwhelmed, you can always call in the professionals to help you put a plan in place and see it all the way through – we’re here to help!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Scenes From a Professional Organizer's Home: My Office

Things have been busy in Organizing Boston land, but I’m happy to report that I’m back to blogging and thought I’d jump back in with another ‘scene’ from my home. I’ll admit, I’d been avoiding showing you my office, mainly because I don’t see it as ‘finished.’ Since transitioning to working from home, I’ve made do with office stuff we already owned, rather than doing a complete office makeover, both for time and financial reasons. But the reality is, I’m using it, there are many things I like about it, and bottom line, it doesn’t have to be perfect. I can always make aesthetic and functional upgrades along the way, which I plan to do. Hopefully this inspires you to ditch the all or nothing attitude when it comes to organizing too! Here are some of my office keys to success:

Location, location, location! My office is actually a corner of the main room in our house right next to the sliding doors to our balcony. It is a space I like to be in, which is really important if you plan on getting anything done. If you don’t like your home office space, get creative and see where else you could set up shop. Otherwise, you will just do your work elsewhere (or not at all), creating extra work in shifting supplies back and forth.

A place for everything. While I’ve had to get creative (i.e. using the keyboard trays of the desks as shelves to store things), for the most part, everything as a home. This is essential to preventing the dreaded piles from growing on your desk, which then makes work challenging and uninviting. Also key to preventing pile-ups is taking 5 minutes to clear your desk top and put everything away at the end of the day. Mornings are much better when there’s a clear space to put your cup of coffee!

Form and function. Another office key to success is a comfortable chair and technology set-up. If you aren’t comfortable or there are barriers to efficiency, you’re going to be much less productive and probably won’t enjoy spending time in your office (and yes, this is possible!). While I didn’t embark on an office overhaul, I did invest in a new chair that I love – the Bungee Office Chair available at The Container Store. I also bought a wireless mouse to complement my laptop. If I end up spending more time at my computer than I currently do, I may consider a monitor and full keyboard, but this is working for now.

While I’m happily working away in my current set-up, there are definitely some improvements I plan to make. I think a new desk is in my future – for aesthetic and functional reasons - along with some wall shelving and/or additional free-standing shelves (I don’t have too many books, but I am at max capacity now, so I’d like to have a little room to grow). I also plan to get rid of my older laptop (still sitting on my desk). Let me know if you have any ideas for me and I will keep you posted on my progress this summer!