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Professional Home Organizer’s Favorite Podcast!

Professional organizers enjoy Happier a podcast from author Gretchen Rubin

We enjoy a weekly podcast called Happier with Gretchen Rubin.  She discusses how to build positive habits into our daily lives. Here are some of Gretchen’s awesome tips.

  • Gretchen says: “Don’t accumulate excessive amounts of things“: free mugs, rubber bands, plastic take out containers, soy sauce packets, chopsticks.  These things have perceived value; you’ll never need more than 10 rubber bands, so come up with a max number and only keep that amount.
  • Gretchen’s one-minute rule: to help yourself keep on top of small annoying little tasks. To keep clutter down, consider setting a microwave timer for one-minute:  you can pick up a few toys, or hang up coats, put away a pair of shoes, or recycle junk mail, or put dishes in the dishwasher. If you do this a few times a day, or even once a day, you will notice more peace and less clutter around your home.
  • From research, Gretchen found that when people are under a ton of stress they go deeper into their habits whether they are good or bad habits…so it is important to have good habits to fall back on when things are tough. For the same reason, it is important to teach our children good habits starting when they are young.
  • Another Gretchen mantra is: “Outer order contributes to inner calm.” Clean up or organize one small area in your home. 10 minutes. A drawer, or desktop. You will feel control over the stuff of life and you will feel more calm and satisfied, and energized.
  • “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” A quote from Voltaire used by Gretchen Rubin in a recent podcast. We love this quote. In short it means we shouldn’t strive for unobtainable perfection, but rather, be honest with ourselves about our available time and energy. This applies to clutter in many ways. For example, some moms dream of creating beautiful custom scrapbooks for each of their children, but haven’t been able to get started for years, all the while hanging onto to every piece of their child’s memorabilia making the project more daunting by the day. Some folks hang on to broken furniture or appliances with intention of repairing them. As a result, they may lose the functionality of a garage or closet where the item takes up much needed storage space.
 Check out Gretchen Rubin’s podcast for more handy tips on how to be happier!
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What do you Want For the Holidays?

What I want for the holidays

Dear Family:
I am so happy the holidays are here. Before you think about buying me anything this holiday season, I feel that I should tell you that I don’t need a single thing. Seriously, I have everything a person could want in multiples. Anyhow, I like to think of myself as an aspiring minimalist and an “under-buyer.” (Thank you Gretchen Rubin for that term)

You’ll roll your eyes, but I am trying to resist the forces of consumerism that surrounds us. I don’t need

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Do You Know Your Mommy Bandwidth?

Can you tell when you have exceeded your bandwidth? We moms do have limits too.

Bandwidth – “The energy or mental capacity required to deal with a situation.” Oxford Living Dictionaries

I don’t need to write about all the different demands on a mom’s time and energy. You already know all about that. You are deep in it every-single-day-of-your-life, just like all of us. After all, you are the person keeping the family going. Sometimes things go along relatively smoothly. Other times, well, things can get a little crazy.
For example, I left the house today to go to an appointment and two blocks from my house I realized that I had automatically started driving to the kids’ school. A few minutes later I made another wrong turn, my inner autopilot taking over once more. This hasn’t happened before. Sure, I’ve

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Create New Space in Your Home by Scaling Back These Three Common Household Items

Board Games

Families love board games because they are fun while helping everyone stay connected. From Chutes and Ladders to classics like Chess, board game collections grow quickly. The game cabinet(s) can become quite crowded. Be authentic about your needs and decide how many of the games your family plays. Create space by donating the least favorite games or ones outgrown by the children. If you play board games on average once a month, how many different games does your family enjoy?

Cookbooks

Cookbooks promise easy steps to a healthier lifestyle. Some cookbooks are beautiful and they inspire us. Some are specific to a type of cuisine we aspire to try. Cookbooks represent knowledge and expertise. Cookbooks can also collect dust like old encyclopedias while taking up a lot of shelf space in our kitchens.
More and more busy parents are seeking out recipes online. Wonderful recipe websites make it easy to find just the recipe you are looking for. Many websites feature reviews and video demonstrations as well. How many of your cookbooks do you use on a regular basis?
It is okay to downsize your cookbooks if they are taking over needed space in your kitchen. A simple three ring binder with some sheet protectors is a good solution for storing favorite recipes you printed or clipped out of a magazine. A cookbook you may be keeping because of one recipe can be reduced to just the pages needed.

