Revive Family Game Night! Organize Your Games and Puzzles

Are you one of those families? You know, the one that packs so many things into the hall closet, that games, puzzles, balls, Lego play sets, and miscellaneous bath items come tumbling out when you open the door?! :) You are laughing, right? It’s funny, because we are that family or know families that stuff the game closet to the max! Most of the time, it’s easier to keep it closed then try to find what’s needed.

Revive Family Game Night Organize Your Games and Puzzles

Who cares about family game night anyway? Well, it turns out maybe we should care. In Bringing Back Family Game Night, PBS Parents quotes several educational reasons why kids benefit from playing games with the entire family. And we aren’t talking video games here. We’re referring to cards, board games, word and spelling games, and games that develop motor skills and build cognitive function. Plus, games can be a whole lot of fun!

Do you think if you organized your games and puzzles, you’d actually play them more often? Probably! We know one thing is for sure. If you keep them in disarray, they will stay buried in that cluttered closet and no one in the family will be motivated to play games together. So, here are some tips to get you one step closer to family game night bliss!

  • Decide on the best location to store your games. For some families, this may still be in that closet. But for others, a better place might be an storage ottoman in the living room, or bookshelves in one child’s room, or possibly even in under-the-bed storage boxes in the parent’s room. When choosing an ideal place, make sure there is easy access for all members of the family. In other words, make a plan before you start the organizing process.
  • Give away or toss. Sort through all your games and puzzles and get rid of ones you don’t like, ones that are missing lots of pieces, or ones that are in bad shape and broken. It’s no fun attempting to play games that aren’t complete.
  • Separate your games into categories. Once you’ve reduced your games and puzzles to the ones you want to keep, separate them into like categories (cards with cards, board games with board games, puzzles with puzzles, marbles with marbles, etc.).
  • Place the small games in a container and label. It will be easier to find smaller-sized games (like all of the cards) if they are in a container with a label. I like clear plastic because you can see through the container, but plain cardboard boxes or colorful bins work well too. Label each one with a marker or label-maker label, so you know what’s inside!
  • Store your games in their proper new home. Now place your categorized games and labeled containers into their new location. Whether it’s on book shelves, closet shelves, or in a larger storage container, the most important thing is being able to see all the games clearly. You want to be able to pick out that 500 piece German castle puzzle without hassle. You also want your kids to find their favorite games easily, so they can play anytime.
  • Be intentional about family game or puzzle night. Once you get organized, use your games! Schedule a regular night that works for everyone and enjoy the time together. You might be surprised how much fun you have! It might even become a family tradition with long-lasting memories. I can’t remember how many times my sister would challenge and beat me playing Yahtzee! :) Another tradition that my husband and I have enjoyed is listening to audio books while we do puzzles together. But now that we are expecting our first child, we will consider scheduling game nights in future years. In looking at these photos, I realize we definitely need some new games!

game organizationWhat other ways have you successfully organized your games and puzzles? How have your fostered family game nights in your house? Share your experience below.

Thanks for reading!

Practical Tips for Getting Things Done When Working From Home

Working from home is both a blessing and a burden. To have the flexibility to build your own schedule is wonderful, but it also means you must be motivated to accomplish important tasks, especially if you run your own business. Whether or not you get things done can make or break your livelihood and your work and personal relationships. Now, don’t get me wrong. Life is not only about tasks and achievement. It’s about character and who you are as a person; it’s also about friendships and family. But as human beings, were were meant to achieve and make something of each day. After all, don’t you feel good after a productive day? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. Getting things done translates into a more organized, ordered, and fulfilling life.

