5 Minute Organizing Challenge ~ Safety Edition [January 2012]

On January 31, 2012, in 5 Minute Organizing Challenge, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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I’m on a mini-sabbatical and have lined up a few posts ahead of time, like this one for first time parents. It’s a bit of a sequel to my guest post for Geralin Thomas about things you should do to baby proof your home. Did you baby proof before or after you brought your little one home?

It’s time for a new 5 Minute Organizing Challenge! What can you do in 5 minutes to gain a little order in your life? You can put a few things back in place or gather your important items. Here’s a new set of five things for you to consider adding to your routine this month. Try them on for size and feel free to suggest a few of your own.

1. Install smoke detectors if you don’t have them already. If you do, test them and/or put in new batteries.

2. While you’re at it, install a carbon monoxide detector, too.

3. Do you have a fire extinguisher in your house? If not, add it to your list of things to buy.

4. Need gates? Put them in off-limit areas, especially those with stairs.

5. Adjust the temperature of your water heater to lower than 120° F to avoid scalding.


6. Be sure that your child’s regular caregiver(s) is healthy and up to date with all his/her shots, like this one.


Check out the December 2011 Organizing Challenge

Fact Friday: Regular Vacations Keep Your Heart Healthy

On January 27, 2012, in Fact Friday, Wellness, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“Annual vacations cut the risk of heart attacks in men by 30 percent and by 50 percent in women. Leisure and rest build resiliency and it’s much easier to keep a person well, with less medication, than it is to improve a depressive state.”


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America Avoids Vacation | HuffingtonPost.com | 7.26.11

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4 Areas of Your Life to Organize

On January 26, 2012, in Get Organized Month, by Sarah Heckle
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A new year means a new chance to get organized. But when you resolve to get “organized,” what does that really mean and where should you get started? Here are four simple areas of your life to organize for the new year:

1. Get your home in order: The beginning of the year is my favorite time of year to do a big house-wide cleaning. It’s much easier to maintain an organized space when you start with a clean slate  — and what time of year is better to get everything in order?

If the holidays brought a whole influx of new items into your home, I suggest getting rid of one item for every new item you got during the holidays. This will help you cut down on clutter. If you received gifts you don’t have space or a use for (or you simply don’t like), get rid of these items now, rather than holding onto them.

While you’re at it, also get rid of stuff around your house that you don’t use, you don’t care for, broken items, and any “just in case” stuff. For more New Year cleaning advice, read my last post 5 Post Holiday Cleaning Tips.

2. Get your schedule in order: I like to keep two calendars: a small planner that I keep in my purse and a large desk calendar. If you buy these after the New Year begins, they’ll probably be significantly discounted.

I write every date that needs to be remembered on both of these calendars, whether it’s an appointment, meeting, birthday, bill due date, etc. When I’m out and about, I use the small planner in my purse to record appointments I make when I’m away from home, and as soon as I get back to the house, I record them on the desk calendar.

My small planner keeps me personally organized, and the desk calendar helps my husband and me sync our schedules and know what’s going on. A lot of people rely on Google Calendars or electronic organization, but for me physically writing something down helps me remember things better.



Related to your calendar, the beginning of the year is a great time to reevaluate your schedule. If your life is hectic and there never seems to be a moment’s peace, perhaps you have too much on your plate and need to gracefully bow out of some activities.

In the same vein, it’s great to have children who are involved in activities, but if every night means running from piano to soccer to dance to basketball, a reevaluation of these activities might be in order. Deciding how many activities your children participate in is really a matter of personal choice, but a night with nothing to do will be welcomed by your whole family.   

3. Get your finances in order: Even if you’re not a money or number-minded person, you should know where all your money is going. The beginning of the year is a great time to sit down and write out what you’re spending your money on and how much.

If you’re pinching pennies, find out what areas you could cut back on and set a new budget for these areas. Areas to cut back on could include eating out, clothes and makeup, premium television channels, expensive extracurriculars, and even food if you find yourself buying more than you need.

As you write out your expenses, record on your calendar when each of your bills is due and when your paycheck[s] go through. Even if your bills are paid automatically, write down the dates the bills are processed so you know when exactly money is coming in and out of your home.

4. Get organized at work: When you get back from holiday vacation, use the New Year to get on top of everything at work.

• Start with your desk: go through all those papers sitting around and throw away what you don’t need (shred any documents with sensitive information). Set up your own little filing system for the papers that are left.

• Get a calendar (separate from your home desk calendar and planner) to record meeting dates and deadlines; also use this calendar to document your vacation time so you can keep track of how much you’ve used and have left.

• Get an organizer for your pens, sticky notes, paper clips, etc. You’d be surprised how such fixes can increase productivity.


Quick Tip: 2 Great Ways to Get Meal Time Back on Track

On January 24, 2012, in Home Organizing, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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I’m taking a sabbatical and have lined up a few posts ahead of time, like this one about getting control of meal times. What are some of your favorite tips for staying on top of things?

Many of us struggle with food…what we eat and how much…and sometimes, what to cook (for those of you who are fond of spending time in the kitchen). While decluttering is very much like dieting, today I’m focusing on ways you can get a better handle on meal planning.  

