All posts by Val

Tips for Organizing Your Papers

Pile Of Documents On Desk Stack Up High Waiting To Be ManagedIf you haven’t given your files a glance recently, it’s likely time for a purge. You may have stacks of paper all over your house, or you may have papers languishing in your files that you no longer need. Either way, take some time this week to sort through your files and get them in shape. This will help you find what you need, when you need it. (and maybe even make tax time easier for you next year!)

If you need to create a filing system, follow these steps. How you sort and label each category and subcategory depends on what paperwork you have and what you need to keep track of (yourself, partner, 3 dogs, 4 kids, etc.)

  1. Gather all of your paperwork into one place.
  2. Sort papers into high level categories (Auto, Health Insurance, Health Information, Home Improvements, etc.). Create labels / hanging folders for each high level category. File folders, standing on the shelves at office
  3. Where necessary, sort high level categories into smaller subcategories (one for each car, each person’s health info, etc.). Label these folders.
  4. Put all paper you are keeping into their labeled folders.
  5. Recycle or shred the paperwork you don’t need.

I suggest keeping your system simple so it’s easy to maintain and expand. Feel free to color code, but keep in mind it needs to be easy to add more categories and subcategories.

No matter the state of your files, take some time to go through each folder, purge and shred what you don’t need, and catch up on your stack of filing. If you need guidance on what to keep or toss, ask your financial advisor or do some online research. Turn on some fun music, listen to your favorite podcast and get busy!

3 Steps For Clutter Awareness

Sometimes you may be so used to the stuff around you that don’t even know you have clutter. So, how can you become more aware of the clutter you have?  Read on for a few ideas.

  1. Take a picture. Then look at the picture. It gives you a different perspective and allows you to see the clutter you may be missing in person.
  2. Put stuff in a box. And date it. Clear rarely used items out of your kitchen utensil drawer (spatulas, knives, etc.), put them in a box, and put the box somewhere else in your house. If you truly need something from the box when you’re making a meal, then go get it. That item can now stay in your kitchen. After a certain amount of time (1 month, 6 months, your choice) donate everything else in the box. Use this technique for other items in your house you’re considering getting rid of.
  3. Turn your hangers backwards. If you have a lot of clothes in your closet that you are not sure about, turn the hangers backwards so they are facing the wrong way. If you’re like me, and most of your stuff sits on shelves, consider putting them on hangs for awhile anyway. Then,as you wear a piece of clothing, it gets put back on the shelf or the hanger gets turned back around. At the end of the season, you can see what you haven’t worn. Simply take these clothes out and put in your donation box.

Take a few minutes and think about how you can become more aware of your clutter!

Let’s Clean Out Your Closet!

The 3rd week of March is National Clean Out Your Closet Week. How are your closets looking?

You may be thinking about switching out your Fall / Winter clothes for your Spring / Summer clothes. Here, in Colorado, it’s been in the 70s for the last few weeks and we (likely) will see snow in April or May. So it’s hard to put away all of our warm clothes and we’ve all pulled out the t-shirts and sandals by now. But, it’s still a good time to clean out your clothes. As you’re switching your closets over and making warm weather items more accessible, think about the following questions. If your answer is ‘no’ to any of them, toss those clothes in your donate box (and create a donate box if you don’t have one).

  • Have I worn this recently? Will I wear it again?
  • Do I love it?
  • Does it fit me?

As I’m cleaning out my clothes, I’ll make a list of things I need to supplement. What shoes, necklaces, etc might I need to make sure I wear a certain shirt or pair of pants. Then, when I’m out shopping, I’ll know what I need and won’t end up with a closet full of clothes that I don’t wear because I don’t have anything that matches.

Let’s also talk about your linen closets. As you’re pulling your warm quilts and blankets from your bed, take a look at your linen closets. Are there items that need to be replaced? Does the closet simply need to be straightened up? Take a few minutes to make sure your linen closets are in order too.

Happy Spring!

