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!
With all the cyber security breaches these days prudent password management is vital. Here is a refresh of a previous post about passwords.
Does keeping track of your online passwords make you want to pull your hair out? Having an organized system for password management reduces that frustration.
Just as people have to choose between digital and paper calendars these days, there are both digital and paper ways to manage your password information. Different methods have different advantages.
Managing your passwords digitally offers many conveniences but introduces security risks. While not nearly a comprehensive list – and not a specific endorsement — here are some options:
- Maintain a list or spreadsheet on your computer…not named “passwords.” File could be stored in the cloud (Evernote, DropBox, Google Drive) to access across devices. You can password protect this document for an added layer of security.
- Use Facebook, twitter or Google to log in
- Use password management software such as 1Password, LastPass or KeePass. These typically work by storing all your individual logins under one main “master” password.
- If you use a Mac, you’re most likely familiar with Keychain, which comes with OSX. Basically, it’s a password manager that uses your OSX admin password as the master password.
Some people don’t want their passwords stored anywhere in their computer. Storing them on paper prevents electronic hacking but it also limits your access to them when you are not home near the list. You also need to think about how to keep the list secure at home.
There are many options for managing passwords in paper form:
- A small address book is an easy way to list passwords alphabetically by site name. Small address books are also easily hidden.
- Some people keep a paper file in their file cabinet labeled “password”… you could make it a bit more secure by naming that file something random but unique to you like “junkdrawer” or “Rumpelstiltskin.”
- An alphabetized index card box or business card box makes a handy place to drop in the post-its and scraps of paper you write passwords on.
- To keep lists more secure, rather than writing down the actual password your list can be prompts that only you know. For example, if your password is some non sequitur like bootPolandgelato5, your prompt may be “footwear – country – food – number”. Or “147Guccigreen3970” could be prompted with “childhood address – favorite designer –color – past phone number.”
Regardless of what organizing tool you use to keep track of passwords, if you aren’t relying on software to generate secure passwords for you here are some tips for creating strong passwords:
- Ideally use a mix letters, characters, numbers, and capitals
- String together words to make a phrase. For example “I love ice cream” could become 1L0v31c3Cr3@m if you replace all the vowels with numbers or characters and capitalize the first letter of each word.
- String together unrelated words as in the example of Boot, Poland, Gelato, and 5 becoming “bootPolandgelato5”
There isn’t one right solution or answer; ultimately it’s a personal style and risk management choice we all have to make. Whatever system you choose, pick one and stick to it.
What one smart step can you take to make your digital life more convenient AND secure?
Cartoon courtesy of Donna Smallin Kuper of Organized Greetings
Do you and your sweetheart have wildly different ideas about what clutter is? Do you find yourself fed-up and frustrated by their organizing “style”? Do you feel like they’re trying to take over the world one surface at a time or leave things out just to piss you off?
Stress between couples over clutter is very common. Here are a few Valentine’s Day tips to manage the stress with your loved one.
What doesn’t work:
- Purging behind their back
- Storing empty boxes on surfaces to prevent their things from landing there
- Surprising them with a gift certificate from Crime Scene Cleaners
- Deciding that if they can be cluttered, you do them one better and be messy yourself
What does work:
- Realize that it’s not about right vs. wrong… it’s about compromising BOTH your styles because you’ve chosen to share space together.
- Agree to de-clutter together. Set a shared goal that you both agree will improve the quality of the home. Make a game plan and work together to implement it.
- Give each person a dedicated space (a room or a portion of a room) that they can control completely.
- Take responsibility for managing your own clutter before trying to “fix” your partner.
- Get objective outside help: use an organizing book, online resources, a couples therapist or a professional organizer.
What easy-to-tackle project could you and your Valentine take on that would create a little more space at home?
Here’s one kind of “closet” that can be made using the PAX system from IKEA. The final product had sliding glass doors. In 2016, this unit cost about $1,700
An armoire is a free-standing closet. If you have minimal closet space or just need more closed storage, an armoire can be a lifesaver. IKEA’s PAX product line is one of the most customizable; it allows you to design the exact kind of storage that you need. Here are 5 useful tips for designing an IKEA PAX armoire:
TIP: Before starting to plan, take an accurate inventory of your clothes. How much hanging space do you need? Are most of your clothes short-hanging (less than 40”) or do you have long robes, gowns or slacks hanging with clips? What kind of folded clothes do you have? Socks, underwear, jammies? Are you going to store shoes in the system or not? At this point you don’t need to know HOW you’re storing everything but you need to know exactly WHAT you’re trying to store.
