Tag Archives: family

6 Tips for Creating an Effective Homework Space

Study Habits

As Professional Organizers, we’ve literally been inside thousands of people’s homes, many of those families with school-age kids. One of the most common things we hear from parents is the frustration about having added a desk into their kid’s room for homework but then the desk ends up covered in stuff — clutter, toys, collectibles — and is used for everything EXCEPT homework!

We consulted Educational Coach, Lorina Daves Tornai, to identify the ideal components of a homework space. Here is what she shared:

Number 1

Keep screens out of the bedroom and in a common area to allow for casual supervision.

Number 2

Create a dedicated work space if possible, rather than use a common table like the dining room table.

  • Set against a wall with a stationery chair (rolling chairs turn into toys!)
  • Ideally long enough so an adult can sit with them to help when needed
  • A 2’ x 4’ folding table can be ideal, multiple tables can be put together for large projects
  • Small wooden desks are too limiting and kids outgrow them

    2 x 4' folding table - adjustable height

    This 2′ x 4′ folding table is height-adjustable and is available at ULINE for $79

Number 3

Create space for basic supplies near the table – a rolling drawer unit works well to hold pencils, markers, scissors, scotch tape, paper.

Number 4

Magazine Files work really well for managing handouts and work in progress so paper doesn’t end up in stacks on the desk.magazine file

Number 5

Have visual and auditory aids to help with certain subjects.

  • Children’s dictionary with pictures and other reference books provides a tactile experience
  • Map of the world and of the US (laminated) helps them visualize geography
  • Wall calendar supports their understanding of days of week
  • Analog clocks support their ability to tell time
  • Using a clock or timer to split their time between different subjects teaches good time management
  • A 12 x 18 whiteboard with markers in the workspaceenables kid and parent to brainstorm/key words/map out stuff prior to actual writing process. Also useful for working out math problems.

Number 6

Make sure they eat before they do homework– protein is better than cookies…feeds the brain and provides sustained energy.  Think less bread, more nuts and cheese.

Back to that messy room desk covered in tidbits – that cluttered desk may be a symptom of a different need for your child – creative and display space! Is there dresser top, or bookshelf, or display shelves, or all 3 where they can lay out their collections and trinkets? Oftentimes the desktop ends up being the only space where they get to express their personality and show off their special objects.

Creating a intentionally designed homework space helps both the parent and the child take schoolwork seriously, supporting a lifelong habit of organization and growth.

 

Lorina Daves Tornai

Lorina Daves Tornai owner of Solutions for Learning, is an experienced tutor and dyslexia specialist with over twelve years of professional experience helping students ages 5 to adult in Reading, Writing, Spelling and Math.

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Filed under children, Decluttering, homework, Kids, School

5 Solutions For Bike Storage

wall storage from the Container Store

 

We love our bikes. But wouldn’t you love to use the real estate that your bike is taking up for something else?  Here are some options to storing your bike(s) that keep them tidy and out of the way. We hope these creative options inspire you to better integrate bike storage into your space, whether it be in your garage or your living space.

Walls

Bikes can hang by the tires perpendicular to the wall or can hang by the frame. Some wall mounts even pivot to the side so you can tuck your bike close to the wall. Check out Steady Rack.

SteadyRack

This system by DaHANGER mounts the bikes by the pedals. The bikes tilt away from the wall.

DaHANGER cycle storage

This system by MonkeyBars incorporates bike racks into their options for garage storage. (Note that this fits 4 bikes because they are staggered; 2 are hung by their back wheels which is harder to lift.)

Monkey Bars Bike Rack solution

Freestanding

No need to use a wall when you utilize tension poles. This pole, made by RAD Cycle Products can be adjusted to suit the height of your space.

These truly freestanding racks made by DeltaCycle are called “gravity stands.”  They can accomodate 2 or 4 bikes.

DeltaCycle Canaletto Free-Standing

 

Ceiling

Hang bikes from the ceiling and maximize your floor space. You can use simple hooks or pulley systems. This system is made by RAD Cycle Products

Ceiling hooks are another way to go.  This family stores multiple bikes on the ceiling of their high garage using simple utility hooks.

Floor Storage

Simple Floor racks like this one made by Swagman create a dedicated parking space so bikes don’t inadvertently end up in front of other things. Good as a last resort or for young children’s bikes so they can easily get them out themselves.