5 Tips for Dealing With Procrastination

Messy Table with Blank Note and Tools at workplace Top view

The 2nd week of March is National Procrastination Month. Procrastination impacts us in many ways. It is incredibly draining if we’re ignoring something we don’t want to do, or need to do but for some reason keep putting it off. What could you be doing with that time and energy if you could just get that task off your list? What is holding you back from getting to that project? Here are 5 tips for getting started, dealing with that project, and battling procrastination.

  1. Break it in to small pieces. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Can you break the project into small pieces? If you just moved and are overwhelmed by boxes, tackle 1 box a day. If you want to get your house organized but don’t have a full weekend (or several), tackle 1 drawer or shelf at a time. Spend 15 minutes a day (or 5 or 10) cleaning something out.
  2. Invite guests over. It’s like setting a deadline. Host a dinner party or a backyard BBQ. Last spring, we hosted a baby shower and used it as an excuse to get a bunch of yard work done. Don’t just stuff everything into a closet. Schedule the time to clean out and find homes for everything.
  3. Find an accountability partner. Do you want to get up and exercise before work 3 times a week? Find a friend to join you. Or report to a friend each time you do it. Your friend can report to you about something he or she is doing and you can support each other through the process. There’s motivation in being responsible to someone else.
  4. Turn it into a game. Put on some music, set a timer, and see how quickly you can get something done. Hate putting away your laundry or cleaning the kitchen? Time yourself and see how fast you can do it. Or listen to a book on tape or your favorite podcast while you’re organizing your closets. Find a way to make it fun and it won’t seem like such a chore.
  5. Tackle a small to-do first. Or, tackle the biggest one. Sometimes I just need a small win before I can get going on other projects. I’ll pick the easiest thing on my list, maybe sending a birthday card to a friend. The satisfaction of crossing something off my list gets me motivated to continue on to bigger projects. Or, I’ll tackle the biggest project on my list. If I just make that phone call I’ve been avoiding or sit down and do the research I need to do, it will remove the stress and mental drain.

What steps can you take today to get past the procrastination and get started on a project?

3 Tips to Keep Your House Organized

Things To Do list with a pen on a desk.Business concept.

Ok, you’ve spent all this time getting your house organized and I bet you want to keep it that way. This week, we’re going to look at maintaining your beautifully organized house.

  1. Never leave a room empty handed.
    • When going upstairs (or downstairs) or to another room, take something with you that belongs elsewhere. My daughters clips end up all over the house and I’m constantly bringing them back to their box in the kitchen.
  2. Straighten as you go.
    • When putting away laundry, pull out clothes that don’t fit and make sure clothes (and linens) are neatly put away.
  3. Connect a task to another habit.
    • Clean old food out of the refrigerator when planning your meals for the week (or when it’s trash day).

It’s also a good idea to identify routines and systems you need to have in place. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • How often do you clean our your closets? Paperwork? Refrigerator? Pantry? Storage spaces?
  • What does your weekly routine look like? When do you buy groceries? Run errands? Clean? Plan meals? Do laundry? Pay bills? File?
  • What does your morning routine look like? Do you make sure dinner is defrosted? Clean up breakfast dishes? Get a load of laundry in the dryer?
  • What does your nightly routine look like? Do you pick up toys? Make lunches? Pack bags for the next day? Take some time for yourself?

This week, take some time to plan how you are going to maintain your newly organized projects.

Tips For Time Management

pexels-clockontableAre you feeling overwhelmed, like your time is managing you instead of you managing your time? Are you feeling busy but not productive or you’re just not sure where your time goes? Then read on for some ideas on better managing your time.

I recently realized that I had overcommitted my time. I had commitments 9 nights a month, which was bordering on too much for me. Those commitments didn’t include time with friends or family or simply relaxing on the couch with a good book. So, I decided which of my commitments made the least sense for me and I uncommitted myself.