So, how do we use the most of what we’ve got in the minutes and hours of each day when we work from home? There’s been a myriad of books written on the subject. But I want to approach this in a practical way, as someone who has lived it. I understand what it’s like to be “motivation challenged.” It’s so easy to get distracted at home – by Facebook, the sports page, TV or internet news, or even email. As someone who writes and blogs from home often (in between days of organizing clients and music lessons), I know what you are going through. So, here’s to you stay-at-home moms, bloggers, writers, artists, designers, and more. I’m not perfect. I’m still working on my priorities and trying to get the most important things done every day, but here are some tips that have helped me. These have little to do with actual tasks and more to do with your motivation, mind and body approach, and work atmosphere. Experiment and see which ones work for you.

Getting Things Done Working From Home
  • Create a task list the night before – If you have no system for tracking your tasks, start one today. The bottom line – you will get more done if you have a way of checking off your list of things to do. I have found it’s best to collect your thoughts the night before. You’ll go into the following day already knowing what has to be completed. Whether you use a paper list or an smart phone app, it sets a positive tone for your entire day.
  • Do a brainless task first, like laundry – If you are like me, it’s most difficult to get motivated in the morning. But if I do a couple brainless tasks first, that gets me moving. I start the washing machine or empty the dishwasher. Then, I feel better about achieving a “meaningless” task, and have energy to tackle something more important.
  • Set a timer – Some tasks can be accomplished quicker if you set a timer. Or, you may not want too spend too much time on a specific task, like checking email. Set your time limit and go for it!
  • Brush your teeth – No joke here. Do you feel like accomplishing a lot when you have food in your teeth? I don’t. :) Take a few moments to brush your teeth, freshen up, and then get back on track. It helps!
  • Go outside – Fresh air is liberating to the body! When you feel your mind slowing down and becoming ineffective, put on your shoes and walk around the block or do a short outdoor activity. Breathe deeply when you step into the fresh air. The physical movement alone will sharpen your senses and get you ready for more work. I like to take out the garbage or feed our chickens. It only takes me ten minutes.
  • Take a silly brain break – Again, set your timer, and take a 15-20 minute brain break. Do something fun that has nothing to do with your work. Watch a silly YouTube video, take in a short comedy on Netflix (with no commercials), play your favorite card game, or call a friend on the phone. Then get back to work. Make this a special privilege when you really need it. In other words, only do this two or three times a day, not every hour!
  • Do small steps – If you’ve got a BIG project in front of you and it’s overwhelming, take 30-60 minutes to break it down into smaller chunks. Actually write or type the steps. The time spent is worth it, because your mind will relax and “de-stress” when visualizing smaller tasks. You will be able to process it faster, making the entire project more manageable.
  • Organize your desk – As an organizer, I cannot leave this one out! If you work in clutter, you are more likely to have an unfocused, distracted mind. Clear your desk or work table from all extraneous papers, supplies, or trinkets. I even suggest keeping photos to a minimum. A clean work space leads to more productivity for most people.

Was today a productive day for you? If yes, congratulations. Keep it up. If not, there is always tomorrow! Here’s to making each day count, whether you work offsite in an office or from the comfort of your own home. Good luck!

What other practical steps have worked for you? Please share in the comments below.

7 Steps to Reduce Paper Clutter in Your Home

We’ve all been encouraged to go paperless, but it seems like our world has more paper than ever! In fact, the most common organizing struggle I see among my clients is how to keep paper from becoming an overwhelming clutter monster. Even I have occasional paper piles. Organizers are not perfectly neat all the time. :) While it’s probably not realistic to go entirely paperless, it is certainly feasible to reduce the amount of paper coming into your home. That is the key. Stop the paper from entering your door.

Here are my seven tips for tackling paper!

7 Steps to Reduce Paper Clutter

1) Maintain an daily mail habit. It only takes 5 minutes a day, once you have a routine. Recycling junk mail and shredding documents after transferring them to electronic format can reduce most of your paper problems.

2) Go paperless with your bills. Paying your statements online or using automatic deduction is relatively safe, especially if you keep your passwords secure. (My favorite software for password security is 1Password.) Companies have an interest in keeping your information private – they want your money! They have mastered the electronic transfer of funds.

