Take managing your household to a new level of organization!
As the school year begins, busy families everywhere face the challenge of how to get out of the house on time with kids fully dressed and fed, backpacks and paperwork in order, without losing their minds – or their patience.
The key to keeping your sanity is creating simple routines around the basic tasks that have to happen every morning. The place to start isn’t the morning; making a little time to prep the night before can take lots of pressure off the morning. Take ½ hour before bed to tackle these 5 things:
- Have kids choose their outfits (and shoes!) and set them out
- Decide what’s for lunch and if possible get it packed
- Make sure school bags and homework are ready to go
- If there is an afterschool sport make sure that bag is ready too
- Make sure your own lunch and work supplies are ready to go
Prepping clothes and supplies the night before changes the morning focus to eating and personal care.
- Get up at least ½ hour earlier than the kids to have a little time to think and get grounded for the morning. If you have young kids that need more help with dressing/personal care you may need a little more time
- Make quick but nutritious breakfast that doesn’t require much prep or clean-up such as cereal, yogurt and fruit, or toast w/ a nut butter or other protein spread.
Teach the kids to handle their personal care more efficiently by grouping tasks into 3 groups:
- get completely dressed
- wash face/brush teeth/brush hair
- eat breakfast
You can put the 3 tasks in any order that makes sense for your family; the key is to finish one before you start another. The other key is grouping all the bathroom tasks together as one. This avoids the chaos of running back and forth to the bathroom, landing at the breakfast table half dressed, and needing to finish up all of them before leaving the house.
A few other tips to help keep your household running smoothly:
- As notices come home from school, calendar all school dates into your master calendar so you’re never surprised by an open house, field trip, sharing day, etc.
- Dedicate a permanent spot for backpacks and finished homework to live
- Try out weekly meal planning to streamline grocery shopping
There are many websites that offer pre-printed forms for meal planning and calendaring. Here are just a couple we found from a simple search:
Money Saving Mom: http://moneysavingmom.com/downloads/meal-menu-planners
Simple Made Pretty Daily Routine Checklist: http://www.simplemadepretty.com/free-printable-daily-routine-checklist-for-kids/
These routines are helpful for getting children ready for school but they also apply to people of any age! Having routines for preparing your clothes, supplies, and food for the day make getting out the house in the morning a pleasure rather than a chore.
Everyone with kids knows that they typically come with lots of STUFF. And somehow it keeps coming in…if you have more than one kid the challenge is even greater.
This buildup is natural. More than any other time of life, the very nature of childhood is about growth and change. Your child’s abilities, interests, and sizes are constantly evolving – and all the toys, clothes, learning materials change along with them. And young ones are magnets for toys and gifts from relatives.
This means if you aren’t keeping a constant vigil on moving out outgrown items (and how many of us are, really?) you’ve likely got some backlog of unused and unneeded kid stuff.
If your kids have a little more time at home during the summer, take advantage of that to do some weeding.
Break It Down
You’ll have a better chance at success if you focus their attention onto one category of stuff at a time. A general request to “clean out the playroom” isn’t going to get them very far. But a specific request to gather up all the DVDs and choose the ones they love to watch is much easier to get follow through on.
If you divide up the project into categories you’re teaching an important skill about grouping “like items” together.
Put out a big bag or box and have the kids weed some or all of these groups:
- Board games
- Clothes that don’t fit (can even break this down by type – tops, pants, jackets)
- Sports equipment
- Craft supplies
- Art projects/ drawings
- DVDs, video games
- Toys (you can break this category down by type – electronic, stuffies, dolls)
Create a System and Motivate
Sometimes it’s easier to decide what to keep, rather than what to let go of. Clearly labeling 3 bags or boxes – KEEP, MAYBE, DONATE/SELL can help. Let your family know it’s like going shopping for things they love within our own collection. This helps kids get in touch with making conscious choices about what they really use and like.
Motivation strategies to get them going:
- Help them visualize the end result – more space to play with their favorite items
- Use a timer to bound the work
- Offer incentives or rewards – a movie night after clearing out unwanted DVDs for example.
- Create a contest or game around who can purge the most
If you’re paying for a babysitter or childcare, enlist their help to tackle 1 category a day. Even as little as ½ hour each week spent on weeding will go a long way to staying ahead of the next influx of new gifts or purchases!
Have you had trouble finding a new home for your child’s outgrown car seat? The charity stores won’t take them. It can be pain. They take up a lot of room in your house or garage and they don’t fit in the trash can!!
TerraCycle and Target want to reward you for recycling your old car seat at a participating Target store!
From April 17th through April 30th, you have the opportunity to recycle your old car seat at participating Target locations! To participate, simply bring your old car seat to the designated Target Take Back recycling area at a participating Target store.
All car seat brands are accepted for recycling. In return for recycling your car seat, you will earn a 20% discount on a new car seat.
To see if there are participating Target locations in your area, please click here.
You don’t have to buy a new car seat in order to take advantage of this service.
Be Prepared For a Day at the Beach … or Anywhere!
Want to head out to the park and find yourself scrambling around the house trying to find where the sunscreen was last left? Or the hats?
Summer, with its many outings and camps is a great time to put together a few “grab & go” bags. If you have certain activities you do often, it is worth duplicating some items in order to always have them on hand when you’re ready to go. The bag contains the staples that always need to be there and things like snacks or reading material can be added as needed.
Beach/Pool Bag: bathing suits, sunscreen, goggles, earplugs, towels & hats
Park/Outing Bag: sunscreen, hats, bug repellant, picnic blanket
Day Camp Bag: sunscreen, sunglasses money, hat, light jacket
The key is having a dedicated home where your specialty bags live and remembering to replenish the bags after your outings. Make sure freshly laundered items make their way back into their bags instead of into a dresser or cabinet.