Do you have a great solution that’s working in your garage? Send us a picture!

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Filed under Decluttering, Garage, Kids, organizing, Products, Storage, Strategies

Destressing Your Move: Phase 2 – Start Packing

packing boxes Nina Garman from Pixabay

The first phase of moving was “planning ahead.” Now – at least 4 weeks from move day – it’s time to get into action. Packing and letting people (and companies) know your plans constitutes the bulk of this phase.

Picture this – the moving truck is pulling away from your new home. You’re worn out from the weeks leading up to the move.  You open up a random box and are faced with all kinds of mixed-up items that now have to be sorted and then figure out where they live. That takes lots of energy and time you probably won’t have – Ugh! Now multiply that feeling by the tens of boxes you have in every room! Yikes!

Make a Packing Timeline – Spend the time and energy before the move taking care to weed your possessions and decide where things will eventually live. That way, you can pack and label the boxes accordingly. 

There’s an analogy that a move is like a ball rolling downhill – the closer you get to move day the faster time will be flying by. And before you know it, you’re just throwing things into boxes (if you’re lucky) in order to be ready in time. Plan out a schedule for completing the major packing in each room and allow for a full extra week to catch up on all the things you didn’t plan for.

Get Supplies – If you do any of the packing yourself, you’ll have to gather supplies.  Since the boxes are bulky and can take over your house, dedicate space to store them so they won’t get in the way.

  • Places such as Home Depot and U-Haul offer online box ordering with easy “kits” for different size moves that you can customize.
  • Buy rolls or boxes of packing paper; don’t rely on finding enough newspaper for padding delicate items. Large bubble wrap is often more useful than the small bubble wrap for medium to large items. And don’t buy cheap packing tape – it isn’t worth the hassle when it constantly breaks on your tape gun.
  • Have a dedicated small box or basket and fixed location where you always keep your critical packing supplies: markers, post-its, packing tape, tape gun, utility knife.

Begin with the End in Mind

  • Whether you’ve decided to pack yourself or hire packing help, it’s essential to segregate items you’re taking with you into “like” groups to make packing and unpacking.  This is why it is helpful to start with an organized home. If you have pared down what you own so that you only have items you need to bring with you, there’s minimal decision-making come packing time.
  • Make sure you label your boxes with the destination in your new home, i.e., master bedroom, downstairs bath, laundry area, for example. Consider labeling some boxes “UNPACK FIRST” for each room.
  • It can help to have an inventory sheet with the box number and contents if the unpacking will happen over time or if your boxes will be sitting in storage for a time.
  • Pace Yourself – Packing can be exhausting! Take breaks, plan your meals, be realistic about how long you can work each day. Ask for help if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed.

moving day kit

Let People (and Companies) Know

  • Contact your utility companies on both ends of the move and make arrangements to transfer or cancel your service on the date you hand over possession of your home
  • In addition to the utility companies, make a check-list of the people/companies who send you mail: Banks, Insurance Companies, Medical Providers. Don’t forget to include:
  • Consider sending out “We’re Moving” cards with your new address to your friends and family.
  • Ask the new homeowners to forward any mail that slips through the USPS system and comes to your old address.

The Goal Is This…

You walk into your new home, energized and ready to get to work … every room has clearly labeled boxes of the items that belong in that room, the labels let you know which boxes you want to unpack first. When you open a box, you can efficiently put things away because you know where they’re going. Bonus if you have helpers it’s easy to direct them because the boxes are all well packed, labeled, and organized!  Next post – Moving Day.

Moving Day Comfort Item

Make sure you don’t leave any special things behind!

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, home organizing, Moving, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

De-Stressing Your Move: Phase 1 – Planning Ahead

planning for a move

It’s been said that moving is one of the top 5 most stressful life events –

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • Moving
  • Major illness or injury
  • Job loss

And often moving must happen because of one or more of these life events!

While there’s no way to make moving completely stress-free, with some forethought you can keep the move manageable. There’s a lot to cover so we’re going to talk about moving in three phases:

  1. Planning Ahead
  2. Start Packing
  3. Moving Day & Beyond

Plan Ahead & Start Early

This is probably the biggest key to managing the stress of a move. Having enough time to organize all the moving parts (pun intended) and stay on top of details keeps you feeling in control. Often the timeline of a move will feel like a ball rolling downhill, picking up momentum and going faster and faster – the closer you get to move date the shorter each day will feel!

