Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Organizing for the Holidays

                As the Holidays near, the “to do” lists seems to grow longer and longer, with endless tasks to accomplish, gifts to buy, and events to plan and attend.  New Years is just around the corner, but with a little bit of thought and planning, organizing your life even before the time to make new resolutions can make this year and this holiday season run more smoothly than ever before.
                Buying gift for your loved ones can be an overwhelming experience.  Often, people wait until last minute to go shopping, and end up spending more time and money than they had planned originally.  This can be avoided by taking a few simple steps.
                Firstly, make a list delineating whom you plan to give gifts to, with several possible options next to their names.  Think about how much money you want to spend, and how much your loved one wants or needs the intended gift.  Has he or she recently bought a new home, had a child, or started a new job? Keeping these types of things in mind will direct you to buying a gift that will truly be appreciated, whether it is a beautiful new mailbox, a gift certificate for two for dinner and a show (for the new parents who need some alone time), or desk organizing trays and the perfect scarf to wear to business meetings.  When buying for children, keep their parents and friends in mind, Will the child be able to play/wear this at school?  Will his parents approve of the gift?  By contemplating gift options and personal needs, you avoid buying something that your friends or family member will not really appreciate.
                Go through your house with a pen and paper and jot down a list of things you and your family need or want.  That way, when friends or family ask you if there is anything specific they can get you, you can mention some thought out options. People want to get you something you will enjoy, and by putting some time and thought into your own needs, you will save yourself the hassle of returning gifts after the holidays.
                Finally, save valuable time by ordering gifts online.  So many hours are spent driving, parking and wandering through stores looking for appropriate gifts.  Market research analysts advise retail chains to place certain items in the high trafficked parts of the store, and place toys and clothes they desperately want to sell at eye level, while other (possibly cheaper) items are stored in harder to find spots.  Online, however, a savvy shopper can compare prices on websites such as www.shopping.com, and on most websites, can organize the gift possibilities they are viewing by price or choose toys based on a specific price bracket (i.e.: $50-$70).  Many stores offer free shipping this time of year, so a shopper does not lose out monetarily by shopping online rather than traveling to the store.  Another bonus is that you can check your shopping cart every few minutes to make sure you are staying on budget.  This is much harder to do at tan actual store, where you may feel embarrassed to put things back once you have already reached the cash register.
Your house:
                Before you start entertaining your family or friends and before the loads of new packages and gifts arrive, you may want to de-clutter your home.  Spring cleaning is just around the corner, and there is so much to do around the holiday season as it is, so don’t set such high expectations for you.  However, there are a few simple things you can do so that you can enter the New Year feeling like your life is in order.
                Remember that the focus is on de-cluttering instead of deep cleaning.  Right now, there is no need to wash all the curtains and carpets in your house.  They will probably just get dirty again from all of the entertaining that will be going on!  Rather, go through your closets as well as those of your children. What can be better than donating like-new clothes that are never used or don’t fit to those who really need them this holiday season?  Prepare three bags or cardboard boxes marked:”Trash”, “Store” or “Donate.”  Instead of throwing everything that needs to be out of your closet on the floor (to be divided into piles later), immediately put the item into the appropriate box.  If you or your child hasn’t worn something in the past 6 months, it probably has no place in your closet.  Similarly, if a toy has not been used frequently in the past 3 months, or there are multiples of the same items, it does not need to be taking up valuable room.
                Another area which can be organized is your kitchen.  We tend to cook and bake more during this time of year than any other.  Don’t you deserve for it to be an enjoyable experience?  Invest in buying matching plastic, glass or aluminum containers for all of your baking ingredients.  When you look in the pantry, your flour, sugars, chocolate chips, and assorted powders will be neatly and beautifully arranged.  Go through your pots and pans and see which ones need replacing.  Are some pots missing their lids?  Are some too scratched to be effectively used?  Use this opportunity to figure out what you really need in your kitchen to make cooking and baking a pleasure.
                This season is the time when family and friends get together to celebrate and to enjoy each other’s company.  You can avoid being overwhelmed by planning your events in advance.  Think about which other events you will have to attend, the family and friends who will want to host at your home, and do not overbook yourself.
                Here is where making a list is once again so valuable.  Who do you want to see or spend time with this season?  Jotting down the names of family and friends you want spend time with will help you avoid forgetting to invite someone to a party and hurting their feelings.  Don’t overlook getting together with friends if that is what is important.  So, if you are having family and enough “free nights” where you can go to bed early, or relax without having to attend a function.
                Buy things that can be used multiple times or later on in the year in bulk.  For example, clear plastic plates are essentials at almost all parties or events and are much cheaper when buying a few hundred of them at a time.  If using nice paper and/or plastic is acceptable for your functions and will save you time and energy, take this option into consideration.  Treat yourself to some pretty household items (new picture, plant, candles, and vase) for around the house.  After all, there is no better time to invest in beautifying your home than right before an opportunity to get complements from your family and friends!  People tend to take more pictures inside that outside during this time of year, so the elegant touches vases, plants, or pictures will give to your background will really make a difference.
                Finally, it is important to make a list before you set out to the supermarket to buy food and goods, for your events.  This is a good rule all year round, but is especially important now.  Think about where you can take shortcuts in your cooking, and where homemade items will really be noticed.  For example, rice pilaf from the box or ready make icing for a cake will save you a lot of time and will allow you to focus on preparing a delectable roast or Grandma’s special chocolate fudge cake from scratch.  Be cognizant of how much you can handle and do not overwork yourself in the kitchen and when entertaining.
                The holidays are an exciting time.  We all enjoy being with our loved ones, sharing meals, exchanging presents, and spending quality time with people we don’t get to see all year.  Utilizing some of the tips mentioned above  can help you avoid the rush and stress that often comes along with the gift giving and entertaining in the next few months.  When your home is de-cluttered, and your events planned and well organized, you will be able to truly enjoy this holiday season!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Last minute tips for Organizing a Guest Room before the Holidays