This model of making specialty bags also applies year-round to other activities and not just for kids:
- Sports: uniform, water bottle, sunscreen
- Overnights: toiletries, flashlight,
- Classes: paper, pen, class materials
- Gym/Workout: water bottle, toiletries, snack bars
- Meetings or Committees: notepad, pen, reference materials
- Charging kit: extra phone & computer chargers
It may seem like a bit of extra work, but when your supplies are ready to go, getting out the door quickly keeps you relaxed and able to be spontaneous. Spend your time on your outing instead of stressing out and wasting time searching the house for the park blanket. As an added benefit your kids learn the benefits of being prepared ahead of time!
live a curated life … life by design instead of by default
Last week the three showings of the Minimalism documentary that our professional association (NAPO) hosted sold out! The majority of the attendees stayed afterward to share their impressions.
Here are 5 of our takeaways from the movie:
- Fashion Challenge: Project 333. A woman who picked just 33 pieces of clothing, shoes and accessories and just wore those for 3 months. The point is that no one noticed!
- The story about the couple where the woman had multiple sclerosis. They decluttered their lives to bring her stress level down as a way of managing her MS symptoms.
- Seeing people live in tiny houses or small apartments designed with moveable walls and features that enable minimal living challenged our assumptions about how much space we really need.
- Fabulous clip of a speech by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 on consumption. His message: Owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning.
- The idea that we need to be MORE materialistic, not less. Attaching value to well-made construction … treating items with care so they have long lives. When did furniture become as consumable as magazines??
What we wanted to hear more about:
- Details of the different styles of minimalism with concrete examples of HOW different kinds of people have implemented minimalism in their lives.
- How this philosophy applies across class and race
Here’s a movie that will help us all challenge assumptions about what’s disposable, what we really need; inviting us to stop and reframe those assumptions with the goal of living with less.
As professional organizers, we’ve been exposed to the dark side of overconsumption. It has given us a perspective of minimalism by default and thus we mostly live simply.
After watching the movie Dana felt liberated to keep her favorite sweater. She had felt pressure from our culture to have new, more fashionable clothes. Though old and getting a little worn, the sweater still looks good, is a classic style, works well, and she loves it! It’s a keeper.
What has this movement given you permission to do? Need some more ideas? Check out www.theminimalists.com.
Do you know that feeling of celebration when the school year ends? It’s all well and good but with the end of school comes stacks of homework, completed art projects, elaborate dioramas and original literary works.
Do yourself a huge favor and don’t wait until the end of the summer to weed through it all. The good news – it doesn’t have to be a big hairy project. You can make huge headway in a short amount of time. As little investment as one hour can save you lots of hassle in the fall.
Here are four quick projects you could do in an hour (especially if you enlist the kids for some help!):
- Empty out the school backpacks completely and search the house for orphaned schoolwork
- Go through completed homework and separate true keepers from the rote worksheets and tests. Pick a representative sample that captures the school year and preserve only the assignments that both you and your child want to carry forward
- Decide what you’d like to display and move other items to a memorabilia box or oversized art portfolio (pay attention to the fact that these items have a lifespan)
- Throw out broken or used-up school supplies – dead glue stick, broken pencils, dry highlighters, etc. – in the process create a kit with the leftovers to be used for next year’s backpack
Involving the kids teaches them the lesson of “cleaning up” after an event. It teaches children the importance of having a sense of closure and responsibility. This is a useful habit for other areas of life too: you know the problem…you return from a conference or a trip and all your mementos, notes and maps are stuffed into a backpack or gift bag waiting to come back and haunt you at a later date.
Do you have a tip for how you motivate your children to go through their schoolwork? Share it with us!
Parting is such sweet sorrow!
We love learning from our clients! On a recent appointment with a client, Dana noticed a mid-sized bag on the floor of the kitchen pantry. She asked what it contained and the client said “Oh, that’s the Bye-Bye Bag!”
This is a great technique for holding her kids accountable for cleaning up their play space. Here how the “Bye-Bye Bag” technique works:
- When it’s time to pickup the playroom give the kids a set time to get the job done.
- If they refuse or the time is coming to a close, remind the kids that any toys they choose not to put away will go into the “Bye-Bye Bag.”
- The Bye-Bye Bag holds toys for 1 week. At any point during the week they can go into it and choose to put a toy away but at the end of the week anything left in the bag gets donated.
Here are 5 keys to making it actually work:
Make cleanup easy (and possible!). Have accessible, simple homes for toys to be put away. It’s hard for kids to cleanup if shelves and bins are stuffed and jumbled.
Make A Routine. Setting a regular time in the day linked to an event that always happens (teeth brushing?) helps create an expectation for children. For example, have toy pickup always be 15 minutes before teeth brushing time.
Be Consistent! You don’t have to break out the bag 100% of the time for cleanups but address the reluctant behavior consistently so kids understand that it’s part of the routine.
Be Firm but Kind. The point of the exercise is to teach responsibility and accountability. Putting away toys is their choice, but there are consequences to the choices they make. This is a very important life lesson! Using the Bye-Bye bag doesn’t have to be threatening or mean, just a simple consequence for their choice.
Follow Through. The power of this technique only stays effective if toys actually do go “bye-bye.” If they aren’t retrieved from the bag in a week’s time, out they go! To ensure prompt follow-through keep the bag somewhere you’ll remember.
Have a question about how to apply this in your home? Or do you have a variation that has worked well for you? Share it here!