Tips & Tricks

Making Self-Care A Priority This Year

There was a time when the metaphor for self-care was, “Put your oxygen mask on first, before you help others,” like the flight attendant instructs on the airplane during take-off. But self-care isn’t something you should wait to do until it’s already emergency-level. It’s what you should do regularly so that you don’t reach that escalated state. Don’t be burned out or suffering from deteriorating physical or mental health before implementing self-care. In her TEDx Talk, kayaking champion Susannah Winters defines self-care as, “deliberately taking care of your well-being through restorative activities.” We should all be on board with that! Here are some realistic, easy ideas on how to make self-care a priority this year.

Start Small

People seem to think “self-care” means indulging in a 3-day spa getaway. Sure, it could mean that. Or it could mean simply taking 30 minutes out of your busy day to have a cup of tea in a quiet space while perusing a magazine or reading a book. It’s not about how much you spend or the length of time it takes. It’s about carving out a regular spot of time for yourself to decompress, to wind down, to be alone, to get physical, to take a nap—basically, to do whatever you need to do in order to feel better.

Define Your Self-Care

Make a list of five things you find to be self-caring. Everyone has different tastes so of course, everyone has different self-care needs. Make it even more specific by making different lists defined by time. Some examples:

30 minutes:

  • Take a walk (possibly with an audio book or some favorite music)
  • Have a glass of wine and watch an episode of “Friends” or “Fleabag
  • Read a book or magazine for pleasure
  • Call, text, or FaceTime with a special person you don’t see often
  • Draw the curtains and take an afternoon nap
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New Holiday Traditions To Try

Looking to start a new holiday tradition? Here are a few ideas:

Get Hygge With It. Practice the Scandinavian hygge (pronounced hue-gah) tradition and cozify yourself at home with candles, a fire and warm blanket, a good book, and hot cocoa.

Adopt a Family. Seattle’s Child magazine lists several local organizations that serve families in need during the holidays.

Go Global. Pick a different country each year and try one or more of their Christmas or Hanukkah cultural traditions, foods, and music.

Honor Loved Ones. Remember a special person no longer with you by making their favorite recipe or dining at their favorite restaurant.

Create a Video Holiday Card. Didn’t get around to ordering cards? Create a fun, short video card and send this to family and friends! Bonus if singing is involved.

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Top 5 Gifts That Don’t Take Up Space

Does anyone really need more “things” these days? Use our list as a starting point to finding interesting, unique, and fun gifts that won’t add clutter.

  • Self-care: Get that over-scheduled person in your life some “me” time they can’t resist. A certificate for a spa treatment, a wine-tasting session, a hot air balloon ride—just a few ideas for things they need to be fully present, and put their phone away, for. Or, hire a cleaning company to take a load off their plate.
  • Culture Club: Tickets to a unique event would be so fun and memorable, whether it be Teatro Zinzanni or Broadway at the Paramount, or even something edgy like Café Nordo.
  • Go Local: Get them passes for a ghost tour, orca whale watching, go kart racing, or cooking classes. A family would get much use from an annual membership to the zoo or aquarium, or from a Discover Pass.
  • Staycation: A fun day and evening out, followed by a night at a hotel. If there are kids in the picture, arranging for a babysitter would be extra awesome! Sky’s the limit on what to do: dinner, bowling, movies, karaoke, pub crawl, salsa dancing lessons…
  • Subscriber: For gifts that keep on giving (for awhile, anyway), a subscription to something they love, such as a music streaming service, an audiobook membership, a TV streaming service, or even Amazon Prime (yay, Free Shipping!).
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How to Host A Guest When You Don’t Have a Guest Room

In my college days and early 20’s, “hosting a guest” basically meant having someone crash on my couch. Now that we are all “adulting” (that word still cracks me up), hosting a friend or relative means a whole lot more. We want to make guests feel welcome and comfortable, keep them entertained, respect their privacy, and hope they’ll visit again. This is definitely easier to do when you’ve got a guest room. But if your home or apartment doesn’t have the luxury of dedicated extra space for a visitor, it doesn’t mean you can’t host one. You just need to get a little more creative. We’ve got some helpful tips and tricks on hosting a guest when you don’t have a guest room.

