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Archive for Family Organization

Jun
29

Vacation Memory Jar

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Turn Vacation Clutter into a Cool Organized Display!

Let’s face it….most of us don’t have time for Martha Stewart’s crazy, complicated, craft ideas!  They are cute…but really….oragami picnic baskets?!?  Here is one she came up with that I think is actually doable.  It is also a great organizing idea for all the vacation nick-knacks that collect dust on our shelves.

Buy a simple clear glass canister and turn your otherwise clutter, into a sentimental art piece.  If you take a vacation to the beach, fill the jar with sand, some pretty shells and rocks you inevitably collect in your pockets, a photo of the family playing in the water, etc.  They are really cool! 

You can do the same for a trip to Paris, Disneyland, a family reunion, summer camp, or anywhere you collect memories.  This would be a fun craft activity to do with your kids.  

Stay organized and have fun doing it!!

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Everyone needs a “Command Center”!  A holding station for all the important papers that come in and out of our life on a daily basis.

What do you do with your mail when it comes into the house?  Do you pile it on the kitchen counter or stuff it in a cupboard?  How about that permission slip that needs to be signed, or the birthday invitation?  We all have LOTS of paper.  It is one of the most frustrating and time consuming tasks we deal with.  If we ignore it for too long it consumes us, and we end up feeling stuck in a hole we can’t dig out of.

“So, what does a “Command Center” look like and how can I create one?”, you ask.  They are very simple to put together, and mine looks like this.

  • To create one for yourself you will need:  One desk top file box (small or large), 10 to 20 hanging file folders with tabs (depending on the size of your file box), and a tickler file.
  • After you purchase your supplies, take a look at the most recent pile on your desk or counter-top.  This will give you an idea of the most common paper you deal with.
  • Make a list.  Your list might include bills, coupons, upcoming events, items for each family member, things you want to read, projects that need to be done, committee information, etc.  The items on your list will become the headings on your file tabs.  If you forget something you can always add one later.

Now when the bills come in, you take them out of the envelopes (recycle all unnecessary paper) and put them in the “bills to be paid” file.  When it is time to pay them, the statements will be at your fingertips.  No more looking through stacks of paper.

Say you have signed your kids up for summer camp, and you have their confirmation letter and emergency medical paperwork to fill out.  You don’t want to lose those important papers, so you put them in the “upcoming events” file.

Are you the head of a committee or the PTA president?  Make a file for “PTA” or title one for your prospective committee to house current paperwork for that group.  

It is good for each member of the family to have a file, so they have a place to put papers that they want you to look at or that you need them to look at.  

Lastly, a “tickler file” can be an awesome tool for those of us with packed schedules.  We can not hold all the info. in our mind, we need a monthly/daily system that will tickle our brain on any given day and remind of us of what we need to take care of.  Here is one example:  It is June, and you get a wedding invitation for July 22nd.  Where do you put it?  Not the refrigerator!  Put it in the corresponding month in your tickler file.  When July is approaching, you take the items from the July file and put them in the daily slots.  Maybe you want to buy the gift on the 5th, put the invite with the registry info. in the 5th slot.  After you buy the gift put the invite in the 22nd slot, so you have the directions to the wedding ready to go.   

So, you get the picture….a place for every piece of paper and every piece of paper in its place.  No more piles and no more wasted hours looking for missing items.  I have set up many Command Centers for my clients, and they have greatly simplified their lives.  If you would like to set up your own “Command Center ” and still have questions, please email or call me and I will help you!!  Go to my contact button at the top of the page and send me a note.

May
31

Summer Organizing Is In the Bag!

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How would you like to end the school year and start the summer feeling organized? 

You can….it’s in the BAG!!

Don’t dread the big paper bag full of school stuff that is coming home.  Go through it with your child right away and make a special time out of it by talking about the year’s memories.  

  • First, throw away all the beat up supplies that you won’t use again. 
  • Next, quickly go through papers and toss the ones that are not important and keep the ones that are.  Papers that you plan to keep should be special (stories your child wrote, exceptional art work, special notes from your child’s teacher or friends).  
  • Store your child’s papers in a file folder and label it with the grade they just completed.  On the inside of the folder have your child print and sign their name, write their teacher’s name and who their special friends were during the year.  Have them jot down some of their favorite and least favorite activities and a goal for the following year. 
  • Pick out a nice plastic bin or a memorabilia box that can hold multiple folders and place the folder in the box.  Make this a tradition.  You will feel totally organized and your children will have their memories at their fingertips when they need them.  My kids love their memory boxes and they have come in very handy at graduation time when they are preparing for their senior presentations.

Create To-Go Bags.  Whether you will be heading off to the beach, going to the park, or taking a road trip; To-Go Bags are very handy.  Simply gather up some of those extra totes you have lying around the house and designate them for a specific purpose. 

