It’s never too early to begin teaching our kids organizing skills that they will use the rest of their lives. A common area of frustration is with their school work. Not only are school performance and self esteem affected by poor organization skills but the home environment can be negatively impacted as well. I highly recommend the book “The Organized Student” by Donna Goldberg. She is an expert in the field of Student Organizing and I refer to her advice often when working with parents and students. A few organizing solutions to make your school year flow a little more smoothly are discussed below. Color Coding
--Have your student choose ONE color per class and use this consistently for spiral notebooks, binders and file folders. This greatly helps the student grab the correct notebook. Desk top file box
--Jr. high and high school students should have a desk top file in which they organize and store papers they may need to refer to as the school year progresses. For this project, you’ll need a desk top file box, 10-12 hanging file folders-preferably in various colors and plastic tabs for labels.
- Label hanging files for each subject and keep this somewhat generic so that you can use the same file year to year. For example, instead of labeling “Geometry” or “Algebra”, label “Math”.
- Papers to be filed in these folders may include any thing that will help your student study for midterms, finals and end-of-year exams or any projects..... currently working on.
- You may want to add a school calendar to the front of the box so your student can see upcoming test days, school holidays,etc.
- Keep this file box near where your student does his homework.
- Include files for the student’s extra-curricular activities. This is great practice for your student to begin taking responsibility for their activities.
As with most other organizing projects, setting up the file box is easy. It’s maintaining the new systems that can be difficult. It takes at least a month for a new habit to be formed. Be consistent and set the same day/time each week to have your student go through his back pack and file what is to be kept long-term and toss the rest.
One benefit of making an organized paper filing system for the students is that it will lighten the load of the heavy backpacks that most of our students carry around each day. Another benefit is teaching them the lifelong value of being organized and being responsible for their things. Your student will use these organizing skills in all aspects of their future lives. Next week, we’ll talk about time management for your student.
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Now that school has started, you are probably becoming inundated with papers that your students bring home each day. As the pile grows, your countertop becomes cluttered and you can’t find the paper you need when you need it. Below are a few simple paper managing systems that can help your countertops stay free and clear.
In Basket - Purchase a basket or vertical tray in which kids place paperwork when they get home. This may take some training to get them into the habit and may take discipline on your part to check the basket daily. You may want to add an “Out” basket/tray for signed papers that need to be returned to school. Make it your child’s responsibility to check this basket daily.
As you sort through the papers that your child has placed in the basket, you must decide if you need to keep or toss the paper. When making this decision, think about whether the information can be found online. Is it information that you will be frequently referring to? If you decide to keep the paper, the next question is where. I suggest creating a Family Binder and a Command Center.
Family Binder - Purchase a 3-ring binder, page protectors and dividers. Think of this binder as a guide to anyone who may take over your “job” for a few days. Papers to include in this binder are: School calendar, lunch menus, bell schedules, bus #’s, times and stops, phone number lists of neighbors, doctors, babysitters, kids’ friends, coaches, and kids’ physicals and other medical information. Divide into categories such as “School”, “Medical”, “Church”, “Sports”, etc. Include plastic business card holders for contacts that you frequently call. Basically, this binder organizes and stores any papers that you or family members may need to refer to. This is NOT for paper that can be filed in a permanent file or that will be kept for a short time.
Command Center - I recommend purchasing an upright or desktop file box and 12 file folders to create this. There are a variety of desktop files available at office supply stores or discount stores. Many have a slot for pens/pencils and note paper. Label one folder for each child. The children’s folders are a great place to store incomplete homework, field trip or camp information, etc. Other folders can be labeled “Coupons”, “To File”, “To Call”, “Action”, “Invitations”, etc. The Command Center will store papers that have a “limited shelf life” in your home. The key to The Command Center is that you must go through it regularly. As stated before, the paper only lives here temporarily so you must decide to move the paper to a permanent file, the Family Binder or toss/recycle.
- Inventory kids’ clothing and shoes. Make a list of needed items.
- Inventory school supplies. Add needed items to the list above. If you have storage space, purchase enough to last the school year. School supplies are on sale now.
- Backpacks and lunch boxes. Will these make it another year? If not, add to your list.
- Don’t forget your student’s miscellaneous supplies such as supplies for band, orchestra, sports equipment.
- Incorporate the school calendar to the family master calendar.
- Research new and healthy lunch ideas.
- Make a meal plan for the first week of school or cook and freeze a few meals for the first week of school.
- Designate a spot for school papers with files for each child and an inbox for papers needing your immediate attention.
- Do your kids have a reading list for this year? Check with the school and pre-purchase books from Amazon or check used book sources such as Friends of the Library.
- Use just one planner/calendar whether it be in paper format or electronic. It’s too confusing to use separate calendars for home and office.
- To insure that projects on your to-do list get accomplished, schedule the to-do’s in your planner. For example, if cleaning the garage is on your to-do list this week, write in a day and time to complete this and keep the appointment just as you would keep a Dr. appointment.
- Take control of your time and eliminate distractions. Don’t let the day’s events dictate how you use your time. Have a schedule of what you need and want to do and stick to it. Don’t answer the phone or read emails as soon as they come into your box. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with the people in your life.
- Don’t over-schedule. When you “add” a commitment to your already full schedule, remember to “subtract” a commitment to avoid feeling stressed and over-committed.
- Review your calendar over the weekend for the upcoming week. Plan meals based upon your family’s evening schedule, make phone calls regarding carpools, respond to party invitations, etc.
- It’s not all about work. Make time for a balanced life. Schedule time with friends, family and yourself and KEEP these appointments.
