Organizing Conference #NAPO2016

May 25, 2016

I just had the great good fortune to attend two days of the #NAPO2016 Conference in Atlanta. It was my original intention to attend the entire conference but my two sons and daughter-in-law decided that it would be good to visit me. I LOVE it when they visit as they do not live anywhere nearby but I freely admit that I was hoping they would not choose to visit when I was in the middle of attending this great conference. However, the three of them arrived on Friday evening and I was home to greet them. In my world, family trumps everything.

This blog post is not about my family but about the wonderful time I had at the NAPO 2016 conference in Atlanta.

The sessions I attended were fantastic! I am so happy to belong to an organization which brings in great quality speakers to further the education of their members. I will write more about the sessions next week.

For the first time this year I had a table at the Expo with two other organizer colleagues: Jonda Beattie and Judith Kolberg. We were selling our organizing books. It was a blast as many organizers stopped by our table to chat, see what was new, and buy our books. We, Jonda and I, had two new books available for sale. They are two children’s organizing books. They teach children how to go about the task of breaking down a seemingly overwhelming project (picking up a very messy room) into small manageable components. They are titled: Suzie’s Messy Room and Benji’s Messy Room. It was exciting for us to have our organizing colleagues see our new books, like the illustrations and the content, and buy them. We are working with one organizer who wants to buy the books in bulk and then provide them to participants in her workshop. Please feel free to contact me if you have a similar idea.

The other great thing that happened this year at conference – actually it happens every year – is connecting in person with organizers that I usually just communicate with online. We are a community. We speak the same organizer language and totally support one another in our efforts to give our clients the best organizing services. That means that we refer out to one another when necessary. It is an extraordinary experience to be among such a wonderful like-minded group of talented colleagues.

Admittedly, going to conference is an expensive experience. You have the cost of travel, hotel, buying from the vendors, some meals, and entertainment. I’ve found that putting money aside each month in an account earmarked for conference is the best way to afford the investment in my education as an organizer.

If you have a professional conference that you’d like to attend try my strategy of a savings account specifically for that event. I’d love to hear your thoughts on conferences. Do you attend them? Do you find them worthwhile?

 

Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timely  - SMART Concept

Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timely – SMART Concept. Conceptual image with yellow paint line on the road over asphalt stone background.

 

Mom

May 4, 2016

2015 05 beautiful roses

In honor of mother’s day I wanted to share some thoughts with you about my mother; my mom.

This is what I called my mother. She was always simply Mom. She was the best. Sadly, she left this life way too early at the young age of 73. She had Leukemia. She fought a valiant battle for about 14 months and never once complained.

This post is not about her passing but about her living. I am who I am in part because of some of the wonderful lessons my mom taught me. I want to tell you about her and about what I learned from my mom.

Mom loved her family wholeheartedly. I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters making us a large family. Mom loved us all unreservedly. We have our faults which she acknowledged and loved us anyway. She guided us when she thought we had lost our way, boosted us up when we were down in the dumps, and celebrated our accomplishments.

Mom loved to play tennis and croquet. She was a master gardener and flower arranger. I think some of that rubbed off on me. I love my garden and tend it faithfully. She and I used to go on garden tours whenever it was convenient. In fact, my mother’s day present to her was usually tickets to the local garden tour and a lovely lunch along the way! I loved the way she could identify and tell me about most of the plants we saw. She also loved to play poker! Mom had poker parties with two other couples. They had dinner and played poker long into the night – lots of fun!

Mom had great style. She was not particularly fashionable in what she wore. Rather she wore classic clothes and created her own style which suited her to perfection.

Mom was very opinionated. You never had to wonder what she was thinking. She would tell you if she liked or didn’t like something or what you were doing. She was very polite about it and had a way of letting you know where she stood about something without directly insulting you.

Mom loved to travel and experience new things. She was always up for an adventure. She came and visited me in Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Singapore when I lived in those cities. She was amazing.

I learned so much from my mom. She was a great role model. I learned to love adventures and to keep my mind open to different ways of thinking from my mom. Most of all I learned to celebrate all that this life has to offer, to see the good in situations, to look beyond the obvious and to be true to myself.

I miss mom more than words can say but I believe that she lives in my heart.

This mother’s day I will celebrate the memory of my mom and the wonderful times we had together with my brothers and sisters!

Tell me about your mother and your plans for Mother’s Day.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

April 27, 2016

It’s not unusual to feel a bit overwhelmed at this time of year. Why? Well, if you have children there are all the end of year school activities. These include awards ceremonies, class parties, prom, graduation ceremonies and parties, athletic competitions and the list goes on. If you don’t have children the groups you belong to may be winding down, finishing up activities.