3) Limit the amount of paper from conferences or expos. Make sure what you bring home is actually relevant. If you don’t use the information within six months to a year, recycle it.

4) Only keep letters or cards that have deeper meaning. Only save your favorites in a decorative card box to thumb through when you need cheering up. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with Christmas and birthday cards. My rule? Don’t keep ones with just a signature. Sorry grandma. :)

5) Input events into your electronic calendar and toss the paper invitation.

6) Cancel magazine subscriptions that you don’t read. This will not only reduce paper in your home, but also save you money!

7) Keep your recipes online in a recipe organizer. Keep all your favorite recipes on your Pinterest page or put them into an Evernote notebook. Or click through this article to find the 12 Best Recipe Apps by Tom’s Guide or scroll down to discover The Five Best Ways to Organize Your Recipes by The Kitchn.

Can you think of other steps you have taken to successfully remove paper from your home?

Whatever method you use, I encourage you to lighten up and let go of paper!

Simplify in Three Areas: Your Solution for Stress

Americans are stressed out.

According to the American Institute of Stress, 44 percent of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago, three out of four doctor’s visits are for stress-related ailments, and 44 percent of stressed people lose sleep every night. The effects of stress can be devastating to health – physically, emotionally, and psychologically. But you didn’t really need to me to quote statistics about stress to know that you are stressed, did you? You know it; we all know it. The pace of modern life, the overwhelming amount of information and technology, the work load on the job, not to mention the violence of daily news, both here and abroad, make for a culture of unending stress.

The question is, what do we do about it?

Simplfiy Your Solution for Stress

We cannot reduce our exposure to stress in every area of life, but we can change our circumstances and environment to some extent. We can change the things we have control over. As a professional organizer, I have a unique perspective. I help people reduce their stress by simplifying their lives. Living simply in all areas of life is one of the best ways I know to decrease stress and increase happiness. How do I help my clients accomplish this? You can simplify in three main areas: your stuff, your schedule and your relationships. Stuff is the easiest to deal with; relationships are the most difficult.

Simplify Your Stuff

According to researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families, the more stuff we own, the more stress we feel, especially for women. The more we fill our homes with possessions, the more our bodies pump out the stress hormone, cortisol. When we reach the point that our clutter controls us, it becomes a burden. Do you have a room in your home that feels out of control? Does your entire house feel out of control? If you are feeling that stress, it’s definitely time to simplify. Your solution is to get rid of things you don’t want or need, things that are not adding value or worth to your life. The more you give away, the better you will feel. I’ve seen this happen countless times when working with clients. Reduce your stuff, reduce your stress.

Simplify Your Schedule

Another area of life that can overwhelm us is our schedules. Many people wear their busy schedule as a badge of honor. I hear them say, “Life is busy. I just can’t keep up. My schedule is so full.” I feel like it’s the American way, to always be busy. But are we truly happy when we are so busy? What about taking time to reflect and think about who we are, rather than what we do? If you are feeling the pressure of your schedule, stop for a moment and think about why you are so busy. Don’t worry about what other people do or say. The pace of your life does not have to be at break-neck speed. It could be just a stage that will pass. We all have times that everything seems to happen all at once. But if you are constantly “on the go” and don’t see relief in sight, your solution is to let go of tasks and commitments that do not line up with your life priorities. Make time for fun, family, and relaxation.

Simplify Your Relationships

People can also be a source stress. When simplifying your relationships, I’m not talking about selling your children to the highest bidder! :) I’m thinking of the people in your life that you can choose to not associate with – the bossy mom in your toddler’s play group, the negative co-worker that always hangs out in the lunch room, or the angry dry-cleaning lady. As you identify stressful people, find ways that you can “take a break” from seeing them. Find a different play group, eat a short lunch at your desk and then take a walk with your favorite co-worker, or drive an extra five miles to do business with a cheerful dry cleaner. Your solution is to say goodbye to people that stress you out and to surround yourself with people that inspire and lift you up. I know this is not possible in every case, but you might find that you have more choice in this area than you realize.