When setting up your guest rooms try to anticipate your guest comforts and needs.  For example, look over the room to see if it has the items you might need for one extra night, blankets, pillows, clock, and reading material.
You might consider adding some pampering items in the room, perhaps a nice smelling candle, padded hangers, fresh flowers and a water bottle or snack.
If you guest is from out of town maybe a luggage rack or extra empty drawer might be a nice and easy way to unpack.
Remember to clear the clutter.  Guest rooms are usually a easy place for you to use as a staging room or dumping ground for unwanted items around the house.  Take some time to clean up and make room for your guest.
Make room for your guests’ clothes in the closet.  Consider using a freestanding clothing rack if you don’t have closet room.  If you don’t have a spare drawer, add a hanging organizer to a closet or garment rack.
Some extra thoughtful touches might be to add a small wastebasket, facial tissue, spare bath towel, jewelry tray and a basket full of fine toiletries to really make your guests feel at home

Monday, October 31, 2011

Office Organizing:

Does your office look like a trash can?  Do you have piles in every corner?  Does it take you a long time to find the right bill to pay?  Do you wish all the paper would just disappear?

Here are some quick suggestions:

1.  Create a quick filing system on your desk.  I call it the hot file
     To Pay, To File, Coupons, Events, Invitations, Pending, To Do Work, Children/School
2.  Touch each paper once and decide which file it should go into
3.  For the Filing system, create an alphabetical systems for your papers.  i.e.; Auto, Banking Credit Cards, Home, Insurance, Medical Travel, Utilities , Warranties 
4.  Open the mail each day for 5 minutes and sort quickly
5.  Set aside time each week to pay bills
6.  Spend 20 minutes at your desk each day creating order and keeping up with your paper work
7.   Make a to do list with that is within your priorities
8.  Write down all your phone messages in one place and keep track of all your return calls and numbers
9.   Keep your business cards in one place and write them onto your contact list If you need a hard copy, keep them in a notebook.
10. Reward yourself for your efforts and keep track of your current papers.

Create a Password Organizer

Create a chart to keep all your passwords in one spot.  This will help you remember and access them when you need to. Keep them in a safe place either near your computer or near your personal banking papers.  Try to think of someplace that you can get to them easily and will remember where they are.  A common problem is not remember what the passwords are and/or where they are stored.  Include in your chart any website emails, log-in names and passwords. The Chart should include email address, computer log in, banking passwords, billings, social media, shopping sites, photos, work related sites, Travel, school and any other sites you have passwords to.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Back to School Success