Then there is the yard. If you live in the South you may be changing out the winter annual plants and replacing them with the spring/summer colorful annuals. If you live in the North you may be guarding the tender perennials that are just starting to grow. In fact, yesterday my sister told me they were expecting snow in Vermont. She was concerned that the plants that were poking their heads out of the ground might be damaged by freezing temperatures!

What to do about this feeling of having so many things to do and a finite amount of time?

First of all, BREATHE!

When I’m feeling this way, overwhelmed, I sometimes forget to take deep breathes. How about you?

Start by getting out your calendar and noting all the due dates.

Then get out a sheet of paper and write down the steps you need to take to bring each event to completion.

Some events may just be a matter of getting there on time. Others may need you to take some actions – like buying or making cookies for a class party or planning a pre-prom parent party!

Once you have broken each of these tasks down into steps get your calendar back out and schedule those steps into your planner. Take into account your regular chores and activities and be sure to allow travel time or set up and clean up time.

I know that this is something I have just done for myself as I was feeling overwhelmed by all the little tasks I have to complete in the next few weeks. I was definitely feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared. Writing everything down and breaking the tasks into their steps helped me. I hope it helps you too.

 

What Do You Model?

April 20, 2016

 

Fashion kid concept - beautiful stylish little cute girl child w

No, I’m not asking if you model clothes or if you are featured in magazines. I’m more interested in what behavior you model for the people in your life.

Oh, do I have your attention? Have you ever heard the expression “monkey see, monkey do”? Well this expression describes what often happens. Think about the people in your life who you admire. Do you copy some of the things they do or say? For instance, if someone you admire says ‘I like ….’ (you can fill in the blank) I think you might be inclined to agree with them. Also, if a person I admire says ‘I’m trying to live a healthier lifestyle. So, I’m going to join a fitness club. Do you want to join with me?’ I would probably say ‘sure! I’ll give it a try!’ I’d be doing that because I like and admire the person and want to copy some of the things they do. How about you? What would you do?

Now, think about yourself. Do you have children? What do you do that they might copy? Remember children will copy the good and the not so good behaviors. They are watching you and reading your body language for clues all the time.

If you say ‘Oh, no! There’s so much dusting to do. I hate dusting.’ Then you turn around and say ‘I don’t think I’m going to do that today.’ You teach your children the language to use when they don’t feel like doing something. Conversely, if you say ‘there’s so much dusting to do! I’m going to do a little now and a little later to break it up.’ You model negotiating behavior. You let them know that there’s a lot but that it’s doable by breaking it down into more than one session dusting. The time will come when you ask them to take out the trash (or some other task) and they could say ‘I don’t feel like doing that right now’ or they could negotiate and say ‘how about if I take it out after I finish my homework’.

If you leave your clothes on the floor or draped over furniture and then tell your children to put their clothes away you are giving them the message ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

Think about the behaviors you would like to see in your children. Do you want them to become accustomed to leaving glasses and dishes in their room or do you want them to clear their dishes and glasses to the kitchen sink when they’re finished with them? Maybe even put them into the dishwasher?

Do you want them to leave their shoes laying around the house or is there a place in their closet for their shoes? What about your shoes? Do you leave them where they fall when you kick them off at the end of the day? Or do you kick them off, pick them up and carry them with you to your closet?

Think about the modeling you do now and let me know if you think you want to model some things a little differently or not.

 

 

Grocery Shopping and Meal Planning

April 13, 2016

Empty menu board

Over the past few weeks I’ve been talking about the kitchen. Buying and organizing supplies; only buying what you need. How do you know what you need?

Do you have a list to refer to when you grocery shop?

Some people have a list of the things they buy frequently from the store and they put a check mark next to the item when they need to replenish their supply. They leave space on the page to make note of the extra items to purchase. This is a very good option.

Other people create a list of things to buy as they run out of them. I have a small pad of paper in a holder on my refrigerator. When I run out of something or when it is running low I can quickly make a note of it on this paper. This way I don’t over buy.

Another tip is to once a week schedule time in your calendar to sit down and create a menu plan for the following week. Check your recipes to see what non-perishable items the recipe calls for and then take a look in your pantry to see if you have those grocery items. If you do, you won’t need to buy them. If you don’t then add them to your grocery list. I like to make a little note on my grocery list what recipe certain items are going to be used for – particularly if it’s something out of the ordinary. That helps to jog my memory!

Buy the perishable items for only a few meals at a time. This way if your plans change and you decide to eat out it will be easy to reschedule that meal.

Another tip is to try not to grocery shop when you’re hungry. I know that if I’m hungry when I go grocery shopping I end up buying food that I don’t need. I buy way too much and I also buy food items that look appealing at the moment but that in reality I won’t eat. I also tend to buy more snack food.

Schedule your trip to the grocery store after a meal if you can.

Please let me know how you plan your grocery shopping and if you think planning your meals will help you?