  • Ideally, a minimum of 2 months before your move schedule movers and start to tackle problem areas, room by room.
  • Decide if how much packing and moving you’re doing yourself vs. hiring help. If you’re going the DIY route, allow for more time. If you’re hiring packing help, you’ll need to pre-sort things to avoid having boxes of mixed-up stuff to untangle at the new home.
  • Moving isn’t inexpensive! If you hire help for packing and moving, even for a local move, expect to pay a few thousand dollars. Hiring help can be well worth the value. With someone to schlep boxes, you’ll be able to focus your energy on decision making rather than physically wearing yourself out.
  • Know the limits of your new space and let that guide your purging, especially for items such as photos, memorabilia and books. Floor planning ahead of time gives you the exact reality of what will fit in your space. You want to make sure the available storage will hold whatever you bring.
  • Honor your own limits of time and energy for combing through these things in order to weed the collections.
  • Think about what to do with everything you won’t be taking with you. Decide if you want to sell anything via a garage sale, estate sale or online. Identify local donation places and find out if they do pickups. You will have leftovers that can’t be donated; identify haulers or find out your city’s policy on bulky pickups as part of your trash service.

This first phase of moving is all about getting a handle on the big picture and getting through as much of the sorting and purging as possible.

Even if you’re not moving now and just considering it for the future, the process of sorting through things and paring down will make you more nimble if and when you decide to move.

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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, Moving, organizing, Perspective, professional organizer, Seniors, Time Management

An Un-Cluttered Mother’s Day

mothers day - 1

I think of Mother’s Day as a time to honor my mother and all those who have nurtured me.   What does Mother’s Day mean to you?

How do you celebrate Mother’s Day?

If you want to give a gift to a nurturing woman in your life, ask them what makes them feel special.

If you are a mom, let your family know what you want.  How do you want to remember this special relationship?  If you dread getting gifts you don’t really want or can’t use, take charge (and help them out) by suggesting a gift of some kind of service.  Does getting a massage or a pedicure or a ticket to a concert help you feel loved and appreciated?  Does receiving chocolate just make you groan with regret because you know you’ll just eat the whole box – at one sitting?  Let your people know!

Sometimes a personal note, written on nice stationery or a card can mean the world to someone who has cared for you.  This is a low-clutter way to honor your special woman.  Write your own true thoughts. A simple thing to do is make your own haiku. (3 lines; 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.)

The one who loves you   —  though you not deserve it —  and the love lives on

– Willy King

Just spending time with Mom can make the day special.  Focus on her solely.  Don’t let her deflect the attention away from herself.  Ask her questions; What makes you happy?  What’s your best memory of your mom? What have you liked best about being a mother?  What do you dream about?

If you feel like your family never acknowledges you or doesn’t give you what you want, give to yourself.  Part of being a nurturer requires you to know how to care for yourself.  Chances are you won’t buy yourself a gift that you can’t use or don’t love.

Plan a party to honor your mother.  Even if your mother is no longer with you, it’s heartwarming to raise a glass in her honor and toast what she did right.

What’s your favorite Mother’s Day memory?

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Filed under General Organizing, Holidays, Kids, Perspective

Marie Kondo’s Organizing Inspires Lasting Changes

marie kondo tidying

Marie Kondo is at it again with her new Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. You may already be familiar with the KonMari method through her hugely popular book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

We live in a culture of consumption that really values volume. Coming from a totally different culture, Marie Kondo awakens us to a Japanese way of looking at our things. At the heart of her de-cluttering approach is the Shinto belief of animism– that objects have energy and a life force that should be acknowledged and honored. Usually the object of any de-cluttering method is getting rid of stuff. Kondo’s approach changes the focus of purging. Instead of analyzing objects for their functionality in our lives, she trains us to sense the energy within our possessions …and only keep those that inspire or create joy.

Explaining her process to someone getting overwhelmed Kondo says: “The point of this process isn’t to force yourself to eliminate things, it’s really to confirm how you feel about each and every item you possess.”