Planning ahead is the most important part of getting your children ready for school.  Begin by talking to your child about their attitude and mindset: anxiety, tension, nervousness, frustration, and excitement. In dealing with these emotions ahead of time, you will help your child start the year off successfully.
Success begins with the Night before: Turn off TV’s and computers an hour before bedtime so that you can get organized for the next morning.  Make lunches and gather school supplies together.  Set out uniform or wardrobe and shoes for your child in their room. You can even set the table for breakfast the next morning.  Make sure you have milk, cereal, eggs, bread, cheese, yogurt and fruit for healthy breakfast choices.   Create a special zone for backpack and paperwork to be found easily in the morning before exiting the house. 
Morning Routine: Set your alarm clock to wake and get dressed before you wake up your children.  If they see you dressed and ready they will be more inclined to do the same.  Good role-modeling is very important in the morning. Wake the harder- to-rise children first and then go back to get the others.  If your child needs help getting dressed be patient and assist; perhaps playing some music can set the mood of the morning.  Have healthy breakfast choices and easy clean up (paper plates and bowls might be helpful).  Double check their lunches (hopefully made the night before) and snacks, homework assignment and anything else they need for school.  Enjoy your coffee on the road.
During the Day: Make sure your child’s school has your important phone numbers and emergency information during the day.  Plan your dinner menu and errands to be available to be finished by the time school lets out.  Create an in home pharmacy.  Stocking up on supplies will save you from running across town to all night pharmacy.  Items such as bandages, cold medication and lice shampoo may be needed during the first week back.  Re-stock your refrigeration for healthy snacks and food essentials.  Get a few rolls of coins and some small bills. Stash them in a “penny jar” No more scrounging for loose change in an emergency. Prepare a “chore chart” or large wall calendar to list schedule of everyone’s afternoon school schedule.
After School Success:  Arrive at the carpool line on time.  The worse feeling for your child is waiting to be picked up.  Give yourself enough time to get to school and be relaxed.  (This might be the chance to have a second cup of coffee or ice tea in the car!)  Prepare a snack for the drive home (popcorn, cut up fruit, grapes, cheese and crackers are good choices).  This is your time to chat with your kids before you get home.
Dinner time and Homework:  Hopefully, you have had time to plan dinner and set the table or provide a snack that can hold them until dinner is ready.  Plan extra food so some of it can be offered for lunch the next day (you can also make the lunch at the same time you make dinner).  Create a homework zone free from distractions.  While older children may benefit from doing homework in their bedrooms or in the home office, younger children who need parental support could do their homework in the kitchen or dining room while their parents are preparing dinner.  Decide on what time is appropriate for homework, chores, down time and the nightly bath routine.  If you need a babysitter or homework helper, try to plan this in advance and warn your children.  They might need extra attention the first few weeks of school.
Bedtime:  Set or determine an appropriate time for bedtime and routine.  Bath, reading, talking should all be discussed and agreed upon so there is minimal disagreements. 
Start the Routine all over again for the next morning.
I will be teaching these principles and more at “CafĂ© Mom” on September 13, 2011 at 9:30am at the Jewish Family Service on Pico Blvd. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Organizing Tips for This Week

Office Organizing:

Does your office look like a trash can?  Do you have piles in every corner?  Does it take you a long time to find the right bill to pay?  Do you wish all the paper would just disappear?

Here are some quick suggestions:

1.  Create a quick filing system on your desk.  I call it the hot file
To Pay, To File, Coupons, Events, Invitations, Pending, To Do Work, Children/School
2.  Touch each paper once and decide which file it should go into
3.  For the Filing system, create an alphabetical systems for your papers.  i.e.; Auto, Banking Credit Cards, Home, Insurance, Medical Travel, Utilities , Warranties 
4.  Open the mail each day for 5 minutes and sort quickly
5.  Set aside time each week to pay bills
6.  Spend 20 minutes at your desk each day creating order and keeping up with your paper work
7.   Make a to do list with that is within your priorities
8.  Write down all your phone messages in one place and keep track of all your return calls and numbers
9.   Keep your business cards in one place and write them onto your contact list If you need a hard copy, keep them in a notebook.
10. Reward yourself for your efforts and keep track of your current papers.

Time Management

1   Keep a daily calendar/planner. Write down all your commitments and appointments
2.  Write down your "to do's " daily
3.  Keep track of how you use your time each day and how long it takes you do to each          task/activity
4.  Keep appointments and try to be on time
 Don't overbook yourself.  Give yourself enough time to make each appointment
6.  Write down all appointments and due dates on your calendar daily
7.  Call in advance to confirm appointments
8   Try to multi- task some of your shopping. i.e.:  go to the cleaners on the day you need to get gas if they share the same location.
9.  Buy in bulk if it saves you time.
10. Find a buddy or a partner if its time saving for you.  i.e.; your friend can go to the market while you go to the post office.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Painlessly Preparing a Panic Free Pesach

