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Holiday OrganizingThe first thing we think about at the holidays is spending time with our family.  The holidays are an important time to gather together, but this can be more than a little complicated with a blended family.

Keeping your holiday plans simple and practical can help create blended family fun. Being organized can keep the stress down, helps keep the lines of communication open, and smooths out the rough patches of the holidays.

Here are four holiday organizing tips for your blended family that can help you enjoy the season to the fullest.

Kids first

Whether your kids are 5, 15 or 25, they come first at the holidays. Start by asking them what is most important to each of them. Their ideas will help you prioritize your holiday plans and gifts.  Using their priorities as your guide for activities, you can then keep a calendar of your holiday commitments.

Be sure to add in school and church related activities, like a holiday play or winter party.  Your kids will appreciate your support and you will enjoy being a part of their every day activities.  Sit down with your partner and share the responsibilities making these plans happen.

Plan ahead, way ahead

Block out time ahead for your family celebration in advance.  If your kids are not visiting during the actual dates of the holiday, you can choose a date to celebrate on a weekend.

Coordinate and communicate dates ahead of time.  When you communicate clearly the dates and times your celebration, this will help ensure that everyone, including grandparents, extended family and friends, will be included. Visitation dates and time can vary, but work toward consistency so your kids know what they can count on.

New traditions, new fun

Blending your family can be a great time to create new traditions.  The new holiday routines can be as simple as when you decorate your tree, dinner with new recipes or at a special restaurant, or sharing traditions like celebrating both Chanukah and Christmas in your home.

Sometimes wacky fun can be the most interesting and enjoyable, like watching the same silly Christmas movie each year or crazy Christmas sweater competitions. Or. you might simply change things up each year for the holidays. Find fun in small, simple ways that include a little (clear) communication.

Be prepared with snacks and beverages, whatever the plan, since food usually brings everyone together.

Remember the joy of the season

A holiday filled with love and laughter is likely your goal.  Don’t let the small overrule the big.  Keep perfectionism in tow and your expectations reasonable. Be realistically optimistic in creating a fun time together.

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Fact Friday: Organizing and productivity facts Organize to Revitalize BlogA 2013 survey conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) found that 44 percent of U.S. adults feel a high level of financial stress. As seasonal expenses loom, these worries intensify.

‘People are very afraid right now,’ says stress management psychotherapist Steve Rosenberg of Elkins Park, Pa. After being in practice for 33 years, he recognizes the signs of pre-holiday worries. ‘Halloween, Thanksgiving and beyond, everyone is looking at the price.’”

Read More:

3 Ways to Curb Pre-Holiday Money Stress| |10.29.13



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Thanksgiving Day 2013 Article Round Up

On November 28, 2013, in Article Round Up, by Deb Lee
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Original Image Credit: Turtle Techie

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the United States which means that many of us are not working … well, many people are probably working on lots of eating. ;)

Whether you’re celebrating, at the office (sorry if you don’t have the day off!), or intend to do absolutely nothing, the OTR authors hope you’ll have an enjoyable day.

Planning to catch up on some reading? Here are some OTR posts you can check out:



Productivity & Time Management




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Last month, I mentioned five things you can start letting go of. A change in seasons is a great time to take action and get more organized. When it’s time to begin the process of parting with things that you no longer use or need, you might not know how to begin. Though it can seem daunting, you can use three simple steps to help you get started.

3-step action plan

Original Image Credit: Sean MacEntee

Follow this three-step action plan:

Action Step #1

Take an inventory of everything (e.g., all boots, all sweaters, all knick knacks, etc.). Doing this is the first step to to figuring out how much stuff you have. After writing down all the things you have, you can then move on to …

Action Step #2

You will need to figure out how much of your stuff you actually use. Guessing how much you use doesn’t give you the real picture, but when you have cold, hard numbers, you really see more clearly the number of things you are storing but not using.

So, separate the things you use often from the things you tend not to reach for. Then, write down the total number of each. As shoes and boots tend to be the Achilles heel for many people (see what I did there?), they’re the stars of my examples, but you can apply these actions steps to just about any item.