TIP: Be mindful of prime real estate. When designing your system, know that the prime area of storage is the zone from forehead to hip height. Plan to stow most-used items in this zone.
TIP: You can design the closet yourself using the online planning tool. This tool enables you to drag and drop all the components and features. Is it user friendly? Hmm…you have to be fairly computer-savvy to use it. You can also get help from an IKEA staff person in the store. Some of the staff actually have knowledge of how to build your system.
TIP: These are modular units, but the very first decision you make is what kind of doors you want to use; sliding doors or doors that open out. This is because the basic frame is different for these different door styles. Also, you need to choose the best height for your PAX system. It comes in 2 different heights. Generally, you want to maximize your vertical storage (the taller option) if your room can accommodate it.
TIP: You can save money by going full DIY including pulling all the pieces from the warehouse and assembling yourself (2 people required) or you can get IKEA to help as much as you want. With your design, the IKEA staff can gather the components, deliver it to your house and install it.
* Note: If you are going to purchase their installation, it is important to know that you are responsible for removing the baseboards in the area you want the armoire installed so the IKEA installers can attach it to the wall.
Do you have a unwieldy stack of kid creations in your garage or closet? Do you love to see the creativity in the various objects they create then feel paralyzed by the thought “Now what do I do with it?” Rest easy, you’re not alone. In our decades of organizing, kid art and memorabilia is one of the most common clutter challenges we deal with.
Here are 3 tips to manage the overwhelm:
Show it off before stowing it away
Dedicate a bit of wall and surface space to display the most recent creations. It gives time for everyone to appreciate the items and for attachments to wane a little. When new items come in, it’s time to decide whether the older items really make the cut at true keepsakes.
Separate the wheat from the chaff
They aren’t all keepers. Really. Remember, the goal is to keep a representative sample that catches a snapshot of their life. This includes homework. Routine worksheets and tests aren’t nearly as personal as original writing – kids talking in their own words about their lives in that moment. Also, don’t delude yourself that you’ll “make time to go through it later”. Be honest, you’re life is likely too busy and there’s far better uses of your time.
Use the right containers
Oversize art portfolios (available from craft & art stores) work perfectly for the preschool/early elementary years. Regular size art, homework, awards, cards/letters, and school/sport photos fit perfectly in a plastic file storage box with box bottom hanging files for each school year. Definitely have separate containers for each child. Object art does best in it’s own box, tissue wrapped for protection.
Bonus tip: Go digital! Take pictures of your child’s creations and put them in a system – folders, iphoto albums or sites like Picasa. And there are many apps available to memorialize your kids’ art.
Imagine your grown child coming back home to clear out their things after they’ve launched. They find a discreet amount of their memorabilia – a portfolio and a box – with the special art they created in their childhoods and are able to enjoy the memories and revel in their creativity while not being overwhelmed by dusty heaps of tattered paintings and dog-eared papers.
Filed under Bedroom, children, Closets, Decluttering, disorganization, Empty Nest, Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Kids, Memorabilia
Getting ready for school takes some planning
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
The Household Planner: http://www.thehouseholdplanner.com/free-printables/
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.
Active thought … and discipline will serve you well.
Recently Katherine has been listening to the audio book of Decisive* which is a resource written for business leaders. She found lots of interesting parallels to the decision making process our clients go through to reduce clutter.
We often see indecision at the root of clients’ clutter – “I don’t know what to do with this…” “What if I need this again?” “Well…I don’t know…” “Should I keep this or not?”
Here are some ways the core principles in Decisive apply to home organizing:
Widen Your Options
We can get tunnel vision about options and have a hard time visualizing a change. Let’s take the decisions around making an effective home office:
- What’s the best location for the workspace? Is it the dining table, kitchen, guest room, living room, or a closet? What is the best desk orientation and size?
Reality Test Your Assumptions
Dip your toe in the water of change by trying out an option rather than just relying on your gut instinct.
- Terrified of the prospect of letting something go in case you’ll need it? Store it in a box out of your active space and date the outside. If you don’t go into the box within a set amount of time (week, month, year?) you’ll know you really can live without it.
Attain Distance Before Deciding
Introduce some objectivity into your decision-making.
- What would I tell my best friend to do? What would someone else do in this situation?
Prepare To Be Wrong
We can’t predict outcomes, really. We tend to be overconfident about what we think the right thing to do is.
- As part of the decision making process, weigh the consequences of making a wrong decision.
Where do you see your indecision creating clutter in your home? Try applying one of the principles above and let us know how it goes!
*Thanks to Organization Development Consultant, Danny Ceballos for introducing us to this great resource!