There are many tools, books, and tricks on managing your time. You will need to decide what works best for you. I think saying ‘no’ (politely) is one of the most important skills out there.  This article talks about the importance of saying no as a great time management skill: One critical time management skill: saying no.

It’s also easy to feel overwhelmed at times. Sometimes, we simply have too much going on. A few weeks ago, my kids were sick for what felt like the 80th time this year. By the end of the week, I was overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I hadn’t gotten done that week. Laundry had piled up, I was tired of cleaning the kitchen, toys were everywhere and I was tired. So I prioritized what needed to be done, asked my husband and my (now healthy) kids for help, and got to work on the piles of stuff around the house.  This article discusses how to deal with feeling overwhelmed: Overwhelmed? Eight steps to help you regain control of your time. 

And, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some help with time management, organizing your house, home office, or routines, call in a professional (that includes me)! Sometimes a little outside perspective is all you need to get headed in the right direction.

It’s time to clean off your computer!

The 2nlaptopcoffeeflowerd Monday of February is clean out your computer day. When was the last time you went through and cleaned files, apps, and photos off your computer?

I’ve been working on cleaning
off our computer for the last year. We have thousands of pictures, old files from planning our wedding, old school papers, so many unncessary items. And our computer is old, we’ll likely need to replace it in the next 1-2 years. For me, simply moving files from one computer to the next is like moving boxes from one house to another without seeing what’s inside!

Here are 4 tips for cleaning off your computer.

  1. Take 15 minutes a day and start reviewing files, deleting those items you don’t need, and making sure everything else is properly labeled and filed for easy access.
  2.  Review any apps or programs that you never use and delete them. They’re just taking up space!
  3. Make a plan for keeping your files organized in the future. Create folders as you need them. I have a file called ‘Photos to Sort,’ where I put photos I don’t have time to deal with just yet. Once a month, I take a few minutes to go through these photos, delete the blurry ones and file the ones I want to keep.
  4. Ensure everything is labeled and that the label makes sense. You want to be able to find something when you need it.

Build some time in your schedule to start cleaning off your computer. Even if it’s just 1 hour a week, you’ll keep it organized and uncluttered.

Change Anything: Structural Motivation and Structural Ability

This week we are wrapping up my series looking at the six sources of influence found in one of my favorite books, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.

The last two sources to cover are structural motivation and structural ability. Structural motivation looks at bribing ourselves to change. Instead of believing you can simply make the change on your own, try something to entice you toward change. Structural ability looks at making changes in your structure or space to make your goals easier to reach.

Let’s start with structural motivation, which the authors describe as ‘inverting the economy’. Change your incentives to help you toward your goals. Here are a few tactics to use.

Use carrots and the threat of losing carrots.

  • Find an incentive for making the changes.
    • Take 30 minutes to read your favorite book when you turn down a commitment.
  • Give money to a charity you hate if you don’t meet set goals.
    • Maybe you give to a charity you don’t like if you say yes to a commitment you really wish you had turned down.

Use incentives in moderation and in combination.

  • Use small rewards, not big ones.
    • Taking yourself out for coffee each week you successfully deal with incoming mail and paperwork.

Use rewards in combination with social and personal motivators.

  • If you’re trying to keep your kitchen table uncluttered, maybe a family dinner or hosting book club is your reward.

Reward small wins.

  • Break your goals into smaller steps and reward those steps as you meet them.
    • Spend 15 minutes a day dealing with paperwork, instead of a Saturday afternoon.

The final source of influence is structural ability. This source looks at controlling your space. It’s tactics include:

Build fences

  • If you are saving money, don’t go into stores where you know you will spend money, unless you stick to a predetermined list and budget.
  • Don’t sign up for any magazines or mail subscriptions.

Manage distance

  • Create a distance between yourself and temptation.
    • Delete Internet bookmarks to make online shopping more difficult.
    • Deal with your mail somewhere other than your kitchen table.

Change cues

  • Create cues in your environment to remind you of the changes you are making.
    • Use your phone or photos on your fridge or car dashboard to place notes or checklists.

Engage your autopilot

  • Find a way to put something on autopilot or into a default mode so you don’t have to think about it.
    • Schedule regular appointments to deal with paperwork or to spend time with family members.

Use tools

  • Regularly post your progress on Facebook.
  • Commit to nightly family dinner or breakfast.
  • Ensure your electronic devices are working for you in your change.

We have now covered all 6 sources of influence. Remember that you need to use all 6 sources, not just a couple, if you want to make real progress towards change.

I hope you have found something useful in these posts and are able to use this information as you tackle some changes in your life!

Change Anything: Social Motivation and Social Ability

The last few weeks we have been looking at the six sources of influence found in one of my favorite books, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. I hope you’re finding the information useful! This week we are looking at social motivation and social ability.

Whether you identify it or not, the people in your life influence you in many ways. Some influence you towards the positive (the friend who meets you for a morning run) and some towards the negative (the friend who tells you to buy that shirt or eat that dessert because you deserve it, despite the fact that you’re trying to save money or lose a little weight).

Here are some ways to identify these influences and how best to change them towards the positive.

  • Identify the accomplices and the friends in your life. Who is leading you astray from your goals? The friend who always wants to go out for nice lunches followed by an afternoon of shopping? The roommate or partner who is constantly signing up for catalogs (which just clog up your dinner table)?
    • Who is helping you in a positive way? Who are your coaches or fans as you work towards your goals? Do you need a financial counselor? A professional organizer? A life coach? A therapist? An accountability partner?
  • Redefine  Normal. Stop comparing yourself to others. How do you want to live and who do you want to be?
    • Stop trying to keep up with everything your neighbors are doing. Sign off of Facebook for a few weeks. Just because your Facebook friends are constantly posting pictures of the latest adventure they’ve had doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong if you’re not out there doing the same thing. You are not them!
      • I’ve made Sundays my Facebook free days. If I have to, I’ll sign out of it so I’m not tempted.
      • Whenever I find myself comparing my life to others, I look at whether it’s something I would do. I’m not someone who wants to be traveling every weekend, so I can reframe it to ‘that’s not who I am or who I aspire to be.’
  • Have a transformative conversation. Talk to those you’d like to have as friends or coaches and tell them what you are doing and what you need from them.
    • Talk to your roommate or partner about how you’d like to get your mail organized or keep the clutter from your dining table.
    • Talk to your friend about how you’d like to spend time with her but you’re also trying to save money. Are there other things you can do together, like join an exercise group or meet for coffee instead?
  • Add new friends.
    • Join a social network or organization that supports your goals. Do you need a financial counselor? A professional organizer? A life coach? A therapist? An accountability partner?
    • Distance yourself from those who are unwilling to support you in your new endeavors. If you’re trying to save money, stop spending time with the friend who only wants to go shopping.

This week, take a look at your social motivation and social ability influences. Who in your life is helping you reach your goals and who is slowing you down? What can you do about this? I’m going to look at the social networks I am a part of and ensure they are helping me reach my professional and personal goals for the year. Public speaking through workshops on organizing is a goal of mine. I have joined Toastmasters as a way of building my public speaking skills and the members of my group are the friends in building those skills.

Next week we’re going to wrap up this series by looking at the structural motivation and structural ability.

Change Anything: Personal Ability

I hope you enjoyed my last blog on the personal motivation, one of the 6 sources of influence discussed in Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. This week, we’re going to look at Personal Ability.  

When wanting to make a change in your life, there’s often more than just willpower working against you. Sometimes, you may not have the skills to make the change. Maybe you never learned how to manage your money or how to deal with incoming mail and paperwork. Maybe you never had a problem with managing your time until you became an adult and had a house to manage, a full time job, a dog, and a new baby. Often, this lack of skill sits in what the authors call a blind spot. You simply didn’t know it was a problem!

Let’s look at some tactics on identifying your personal ability to tackle this change.

Start with a skill scan. Start looking at your ability to do what you need to before getting started on making changes.

  • You ignore your bills because you don’t understand how to track your finances. Unpaid bills coupled with your shopping habits, you may never end up paying down your debt.
    • Make an appointment with a financial advisor or take classes on managing your finances.
  • You say yes anytime someone asks for help (joining a committee, taking on extra work that requires extra hours) because you are worried about hurting someone’s feelings.
    • Take a class on assertiveness or create a rule that you always say ‘let me check my calendar and I’ll get back to you.’
  • You don’t know how to set up a file system or what to do with all the incoming mail or if you can even stop it.
    • Call a professional organizer, take a class or find a book on managing paperwork.

Apply deliberate practice. 

  • Practice saying no, practice saying ‘I’ll get back to you.’ Practice scheduling time for yourself.
  • Break it down into small steps. Put your mail in the same place every day. Put a shredder right next to where you sort your mail. Put a recycle bin for your junk mail next to where you sort your mail.

Learn the will skill. Willpower can be learned and strengthened.

  • Can you avoid temptation when faced with your most tempting scenario? Can you avoid the situation altogether? What about distracting yourself, reviewing your personal motivation statement, or finding a trusted friend who can act as your coach.
    • Suggest a lunch and a movie instead of shopping with a friend.
    • Look at your calendar and think about your priorities before you say yes to something.

This week, take a few minutes to see what outside help you might seek and what you can practice. I’m practicing saying no to things I know I can’t fully devote myself to. And I’m breaking tasks down into small steps (emptying the dishwasher when I first get up so I can put dishes away throughout the day instead of spending a bunch of time at the end of the day).

Join me next time as we look at social motivation and social ability!

Change Anything: Personal Motivation

I hope you read my last blog about my favorite book,Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. This week we’re going to look at Personal Motivation.

Let’s start with your crucial moments. Do you get sucked into the $1 bins at Target (I’ll admit, sometimes I have to drag myself away from them)? Or do you come home from work so tired that you drop everything at the door (or on the kitchen table) saying you’ll deal with it all later (only to be scrambling to get out the door the next morning)? Or maybe you say yes anytime someone asks you to help or join a committee, even if you know you don’t have the time!

With your crucial moments in mind, think about your default future. Where are you headed if you keep living this way? Imagine your worst case scenario if you don’t change. Overwhelming debt? Exhaustion, illness, or missing out on time with your family? Resentment? Not being able to find anything in your house when you really need it?

Ok, now that you have your default future in your mind, let’s look at changing the way you make choices or learning to love what you hate. Yes, you can do that. You need to see and believe in the future you want.

Here are some tips on learning to love what you hate.

Use value words. Why are you making this change? What good will come from this change?  

  • You want save more money or quickly find clothes to wear, clothes that are clean and ready to put on. You want to eat dinner at your table with friends and family or be able to host Thanksgiving.

Make it a game. How can you make this change fun? Break your goal into small tasks, compete with a friend. What can you do to provide yourself encouragement along the way?

  • Get rid of 2 pieces of clothes each day, spend 5 minutes every day sorting through the mail, put on some music, set a timer, set a deadline, sing a song, make it fun.

Create a personal motivation statement. Create something to remind yourself why you’re doing this that you can glance at during your crucial moments.

  • Find a picture of something you aspire to such as a family dinner, an organized closet, or a trip you want to take and need to save money for.

This week, choose one or two of the above tips and figure out how to incorporate them into your change plan.

Next time, we’ll look at Personal Ability.

Change Anything!

One of my favorite books is Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. This book discusses how to make changes in your life and how willpower is not the answer. I like their philosophy because it has you look at 6 sources of influence in your life. It helps you identify these sources that are working against you and shows you how to turn them into positive influences. And, just like each organizing solution I provide is unique to that person or family, your path to change is unique.

Here is an overview of the 6 sources of influence. We will get into much more detail over the next few weeks.

