Tag Archives: toys

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

Clutter Free Gifts For Kids

Cowabunga!

Have a cherished kid in your life that you enjoy gifting to? Great intentions and generosity from friends and family leave many homes overrun with toys. Every birthday or holiday brings in gifts from multiple people and often each of those people gives multiple gifts!

When considering what to give, begin with the end in mind. Inevitably the toy you give will be outgrown and need to be disposed of somehow –  it is VERY difficult to donate toys. Most thrift stores won’t take them. Toy consignment stores are picky and toys need to be complete and in great condition. Most families don’t have the time or energy to sell things online or have garage sales. All this means many, many toys end up in landfill or homes get overrun because folks don’t want to just throw things away.

There are lots of clutter-free ways to express your love and care for kiddos, here are some easy gift alternatives to toys:

  • Memberships – or single visit tickets to fun kid places such as amusement parks, zoos, or aquariums
  • Digital Gifts – Audible, iTunes, digital books, online magazines
  • Experiences – movie tickets, miniature golf or fun centers, mani-pedi or facials, a picnic outing with special relative
  • Classes – toddler play spaces or mini gym. Summer camp. Swimming, gymnastics, sewing, cooking, art, nature; there are classes in every topic imaginable!
  • College fund or savings bonds – Open or contribute to a college fund
  • Food – a variety popcorn tin, box of cake pops, tour of Jelly Belly Factory,  candy apple making kit, cake decorating kit

A quick google search of “clutter-free gifts for kids” will turn up lots of other creative ideas. Give your adult children a break by not burdening them with toys to sort, store and pass on when the kids outgrow them.

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Filed under children, Decluttering, Holidays, Kids

The 5 Types of Items Worth Holding Onto

Items-That-Will-Be-Worth-More-in-the-Future-750x485

This week we share a post by Brian Graves from Everything But The House (EBTH). This post first appeared on NextAvenue. 

Determining which collectibles have the potential to increase in value has changed drastically over the past 20 years. With the introduction of e-commerce, items once believed to be rare were made available en masse. And with previous generations of collectors in a position to divest their prized possessions, the forces of supply and demand may have never had a more profound impact on collecting.

For centuries, there were cyclical styles of items that could be acquired when they were out of favor with the knowledge that eventually they’d come back in vogue. It’s why you hear some furniture styles described with the term “revival” after their name (there was the original period and then the period where they were revived).

So, what makes something popular and worth holding onto? Well, as the founder and Chief Learning Officer of the estate sale company and auction platform, Everything But The House (EBTH), I’d say it’s the herd mentality. When I started collecting in the 1990s, the predominant design themes in the average American home included Southwestern patterns in pastel tones (mauve, teal, peach) and traditional furnishings with Grecian patterned upholstery in burgundy, gold, and hunter green. At the time, Midcentury Modern furnishings were only starting to regain a following. I recall pulling a pair of DUX Midcentury Modern chairs out of the garbage and proudly sold the pair at a show the following weekend for $150. If I had known then what I know now, I might have held out for more.

My point is that by the time you know something is in demand, it’s often too late. Therefore, in order to know what might be worth holding onto, you have to be able to do something most of us can’t: see into the future. Still, there are five keys to knowing which possessions offer promise:

1. Items that are either one-of-a-kind, handmade by a skilled artist or craftsperson or made in limited quantities will always be in demand. For instance, curating an art collection of living artists can be a good investment strategy. But not always. So pair this rule with the following three points: 1) Buy the art to enjoy it. 2.) Don’t invest more than you’re comfortable losing. 3.) Diversify.

2. Items made of high-quality materials by notable firms will always have an audience. Names like Hermès, Chanel, Tiffany and Cartier get collectors to pay closer attention. They’re like buying blue-chip stocks. These firms have stood the test of time and shown they have what it takes to maintain consumer interest, even if that means reinventing themselves. The items won’t necessarily appreciate in value, but they are much less likely to depreciate if kept in good condition.

3. Other collectibles to consider are ones that remind us of our youth. Once a generation reaches middle age with disposable income (usually older than 35), they tend to collect objects that remind them of their yesteryears. This transcends categories and applies to toys, books and even vehicles. For instance, in recent years, He-Man action figures from the 1980s have appreciated to values exceeding even earlier generations of toys such as G.I. Joe figures from the 1960s.

But the timing on the sale of these types of objects is critical. A rule of thumb: consider selling nostalgia items 25 to 35 years after they originally became popular. It’s important to note that the earliest editions —produced in limited quantities before the category became popular enough to justify increased production — command the highest prices.

4. Consider holding onto items connected to unique events or people in history but that were intended to be discarded. These are often referred to as ephemera. The key here is that the item must be one-of-a-kind or hard to come by.