It might take a bit of time in the beginning, but once you get in the swing of things, you’ll be happy you spent that time planning so you can get on with the business of eating!


The Six O’Clock Scramble

Aviva Goldfarb, author and founder of The Six O’Clock Scramble, wanted to find a way to help busy parents cook healthy meals…often…AND save time and money. Sounds like a great combo to me! You can also search for specialty meals, like gluten- and dairy-free, vegetarian, low-sodium, etc. recipes.

When you sign up for one of her three subscriptions, you will get:

• Family-tested meals

• Grocery List (weekly)

• Healthy Eating Tips

• And, a bunch more stuff!

Get Two Weeks Free with The Scramble


Plan to Eat

Plan to Eat lets you keep your recipes, shopping lists, and meal planner all in one location. You can import and share your recipes (and shopping lists, too) and tag them for easier searching. Use the drag and drop feature to plan your meals with the online calendar. Even better, your shopping lists are taken automatically from your meal planner.

Sign Up for a Free 30-Day Trial


Fact Friday: Americans Find it Difficult to Unplug at Home

On January 20, 2012, in Fact Friday, Technology, Work-Life Balance, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“83 percent of American adults own some kind of cell phone and…a lot of people find it difficult to switch off once they’re at home.”


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How Parents Can Help Their Children Regroup After a Less Than Stellar First Semester

On January 19, 2012, in Guest Posts, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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I’m on a mini-sabbatical and will be re-sharing some of my fave OTR articles and re-introducing you to some favorite OTR guest authors, like Helene Segura. She has advice for parents on how they can help their children tackle educational challenges.

It’s a tough job for parents to walk that line between being a non-participant in their child’s education and being overzealous. The latter calls teachers at all hours of the day and night to ask why their child only made an eighty-nine on a homework assignment that they stayed up all night completing for their child.

The former waits until the last week of school to ask what makeup work can be done so their kid can pass – ignoring the twice monthly requests on progress reports and report cards to call to discuss their child’s grades.

You reside somewhere in the middle. You were as supportive as possible, but tried not to pry too much. You kept up with communications from the school and attended all meetings and events in which your child was involved. But when the first semester report card arrived, you were disappointed with and extremely concerned about the results. Either there were one or more failing grades, or the averages had nose-dived by five or more points.

There are a variety of factors that could have caused the changes, many of which you’ve probably mulled over while scratching your head:

1. Does my child have a learning disability that I never before noticed?

2. Are the teachers being unfair?

3. Is my child not telling me everything that’s happening in class?

4. Is my child experiencing some type of emotional or behavioral struggle?

5. Has my child started “hanging out” with the wrong crowd?

One question that is often not asked, however, is “Has my child reached a point where his/her organizational skills no longer meet the challenges s/he faces?”

As adults, we often heap on more commitments and responsibilities and sometimes push ourselves to the breaking point. We’ve managed to develop coping skills because we’ve been doing this for decades. Kids lack the lifelong experience that we have, and we sometimes forget that they need to regroup and recharge more often than we do.

Organizationally, there are many avenues to explore, but the challenges often trace back to two core issues: lack of time management and lack of structure.



To begin addressing these challenges, take a look at:

1. Your child’s extra curricular schedule.

By the time you factor in practice time, commute time, chores and eating, how much time is left for studying and fun? As adults, we tend to deny ourselves of the fun; it’s crucial that kids do not. I typically find with my clients that homework is supposed to be done on the go – in between practices or in the car. Those are not environments that are conducive to uninterrupted study periods. I encourage those clients to set up a specific amount of time at home each night so that their kids can focus. Sometimes that means shelving one of their activities.

2. Your child’s study area.

Do your children have a specific area where they can do their homework? Is there a desk or table where they can write? Are there supplies located there so that your kiddos don’t have to hunt all over the house for what they need? Having a designated spot allows your children to focus on the task of studying instead of killing time trying to find a place to get settled. When it comes to studying, they shouldn’t be nomadic; they need a home base.

3. Your child’s routines.

Even the most creative, right-brained children thrive on routine. Tasks don’t necessarily need to be completed at the exact same time each day, but they should be completed. If necessary, have a task check list in the kitchen, in their bedroom, and/or on the front door to help them remember what needs to be done each day. Whether diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, or nothing at all, my clients who struggle the most with keeping up rely on checklists in multiple places, including their smartphone.

If the report card was not what was expected, it’s time for a sit-down with your child. Depending on the age, this might be while cuddling during Mommy and Me time or in between gaming sessions of Call of Duty. The important thing is to open up the lines of communication.

Discuss the three points above. If it doesn’t solve your child’s issues, it will at least act as a springboard into what is causing their struggles.


About the Author

LivingOrder San Antonio CEO, Helene Segura, is a Certified Professional Organizer® and Certified Productive Environment Specialist™. A former award-winning teacher turned organizing and productivity consultant, Segura’s book, Less Stress for Teachers: More Time & An Organized Classroom, addresses the thinking behind how to overcome “the overwhelm” that teachers feel on a daily basis. It’s a thinking pathway that helps teachers bust through the emotional, psychological and organizational walls that prevent them from utilizing planners and other tools.

