Flexible Planning for New Moms

As a new mom of a three-month old girl, I’ve discovered that motherhood is a true joy, daytime naps are life saving, and planning for the unexpected is a highly-valuable skill. I’ve been learning how to nurse my little one and change diapers while trying to get dinner on the table each day. My mommy learning curve was delayed when a postpartum hemorrhage put me in the ICU for three days. For more dramatic details, read my post My To-Do List Can Wait (I’m Alive and My Baby Is Here). But now my new life is becoming more routine. My sweet baby and I have worked through the newborn challenges and are enjoying smiles and even a few giggles.

So what advice would this professional organizer mom offer to all new moms? Don’t expect much sleep, don’t expect to get much done, and don’t expect organizing perfection. I’m especially speaking to type A planners (like me). Be flexible in your planning and scheduling. Basically, let go of unrealistic expectations and enjoy the moment you are in. Your independent life is in the past, but in it’s place is a beautiful bundle of joy that will melt your heart. Cultivate that relationship. It’s a special one that can not be replaced by a trip to The Container Store. Your life will be forever different, and that means your priorities will be different too. You can’t get it all done anymore. Trust me; I’ve tried and it just leads to frustration. Take time to enjoy your baby. Enjoy your husband. Enjoy your family.

I will leave you with one organizing tip: Write down everything! Or put reminders in your phone. In your sleep-deprived state, your mommy brain will not remember anything. You don’t want to forget to buy more diapers – it’s not a good day when you run out of diapers. :) If something truly needs to be done, then make a note of it, literally.

Happy organizing to all new moms out there! More importantly, I wish you joyful, unforgettable times with your precious baby.

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Merry Christmas Baby!

Jim Tracy Merry Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!

I hope your holiday preparations are going splendidly and you have organized your days well, so you can spend time with your most precious treasures – your family and friends! My husband and I are excited to welcome our new family member very soon in between Christmas and the new year. (Notice my baby belly!) I will be taking an extended break to bond with our baby at the beginning of 2016 but hope to see clients again on a part-time basis in a few months. Call me when you are ready for spring cleaning to begin! If you would like more current news about our little bundle of joy, please visit my food and health blog, Restored Roots and its Facebook page.

I wish you all the best to you as you celebrate this special time of year.

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!

5 Tips for an Easy Back-to-School Morning Routine

back to school tipsNow that school has begun, your fall schedule is going smoothly without any hitches, bumps, or obstacles, right? :) If only life were that simple! For most families, September is a crazy month of transition. But it doesn’t have to be so stressful. Consider your morning routine. It sets the tone for your entire day. Take time to organize. Make your days easier by implementing my five tips for an easy morning routine. Not only will your blood pressure go down, but your kids will be less rushed and harried. They are watching and learning from you. The more they see you relax, the more they will relax!

alphabet on blackboard1) Set out clothes outfits the night before. How many times has your teenage daughter stood in front of her closet half-asleep saying, “I don’t know what to wear!?” Adults are no different. I do the same thing!  My morning is much easier if I lay out my clothes for the next day, on the night before. When their clothes are chosen beforehand, children can get dressed without fuss. For little children, you can pick their outfit for them.

2) Make lunches the night before. Place each child’s lunch in a labeled plastic container in the fridge (with their name on it). In the morning, have them pack their lunch into their own lunch bag. Teach them how to fill their own water bottle and grab their own after-school snacks. Better yet, prepare groups of snacks on Sunday afternoon for the entire week. Bag up raw veggies, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits for each day of the week. The idea here is to plan ahead. The more you do, the less stressful making lunches will be and the more likely your children will choose healthy snack options.

3) Sign permission slips, check homework, and load up sports bags the night before. Do you see a pattern here? :)

4) Maintain checklists for each child’s activities. One child is in gymnastics, the other in swimming, your oldest in football, and the youngest in art class. Oh yeah, your middle child has piano lessons on Wednesdays! The best way to maintain order is to keep current checklists and calendars for each child. Place a calendar in each of their rooms, so they can be prepared for the next day’s activities. Teach them how to pack supplies for their own activities using checklists.