For example, many people held onto newspapers reporting the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the moon landing, so they’re not rare and therefore not valuable. But if you held onto an early promotional poster for The Rolling Stones from the same timeframe, you would have more than enough to pay for a nice vacation after selling it.

5. Another category to consider: objects that have a tangible value based on what they’re made of. Precious metals such as silver, gold, and platinum all have an associated market value, which is readily identifiable and allows for immediate liquidity. Antique or high-quality examples of these objects can often have values worth two to 10 times the value of the precious metal itself or even more. But profiting from less desirable, and more common, examples — such as bullion coins or damaged serving pieces — depends on the current price of the metal. Silver, for instance, is currently worth about 1/3 what it was in 2011, but that’s still about three times as much as in 2001.

So what would I recommend keeping that might be worth more money down the road? Well, nothing really. You should only hold onto something if you love it, use it and have a place in your home for it. Be careful not to become too hung up on hanging onto collectibles in the hopes they might go up in value, especially if you don’t have the space for them. Most collectibles fall out of favor in time. My advice: be cautious about holding onto items which create clutter and cost money to store and care for, coupled with no guarantees.

If you want to get a glimpse into which types of objects people are most interested in collecting today, click here to see the most followed objects at my company’s site, EBTH.com.

by Brian Graves July 20, 2017

Brian Graves is founder and chief learning officer at Everything But The House (EBTH), where he uses his extensive knowledge of history, antique valuation and authentication to help maximize value for clients. A longtime collector and a graduate of the Mendenhall School of Auctioneering, Brian founded EBTH in 2008 with Jacquie Denny, after years spent buying, refurbishing and reselling antiques in his spare time.

EVERYTHING BUT THE HOUSE (EBTH) is the only online estate sale company that combines high-touch customer service with the reach of an e-commerce site. Their full service model— photography, cataloging, payment and delivery – makes the entire process of planning and managing an estate sale easy and seamless.

 

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Filed under artwork, Decluttering, downsizing, Garage, Guest Experts, Moving, Perspective

Tackle Messy Build-Up With Your Kids This Summer

organizing crafts

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
  • Books
  • DVDs, video games
  • Electronics
  • 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 

Enlist Help

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!

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Filed under artwork, children, Decluttering, General Organizing, Kids, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

Say Bye-Bye to Toy Clutter!

bye bye

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!

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Filed under children, Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, Kids, Living Room

Too Easy to Buy, Too Hard to Let Go

shopping - 1

“Getting stuff” can be fun and easy…it’s the “letting go” that can be challenging

We Americans have too much stuff.

This is our observation gleaned from decades spent immersed in the home organizing industry and working with people in their homes. Why is this?

Stuff is cheap. It’s easy to come by things relatively cheaply. Big box stores such as IKEA, Target, WalMart, and Costco always have great deals on household goods and furniture…not to mention the ease of buying with Amazon. The advent of online shopping means goods arrive at our door with one click. Even getting used things is easier than ever with sites such as Craigslist, eBay, Freecycle, MoveLoot and NextDoor.

New things are fun! Our media and culture promote the excitement and promise of re-decorating, having the latest fashions and gadgets. We have acclimated to the idea of rapid change and stimulation. These forces help drive us to think of everyday goods and furniture as almost disposable instead of intended to last for years.

Smaller families mean gifts abound – we see this so often with kids’ toys. With smaller families there are more adults to dote on the kids. Gone are the days where a child gets a few things from their parents and maybe the grandparents. Now we have aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors with few or no kids who want to get in on the fun. It all adds up to too much.

Environmentalism. Even our desire to be green adds to the problem. We are lured into buying things that are cheap…Wow! A couch from IKEA for $119? What a deal! But when that couch gives way or wears out we feel bad for wanting to trash it…sometimes we hold onto broken or worn things, trying not to waste them by sending them to the landfill. But then our garage turns into a trash receptacle.

What to do about it?

Curtail the shopping. Make a game out of shopping at Costco and only buying 5 things you really need. Begin with the end in mind and – before you buy – imagine what you’ll do with the item when it wears out or you’ve outgrown it.

Request non-tangible or consumable gifts from extended family and give those yourself. Providing savings bonds, promises of outings, shows or more elaborate vacations…even contributions to a car fund…can provide long-term satisfaction to both the giver and the receiver.

Think “Environment” before you buy. Buy for quality and endurance. Will that item be valued by your children when they’re ready to start their own families? Will there be a market for this item in the future?

Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive.” – Bryant H. McGill

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

Living With A Cluttered Valentine

courtesy of Donna Smallin Cooper of Organized Greetings

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
  • Nagging
  • 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?

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Filed under Bedroom, Decluttering, General Organizing, Holidays, home organizing, middle-age, Perspective, Strategies