A Clean Welcome

Now is a great time to give your place a good deep-clean, and while you’re at it, add in some decluttering and organizing. If you haven’t seen your visitors in a few years, nothing says “Welcome” like beckoning them into your clean, calm place that they can feel at home in, whether it’s for two nights or a week. Clear out your entryway, get everything off your dining table, fold and put away the laundry on the sofa, and scrub down the bathroom. It will give your guests a great impression as well as make you feel house-proud! If you need extra help, a professional organizer can support your efforts to getting your home guest-ready.

Create A Space

Your guests will appreciate a little bit of privacy, and without a guest room you’ll need to find an area of your home that you can temporarily set up as their personal space. It may be a corner of the living room, part of the playroom, or half of your home office. Consider getting a temporary room divider; they aren’t too expensive and can be easily put away for future use. You could even use it as a decorative element during the rest of the year. Move some furniture around to create this space; you may need to move some items into another room or the hall to do so.

Set Up A Cozy Sleeping Situation

Friends and family will understand that you can’t set them up like it’s the Four Seasons. Whether they’ll be sleeping on a sofa or daybed, a sofabed, a futon, or a blow-up mattress, do make up their “bed” with fresh sheets, pillows, and warm blankets. A well-rested guest will be a more amiable guest! Give them two blankets—a cuddly, thick one and a lighter one—so they can adjust their coverings to their preferred temperature. Use an end table or another small table for their nightstand. Clear it off and add a lamp, and set it near a power outlet if you can. Provide them with earplugs, too; an eye mask if the room gets a lot of light from outside. Adding a couple of magazines and a local guidebook would be a lovely gesture.

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Not Entertaining for Thanksgiving? Do This Instead!

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, and this year that day on your calendar is…totally blank. Whoa! If by some happenstance you are not entertaining for Thanksgiving—and you’re not going to someone else’s house for it—there are so many wonderful ways to fill your day. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because, unlike Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and Christmas, it has not been fully commercialized. The day is all about being grateful. Whether you’re going it solo or you’ve got a big family, here are some ideas for what to do on Thanksgiving Day.

Get Movin’

Take a simple walk around your neighborhood and enjoy the Autumn air and colors. Find a great hike—the trails won’t be crowded today! If you really want to break a sweat, do a Thanksgiving race. Bellevue’s got a Beat the Bird, while Issaquah and Seattle have Turkey Trots. Not to be outdone, Snohomish is hosting a Wattle Waddle marathon/half.

Reconnect

Use this day to get in touch with family or friends you haven’t heard from in awhile. Give them a call; who doesn’t love to see their phone light up with a familiar name instead of “Scam Likely”? Write or type out letters/emails if that suits your communication style better—put the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on the telly to get you into the spirit.

You Still Gotta Eat, Right?

Just because you’re not hosting or being hosted, doesn’t mean you need to make do with leftover pizza or a microwaved meal. Enjoy the freedom of a delicious Thanksgiving feast that a great restaurant can provide. Eater has a super list of restaurants in the greater Seattle area that are open for Thanksgiving. No need to run the dishwasher three times today!

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Say Goodbye to Your Storage Unit

Are you one of the 9.4% of U.S. households that own a storage unit? Be honest and think about the last time you needed to get something stored in your unit. Has it been three months, six months, or even a year? Chances are you could get rid of that storage unit and most of its contents, saving you an average of $89 a month. If you rented the unit as a temporary storage solution, consider the “temporary” part and recall why you had to rent the unit in the first place. Was it to store overflow items before or after a move? Did you rent it after you downsized your home or an aging parent’s? Were you using it to store items for a future estate sale? Whatever the reason, it’s probably time to clean out and say goodbye to your storage unit.

Step 1: Prepare yourself

It’s a big project that could take more than a day. Work in 4-hour time chunks if you can (it may take multiple sessions!). Do a last-minute pit stop at the location bathroom, and have a water bottle and a protein bar on hand. This is physical work and you’ll hit decision fatigue by the 4-hour limit. If you haven’t been to your storage unit in a long while, you likely won’t remember every item in there. Bring in extra hands, not just for heavy lifting and sorting, but for emotional support. You may come across items you have not seen in ages, such as your departed grandmother’s favorite dishes. It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed and sentimental about things you have dear memories of, but know you need to part with.

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Your Step-by-Step Thanksgiving Guide

When November rolls in, it means the Thanksgiving countdown is on. You’ve got three weeks or so to plan and execute a fabulous Thanksgiving feast. If the mere thought of your Thanksgiving task list makes you cringe, we can help! Thanksgiving is about spending time with your special people and enjoying a traditional meal together. With our step-by-step guide, we can help you focus on that instead of stressing out about all the tasks at hand. Don’t aim to be a Martha Stewart-level hostess; remember, she has dozens of minions doing most of the work behind the scenes!

