Tips & Tricks

Taking Back the Time I Waste on Social Media

social media

We love social media. Some of us admit to being downright addicted to checking our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts many, many times a day. I’ve come to realize all my social media “checking” comes at a big cost. This cost is time, energy, stress and anxiety.

Josh and Ryan, aka “The Minimalists,” spoke at The Neptune theater in Seattle recently, and told their story of how they rescued their lives from debt and consumerism to a huge captive audience. It was an instructional evening in many ways, but my main take away

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My Personal Definition of Minimalism

An uncluttered family room, minimalism

Many years ago, when I first heard the term “minimalism,” I pictured a loft style space with high ceilings, tall bare windows, stark white walls and sparse white leather furniture. Surely, no one with children could lead a minimalist lifestyle. Families and minimalism were mutually exclusive in my mind. I firmly believed that you couldn’t be a Costco shopper and a minimalist at the same time. I was wrong. Minimalism isn’t a harsh decorating style or a strict lifestyle regime.  It’s a big picture value system

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Part 2 – Does the Thought of Tax Preparation Make You Panic?  You Are Not Alone

Organize your paperwork

Unless you are an accountant, for many of us, filing our tax returns ranks on the list of fun activities right next to root canals. Some of us get through this yearly chore one way or another and file our taxes by the deadline.

For others, it is not so easy. Many Americans who struggle with this deadline may end up paying hefty penalties for filing their taxes late or not at all. There could be many potential reasons for filing late, but for some, the reason is simply disorganization.

All over the United States families struggle with the volume of paper coming into the home. Catalogues, magazines, kids’ schoolwork and projects, work papers, receipts, oh and – mail, enter our homes daily.

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Five Reasons to Get Started on Your Taxes Today

Don't delay, file your taxes today!
The deadline to file your 2016 taxes is on April 18, 2017. That may feel like a long time from now, but the time to file is now. According to the IRS, 20-25% of Americans wait until right before the deadline to prepare their documents and file. By then, they may be looking at extensions, or worse expensive penalties.

 

Here are five reasons to get started on your taxes today:

  1. By the end of February most financial institutions have mailed out their respective tax documents. Gathering all your documents and getting organized now will help you figure out what if anything you need is missing.
  2.  If you plan on preparing your own tax return, getting started early will help you get organized and reduce the stress of the process as well as potential mistakes on your return.
  3. Tax preparation professionals will
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Keep Your Home Protected When on Vacation

Upcoming school breaks allow PNW families to hit the slopes or get away to some warm and sunny locale. Use these guidelines to keep your home protected so you will not return home to anything unexpected.

 

  • Lock all the doors and windows. Secure sliding glass doors with a sliding glass door security bar .
  • Turn on the home security system. It is a good idea for a trusted friend or neighbor to have the alarm code in case a worker needs to enter the house or if the alarm is set off by accident. Place valuables in a home safe or in a safe deposit box.
  • Pet sitters are awesome for two reasons. Your pets
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Why Decluttering your Kitchen Will Help you Eat Healthier

Eat Healthier
It’s the month of January and many of us are trying to eat healthier and make better food choices. We know that clutter causes stress, anxiety and a sense of feeling overwhelmed. Not many realize that a cluttered environment can also keep us from being successful in making good food choices. What if our home environment, specifically our kitchens are sabotaging our dieting efforts?

 

Tired and hungry after a long day, you may be confronted with all the clutter and to-do’s in your kitchen. In that moment, your stress level may go up, but it is unlikely you will want to declutter! Your brain will seek something pleasurable instead, and you might want to reach for the bag of chips on the counter.
Research shows that if we unclutter the kitchen counters and pantry cupboards we may eat fewer snacks. Brian Wansink, PhD., Cornell Food Psychologist, author of the book Slim by Design states that according to research, people who live in cluttered environments eat 44% more snacks

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Do You Need a Clutter Diet?

One in four gifts may go unused. Sparefoot.com study says.

What to do With Unwanted Gifts

Once the holidays are over, “on average, more than 1 in 4 gifts go unused.” “79% of Americans admit they never use some of their gifts,” found a recent study by Sparefoot.com. That means in a family of five receiving 4 gifts each, every holiday season 5 items would go unused. If these unwanted and unused items remain in the home over 10 years this would be 50 items. 50 boxes taking up space needed for other things. This number is very conservative – many more gifts are given in a typical family. This statistic also doesn’t include gifts received for birthdays and other special days as well. All these potentially unwanted gifts contribute to our clutter, our overstuffed closets, cupboards, and toy chests.

Why do we keep unwanted items?

Folks will often tell us: “We should keep it because it was a gift. We may use it one day. We can’t give it away it is brand new. The gift has value. Maybe we’ll re-gift it. Maybe someone in the family will use it.”

Clutter causes anxiety

When we keep unwanted items eventually our homes become cluttered and this clutter creates stress and anxiety. If the closets are full then it becomes difficult to retrieve what we need. We lose track of where things are. Toys take over several rooms in the house because there is no more space in the children’s bedrooms or playroom. Kitchen counters disappear under unused appliances and gadgets making meal preparation and cleaning difficult. Garages fill up with bins and boxes and cars no longer fit. The home stops being a restful place.  Anxiety and stress impacts how the family functions.

Gift Obligation

Once the receiver thanks the giver warmly, the receiver has no further obligation to the giver. If your children receive a new board game from grandma and show little interest in playing it, snap a picture of the kids playing the game and let it go. If you receive a duplicate on something you already own, consider donating one of the items.

Clutter Diet

Clutter in our homes has also been linked to poor diet choices. Cluttered kitchens have been linked to increased snacking. Many Americans will make New Year’s Resolutions to eat better or to begin a diet. Many agree that in addition to a food diet they also need a clutter diet.

One in One Out

To keep clutter from growing, utilize the one in one out policy. If you received a holiday gift of a kitchen gadget you are excited about, donate a kitchen gadget from your cupboards that you no longer use. Love your new Nespresso coffee machine? Donate your old coffee maker. This way you will create space for your new gift without increasing the volume of stuff in your home. Utilize this strategy in every room of your home.

 
Much like eating healthfully, keeping a home clutter free is an ongoing challenge. Both require tenacity. To be successful, sometimes we seek the assistance of a nutritionist and sometimes we seek the support of a professional home organizer! Are you ready to begin your clutter diet in 2017?

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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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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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