  • To create a “Beach To-Go Bag” grab some sunscreen, extra beach towels, sand bucket and shovel, flip flops, extra sunglasses, a few water bottles and you are ready to go. 
  • For a road trip or those long errand days with the kids create a “Car To-Go Bag”.  Include colored pencils (crayons can melt in the car), color book, reading books, flash cards, snacks, action figures, Mad-Libs, and maybe an electronic game for really long car rides.  
  • If your kids are planning lots of summer camps or over-nighters, plan ahead and make up some “Toiletry To-Go Bags” with mini toothbrushes and paste, little shampoos and soaps you have kept from hotels, and other essentials.  When it comes time to pack it will be a breeze. 
  • “Emergency To-Go Bags” are always a good idea to keep in the car.  Include a flashlight, snacks with a long expiration, water, Tylenol, and a first-aid kit.  One of my clients recently made up a couple for her cars and put them in back packs.  A very good idea if you will need to leave your car and walk any distance.

Whether you are emptying or filling your bags, the trick is to think ahead on how you can be more effecient and organized.  Be CREATIVE and have a fun summer!

 

Oct
01

Great School Lunch Ideas and More

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Last week I lead a fun workshop entitled “Back to School Tips for an A+ Year”.  One of the items we didn’t have enough time to dive into was meal planning and making school lunches.  I know I get bored with packing lunches and I think others do as well, so here are some cool ideas to simplify lunch making and add a little flair to the contents of the plain brown bag.  Enjoy!

 lunchbag-text-400x507

                                 
I have to admit making school lunches is near the top of my least favorite things to do list.  When you don’t enjoy doing something, you tend to put it off or try to avoid it all together.  But, our children need to eat! 

So, here are some things I’ve tried, learned from others, and recently discovered to streamline lunch making and make it simple and fun….

  1. Make lunches the night before.  Mornings tend to be rushed for everyone.  Have lunches in the fridge with your children’s names on the bags, or in their lunch boxes, so they can grab them and go.  The same goes for backpacks and sports bags.  Make sure they are loaded the night before with all return homework, sports equipment for practice, signed papers, and all books.  Put them in front of the door.  This will put an end to morning chaos.
  2. When you go shopping and get bulk items or snack items, sit down and pack them in zip-loc bags or reusable containers for the whole week.  For example, cut up all the fresh veggies and make variety packs.  Stick them in a container and they are ready to go.  Do the same with chips, crackers, cookies, etc.  Another fun healthy snack you can pack up ahead is trail mix.  Have your kids pick out the things they like and help make up the mix themselves.  Make it a Sunday night routine and making lunches will be a breeze.
  3. Think food groups.  Together with your kids, make a chart with four columns and the headings: Sandwiches, Fruits/Veggies, Snacks, and Desserts.  Have children fill in each column with items of their own choosing.  Each day, pack one item form each group.  Remind them that the food they will be eating, they chose themselves.
  4. Have younger children cut meats and cheeses with cookie cutters into fun shapes.  Make little cracker sandwiches with them.  The perfect finger food.  You can also use bigger cookie cutters to cut out sandwiches.heart-cookie-cutter
  5. This non-food lunch idea is my kid’s favorite!  Periodically, put a note of encouragement in their lunch.  If you know they have a test, are going through a rough time, or just to say I love you!  Other fun non-food items could be a holiday pencil, a coupon for an ice cream cone, a $5 gift card, or a surprise note saying they get to have a friend over for a play-date or overnighter (that you have secretly pre-arranged).  It doesn’t matter how old your child is, they will LOVE this!   
  6. If you have friends who love to make lunches, pick their brains for ideas.  Try planning time once a week to make lunches together.  Make some casseroles or soups and freeze them in microwaveable dishes to heat up at school, for a nice hot lunch.  Throw in some healthy bread and fruit, and you have a perfect meal.
  7. Don’t forget water bottles.  I bought all of my kids, sturdy water bottles in their favorite colors, that they take to school every day.  Juice boxes get expensive and many are full of sugar.  The rule of thumb is to drink half of our body weight in ounces of water each day!  So if you weigh 150 lbs. you should be drinking at least 75 oz. of water.  If you play sports you should be drinking an extra 16 oz. for each hour of activity.  When we get dehydrated we get tired and we don’t think as clearly.
  8. Don’t let your family skip breakfast.  If you don’t have time to sit down for breakfast, grab a protein bar or fill a thermos with milk and add a protein breakfast powder.  Make some fruit smoothie or orange juice popsicles.  Experiment with healthy breakfast cookies or have a bowl of hard boiled eggs ready to grab.  Breakfast kick starts your metabolism and will help your kids concentrate at school.   
  9. If your kids have after school activities pack them an extra snack to sustain their energy until dinner time.  Try peanuts and raisins or cheese and apple slices.  Here’s a yummy snack recipe that is full of protein and a treat the kids will love!     