Personal Motivation: Personal motivation is all about how you think about your future and why you’re making these changes. It’s all about the ‘why’. Maybe you want to be able to have people over for dinner and are tired of the dining table always being covered in paperwork. Or maybe you really want to save money for a vacation but keep buying stuff you don’t need.

Personal Ability: This is all about the skills you have to make changes. Do you know how to set up a place (and routine) for all of the paperwork coming into your house? Do you need to figure out how to set up a budget or understand what’s behind your desire to overspend?

Social Motivation and Social Ability: Social Motivation and Social Ability look at those around you and whether they are a friend or an accomplice. Do you have a friend you have lunch with every Saturday, who also likes to shop? Who is influencing you in a positive way? Can you make more friends who help and talk with those who don’t?

Structural Motivation and Structural Ability: This is about creating incentives and controlling your space to help you reach your change goals. What is going to motivate you along the way? Reward small wins and find inexpensive ways to motivate yourself. How can you change your environment to keep you on track?

Many of these sources of influence are invisible to you. Until you become aware of them, you will be unable to change them. This means you get to be both the scientist and the subject in your life. You learn what influences are at work in your life.

Here are some other things to think about as you begin to identify these sources of influence in your own life.

  • What are your crucial moments? Where is it that you fall short of your goals?
    • These moments may be physical, emotional, or involve certain people or places. Start becoming aware of these moments.
  • What are your vital behaviors? What actions do you want to take when you are in a crucial moment?
    • These actions or guidelines help influence your behavior.

When making a change, it’s important to use all 6 sources of influence, not just pick a few. Also, just because something doesn’t work or you have a bad day, don’t quit. Just use that information to your advantage and turn it into a learning experience.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll get into more detail of each source of influence. I’ll share a few examples and I want you to think about how these 6 sources of influence can help you reach your goals for the year.

Why You Should Hire a Professional Organizer!

Many New Year’s resolutions include new diets, saving money, getting in shape, or getting organized. If getting organized is on your list, you may be wondering how that’s going to happen or if you should hire a professional organizer. Here are a few reasons why you should hire one to help you get started on (or even complete) your goal to get organized this year.

Things To Do list with a pen on a desk.Business concept.

Being organized saves you money, stress, and time.

Many people spend at least 10 minutes a day looking for lost items. 1 in 4 people spend up to 2 hours a week looking for a misplaced item. What could you do with that time back in your life? Think of how relaxed and motivated you would be if you could easily find what you need and have time in your life to focus on your priorities.

Sometimes you just need a little outside perspective.

There are many ways to organize a space and sometimes you need an objective person to help. A professional organizer helps you look at your stuff and your time in a different light. We help you create routines to keep your stuff organized, pay your bills, manage your meals / kitchen, or deal with the endless kid toys and clothes that seem to appear in your house.

Your organizing solution will be tailored to your needs and desires.

Getting organized is not a one-size-fits-all solution. We will help you organize based on who you are, what space you have, and what you want that space to look like. So the next time you need to find that important piece of paper, you’ll know exactly where it is.

We won’t make you get rid of your stuff.

It’s your stuff. It’s not my decision to keep or get rid of anything. We’ll discuss your vision for a space or routine and look at whether something needs to go. Your house should reflect you and the life you want to live. Routines and systems are just as, if not more important, than simply getting rid of stuff.

If getting organized is something you’ve been thinking about doing, find a professional organizer near you and call! We can help overhaul your entire house, organize a closet, or simply give you some guidance on a project. It might be just what you need.

Why Are We So Busy?

I’ve been hearing many people talk lately about how busy they are. I’m not sure they’re complaining or enjoying how overwhelmed they feel but it’s said with a tone of ‘I’m overwhelmed and there’s really nothing I can do about it.’

In our society, it seems like we’re doing something wrong if we’re not busy. If you don’t have every minute full of fun, adventure, play dates, activities, you feel like you’re missing out. But can you sustain that? And is it true? What’s wrong with simply sitting still and watching nature, watching your kids entertain themselves, or letting your mind wander?

Read this blog I wrote several years ago, as I think it still speaks true to this day. You do have more time than you think, but you don’t have to cram that time with every activity possible. It is ok to say no.

And your action for today is to say no to something, cross something off your to-do list that you know you’re not going to get to (or don’t want to do), or simply sit and watch your kids play (or your pets) or watch the sun set. Just sit for a few minutes.

You Do Have More Time Than You Think!

Preparing for the Holidays Series (Post 4 – Time)

This is the last in my series about the holidays. I’ve been hearing many people talk lately about how busy and overwhelmed they are. We’ll tackle that subject soon. Today, let’s focus on how you are going to spend your holidays! Try these 3 tips. 

  1. Don’t over schedule your holidays. It’s ok to say no to events! When you say no, you’re simply saying yes to something else.
  2. Schedule time for any important family traditions.
  3. Schedule downtime. Put it in your calendar and make some time for yourself to relax or do something that is important to you!

Action item: Get some downtime and your family traditions on the calendar. Hold those dates sacred and say no to anything that will interfere.

Now that you have a plan in place for the holidays, I want you to schedule some time after the holidays to think about what worked and what didn’t work. Are there things you’d like to do different next year? Are there things you want to make sure you do again? Write it down and put it somewhere you’ll find it next year (on top of your decorations or as a reminder in your phone). 

Wishing you a fun and happy holiday season!

Preparing for the Holidays Series (Post 3 – Gifts)

This week we are going to look at gifts. Start shopping soon so you’re not left scrambling for something at the last minute.

  • Make a list of everyone you need to buy gifts for and any ideas you have for each person.
  • Make a plan of when you are going to shop for the gifts. Are there items that need to be mailed ahead of time? (If yes, get started on those first). 
  • Check your gift wrapping supplies. Do you have enough wrapping paper, gift bags, tags, tape, bows?
  • Can you challenge your loved ones to buying experiences instead of things? Memberships to the art museum, trips to a water park, time spent together?
  • Create lists for you and your family of things you want / need. When people ask for gift ideas, it’ll be easy to share.
  • Stock up on host/hostess gifts for any parties you might attend. These could be bottles of wine, homemade cookies or a package of cocktail napkins. 

It’s even better if you can shop throughout the year. At the beginning of the year make a list of gifts you know you will need. Think of people when you’re traveling or spot something on sale. Then have a specific place (a labeled box) somewhere in your house to store these items. And make sure you label them so you remember who they’re for!

Action item: Start a list of people you need to buy gifts for and schedule a day (or 2) to do some gift shopping.

Preparing for the Holidays Series (Post 2 – Decorations)

Last week we talked about food for the holidays. This week we’re going to take a quick look at decorations.

  • Plan a time to sort through and put up your decorations.
  • Create a list of decorations you need to replace or supplement. Do you need more outdoor lights? Do you need more pumpkins for your centerpiece? Can you wait until after the holidays, when items are on clearance or do you need it before? Set a budget!
  • Plan time to take down and sort through your decorations. Purge items you haven’t used, are broken, or don’t enjoy anymore. Do you need more storage boxes for your items? We buy our kids Christmas ornaments each year to represent that year. This year, I’d like to start storing these ornaments in their own boxes, so when the kids move out, the ornaments are ready. 

Your action item for this week is to schedule time to put up your decorations! And while you’re at it, schedule time after the holidays to take them down.

Next week:  Gifts!

Preparing for the Holidays Series (Post 1 – Food)

It’s October. You may still be figuring out what you are going to be for Halloween but Christmas decorations are creeping into stores (or have been there since August). That means the holidays are right around the corner. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, a New Year’s Eve party, or just want to be able to relax with your family, start preparing now!

The next few weeks we are going to look at different tasks for preparing for the holidays from food, decorations, gift buying, to spending time with your loved ones.