Kondo’s technique is very spiritual and holistic – gets you out of your head and logic and into your heart and emotion. She’s asking what you want to carry forward with you in your lives.The end result of the process is an uncluttered home and a clearer relationship with the things you own.

Key takeaways from the show and book:

  • Going through this process takes time and commitment! In the show, take note of how many weeks it takes to get through each scenario
  • Fine tune your ability to recognize how objects make you feel by holding things you know you love – pay attention to how you feel; it “sparks joy” for you
  • Tackle memorabilia last
  • You don’t need fancy organizing products to declutter
  • The KonMari method can work across all types of family structures and life scenarios.

Are you feeling inspired to try a new approach but daunted by doing it on your own? We can help…some professional organizers are trained in the KonMari method, including our own Katherine Korlacki! You also don’t have to implement the KonMari method exactly in order to make progress – use the parts that inspire you and get support to get through the decision-making process. Your de-cluttered life awaits!

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Filed under Bedroom, Closets, Decluttering, General Organizing, Guest Experts, home organizing, Kids, Kitchen, Laundry, Living Room, Memorabilia, Office, Perspective, professional organizer, Strategies

Clutter-Free Gifts

As Professional Organizers, we meet people who are anxious about what to give their loved ones that are personal, valued and “green.” One solution is to give “consumable” gifts. The advantage of a consumable gift is it gives the recipient a special experience, doesn’t take up any room and doesn’t leave behind any clutter.

food gifts

Edibles and Drinkables

  • Gift baskets of food – nice fruits, cheeses, nuts, chocolates. Who wouldn’t want to try a variety of yummy foods put together by you…or from your favorite vendor? The SF Bay Area is home to many artisan chocolate and food makers; a basket of local treats makes a personal touch.
  • Your parents might appreciate a gift certificate to your favorite restaurant or one you think they’d like.
  • Gift an invitation to dine out with you at the hot new restaurant or a known old favorite – your treat of course!
  • Teens love gift cards to Peet’s, Starbucks, ice cream, lunch food.
  • How about a wine or beer club membership?

 

live-escape-game-1155620_640

Entertainment

  • Consider an outing to an Escape Room – a group game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles.
  • Tickets or gift certificates to movies, dance, theater, museums or sports events can be prized by people who can’t seem to justify frivolous expenses.
  • How about Poetry by Request?  My colleague, Claire Tompkins brings her trusty Royal typewriter to events and creates personalized poetry on demand.
  • Subscriptions to entertainment services such as Amazon Prime or Netflix can provide easy access to movies and entertainment at home.
  • Gift of a special outing with you: ice skating, a picnic in the park, a visit to a children’s museum, the zoo or an amusement park.
  • Annual pass for a ski resort or for a fun place like Six Flags Magic Mountain.
  • Lottery tickets make great stocking stuffers!
  • Did you know that AirBNB offers gift cards?

cooking-class

Education

  • Get cooking!  Kitchen on Fire offers a variety of classes. Cooking lessons are fun to do with a group or with one special friend: either at a store, a cooking school or in your own kitchen.
  • A stack of specialty magazines on gaming or weaving or architecture – whatever they’re into – are a treat!
  • Would your giftee love an art or other adult education class?  Offer to take it with them!
  • How about a subscription to a meditation website such as Headspace – a gym for your head?
  • A block of classes at the local pilates or yoga studio can inspire them to get going on their health goals.
  • Sign them up for a historical tour of a local hot spot

relaxation

Pampering

  • Massages, facials, and nail services are always welcome treats
  • A thorough and expert housecleaning session is great for folks who always do it themselves
  • Hot tub session at a place such as Piedmont Springs
  • Do you know someone who complains about the state of their closets, garage or playroom? Give the gift of a session with a professional organizer!

 

personal gift certificate

Your Time

  • What do YOU do well? Offer a session with your loved one sharing your skills and time with them: interior design help, personal shopping, gardening, back rubs, clutter-clearing, cooking a meal or teaching a cooking technique, a personalized sight-seeing tour, iPhone instruction-sessions…the sky’s the limit!

Remember to follow up with your giftee. Sometimes people forget about gift certificates. Put a reminder in your calendar for a couple months in the future to touch back with your recipient. Re-invite them to take you up on your offer of a fun experience or remind them of the gift certificate you gave them.

Have a great consumable gift idea? Share it here!

 

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Holidays, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies