Organizing your car (maintenance)

Organizing your car means having handy access for the things you need, when you need them, without having an accident to get to them. What about maintaining your organized car? If your car is “trashed” regularly, here are some hints to help you easily keep it in order.

Empty trash at each stop along the way. As you get gas or run errands at Target, drop your trash in the cans just outside the door there.  Or you can place a large trash can in your garage for you to easily drop in items. Take advantage of these trash cans along the way. 

Up to date registration and safety stickers are easy to renew if you calendar the date on your planner.  It saves the cost of a ticket!  You can enter this as a recurring event on your Outlook calendar too.

Need to keep track of mileage for expenses? Keep a mileage log in your car and write it down during a gas stop. Regular intervals like this weekly stop create a baby step for an often overwhelming task.

Empty the extra stuff out of your car each day.  It is a small step to keep your car from being a dumping ground by distributing items back into your home where these belong each day.  Assign this task to your family team members too to get the job done. 

Is your car your office? Once a week refill the items you use regularly, like business cards or marketing pieces, into well defined spots in the car.  It is like preparing for a quick meeting by having handy these items.

What baby steps are you taking to keep your car organized?

Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricane season begins on June 1 and extends until November 1.  Being ready has different meanings depending on whether you stay or leave your home.  Having been through 2 major hurricanes in 3 years,  Houstonians want to be prepared.  September is National Preparedness Month too!

Important papers

In a small portable safe, organize these documents: copy of passport, copy of drivers’ license, mortgage info, credit card info, banking, social security cards, will, birth certificate, marriage certificate, military records, 2 previous year’s tax returns, insurance info and divorce documents.

Many different websites recommend what to have on hand for remaining in your home.

FOOD
Non-perishable foods (soups, canned food and vegetables, breads and crackers, snacks)
Juice boxes and bottled water

HOME SUPPLIES
Ice chests, water, water jugs
Camping stove; propane; charcoal
Disposable plates, utensils, napkins
Storage bags
Toilet paper, paper towels
Diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, ointments
Prescriptions, copies of prescriptions and over the counter meds
Toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, shampoo, deodorant
Clothing, blankets, pillows, sleeping bags

First aid kit

Bug repellant

Eyeglasses, contact, hearing aids and batteries
Pet supplies, food, litter, pet carrier, medications
Identification
Cash, credit cards
List of phone number of family and friends
Important Documents, insurance policies
Photos, videos, cameras, film, memory cards, batteries
Battery powered radio
Flashlights
Extension cords
Pliers, wrenches, screwdrivers

 

Other sites for preparation checklists

 

www.ready.gov

 

www.redcross.org

www.americanfamilysafety.com

www.texasprepares.org

www.nokr.org/nok/restricted/home.htm   (Next of Kin Registry)

www.petfinder.com

Start with a baby step on preparedness this week!

Family Manager Lists

In my life, making and having a great list can make things so much easier.  On the Family Manager website, www.familymanager.com, there are many lists for  productivity, family chores and peace of mind.  Creating a list gets it all off your mind and you can really live and do “in the moment”. But what if there were lists made for you so you don’t have to think about it all yourself or that go beyond your own ideas?

Weekly Hit List:  Save your sanity with an orderly list of task.  Family Manager divides your tasks in the the six major departments of life. Using this list, you can write down all the tasks and priorities for week.  Seeing it all written it is easy to review what is to be done, deleted or delegated. 

Who’s Responsible for What,  Age Appropriate Chores List and Kids Chores Chart:  Who said Mom is always responsible for all chores?  A full list of all the possible jobs for family members. Use this list for family members to choose what they prefer or do best.  Assign points for level of difficulty of the chores and then create your own chores chart  to post in the kitchen for all to see. 

House Rules Contract: Family communication begins with agreeing on family guidelines and expectations.  Use this contract as a guideline for your family’s discussion. 

Lists are an easy way to make anything more visual, from the files in your file cabinet to the gifts purchased for holidays.  What lists work for you and your family?

Procrastination

 

Procrastination affects even the most linear thinking right brain people (professional organizers!) and there are strategies to help you make simple shifts to change.  Sometimes procrastination can take on a life of its own. It brings on worry, depression, regret, and stress and has the power to reduce people’s ability to function normally.  The first step in moving forward it recognizing what is most difficult about productivity  or the task itself.  Is it the spot where you work? Is it the work itself? Is it working by yourself? Here are some ways to get started thinking about procrastinating.