Peanut Butter Power Balls                   Peanut-Butter

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup non-fat dry milk powder or soy protein powder   
1/2 cup raisins or chocolate chips                                                             
1/4 cup honey
Graham cracker crumbs

Mix all ingredients except the graham cracker crumbs in a large bowl. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll in crumbs and refrigerate (or freeze; balls will thaw by lunchtime).

 

Remember to be creative, include your kids in the process and try and have fun!!

 kids-recipes

That’s what I am going to do!

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Categories : Family Organization
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Aug
18

Quick Tip: Organizing Homework

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Alright….You have your homework zones set up and well stocked with supplies, and everyone knows they have to get their homework done before T.V. and computer time. Congratulations! You are off to a great start.

So, how do we help our kids keep track of daily assignments and plan for long term projects without being a nag?

1. Help your kids get in the habit of using a planner. Many schools give their JH and HS students planners. If not, go to the office supply store and have your child pick one out that they like. Teaching them to organize their time and responsibilities is a crucial life skill.

2. We would all love our children to be responsible for their own homework, but we know that isn’t always the case.  As parents it is our responsibility to help and encourage them when needed. A great way to make sure they stay on track is to use a white board. Have your white board in a central location. You should have 4 columns:

White Board

White Board

• Child’s Name                 
• Assignment
• Due Date
• Supplies Needed

When they get home from school have them write down all new assignments.  When one is completed they erase it.  Now you can see what everyone is doing at a glance.

Remember: 

  • Watch out for signs that your child is overloaded or struggling.
  • Be a team player with your child’s teachers. They care about your child too and want them to have a successful school year.
  • Go to parent/teacher/student conferences.
  • Stay Involved!
  • Encourage your kids!
  • Have fun learning with them!
Categories : Family Organization
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Aug
09

Back to School Bliss

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I hope you are enjoying your summer.  The heat has been a little much for me, so I am glad we are back to cooler weather.  I really enjoy the more laid back atmosphere of summer, but my favorite season of all is fall.  I love the cool, crisp, fresh smell in the air.  It makes me happy when I start seeing pumpkins and all the beautiful colors of fall. I even like getting ready for a new school year.

School is right around the corner.  I have been having a lot of fun watching my daughter get ready for junior high.  She is so excited and has been gathering school supplies for the last few weeks.  Her new backpack is loaded and everything is ready to go. She has great plans to be organized all school year; she has even color-coded all of her classes, with folders to match. 

I would like to match her excitement level, but we moms have a few more things to juggle, and the stress of getting everyone ready for school can be a lot to handle sometimes.  So here are five quick tips to get  the whole family ready for school.

 back_to_school_banner

 BLISS 

  1. Make sure everyone understands their responsibilities around the house.  If you get it out, you put it away.  There is no excuse for a child’s bedroom to look like a bomb just went off.  They have been blessed with a nice room; they need to keep it that way.  Make sure to hold them accountable.  When their chores and homework are done, then they get free time.  They will feel so much better starting a new school year with a clean, organized room! 
  2. Set up routines.  Do you have a chore chart for your kids?  Every busy mom needs help around the house.  Everyone (even your toddlers) should have responsibilities.  If you haven’t found a chore chart you love, email me  and I will send you some information about the “Good Choices Chart” I developed for my kids.  It makes rewards and consequences easy and it is fun for kids to use. 
  3. We all know how quickly our schedules fill up once school begins.  Make sure you have a family calendar posted in a prominent place so everyone can write in their appointments as they come up.  I make sure my older children do this and then I transfer the dates to my personal calendar.  Life is so much easier to plan and you don’t have to worry about double booking with a family calendar.   
  4. Meal planning is a must and I have struggled in this area for years.  With a family of 7 it was always hard to find something everyone liked to eat.  Get your kids involved.  Have them look through cookbooks and mark the recipes they like with a post-it note and make a list of their top five favorite dinners.  Take their ideas, and make a  few weekly menus.  To make your menu and shopping list simple, print out the weekly menu planner from my website resources page.
  5. Get a homework zone set up now.  Your children need a quiet, clutter free space to concentrate on their school work.  When you are out shopping for school supplies, pick up some extras and have them readily accessible.  Find a turn-about storage container (the kind you use for kitchen utensils).  It is perfect for holding pens, pencils, rulers, scissors, glue sticks, and more.  Pampered Chef makes one I really like.  Keep lots of extra paper on hand and don’t forget to have a pencil sharpener handy.  For more homework tips check out my website.

If you have questions about getting organized for school or taming family chaos, please email me and I would be happy to answer your specific questions.

If you or someone you know is looking for more one-on-one family support, check out my Family Tool Kit package and call for your free 30 minute consultation.

Have fun getting ready for school, and bring balance to your home!

Daniele

425.273.4837                                                                         

daniele@otttogetorganized.com

Categories : Family Organization
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