5) Make simple but healthy breakfasts. Boxed cereal may be fast, but it’s not healthy or sustaining. Your children will be dying for brain food an hour into their school day. Give them healthy but easy-to-prepare breakfast food that can get them through math, reading, and social studies before the lunch break. Here are some ideas. Click on the links to read the recipes. I’ve tried several. They are delicious!

What is your favorite tip for an easier morning routine? There are many great ideas. Share yours and I’ll post the best comments in my next newsletter. In the mean time, enjoy a more relaxed morning routine, even if you are not a morning person. 😉

Get Organized for Outdoor Summer Fun!

Are You Ready for Summer Fun?

Everyone loves summer picnics! Are you ready for the next one? How long would it take you to prepare your picnic supplies and leave for that last-minute outdoor social?

I recommend packing a ready-to-go picnic basket or container with all the supplies you need beforehand and storing it in an easy-to-reach place, like the pantry, hall closet, or garage. Besides food, think of all the items you need for a picnic: tablecloth or sitting blanket, paper plates and cups, plastic utensils, napkins, wipes, sunscreen, bug repellent, etc. You can also prepare ahead for other outdoor adventures. Here’s a short list that might include these items.

  • Park play dates – balls, frisbee, badminton set, snacks, water bottles
  • Bike rides – helmets, tire pump, sunglasses, water bottles, bright clothing visible to auto drivers
  • Pool or beach parties – swimsuits, swim goggles, towels, sun hats, sunscreen, flip flops, extra change of clothes
  • Hiking trips – hiking shoes or boots, hats, water bottles, snacks, trail maps

Can you think of other outdoor activities your family engages in that require supplies? Add to this list. If you have small children, you’ll want to include things like diapers, of course. If you have dog, you may want to include their water container and food as well. If anyone in your family has severe allergies, you’ll want to pack an EpiPen for emergency bee stings or accidental exposure to peanuts.

Even if you don’t create a to-go basket, bag, or backpack, create a packing list of everything you need, so you can be prepared to exit your home easily without stress. Get organized now; you’ll be glad you did. After all, you don’t want to forget that extra change of underwear after a spontaneous ocean dip!

Fewer Toys, Happier Kids

How many toys do your kids play with everyday? 4, 10, 20? My guess is that they tend to play with the same ones over and over, their favorites. What about the rest? My other guess is that the rest becomes clutter in your home.

I recently read an intriguing article on Becoming Minimalist, a blog dedicated to reducing “the stuff” in our lives. The writer contends that children lead happier and more creative lives when they have fewer toys. His points are thought-provoking and convincing. My favorites – kids become less selfish, kids experience more of nature, and kids live in cleaner, tidier homes. Love that one!

When we live with fewer things, I believe we are happier, whether we are 3 years old, or 70. Instead of being bound to our stuff, we learn to be more resourceful, imaginative, and thankful. We also place more meaning on relationships with friends and family.

So how do you reduce the clutter of toys? Consider these options.

  • Reduce by giving away to charities. Needy children would love to play with your child’s old toys. Invite your kids to participate in the act of giving, so they appreciate their own wealth and the needs of others.
  • Rotate the toys you have. Pack away some toys and place in storage. Every three to four months (or by season), take them out and pack away a different set. Your kids will feel like they have new toys each time you rotate a set.
  • Ask family and friends to gift activities and certificates, instead of more toys for birthdays and holidays. It’s my view that children receive too many toys from their grandparents and extended family. Ask them politely to think of creative alternatives during gift-giving times.
  • Buy quality toys that can be passed on. Instead of more plastic, purchase fewer but long-lasting toys that you can pass down to the next generation.
  • Become an expert in what your child enjoys. Discover what your kids find joy in playing with and focus on that. Maybe they like riding their bike, digging up worms, or trying on dress-up clothes. I encourage you to choose more activity-oriented play time, and only buy things that engage their minds and bodies.

How have you tried to lighten the burden of excessive toys in your household? I’d love to hear from you. I also invite you to read the blog article here, Why Fewer Toys Will Benefit Your Kids. Now go give away some toys!