Set up a distraction free, reminder rich environment.  Think through where you work best with an appropriate chair, desk and space.  Do you need soft music, good lighting, or any other options?  Is your space in your home or out? Reminders can take the form of post it notes, 3X5 cards, or a task list on  your PDA.    

Establish priorities.  You may be busy with low priority tasks, for example pruning the hedges instead of working on your presentation that is due the next day!  Prioritizing is the first step to being more effective day to day.  Part of prioritizing is making manageable, short lists with a “do-able number” to ensure success. 

Commit to what is important by slotting tasks on a calendar. This sounds simple but this exercise cements the task in your mind which is important when you struggle with focus and time.  Set “mini deadlines” and add rewards to keep you moving toward your goals by delaying gratification until completion.

 

Sometimes it takes more than the space or time to complete a task.  Find a partner to discuss the steps and be accountable to completing.  Accountability can be done with texting, telephone or a quick email.  Loving accountability makes you more successful.  

 

So what do professional organizes procrastinate about?  For me it was being the committee chair of a national committee. Once I had calendared the dates for significant events, committed to working on baby steps in the process, and finding partners that helped me in the process, it all proceeded well. 

What do you procrastinate about?

Have you uncovered the cause?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organizing a classroom

It is an honor and privilege for me to partner with teachers in setting up their classrooms.  Teachers and classrooms are set up to maximize a productive, nurturing environment for learning.  In our work together, we create a custom space for the teacher to reinforce concepts and classroom management.

Setting up your classsroom begins with room/space arrangement. Start with the global view of what do you want to accomplish in which space.  Typically there is a teacher work zone with the desk, files, and bookshelves.  The student spaces include personal desks and small group spaces.  There is storage for supplies and the daily lessons.  Final room touches include the bulletin board and the wall decor.  By asking yourself questions and centering on the curriculum,  the classroom takes shape. 

Take each zone individually to maximize productivity for the task and to store items. 

For the teacher work area, have a space for computer, a small quantity of school supplies, easy access for adminstrative tasks, easy access for the day’s curriculum, and a small space for personal items such as snacks.  For the admin tasks, think of the papers you will get daily and need to be filed, returned to the office, or send back to parents. Each should have a “slot” to drop these in and then take a few minutes to act on the appropriate paper.  The cascading file tote from The Container Store works well for admin papers. Be sure to label it with your categories of paper, including administrative, parents, or filing.   By using the wall space you are keeping paper off your desk too! 

Curriculum and lessons need a specific spot.   You can use vertically stacked letter trays  or plastic drawers to hold each day’s lessons.  Keep lessons in the space you are using these, in the front of the classroom, at your small group work station,  or in the file cabinet for the following week.  Again, lots of labels needed! You can categorize by day of the week, curriculum concept (such as sequencing), or curriculum area (such as math). 

Storage in classrooms follows the same concepts as all organized storage. Keep like things together and items you access frequently easy to reach.  Use containers to keep floppy, small items each to store.  The most difficult aspect of storage is to keep ONLY what you use.  Review your cabinets frequently to get items back to where these belong.  Curriculum resources can be found on bookshelves behind the teacher’s desk. 

Keeping your classroom organized occurs with good routines.  Have your students help you maintain the order in the class by returning items to their proper homes.  You are teaching more than curriculums of math, science or language.  Organizing is a life skill  that is very important to share.

Here’s what made a difference for this teacher:

Since I moved to a new classroom this year, I had to do more than just rearrange and re-organize.  I had to rebuild.  Ellen helped me to begin by thinking globally.  What do I want the big picture to look like?  What will I need to accomplish today to feel as though I have been productive?  She also helped me to narrow down and focus on one task at a time while prioritizing which one needed to come first, second, and so on.  Just another set of hands makes a great difference, but sometimes having someone to guide you (and sometimes push you to get the work done) is what leaves you with the feeling of complete success.  From arranging student desks to connecting extension wires, from desk drawers to cabinet shelves, and from storing unused materials to decorating walls, my feelings of overwhelmed and impossible changed to prepared and confident with a little help from a fantastic organizer.  Thanks professional-organizer.com!  Ellen, you’re the best!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ideas for products

  http://www.containerstore.com/browse/Product.jhtml?searchId=21884113&itemIndex=1&CATID=74538&PRODID=10018814

http://www.sterilite.com/Category.html?Section=Storage&ProductCategory=45

http://www.staples.com/Staples-Plastic-Side-Loading-Letter-Size-Trays/product_SS645820?cmArea=FEATURED:SC2:CG22:DP1203:CL142133