 

 

Organizing Your Pantry

April 6, 2016

pantry

Last week I talked about the benefits and drawbacks of buying groceries and household supplies in bulk. This week I want to talk about the pantry. What happens in your house when you bring the groceries home? Do you have specific places – shelves or cupboards – for specific sorts of non-perishable groceries?

Sometimes putting away groceries is a free for all. Things are just randomly put away. This makes it very difficult to know what you have and where it is. When things are just randomly put away it’s hard to just glance over to a shelf or into a cupboard to find the particular item you’re looking to find.

So, what can you do to have an organized pantry?

Recognize that this is a choice. You have to decide that you want to know what is in your pantry. There are some good reasons for making this choice and for cultivating the habit of keeping your pantry organized.

When your pantry is organized you know what you have and you will not wonder what is lurking in the back of your shelves so you will save money by not buying duplicates.

An added benefit is that when you plan your meals it will be easy to spot what ingredients you already have – saving you time. You won’t have to hunt through the shelves to figure out whether or not you have the necessary ingredients. You’ll simply be able to look in the spot where the required ingredients are kept.

Here are some simple steps to take to create an organized pantry.

  1. Empty all your shelves
  2. Toss expired foods
  3. Donate out food (that is not expired that you know you won’t eat)
  4. Sort like with like:
    1. Cans together
    2. Baking supplies together
    3. Condiments – oils and vinegars
    4. Snack food
    5. Cereal & breakfast foods
    6. Nuts
    7. Grains
    8. Pasta
    9. Anything else you can think of
  5. Look at your shelves
  6. Decide what you want to have within easy reach & what can go out of the way
  7. Decide if you want containers (you may want to empty bags of sugar, flour, rice, pasta into airtight containers to keep them fresh)
  8. Wipe down the shelves
  9. Label the shelves – even sections of a shelf – so that everyone in the home will know where to put each category
  10. Put everything away

 

I hope this helps you keep your pantry organized

The Clutter Cost of Buying in Bulk

March 23, 2016

Marketplace

Shopping for groceries and other household supplies is expensive. There’s no denying that. The stores entice us with sale notices and the BOGO (Buy One Get One) stickers on certain items. I’m all for getting something for free but is it really free?

When we buy in bulk, buy more than what we can realistically use, there is a cost to us beyond the actual monetary one. It is the cost of clutter.

It’s so tempting to go to a big box store and buy lots of the things we use at a lower price point. It’s a great way to save money. But what is the cost to us when we get home and have no place to put all of the extra supplies?

Some people have big pantry closets where they can store lots of supplies. For these people there may not be any clutter cost because they will be able to put the extras they buy away. They have the shelf or cupboard space to house the extras.

What about those of us with limited storage space? Our cupboards and shelves are small. They already hold our necessary supplies and can only be refilled when our current supply (the one we actually use) runs out. There’s no room to store extras.

We can get creative and use the open space above the cupboards to store things like extra rolls of paper towel and toilet paper. That space can also be used for extra boxes of cereal or power bars. If there is no space above the kitchen cabinets then these supplies typically land on the kitchen counter or on the floor!

I bring this up because recently I was working in a home and the home owner had been shopping at a big box store. The home was a small one. The kitchen was tiny. It was perfectly adequate for this single person’s needs but did not have space available to store extra snack food, paper towels, toilet paper and light bulbs.

These items all landed on the living room floor leaving little room for the home owner and her dog to move around.

We ended up moving many of the paper goods to a spot in a corner of the living room. We put the extra snack food in containers and stacked them in the extra bedroom. These are fine temporary solutions.

My advice to my client was to find a friend to shop with if she wants to continue buy in bulk for the cost savings. The two of them could share the cost of the food and divide the things they bought. A win/win for everyone!

Do you buy groceries in bulk? Do you have a great way of storing the extras? Write me back and let me know!

 

Getting Your Garden Ready

March 16, 2016

Recently I’ve been talking about spring cleaning inside your home. To recap this time of year when the light is newly bright again take the time to open your eyes and really look into all the spaces in your home. Get right into the corners and dark spaces. Clean them. Take the opportunity to look closely at your belongings. Dust them off and put them back or remove them from your home (if you determine they no longer fit your decorating style or lifestyle). Remember that spring lasts a good three months.

Schedule time in your calendar to deep spring clean each area of your home. Tackling your whole home at one time is a daunting and overwhelming task. When you plan it out and break it down into small tasks this project becomes much more manageable.

2015 05 summer mailbox flowers

Now is also the time to take stock of your garden. I should ask, do you like to garden? I do. I love to spend time in my garden! The last few days I’ve been out taking a look at my garden to see which plants are starting to poke their heads out of the earth. I love this time of year when my garden springs back to life! I notice where there are empty spots. Places where plants have not made it through the winter. I’m taking stock and thinking about the different plants I may want to add. While it’s too soon to plant it’s not too soon to make a plan and to decide what you’d like to do with your garden.