What is your stress level? Are you feeling overwhelmed by your stuff, your schedule or your relationships?

Simplifying can reduce stress and bring you more freedom and peace. Getting organized in these three areas could bring you more sleep, save you a trip to the doctor, and in the end, lessen your overall stress. May God bless you with discernment as you make decisions to reduce your stress, and let me know if I can be of service as your professional organizer.

Give Thanks for Simple Things

give thanks titleWhat are you thankful for this Thanksgiving season?
  • Your retirement account?
  • Your 50-inch flat screen?
  • Your luxury yacht?
  • Your super busy schedule?
No, we are usually thankful for simple and significant things in life like:
  • Our spouse and children
  • Our friends
  • Warm meals
  • Heat and hot showers

I’m not saying it’s wrong to be thankful for your job, your safety net, or even your luxury boat. But every year I come to Thanksgiving, I become more aware of what things are really important to me. And it’s not my TV. This November holiday puts me in a more reflective and sober mood. It makes me want to live a simpler, less complicated life. What about you? I’ve read several blog posts recently with this theme in mind. I want to share them with you.

Why I Took My Kids’ Toys Away (And Why They Won’t Get Them Back)

The Disease of Being Busy

Why I Told My Husband He Could Walk Away

Thought-provoking, indeed. These articles harken back to a time when life wasn’t so busy, so complex, or so disorganized. I think part of the solution here is to start and continue saying “no.” It’s difficult to do, but sometimes so necessary. For our physical health, for our mental and emotional peace, for our families and children.

  • We’ve got to say NO to busy schedules and too many activities, even fun ones.
  • We’ve got to say NO to bringing more “stuff” into our homes and offices.
  • We’ve got to say NO to people that want us to be involved in the latest fundraising effort, political contest, or volunteer opportunity, even ones we believe in.

We may be questioned for saying “no.” It’s not the American way. But that’s OK. Think about it this way. What kind of lifestyle or values are you passing down to your children? What kind of things do you want your girl or boy to be thankful for when they are 20, 40, or 60 years old? How busy and over-scheduled they were, or how much fun they had playing in the woods with their friends?

Of course, we can say “yes” sometimes, and we should. Caution: just be careful how many things you say “yes” to.

What are you saying YES to this Thanksgiving? What are you saying NO to this Thanksgiving? What are you giving thanks for?

My Favorite Organizing Quote

My favorite quote actually comes from an architect.

“Do not keep anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
-William Morris

The best way to organize your home or business is to SIMPLIFY. Take time to write down your priorities and then let go of things that are not useful or beautiful. Here are some questions to get you started.

  • What is important to you?
  • What is your vision for this space?
  • What is your mission statement for this room?
  • When was the last time you used this?
  • What is your purpose for this paper?
  • Does this item have a home?
  • What is holding you back from letting go of something?

Once you begin to define the purpose for your spaces and possessions, organizing becomes easier. Only keep things that fulfill your priorities and goals. Everything else is probably clutter. It really is that simple. If you cannot define or create a purpose for something you own, then it is detracting from your life, not adding to it!

Purposeful possessions make life more meaningful.

kitchen counter

The Useful Junk Drawer

Is your kitchen “junk” drawer overflowing? Does it need a good cleaning? This drawer doesn’t have to be a scary mess! A neat junk drawer can be super useful. It can house practical items, such as scissors, tape, extra batteries, permanent markers, rubber bands, clips, lip balm, a few Band-aids, and common household tools like a screwdriver. If you feel overwhelmed about where to start organizing in your home, a junk drawer is a great place to start because it’s small! Once you have success here, hopefully it will give you motivation to organize other areas!