Family Dinner

dinner organizing and family dinner

 

In our minds, the thought of family dinner brings back a picture of the 50s family gathered around the table feasting on pot roast and mashed potatoes.  With the busy lives we lead we may not be able to make that pot roast ourselves, but we can continue to make family dinner a priority. In a recent Time Magazine article, the Magic of the Family Meal, authors cited the family dinner as a primary part of family life. The communication that goes on not only smooths family life, this article even went on to say it prevents kids from doing drugs! This is reason for us to be sure we have our sacred family time.   http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1200760,00.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/fashion/04dinner.html

So how to accomplish this daunting task? Here are several suggestions to make this a simple part of your everyday family life.

Start with a plan. 

Be sure family members can be home together to have dinner.  Making dinner a priority means some thing else may not be a part of your week.  Include grocery shopping (and possibly coupon clipping) in your calendar in order to prepare dinner.

Include your family team in meal planning and preparation.  During a family meeting, have family members request their favorites and make a list.   Family members can partner to make meals and clean up after meals.  With your chores chart, assign a night to the pairs.   If starting dinner is a sticking point, make it a standard operating procedure for whoever comes in the door first starts dinner.

Families look forward to dinner and the yummy foods. 

With your family list create a 3 week rotation of easy to prepare meals. Recycle your 3 week rotations in a notebook to reuse later in the year.  Post the weekly or 3  week rotation on the refrigerator so your family knows the plan and chats about the yummy treats coming up.

Keep It Simple Sweetie applies to family dinner.

It is about gathering together, not culinary creativity.  Sandwiches, breakfast food, and crock pot dinners are all great ways to get dinner done.  Affordable healthy take out from fast food restaurants can be a part of the plan too.

Family traditions start with dinner time. 

Friday night can be frozen pizza night, Sunday is Dad’s Grill Day and Wednesday night might be Breakfast for Dinner night.  Our kids remember these times!

Your pantry should be the go to spot for those crazy nights when everyone is running late.  Include pasta, bottled speghetti sauce, tuna and other staples that can be turned into dinner in 30 minutes.

Plan for leftovers. 

Recently I read about a family who dedicates Sunday to going to the park each Sunday in the summer.  Dad grills burgers, chicken and other dinner meats for the week, while Mom relaxes and the kids play games.  On a weekend, double recipes and freeze half.  Cook an entree that can be used in two different dishes, such as taco meat for burritos and later in the week taco salad.

And here are a few other resources too!

www.5dollardinners.com

http://www.dinnerplanner.com/

www.menufortheweek.com

http://www.makedinnereasy.com/

http://www.sixoclockscramble.com/

http://thefamilydinnerproject.org/

 

What is your favorite way to get dinner done?

Back to School Supplies

Shopping for school supplies is creating a boost for our economy!  Choose where to shop first based on your most expensive item. If you need new backpacks for the kiddos, shop first at the store where these are most on sale.  Don’t forget our sales tax free weekend on August 21 – 23! Its a little late but a great date!  

Some outstanding websites to help you save for school supplies!

www.houstononthecheap.com

www.target.com

www.officemax.scom

www.orientaltrading.com

www.discountschoolsupplies.com

Organized Office

Whether it is your home office, your small business office or your corporate office, getting down to business at your desk is a chore if it is piled with papers! Establishing a comfortable area for paper work and other office activities is important for productivity.

Create a Work Zone

As you begin, determine what tasks you are doing in your office and the tools needed for these tasks. By making these decisions at the outset, you are preparing your space for accomplishment. Create areas designating the best access for most frequent activities. As for room arrangement, place your desk in a position that allows maximum use of natural light. Position the desk in a direct ion that allows for direct viewing of all who enter without you having to turn.

Desk drawers should have only what you use at the desk in them. Store your additional office supplies in another area. Keep specific categories of items individually stored in different drawers. One drawer should contain checks and bill paying items, one drawer stationary and note pads, one drawer with a pencil tray holding pencils, pens, tape, stapler and scissors. Again, keep just enough to use and not over stuff the drawers. Place books on book shelves, magazines or reading material in a basket to grab and go. Be sure that your telephone, computer and other essentials are placed easily in reach.