  • Volume: 20 pairs of boots
  • Actively using: 3 pairs
  • Not using: 17 pairs

Action Step 3

As you look at volume of things you have verses how often you use them, think about how much space you have to store the items you will keep. If you let go of the things you no longer need, could the remaining items all fit in their designated storage area? Or, will you have to carve out space in other areas of your home? Do you have realistic option that you can maintain with relative ease?

Using the same example above, I’ve added expanded upon it a bit and added another that differs drastically. Both should prompt some questions you can ask yourself as you decide what to let go of.

Example #1:

  • Original volume: 20 pairs of boots
  • Actively using: 3 pairs
  • Keeping: 6 pairs
  • Can be donated: 14 pairs

Example #2:

  • Original volume: 20 pairs of boots
  • Actively using: 3 pairs
  • Keeping: 18 pairs
  • Can be donated: 2 pairs

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Can they all fit in one closet (with my other shoes)?
  2. Will I really wear the _______ pairs of boots that I haven’t reached for but am keeping anyway?
  3. Why am I holding on to shoes that  I haven’t worn (and most likely will never wear again)?
  4. Am I keeping items that are in disrepair or outdated or unflattering?
  5. How will I feel if I give them away to someone who needs them more than I do?
  6. How will I feel when have enough space to store the things I do use?

Of course, there are probably several more questions that you can ask yourself. But, if you are committed to letting go of excess stuff that’s no longer useful to you, you’ll take specific steps to ensure that you live with less clutter. So, take action and …

Commit to letting go:

  • If I don’t wear them by ______ (insert date), I will donate them to __________ (specific person or charity).
  • I will drop them off or have them picked up by _____________(insert date).
  • I will repeat this process every ___________ (days/weeks/months).



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Who’s Coming Over? Time to Clean!

On November 25, 2013, in Cleaning, by Janice Simon
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Is your home clean enough for your mother?Organizing is one thing, but cleaning is an entirely another thing.

I love organizing stuff, but I hate cleaning with all the dusting, mopping, and other “fun” stuff.

My sister, my brother-in-law, my niece, and nephew are coming for Thanksgiving weekend, so I’ve been cleaning up around the house to prepare for their visit.

I’m reminded of a joke I heard a long, long time ago. A woman is visiting her sister, and she finds her sibling furiously cleaning the house the next morning. She asks her sister why she was cleaning since the house was already clean. The sister replied, “The house is sister clean, but since Mom is coming, I need to get it Mother clean.”

Oh, yes. That rings true. Prepping for a visit to your home is like a real-life “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” moment, and your prep time is dependent on who your guest is and what kind of impression you want to make.

Here are my levels of cleaning:

Best Friend Cleaning

For my besties, well, they’re lucky I don’t answer the door in my jammies and bedhead hair, but they wouldn’t mind if I did. For the besties, I make sure I have clean glasses or coffee mugs and toilet paper in the bathroom. That’s all I can guarantee.

Good Friend/Acquaintance Cleaning

When people outside the besties come over, I have to step up my cleaning game a few steps.

This is my basic cleaning regime:

  • Clean the bathrooms, including mopping the floors and putting out fresh guest towels.
  • Clean the kitchen, including wiping down the countertops, cleaning the sink, and running the sink disposal with a little ice and lemon-scented cleaner.
  • Load and run the dishwasher.
  • Make sure everything is in its place.
  • Make all the beds.
  • Vacuum the rugs.
  • Empty the trash cans.
  • Fluff and arrange the pillows on the couch.
  • Close any doors to rooms you don’t want people to see.
  • Light nice smelling candles so it smells clean.
Sister-Level Cleaning

Now we’re getting serious. This is more in-depth cleaning that I do for when my sister or friends are coming for weekend stays.

So in addition to the basic cleaning, I add these steps in:

  • Sheets are changed in the guest rooms. I also run the comforters through the dryer to freshen them up.
  • Dust and vacuum the guest room, including the window sill.
  • Make sure there is space in the closet for any hanging clothes.
  • Wipe down the refrigerator and toss anything that looks like a science experiment.
  • Fill the filtered water pitcher so SOMEONE doesn’t insist on buying bottled water.
  • Buy some food so people can eat so I don’t get the disapproving head tilt from my sister. My sister has already called me this weekend to see if I had salt, a glass pie dish, and a whisk she could use during Thanksgiving.
Mother-Level Cleaning

This is the ultimate level of cleanliness. Everything is scrubbed, even the freaking windows. During her visits to my past abodes, my Mom went through my cabinets and closets to “see how I arranged things.” If there’s something I don’t want her to see, I have to hide it in a box labeled “religious reading material” in the back of the closet. (Get your mind out of the gutter, people.)