Connect With Helene:  LivingOrder San Antonio | Less Stress For Teachers | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn |Google+


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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2012

On January 16, 2012, in General, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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We took the day off today in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day, a holiday that some observe here in the US. Hope your day has been productive AND relaxing. =)

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fact Friday: The Obsession with Healthy Food

On January 13, 2012, in Fact Friday, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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“Orthorexia, though not an official mental disorder, is what some people call an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food. It’s very similar to an obsessive-compulsive disorder only the focus is really food.”

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When eating too healthy becomes harmful | Today.com | 8.25.11

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Reminder: Get Organized! Clutter Diet Offers Special Rates in January 2012!

On January 12, 2012, in Get Organized Month, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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So many people want to get organized for the New Year and January is Get Organized Month. …but if you are on a budget or don’t otherwise have access to hire a professional organizer, I wanted to share with you a great way for you to get on the organizing train at a reduced cost.

Many of you know that I’m one of the featured experts on The Clutter Diet (TCD) and I’m happy to announce a special deal being offered in January.  When you use the coupon code2012win, you will receive 25% off an Annual membership! This discount is the lowest possible price TCD offers.

Annual memberships are usually $143.40, but with this coupon code your price is 25% off, just $107. This offer expires, Monday, January 16th at midnight (CDT). In other words, it costs you only $8.92/month to have unlimited access to organizing experts for personal consultations online!

Get More Info | SIGN UP NOW!

How to Help Your Children Organize Their Rooms

On January 12, 2012, in Guest Posts, Organizing Children's Rooms, by Deb Lee, Certified Professional Organizer®
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I’m taking a sabbatical and have lined up a few posts ahead of time. I’ll also be re-sharing some of my fave OTR articles and re-introducing you to some favorite OTR guest authors, like Ellen Delap. Today, she has advice on how to help your children keep their rooms clutter free.

Kids rooms get stuffed to the brim after the holidays! Helping them learn organizing strategies as well as modeling decluttering is one of our most important jobs as a parent.  Just like every new skill, it takes patience and practice to create good systems and routines.

  • Set a time that will work well for you and your child to organize. You will be able to have them work with you between 30 and 60 minutes, so you really want to hit the hard stuff first.  Before you start, set your goals together to be sure you are communicating. Work toward a goal of completion and not perfection in this endeavor. Going into this work with a team attitude makes all the difference as well. If your child is done, but the room is not, continue on but ask about the items you declutter before you donate.  You are teaching respect for each other and taking care of your property, too!
  • Think through the areas that are used in your child’s room, including technology, attire, reading and any other zones.  Mapping this out ahead of time helps you both set boundaries for what will fit in this space. Often we have too much in one space to make it work.
  • Give your child permission to declutter without guilt or second thoughts. You and your child will approach decluttering with different perspectives.  Often your child is ready to let go of an item and  you are not.  Be sure that you are open to their opinions, regardless of the cost or use of the item.

If your child is reluctant to declutter, be sure to help them by gathering together the items, then asking how many they might need of a single item or if they will keep only a treasured number. By helping them approach decluttering in a positive way, you are encouraging a lifelong process.

  • Use 66 quart bins, labeled with size and season for clothes. Keeping toys or clothes for your next child? You can store these on the upper shelves in your child’s closet. Toys can also be stored this way. Be sure to be discerning and keep only the best of these.
  • Kids need a keepsake box, too. The size of the box helps them limit their keepsakes to what is most precious. This can also be stored under a bed or at the top of the closet. This strategy also helps them honor what is precious.
  • Choose products that encourage independent maintenance of their space. Think of their ability to access and spaces they can return items to so that they can easily keep their room orderly. Place items that are frequently used in open bins for just dropping in. Color and labels can make organizing fun and attractive too. Be sure to label each spot so that everyone knows where items belong.
  • Establishing routines are an important final step. Talk through the maintenance with your child. Will they be picking up a little every night? It is much easier this way!  Will they be preparing for the next day each evening as well, taking out their clothes, filling their back pack and getting ready? Easy to follow routines can be reinforced with a chore chart and praise to insure completion.
  • Keep a schedule for decluttering each season. Whether it is a holiday or birthday coming up, frequent decluttering is the most reliable way to keep order in your home. Calendar (affiliate link) it and you will be sure to keep organization a priority for you and your child.


About the Author

Certified Professional Organizer ® and Family Manager Coach, Ellen Delap, is the owner of Professional-Organizer.com. Since 2000, she has worked one-on-one with her clients in their home and offices, streamlining their environments, creating effective strategies for an organized lifestyle, and helping them to prioritize organization in their daily routines.

She holds ADD and Chronic Disorganization certificates and specializes in working with ADD and ADHD adults and students.  Ellen has been featured at The Woodlands (Texas) Home and Garden Show, on ABC13 Houston, in the Houston Chronicle, and is an Expert on The Clutter Diet, an online organizing resource.

Connect With Ellen: Twitter | Facebook | Web | E-Mail