 

A Personalized Paper Plan

A “paper plan” is most important in this work zone. Create an area for “Action” files. This is a temporary home where papers live until either filed away or thrown away. Papers used frequently or that are a “hot topic” need a basket, vertical file, or other space on your desk. Label them according to what actions or terms fit best with your needs. These files can be call, file, mail, or pay. Or these can be named by client name, project name, or other key word that comes to mind quickly. Clearly label your files so you will always know what is in them, and just as importantly, the labels will remind you what not to put in them.

 

Organize with access in mind

 

Arrange for the placement of frequently used files to be placed in the desk’s file drawer. Less frequently accessed files can be placed in a separate filing cabinet. As for filing cabinets, use a low-lying, two-drawer cabinet that can be placed next to or near your desk for the added use of its top for other items that you often need.

 

Your filing system should be simple easy and manageable. Create categories in your files for the different major work/home areas. For work it may be clients, administrative, financial. For home it may be home/auto, personal, and financial. Use general key words that come to mind quickly, and sub categorize as needed. An example would be Car – insurance, Car – maintenance, or Insurance – Car, Insurance – Home. Think about how YOU think about the paper to find it. Color-coding your files makes it faster to find information. Use one color hanging file to easily slip information into a file. Label the file with a tab using a label maker!   Decide when papers go into an archive area. These are papers you seldom access, but need to keep.  Arrange for storage in the least accessible drawer, in a file box in the top of a closet, or at an auxiliary location.

 

Maximize your space to maximize productivity!  A clear desk makes it easy to sit down and get started on your work.

Mom to Mom Toddler Success Tips

As my kids grew up, I always appreciated tips from other moms who had kids in the same stages as mine or even a heads up about what is coming up.  My daughter is in the middle of the terrible two’s phase.  Here are some of her success tips.
Consistency is most important for parenting a toddler.  Have a plan and don’t waiver, regardless of continual whining, continual negotiation and even if it seems easier to give in.  To be consistent, you must first know what is important to you. Being respectful, having good manners, eating properly and taking care of toys are top priorities.  

Routines are important for every day organizing.  Schedule pick up time regularly in intervals before the next activity. No one is overwhelmed and your home stays orderly.  Five minute “heads up” prepares your toddler for what is coming next.  “Five minutes until we put away toys.” The transition time helps them know what is next and get ready.  Morning and evening routines emphasize the order of life too! In the morning we get up, go potty, brush teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast, and get ready for “school”.  Every afternoon nap time takes place between 12  and 1.  Routines make our lives smooth and tranquil.

Potty training is a big step for toddlers.   A great resource is Potty Training in Less than a Day by Nathan Azrin and Richard Foxx.  It really works! Be sure to follow exactly what it says. 

Time out is viewed as a time to reflect and refocus.  This is coupled with the beginnings of character training and communication.  We stress apologizing, stating what he did, saying he was sorry, and ending with a hug and a kiss. 

My great joy at being a mom is watching my daughter be a great mom!

 

 

 

 

 by

Gigi Day

As an organizer, it is important to me to to prioritize. And nothing is more of a priority to me than my family and relationships. Last year, I started having Gigi Day with my grandkids.  Why Gigi Day? I am called Gigi by my grandkids and 2 of them live nearby.  Every Friday I spend the day having fun with them.  What do we do? It can be as simple as a trip to the park, the zoo or Children’s Museum. Some time it is playing hide and seek.  It is my way of spending time with them every week just to be a part of their everyday lives.  

Each summer my other grandchild comes to visit for several weeks and it is our time to spend with him.  As a far away grandparent, we are thrilled to have him play with his big wheel on the driveway, color or play with trucks.   This is time that is priceless, super valuable and incredibly important!   

These times are my small but important ways to do what is most valuable to me.   The greatest gift is time spent together, not the stuff you can buy. 

Think about what your family shares. How do you spend time together? Do you have family dinner and time to have fun? Listed here are some Houston links  for family fun. 

http://www.cmhouston.org/

http://www.discoverygreen.com/

http://www.chron.com/channel/momhouston/

http://www.houstononthecheap.com/

http://www.hmns.org/

http://www.houstonzoo.org/

http://www.grandparents.com/gp/home/index.html

 What family fun are you sharing this week?