            Just about a week after Purim each Traditional Jewish homemaker thinks about the Passover preparations.  After quickly putting away the Purim costumes, finishing the last of the delicious hamamustans cookies and hiding all the candy, the panic begins.
            What usually happens to most women is that the panic of making Pesach overpowers them and disables their cognitive thoughts. They become overwhelmed, anxious and question their abilities to be able to do it again. It doesn’t matter that they know full well that it will and can be done- it is still a daunting task for anyone.  As a professional organizer and mother of seven, I have a few suggestions and approaches for this holiday of freedom and appreciation.
            First and foremost, you must address the issue of your stress and feelings of anxiousness.  Cleaning for Pesach and preparing your home does not have to be a stressful event if you plan and delegate.  Start reducing the stress by being prepared.  Make a list of things that need to be done.  Cleaning and shopping should be on the top of the list.  Put the lists in a notebook or binder that has sections for cleaning, shopping and meal preparation/menus.  By keeping it in a designated spot, you can avoid the usual inevitability of yellow sticky notes all over your house and having to make list after list of the same items. In addition, this notebook can be saved from year to year as a baseline and guidebook. Time will be saved each year and you will quickly be reminded how you did it last year. Not only will this tactic calm your nerves as you realize that this task is indeed do-able, but it will save you time and energy.
Second, analyze your feelings about cleaning and reduce the stress by breaking down the chores into bit size pieces and by scheduling the cleaning.  For example, take a calendar and divide up the tasks and assign a time and day for each chore and activity (shopping) to take place.  My favorite time management author is Stephen Convey.  I personally follow his 7 habits of highly effective people.  Habit number three “Begin with the End in mind” helps me with my time line of events.  I take out my calendar and make an X on April 18th, First sedar night.  I ask myself what I want to be doing on that morning.  When I remember that that is the day I want to set the table, buy flowers and get my nails manicured, I realize everything else has to be done on an earlier day. Thus, I then turn to the day before, April 17th .   I schedule for that day- making the sedar plate, dessert, and the fresh food entrees.  That put me back to April 16 th.  What should I do on that day…? I always give myself 2 days to do each task in case of emergency or if you don’t have time to complete the job. It is important to assign tasks in bite size pieces so that everything is do-able. As you can see I work with keeping the end in mind, working backwards until I get to the current day.
There is always so much to be done- cleaning out the toy closet, clothes closet and planning the menu, inviting the guest, and much more.  Depending on your strengths and weaknesses, household help, size of your family, or disabilities, you can begin to de-clutter, clean, organizer and enjoy the process by being prepared.  The general idea on organizing a panic free Pesach is all in the planning.  Many of the beginners must first understand the difference between cleaning for Pesach verses spring cleaning.  This may or may not be the best time or season to clean your drapes. Set your goals and be realistic.  Evaluate how much time you really have to devote to getting ready for Pesach.  Young mothers of toddlers or a full time CEO will have a different schedule than a mother with teenager daughters and full time cleaning help.  My strongest suggestion is setting up a schedule and time table using this year’s calendar.  You must set realistic goals and needs, and evaluate your personal home situation.  List your chores by room and decide to what extent your will go crazy cleaning it.
            Prepare your menus and meal planning, as well as your shopping by making a list.  Try to make your meals this year be nutritious and simple.  Leave the complicated dishes for shorter holidays like Shavuot.  My best cooking tips are preparing dishes with no more then three ingredients, making plenty of the most popular dishes, using food storage bags to freeze and make some of the food in advance. 
Don’t forget to involve your family in all acts of preparation.  The young children can clean their own toys, bookshelves and games.  I hide money or Pesach candy in between the book pages or under the sofa as a reward for cleaning so well.  Divide up each chore, delegate each to a family member or hire more help.
            There is no question that preparing for Pesach is a daunting task. However, it can be doable and fun. The more you plan the less stress you will feel. Just make sure that after the cleaning is done, you have time for yourself- to shower, prepare and do something to make yourself feel or look especially good. This year you can be a Queen at your own sedar!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Organzing your Housework

Create a system/pattern
Set up a reasonable routine, with enough structure to carry the basic necessities of home life.  A general routine can give strength to your life.  Look at your overall weekly pattern.  Try to make a chart for yourself or your housekeeper of things that need to be done everyday.
Be strict about keeping up with the basics:  daily pickup, meals, dishes, laundry, going through the mail.  Do the basics everyday:  Make beds, clear kitchen table, clean counter tops, wash dishes, tidy up living areas, (includes putting away books, straighten cushions, put newspapers away, read, and sort mail, put clothes away.
Make a list for yourself or someone who help you clean:
·         Vacuum
·         Dust
·         Change bedding
·         Sweep and clean floor
·         Grocery shopping
·         Clean kitchen, garbage pail, clean inside refrigerator, clean mirrors.
       Walk through your house and make notes of everything you want cleaned and make it into a   schedule
Identify and avoid time robbers
·         Telephone: Have your calls screened, limit the length of incoming calls, let it ring, answering machines
·         Television/Computer: Do something else in addition to watching, Limit the hours you work on the Computer
·         Shopping: Shop at quiet times, be informed before you buy, anticipate your purchases , group your errands, buy in bulk, shop by mail
·         Clutter, mental and physical: identify and organize, write it down, simplify, eliminate
·         Focus on the problem, look at causes and possible solutions, Conquer head on
Getting others to help
·         Develop a chart, Reward system, chores/divide up the work