If there’s something she needs to see, I display it. If it’s close to Easter, I make sure the ceramic bunny figurine wearing a hat and a yellow dress is out with the other Easter decorations.

Since this is the Olympic Games of cleaning, we have to get to the Gold Medal level because there will be an inspection and a possibly a quiz. No need to repaint or anything like that, but hey, I leave those decisions up to you.

  • All of the windowsills. Yes, every windowsill in the house.
  • All surfaces are cleaned. Maybe twice.
  • All corners and baseboards are inspected for cobwebs.
  • Wash the curtains. If you can’t wash them, run them through the dryer with dryer sheets to freshen them up. While you’re there, wipe down the curtain rods.
  • Dust lamps and light fixtures.
  • Pull off the couch cushions and vacuum up the couch gunk.
  • If you have a landline, delete any incriminating voice messages.
  • If your parents are religious and expect to go to church services, know where those churches are located and what time the services are scheduled.

Have a great holiday season!

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Fact Friday: Organizing and productivity facts Organize to Revitalize Blog“…researchers found that after being deprived of sleep, participants displayed greater craving for high-calorie junk food. The more sleep-deprived they were, the greater the cravings. By contrast, when they were well rested, the same people were better able to resist temptation.”

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Why the Sleep-Deprived Crave Junk Food and Buy Higher Calorie Foods| | 11.14.13



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The 5-Minute Organizing Challenge used to be a regular feature on Organize to Revitalize and then it went away for a little while. But, now it has been revived! Dan Loya, the newest OTR author, will share quick organizing challenges with you every month. ~Deb

It’s time for the 5 Minute Organizing Challenge! What can you do in 5 minutes to gain a little order in your life? Here’s a new set of five things that can each take as little as 5 minutes to complete. This month’s theme is preparing for the coming fall and winter holidays.

If your goal is to reduce your stress preparing for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and/or Christmas, then today is your lucky day! Here are five small challenges that will help you prepare, and therefore minimize your stress during the holidays.

holiday 2013

1. Set up a Holiday Activity Center. Start by finding a comfortable space with good lighting and gather: holiday cards, colorful pens, your address book, stamps, mailing labels, and Post-Its Notes (affiliate link), etc. Place the items in a fun container and then any time you have 5 minutes of down-time, sit down and work on writing up your cards and addressing the envelopes.

2.  Add Wrapping Supplies to Your Activity Center. Gather your gift wrap and place it in one large container or box. Lug it over to your Holiday Activity Center. Then, place scissors, tape, gift tags, tissue paper, and anything else that is needed for wrapping gifts in a smaller container. In just a few minutes, you will have added this station to your center! Easy.

3. Create an Events List. Start a list of food, condiments, and meal supplies that are needed for events you are hosting. Write as much as you can on your lists for 5 minutes, and then place them in the Activity Center. Keep adding to these lists as you think of additional items.

4.  Create a Gift List. Find a notebook and start writing the names of people you are buying gifts for. Next to the names, you can add other columns such as: gift ideas, budget for gift(s), stores to shop at for items, etc. Now that you started your gift list, you can spend a few minutes a day expanding on it.

5. Schedule Time to Decorate. Grab a calendar and schedule several times each week (up to early December) to decorate your home. 20-30 minute sessions are recommended. This activity itself should take about 5 minutes.


*Original Image Credits: Thanksgiving (, Christmas (, Hanukkah (




3 iOS7 Tips You Can’t Live Without

On November 11, 2013, in Apps, by Nealey Stapleton
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Frustrated by the new Apple operating system, iOS7? Did you just get comfortable with the last one and now feel like you have to learn your phone all over again? Not to worry; you’re not alone! First, take a deep breath and let your frustrations go as you exhale. You can do this, and I will help you. Technology is always changing, and there is always something new to figure out.