  • Before you start organizing, measure the dimensions of your drawer and purchase an organizer that fits your drawer and your style. Look at Storables, The Container Store, or Bed, Bath and Beyond. I don’t always recommend spending money on organizing products, but in this case, a drawer organizer makes organizing and maintaining that organization much easier! If you’d prefer to use what you are already own, checkbook boxes, small shipping containers, and department-store jewelry boxes make good drawer organizers.
  • To begin the organizing process, remove all the trash. 
  • Recycle and relocate items, as needed. For example, I commonly find receipts in my clients’ junk drawers. It’s best to find a place in your office or mail center to file receipts.
  • Once you’ve reduced and recycled, place the remaining items in separate compartments that make sense to you.
  • To maintain a neat junk drawer, don’t stuff it full of unwanted things. Only keep items that belong in the junk drawer IN the junk drawer, just like you would any other space in your home.

Take fifteen to thirty minutes this week to organize your junk drawer. You’ll be happy you did. Instead of slamming it shut and screaming, you’ll want to open it again and again. Take a picture and send me the photo of your newly organized drawer!

As always, I love to help my clients create beautiful and useful spaces. So, give me a call if you need help organizing your junk drawer OR kitchen OR garage. I’m here to help! Good luck.

Overcoming Paper Piles With Evernote

Paper organizing is major part of what I do in every organizing project, especially kitchens! People tend to sort through their mail in the kitchen and dining room and leaves stacks and piles and mounds and heaps of paper everywhere. OK, I’m exaggerating slightly. But not much.

Utilizing digital tools, you can reduce paper clutter. One of the most helpful apps I’ve discovered is Evernote. I use it all the time and recommend it wholeheartedly to my clients. I’m not an Evernote rep (although I should consider it!), and I don’t have any financial ties to the company. Evernote is FREE for use on computers and smart phones.

First, sign up for an account and download the app onto your electronic devices. Evernote will automatically sync all your data for you. Then, start creating notes and notebooks based on how your brain organizes information. Name them whatever you’d like – how you will remember them easily. In computer language, notebooks are like folders (that hold notes) and notes are like files. Notebooks look like this on my iPhone.

Next, make sure you download the Web Clipper extension for your internet browser, so you can clip sections or entire websites or articles.The Web Clipper is very cool, a necessary part of the Evernote experience! Now here are some ideas to get you started.
  • Build books-to-read lists (fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, self-help, etc.) in a Books notebook
  • Put home and garden ideas into a Home or Garden notebook
  • Copy or take photos of your favorite recipes and compile in a Recipes notebook
  • Take a snapshot of invitations or events you receive in the mail and put in a Invitations notebook (toss the paper version!)
  • Keep your favorite quotes in a Quotes notebook
  • Track your exercise and eating habits in a Health or Fitness notebook (I track my weights for strength training, so I know I’m making good progress!)
  • Record your mileage for business expenses in an Auto or Business notebook
  • Create a notebook for an upcoming vacation and notes about your airline tickets, travel expenses, place to see, etc.
  • Make notes for favorite blogs you want to read, restaurants you want to try, or movies you want to see
  • Place your personal and business task lists or goals into a Tasks or Things to Do notebook

Give Evernote a try and tell me how you apply it. The possibilities are endless! Remember, the goal is to reduce paper clutter, so try to transfer your paper piles into a digital format using Evernote. If you need help, give me a call. And in case my article was not enough to get you started, check out this comprehensive post from LifeHacker.

Enjoy the new world of digital organizing!

Your Clutter or Your Life

Did you know there are four times as many storage facilities in America as McDonald’s restaurants! Your Clutter or Your Life, by Howard Mansfield of the LA Times, recently detailed eye-popping statistics such as this one. He shares thoughtful insights on how overcrowding our homes, offices, lives, and minds with physical and digital clutter can affect our health and families. He sites a study that shows the average parent only spends 14.5 minutes a day in conversation with their child. We have forgotten how to dream and use our imagination, because our clutter overwhelms us. What a burden!

How much clutter can one nation hold? How much clutter can your family hold? How much clutter can you personally hold?