Early November

  • Finalize your Thanksgiving guest list. Take care of the calls, emails, and texts to nail down 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.
  • Haven’t seen your dining room table in awhile? It’s time to clear away the clutter it’s buried under. Enlist your family’s help. As a part of playtime, children can return toys and arts and crafts to their bedrooms. You and your partner 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, don’t hesitate to contact Simplify Experts for help.
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The Don’ts of Decluttering and Organizing

Photo by Francesca Tosolini on Unsplash

There are endless articles out there sharing tips and hacks on how to declutter and organize your spaces. Of course you should start with a plan and a set of priorities. Yes, you should set aside a realistic of amount time and energy to undertake this project. If you can, enlist your partner and other family members to help. Those are just a few of the DO’s to organizing. What I’ve got here is a list, gleaned from our very own Simplify Experts organizers, of some excellent DON’Ts to decluttering and organizing.

Time Solutions

  • Do not try to do it all in one day.
  • Don’t establish unrealistic goals such as the entire house in one day or the whole garage in two hours.
  • Don’t expect things to go quickly; i.e. the disorganization did not happen in one day, so it won’t be fixed in one day.
  • Do not try to do an entire room, closet, or garage all at once. Divide the space into sections and get through each one before tackling the next.
  • Don’t underestimate the time it takes to sort through things, whether it’s paper piles, clothes, or toys.

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Guide to Organizing Your Garage

We’ve got a few eye-opening statistics about garages. A U.S. Department of Energy survey found that 1 out of 4 of people with 2-car garages couldn’t park their car in it because it’s used to store other things. Another survey by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) found that 1 out of 2 homeowners named their garage as the most disorganized area of their house. Furthermore, more than half of homeowners plan to get their garage organized within the next two years. Does this sound familiar? Reclaiming your garage is a major project. Use our step-by-step guide to organizing your garage and park your car inside (yahoo!).

1. Set aside a large block of time for this project—garages typically take 12 hours for general clutter.

Plan for 3 or 4 time blocks of 3-4 hours each; most likely, it will be multiple weekends. Don’t wait until winter, when days are shorter and the garage will be freezing cold. If you can, pick at least the first weekend with no rain—you’ll need to take most items out of the garage.

2. Enlist helpers and make a task list.

Family or friends can certainly help; be sure they understand what they’ve signed up for and won’t become distractions. If you’ve got young kids, hire sitters or plan a weekend at the grandparents. Make a task list and give your helpers specific assignments with a time deadline. For instance, your teen can go through all the sports equipment and toys, while your spouse tackles the shelves full of tools and paint cans. We typically send two organizers out together for garages and work in 4-hour time chunks hands-on with clients. Clients are tired at the end of the session!

3. Move everything out of the garage.

Park your car(s) elsewhere so the driveway can be a staging area. Take the contents out of your garage and place in the driveway. If something is immediately trash or donation—non-working, broken, or outgrown items—set it in these separate piles.

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An Organized Playroom

photo by @daen_2chinda on unsplash

Does your home have a designated playroom for the kiddos? Is it actually functioning as a room the kids can play in, or is it so full and cluttered that it’s more of a toy storage room? If your playroom fills you with dread, it’s time to get it organized and decluttered. With these tips and tricks, this room can be transformed into a space both you and the kids actually enjoy!

Clear the Room

This may be the most tedious part of your playroom revamp, but it will start your space with a clean slate. Go through all the toys, games, books, art supplies, and furniture. Donate items no longer used or that have been outgrown; toss or recycle broken, unsafe, or incomplete items. If your kids are loathe to say goodbye to any of their things, it would be best to do the first pass when they’re asleep or out of the house. Enlist the kids to help with the second pass. Be mindful of not accidentally getting rid of something beloved.

Group Items Together

If you have small or big piles of items—such as doll clothes, building sets, Zoobles, Hot Wheels, Polly Pockets—group them together so you can see how much space you’ll need to store them. Boxed items such as games and puzzles can be stacked on shelves. If your kiddo is super into something and they’ve got a lot of those items, like Barbies or LEGOs, consider setting up a corner for that particular interest. For instance, the Barbie house or LEGO table would be in the corner, along with small labeled bins to store related items.

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