Let’s start with food. If you’re hosting a meal, dinner party or holiday event, keep reading! These are the tasks you need to get on your calendar!

  • Clean your oven.  Do that now before you are putting your turkey in the oven or baking your favorite holiday treat!
  • Check the state of your linens, dishes, glassware, stemware, and serving dishes. Does anything need to be repaired? Do you need to buy anything? Make a list of what you need and schedule a time to complete this task.
  • Plan your menu. Do you provide the main meal and everyone brings side dishes? Or are you doing everything yourself. Figure out who is doing what and let everyone know ahead of time.
  • Write your grocery list. Watch for sales and stock up on items early.
  • Identify what can be made ahead of time and schedule time to prepare as much as possible before the big day.
  • Plan when you will start preparing those items that need to be made the day of. If people are bringing food, will they need the oven? Make sure there’s time to warm up everything before dinner. Can you use a crock pot or roaster to save room for other items in the oven?

Your action item this week is to start thinking about these tasks and get them on your schedule. It will help the holidays be much smoother!

Next post: Decorations!

Jury Duty and Being Prepared

I recently spent 8 days serving on a jury. I was not prepared for this, as most cases in Denver last 2-3 days. As I sat in the jury box during jury selection, after the judge had said the case could take 8 days and I realized I was likely to be selected, I started thinking of what I would need to reschedule, who would watch my kids, and how my life was going to be impacted. I’m not going to say that I came home that day and magically got my life prepared for the next 2 weeks. We had take out for dinner as I was too tired to cook. And I’m sure we didn’t have the kids put their toys away before bed (which we try to do each night). I did do a load of laundry, gave my kids a few extra hugs, and figured out who was going to watch the kids the next few days.

What I learned through this experience is how important it is to be organized and have some simple maintenance routines. We usually have our meals planned for the week. We prep much of our food on Sundays or early in the week. Our fridge has a drawer marked ‘raw meat only’ so we can defrost several days of meat/fish at once. This makes for easy dinners because food just needs to be put in the oven. I did a load of laundry and cleaned the kitchen each night. And I spent a few minutes after the kids went to bed cleaning out emails, packing lunches, stocking the diaper bag, and identifying priorities for the next day.

There are many simple organizing tasks that can be done each day to keep on top of the clutter. This great article outlines a few of those. If everything in your house has a home, it’s easy to put stuff away, see what needs to be replaced, or what you can get rid of. There are also plenty of things you can delegate. Can you hire a house cleaner? Someone to mow the lawn? Can your kids start doing more chores (put away their clean laundry, take out the trash, feed the pets). Do you need to reevaluate who does what tasks with your partner?

What are some tasks that you can start doing every day to make life a little simpler?

Morning and Evening Routines

September is almost over. The school year has been underway for several weeks now. Hopefully you have your command center set up, your kids’ homework stations are working for you, and packing lunches are easy! Let’s take a few minutes to check in on your morning and evening routines. Are they still working for you?

Let’s start with your evening routine. The more you do the night before, the easier your morning is going to be. Here are some tips for your evening routine.

  • Plan breakfast for the next morning.
  • Pull out anything that needs to defrost for dinner and put it in fridge.
  • Pack lunches for the next day.
  • Pack backpacks, purses and bags with items needed for the next day. What events (soccer practice, piano lessons, choir, etc.) are happening? What does each person need for their activities?
  • Ensure all permission slips are signed and placed in backpacks.
  • Pick your clothes out (and have your kids’ pick out theirs).
  • Set alarm clocks!

Now that you’re ready for the next day, your morning should run a bit smoother. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready before the kids get up. This will help you feel less rushed. And make sure your kids get up with plenty of time to get ready. My daughter likes to read books or play for a bit before we head off to school. I plan time into our morning for that.

What other tasks needs to be completed in the morning? Get the dishwasher running, dinner in the crockpot, etc. Have a checklist on the wall by the door to make sure you have everything you need as you head out the door!

What changes do you need to make to your routines for your mornings smoother?