Can you answer these questions without throwing up your hands and running the other way? Don’t ignore your clutter. Instead, I challenge you to put your clutter behind you. The foundation of good organizing is simplifying.

Let go of your stuff. Get rid of it. Recycle it. Give it away. Then don’t buy more.

The five stages of organizing are:

  1. Make a Plan
  2. Sort and Reduce
  3. Assign a Home
  4. Contain and Label
  5. Maintain

These stages build on one another. You cannot maintain a space without sorting and reducing what you have. You must complete numbers 1 and 2 before you can accomplish 3 through 5. Buying cute containers and color-coded labels won’t help you if clutter is still overtaking your life. If all you do this year is reduce what you have, more power to you!

Here are some ideas to overcome your clutter habits:

  • Recruit a friend’s help – Don’t try to let go on clutter on your own. It can be emotionally difficult at times. Call on a supportive advocate to encourage you during the process. (Take them out to dinner or a fun activity after your organizing project is complete. Don’t give them a gift. It might be more clutter! :)
  • Apply the 15 minute rule – Take a few minutes each day to throw away or recycle things you don’t truly need. You will see results when you are consistent. Do this everyday. Set a timer if it helps.
  • Keep going – It’s easy to get complacent when we achieve a big goal. So, you finished cleaning out the garage! Great job. Celebrate and press on. As you finish one area, go to the next. Use that momentum to propel you forward. Don’t stop.
  • Don’t buy more – This is very important. Once you organize, don’t fall prey to advertising gimmicks, even if it’s on sale. Ask yourself, “Do I really need that?” If you do, then give away a similar item before you bring it into your home.
  • Hire a professional – That’s what I’m here for. If you are struggling to reduce your clutter, call me. I’m good at asking the right questions that will lessen your anxiety and motivate you to let go of your unwanted stuff.

Mansfield quotes the owner of one the nation’s largest house cleaning businesses: “If it doesn’t enhance your life, don’t keep it.” I agree. When you simplify, you make room for friends, family, love, and hobbies. You also save time and money. You start to enjoy what you have, without the entrapment of more “toys”. After all, the best things in life are not things. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by William Morris. Good luck in letting go of clutter in 2014!

“Do not keep anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Where Do I Take My Stuff? Part 2

My third most read newsletter of all time was titled Where Do I Take My Stuff? Apparently, my readers and clients want to know about trusted places to discard their unwanted belongings. Here it is again with a couple of new additions. Whether you are a new or long-time reader, enjoy!

__________________________

 

Lately I’ve been extolling the virtues of downsizing and letting go of clutter. One of my astute readers asked where to take her stuff after de-cluttering. That’s a great question!

Here is a list from my website of organizations and companies that I regularly work with in my business. They resell or give away your usable donations to benefit needy families, contribute to their local neighborhoods, or protect the environment. Most of them are non-profits and would appreciate your “stuff”. Check out their websites to learn more.

  • Community Warehouse – Please consider donating your “give-aways” to this wonderful Portland-based organization that gives household items to needy families for free.
  • Oregon E-Cycles – electronics recycling
  • Rubbish Works – a Northwest-based company with local franchises
  • Dough Nation – Earn tax deductions by using this Portland donation services company.
  • Scrap – Donate reusable art, craft and office supplies with this environmentally-friendly Portland company.
  • Habitat for Humanity ReStore – Accepts flooring, tile, doors, windows, lighting, cabinets, and appliances for resale to build affordable homes for needy families.
  • The Rebuilding Center – Accepts the region’s largest volume of used building and remodeling materials, providing resources for the benefit of local communities.
  • Far West Fibers – Recycling center for variety of materials, including paper, glass, plastics, and electronics.
  • Portland Women’s Crisis Line – Do something good with your old cell phone! Survivors of domestic violence are given recycled phones to use in case of an 911 emergency.

Free your mind and spaces by reducing what you have. Then, give it away to these worthy organizations. Not only will your home look better, but you’ll feel better knowing that your things went to people who really need them.