Bags

Reusable grocery bags, plastic grocery bags, brown paper bags, and department store bags accumulate and clutter various areas of our homes. Many of us already have several backpacks, purses, work bags, cinch sacks, sports bags and totes. All these add up to cluttered and full closets. It’s a good idea to free up space by actively using and downsizing your bag inventory.
Some families line small trash cans with plastic grocery bags. Many use plastic grocery bags for pet waste and as padding when mailing a package. Others use brown paper bags to wrap gifts or as an outer layer when mailing a package. Some use brown paper bags or department store bags to hold recycling. Others keep a department store bag in a closet for donations.
You may find that you still have too many bags even if you constantly use them around your home. Bags will continue to come into our homes and therefore it is not necessary to keep more than a few. It’s a good idea to keep a handful of reusable bags in every car, at home, and then toss or donate the rest!

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What to do on Thanksgiving Day (other than eat)

What to do on Thanksgiving Day
Every year we gather with friends and family for a Thanksgiving Day feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. For those who are hosting this year, we have some ideas to keep your guests entertained while you prepare the meal and activities everyone can participate in after the big meal is over.

 

Thanksgiving Activities for the Kids

To entertain the children on Thanksgiving consider having age appropriate puzzles, mad libs, crafts and board games on hand. The children can play games, hang out with grandpa and the cousins while the turkey bakes in the oven. Children may work on a craft activity, provided they don’t need the host’s supervision or involvement – you already have your hands full! A game of flag football in the back yard or a trip to the neighborhood park is always a good call.

 

Thanksgiving Activities for the Relatives

Thanksgiving is about gratitude and thoughts of years gone by. Your relatives may enjoy family videos and looking at family photos. Pull out the photo albums or box of photos and let the guests explore, tell family stories and help the children get a better idea of their family tree. Family guests may also enjoy baby videos, travel or family event videos and be reminded of past experiences with gratitude. If all your photos are digital, show them on your TV with Chromecast.

 

Activities for the Athletic

If you are looking for something fun and athletic to do on Thanksgiving Day, participate in a family Run/Walk in your community. A neighborhood walk or morning hike helps family members bond and frees the host to prepare the meal. Alternately, take a group walk or visit a local park after the meal is over.

 

Activities for the Giving

Helping those in need goes hand in hand with having gratitude this season.  Consider asking your guests to bring non-perishable food items. Collect these for a local food bank. Put the children in charge of your canned food drive. Later take them with you when you donate at the local food bank. Another opportunity to help out those less fortunate this Thanksgiving is to collect business professional clothes for Dress for Success. This organization provides clothing to needy women going on job interviews. By donating business professional clothing, your guests can free up space in their closets while contributing to a great cause.

 

Activities for the Traditionalists

Every family has old traditions and perhaps some new ones too! Check out this list from Huffington Post to see if your tradition is listed! Even if watching sports is not typically your thing, the oldest Thanksgiving Day tradition is watching football on TV. Your guests can enjoy healthy snacks and await the big meal. Football and Thanksgiving are two of America’s best traditions. Enjoy!
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Store your Child’s Keepsakes, Schoolwork and Art

Simple ways to store your child's keepsakes.

The day our children make their first scribbles with a crayon we begin collecting and storing their art and other keepsakes. Beginning in preschool the volume of children’s crafts, art projects and first handwriting efforts sent home increases dramatically. By elementary school, your child’s keepsakes can start to become overwhelming.

What keepsakes should we keep? Where and how should we store them all?

We recommend storing children’s keepsakes in a clear plastic file box. The Container Store has a great extra-large file tote box.  Label the tote box with your child’s name and create a file folder for each grade, starting with preschool. These files will give you a year by year record for your child making it easy to pick out what you would like to include in a scrapbook.

How should we store large art pieces or fragile ceramic projects?

As your child brings schoolwork home, show them where to recycle paper they do not need. Take out items you would like to save and file them. File school and sports photos together with other schoolwork you are keeping. For those oversized art pieces, we like to use a large art portfolio. When you file these art pieces, note if they are labeled with name and date.  We recommend cleaning out backpacks during all three-day weekends and holiday breaks.
The end of the school year is a good time to take a close look at what keepsakes you have saved. Lots of paper and projects come home at that time. Keep only the best samples of your child’s best work. Many parents like to display their child’s ceramics for a short time. Take a photo of pieces that you like, but which might be too awkward to store long term. This way you have a record and a memory of your child’s creation.
Storing keepsakes can cut into your available storage space. Store full bins on top shelves in closets, or in the garage. Active bins should be easily accessible. Some children love to hang on to their work. Others may not. Be mindful of how you and your child feel about keepsakes. Ultimately it will be your children who are storing these bins in their homes!

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15 Holiday Gift Ideas That Don’t Create Clutter

Holiday Gift ideas without clutter

Holiday gift ideas are easy to find for young children. Young children grow quickly and move through various stages of toys they like. The tougher question is, what gifts do you get for the teens and adults on your list? After all, these are the folks who may already have homes full of the latest electronic gadgets and who might not “need” anything.