My garden is full of shrubs and perennial flowers. Is your garden a flower or vegetable garden? Is it a small cottage garden or do you have lots of space to garden? Are you learning to garden and trying one for the first or second time this year or are you an experienced gardener?

No matter your level of expertise or the size of your garden playing in the earth with plants is a wonderful pastime.

Look at the area in your garden you may want to change. Determine if you’re adding plants in the shade or the sun. If it’s a sunny spot try and calculate how many hours of sun that spot gets. It makes a difference as to which plants you want to consider. Likewise, if it’s a shady spot try and figure out if that area gets any sun at all or if it’s deep dense shade. The amount of sun makes a tremendous difference in the plants that will thrive in a location.

Another thing to consider is the size and color of the plants. Do you need to fill in with some low growing plants in the front of your garden? Maybe you want to add a tall plant in the back to add interest. The possibilities are endless.

Once you have these things figured out you may want to take a trip to your local plant nursery. Generally, the people who work there have great information to share about the plants they carry. They can tell you about how tall and/or bushy a plant will get as well as what you will need to do to promote its continued growth.

Young botanists  in greenhouse

As with everything else this is something that requires a plan. Pull out your calendar and set aside some times to really look at the garden space. It will take several observations at different times of day to figure out the sunlight question. Then schedule time to look at different garden websites to figure out the plants you want to add. Soon enough it will be time to plan the trip to the plant nursery, buy the plants, and plant them!

Garden Maintenance is key but that’s a topic for another time!

Write me back and let me know if gardening is one of your hobbies. If it is what are your plans for this year’s garden?

 

Open Your Eyes!

March 9, 2016

Child exploring nature

Have you started your spring cleaning? Whether or not you have started this process I recommend that when you do you take the opportunity to really look at the things you are moving around. I think sometimes we are so used to our surroundings that we don’t really see what’s there. I know that I can walk through a room in my house and not really notice the space.

Before you begin your spring cleaning spend some time in the room you’re tackling. Open your eyes and take a look as if you were seeing the room or area for the first time. Evaluate the space. Do you like what you see? Does it still work for you? If it does not, could you move some furniture around to make the room better fit your current lifestyle? Maybe even move furniture from one room into another.

If you think some of your belongings no longer fit your current lifestyle consider donating them out. Some things may no longer work with your current decorating style. Face it as life goes on we change and the way we decorate or the things we use need to change along with us.

That’s the problem. In general, we are so used to having our things around us that we don’t even really see them. They are simply there.

I suggest that as you do you’re spring cleaning you throw open the curtains – figuratively and literally. Really look at every item in every room that you are tackling. Evaluate each item.

Do you use it?

Do you love it?

Do you believe it to be beautiful?

If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to at least one of these questions then donate the items out. Someone else will be able to use it.

I know sometimes I’m surprised by what I find in one of the rooms in my house when I open my eyes and really look. Spring is the perfect time of year to be doing this. The light is brighter and the days are longer. Take advantage of this and freshen up your home.

Let me know if you’re surprised by something you’ve found in a room that you didn’t know you had.

Remember – turn your clocks ahead one hour Saturday night for Daylight Savings Time!

Is It Spring?

March 2, 2016

Spring Cleaning

Is it feeling like Spring where you live? Here in Atlanta it’s looking a lot like Spring is just around the corner. We’ve had a couple of beautiful sunny days. It was even warm enough over the weekend to enjoy a picnic in the park!

The days are longer, the sunshine brighter and all that makes me long to get out in the garden and play in the dirt. However, it’s not quite time to do that so I’m going to use the brighter light and longer days to my advantage inside the house.

In other words, it’s time for me to do some Spring cleaning! Yup, this brighter light points out the need to get back in the corners and under the furniture to get the little dust bunnies that can hide when the light isn’t quite so bright.

Just in case you also feel inclined to do some spring cleaning I’ve put together a list of things you might consider doing. Remember Spring is a season. It lasts about 3 months. If you break down this list and do a little each week by the time summer rolls around you will be done with your cleaning and ready to spend more time outside. You can also delegate some items on this list to other members of your family!

  1. Remove and vacuum window screens
  2. Wipe the window sills before you replace the screens
  3. Wash windows
  4. Clean baseboards
  5. Move the furniture and clean under it
  6. Decide what to do (toss, recycle, donate or put away) with the things you find under the furniture
  7. Put the furniture back
  8. Dust floor registers and other vent covers
  9. Dust light fixtures and ceiling fans
  10. Air out mattress pads and small area rugs
  11. Sort through winter clothes and donate any that don’t fit or that you didn’t wear
  12. Check your smoke detector/carbon monoxide monitor to make sure they are working. Put in fresh batteries if they are battery operated.
  13. Check your fire extinguishers
  14. Take them to your local fire station to be recharged if necessary

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