The new Apple operating system is no different, and you’ll get used to it just like you did when Facebook updated the way our timelines looked and functioned. Remember when you only had a profile photo and there was no such thing as a cover photo?

ios7 tips

Original Image Credit: Kārlis Dambrāns

I’ve compiled a few tidbits about iOS7 from the struggles of my husband, my mom and myself. Figuring these things out definitely eased our frustrations, so I think they will make a huge difference for you as well.

1. How do I shutdown an app?

Double click the Home button. The apps that are open will appear with the icon below a preview of the app. Swipe your finger in an upward motion over the preview of the app, and it will disappear. Now that app has been shutdown.


It’s good practice to do this regularly. If you have all of your apps open at once, you’ll drain your battery pretty quickly and slow down the functionality of the phone. I recommend shutting down your apps a few times a day.

2. Why am I getting duplicate photos in my camera roll when I take a picture?

There is a new feature called HDR (High Dynamic Range) in your Camera app. If it’s turned on, it takes 3 rapid pictures of your subject with different exposures. Then it combines the 3 photos into 1 better photo. In your Camera Roll, this “better” photo is the one that has an “HDR” tag on it. If you see a duplicate, then your phone saved the original picture as well.

 Original Photo  HDR Photo
ios7-original-photo ios7-hdr-photo

There are 2 ways to make sure you’re not saving duplicate photos and taking up valuable space. First, you can turn off the HDR feature at the top of the Camera app (like in the photo below). Second, if you want to use the HDR feature, you can go into your Settings app and then into Photos & Camera. Scroll down to Keep Normal Photo and turn it off.



3. Why are my photos organized by what day I took them? Where’s my Camera Roll?!

If you’re looking at a time line of your photos organized by when you took them, then you’re in the Collections section of the Photos app. If you want to get to your Camera Roll, simply hit Albums at the bottom of the screen. That will bring you to the photo folders you’re used to seeing (i.e. Camera Roll). Voilà!


Hopefully these tips will make your life a little easier. What new feature about iOS7 do you like or find useful? Or, what do you hate? Maybe I can help. Let me know in the comment section below!

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Fact Friday: Organizing and productivity facts Organize to Revitalize Blog“Telecommuting has been shown to improve productivity and reduce working costs. A study done by Staples Advantage showed that 54% of businesses that have employees who telecommute say that it has led to a recognizable increase in productivity.”

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Telecommuting: The New Green Business| | 10.30.13



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Family productivityParents, it’s not a news flash. The early bird gets more done!  When you get more done, you will likely experience a decrease in stress and feel better about your effectiveness as a parent.  And, when you find successful ways to push procrastination aside, this can help your kids beat it, too. They will see what works for you and perhaps test a few of your strategies on their own.

Don’t like getting up early? Even if you are not a morning person, getting started earlier with these five strategies will help give you a productivity boost.

1. Get started earlier than your family.  

Get up 30 minutes ahead of everyone.  Just a smidge more time can help you make a plan and get your act together. Set your alarm and get going!

2. Get started with something important to you.

Parents notoriously put themselves last.  But, when you “put your own oxygen mask on first,” you will  be better prepared to help others. Your self-care routine might include spiritual reflection, meditation, exercise, writing in your journal, yoga, or any number of activities that will refresh and revitalize you.  So, set aside time for yourself in ways that feed your soul.

3. Get started with a plan.

A plan keeps you from being overwhelmed and gives you have a road map for the day. Consider writing down your plan to help keep your goals for the day fresh in your mind. You can use a sticky note or a paper notebook, like this one from Levenger (affiliate link), or enter them in the notes app on your smartphone. Once you write down your plan, you might find yourself more focused and free to work on the tasks at hand.

4. Get started with the biggest, hardest, or most important task first.

There is nothing we can count on to get completed each day except possibly the task we start on first. Prioritizing is key, so consider picking the task that is most tricky or important to work on first. If you wait to start on those things, you might end up not working on them at all. Your easy tasks will take less time to do and can be your reward for getting the hard stuff done.

5. Get to bed early.

Every parent needs a bedtime, too! Sleep restores us and helps us do our best. Get ready for bed early enough so you can get a restful night’s sleep. It’s one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family. When you are well-rested, you stand a better chance of handling the ups and downs of family life with more resilience.  Turn off your gadgets, mobiles, and tablets at least an hour ahead of your bedtime.  And, commit to a set bedtime in order to get  seven to eight hours of quality rest.