The following are creative gift ideas which are experience oriented. Best of all, these items don’t create clutter in your home!

1. Spring Break or Summer camp enrollment is a great gift for tweens and teens.
2. Cooking classes from PCC or Sur La Table are a wonderful gift for young and old.
3. A gift of lift tickets at a local mountain is appreciated by teens or adults.
4. A photo book of a recent trip is a great gift for grandparents.
5. Airplane tickets for college students or young adults to come home and visit are very appreciated.
6. A gift of a spa day for ladies in your family is always a hit.
7. A Mani/Pedi is a fun gift idea for the tween or teen in your house.
8. Play tickets for two or for the entire family make a memorable gift.
9. Concert Tickets to a favorite artist coming to town are coveted by teens or adults.
10. Create lasting memories by gifting a family photo session with a local photographer.
11. Tweens and teens love music service subscriptions like Spotify, YouTube Red or iTunes.
12. Give the gift of books through Audible. Children can listen to Audible books on their favorite device.
13. Private drum or guitar lessons are a fun gift for the musically curious member of the family. Hot air balloon ride is a great gift for an adventurous couple.
14. A tasty early dinner that you make at home and then a tour through the Bellevue Botanical Holiday lights would be a nice gift for friends and feels quite festive.
15. Make an impact in your community by adopting a family this holiday season.

It is a good idea to include a gift receipt with your present. As you check family members and friends off your list, keep a running total of the amount spent on gifts to stay within budget.

Happy holiday gift shopping to you all!

 

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Thanksgiving 2016 – Your Practical Guide!

Practical Thanksgiving Guide
The Thanksgiving 2016 countdown is on. We have less than three weeks to plan and execute a fabulous Thanksgiving family event. If reading those words made your Halloween candy headache come back, we can help! Thanksgiving is about time together and a traditional meal – not about weeks of stress or trying to out perfect Martha Stewart.

Early November

  • Now is the time to finalize your Thanksgiving guest list. Take care of the calls, emails, and texts to finalize who is coming to your house for the big turkey meal. Let your family know who will be joining you for Thanksgiving and let them know you will need everyone’s help in getting your home ready.
  • It is time to clear away any dining room clutter. The entire family can help. As a part of playtime, children can return toys and arts and crafts to their bedrooms. You and your spouse can put away items which don’t belong in the dining room. Resist hiding the clutter in a bedroom or closet to be dealt with later. If your dining room (kitchen, pantry, entryway) is buried, and clearing it out seems like an impossible task, a professional organizer can help.
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Applying to Private Schools for the 2017-2018 school year

Applying to private schools for the 2017-2018 school year

You may be thinking about holidays, but it is already the season to visit potential private schools and see which may be the best fit for your child. Whether you are considering applying for Kindergarten or Middle School the application process can seem daunting. Following are highlights of the application process:

FALL

  1. What schools will you be applying to?
    a. Research local independent schools. Knowing your child, where would he/she thrive?
    b. Talk to friends about their experiences with different institutions.
    c. Talk to children and parents of children who attend the school you may be interested in.
    d. Attend independent school fairs and Open House days. Organizations such as Puget Sound Independent Schools list upcoming fairs and Open House events.
  2. Narrow down the list of schools you will apply to and become familiar with their deadlines. If your child is applying as a sibling, you may have earlier application deadlines. Find out if your school has rolling admissions.
  3. Reach out to former educators and ask if they would be willing to write your student a recommendation.
  4. Register for the entrance test. Most primary and secondary independent schools require either the SSAT or the ISEE test for admittance.
  5. Become familiar with the entrance test format and content.
    a. Purchase study guides and prepare for the entrance test.
    b. Enroll in prep classes or seek out a tutor to assist your child with preparation.
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Which Room in Your Home Has Become Your Clutter Storage Unit?

Which rooms hide your clutter?
For many people clutter takes over their garage. Per a Sparefoot.com study 47% of Americans admitted that there have been times they couldn’t park in their garage – because it’s full. But the same study showed that “on average, Americans have 3 areas in their homes, that have become storage units.”  Some families may have guest bedroom where it’s easy to hide clutter that has been relocated from more public spaces. Others may have an office that has been over-run with paper and uncompleted projects. You may have a dining room which has turned into a staging area for projects and product returns.

 

When we can no longer use a room for its intended purpose, it’s time to ask: “Is this space working? How do I really want to use this room?”

 

“Clutter is simply postponed decisions,” says author Barbara Hemphill. So, when we hide things in the guest bedroom, closet or garage, we are simply giving ourselves a future task. The longer we avoid these decisions, the more clutter stacks up, the more overwhelming it becomes to tackle it.
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