- Schedule according to energy level. For example, if you are at your best in the morning, schedule tasks that take the most energy and concentration. I find that it’s a good use of time to sort and read mail or other mindless tasks at night when I’m too tired to think about more complex things.
- Do you frequently miscalculate how long something will take? Keep a log for a week of your routine activities such as grocery shopping, responding to emails, paying bills, cleaning house, etc. You may be surprised at the real time that you actually spend to complete these tasks.
- Write down-IN ONE LOCATION- your to-do list, your ideas and your “someday isles” (Translate: Someday I’ll......). These are your short and long term goals. Seeing them on paper will allow you to schedule these moving you toward the life of your dreams.
- I can’t go without saying that you must have your surroundings and your belongings organized if you want to make the best use of your time. Time is wasted if you are looking for misplaced items or are distracted by clutter when attempting to complete a task.
Anything to add to the list? I would love to hear how you manage your time and what works for you. Leave your comments below.
Whether you are moving to a smaller home or just want to live more simply in your current home, most of us find that we need to downsize our belongings. This can be a stressful process. Not only is it physically demanding but it can be very emotional as well. Planning ahead and dividing large projects into smaller pieces are essential for a smooth transition.
1) Pace yourself - It’s ideal to to begin the downsizing process months, not weeks, ahead. It’s much easier to sort and de-clutter a few hours a day or even a few hours a week rather than pack it into exhausting and stressful days just prior to the move. You will be less likely to make regretful decisions about your prized possessions if you pace yourself and take your time.
2) Divide and Conquer - Select an out of the way area or perhaps an unused bedroom and designate four specific areas/sections; 1) Keep 2) Give to friends or family 3) Sell 4) Donate to Charity. If you’re using cardboard or opaque boxes, place colored tape on each box to indicate the designation. For example, boxes with green tape indicate that they “go” to the new home.
3) Moving to a smaller home can be a time of mixed emotions. It’s difficult to say good bye to things to which we associate so many good memories. Think about the space in your new home. If you won’t have the space to truly value and honor your keepsakes, consider passing them on to relatives. Or take pictures of keepsakes. If you’re helping a relative move, don’t force them to give away their treasures. Listen to their stories and memories. Often times, when they re-live their special memory, it’s easier to pass along their belongings.
4) Choose furniture and household items that are smaller scale and dual-purpose such as ottomans that have a lid that can be used for storage. Avoid keeping high maintenance items. Downsizing is about simplifying. Remove photos from the frames, scan onto your computer and create a DVD or load onto a digital picture frame.
Hiring a Professional Organizer or Senior Move Manager can be beneficial if adult children or extended family members are involved in the downsizing process. Having a 3rd party professional can alleviate much of the added strain that many families experience during this emotional time.
My car is my home away from home. I spend a lot of time in my car transporting my kids to various activities, driving to clients homes and running errands. It’s easy for things to pile up in the back seat, in the drink holders and in the seat pockets especially with kids in the car. We all know it doesn’t take long for trash, shoes and books to accumulate.
Start with the glove compartment and console. You can multi-task and do this while waiting in your car. Throw away out-dated insurance cards, service receipts, coupons and anything else that’s found it’s way in there. Keep only current insurance and registration documents. Ask yourself if you really need all those maps. With GPS devices and smart phones, we don’t have a need for old-fashioned paper maps as much as we used to. Consoles are a good spot to keep phone chargers and a small box of tissues or wipes. Do you have loose coins in your car? If you use coins for parking, toll booths, etc. gather them up and store in a coin purse or small re-sealable plastic bag.
Next, clean out seat pockets, cup holders and under seats. If you don’t currently have a place for trash, designate a small container for trash. Keep an umbrella or two in a seat or door pocket within easy reach.
The trunk or hatch area is usually the messiest part of the car because it’s out of sight-out of mind. Take everything out and only return items that you regularly use. Store re-usable shopping bags so you’re always prepared when you shop and don’t have to remember to take with you as you leave the house. I love this organizer for re-usable shopping bags .http://www.TheToteBuddy.com/
. You may want to keep a cooler bag in the car for cold and frozen groceries.
Store an emergency kit with jumper cables, flares, flashlight, etc, at all times. Keeping a few water bottles in you car is a good idea too. Depending on your climate, keep a container with a collapsible shovel, ice scraper and other cold weather emergency items. As the weather warms, swap out the cold weather container for one that holds sun screen, bug spray and maybe a table cloth or plastic shower curtain for those impromptu picnics and outdoor concerts. See this link for organizing products that will keep all of these things together in your car. http://www.inspirationalorganizing.com/my-store.html
Think of your car as an extension of your house and organize it thoroughly every few months. Get family members in the habit of immediately removing anything they bring into the car. Keeping your car organized is essential whether you're running errands around town or going on a road trip. If you spend as much time in your car as I do, you’ll enjoy that time much more if you keep an organized car. How do you keep your Please leave your comments below.
I hear this a lot from clients. It’s hard to donate or sell things that we paid a lot for. But is it really worth that much now? It may be very valuable to you and hold some sentimental value, but the real value is most likely not as much as we think. I don’t force anyone to get rid of anything but sometimes it’s clear that the “abundance of stuff” is causing stress. Ask yourself these questions to determine whether you should keep or pass on certain things.
If I keep it, does it have a home?
Is the space it takes up worth it?
Do I love and honor this item?
Is it easily replaceable?
Will a new product be more efficient?
Do I know the true value of the item? Will it go up or down in value?
What’s the worst thing that can happen if I get rid of it?
Have I used/worn/viewed this within the last year?
Does it hold some special family sentimental value?
If I’m saving this to pass down to future generations, will they honor it? Or will they just be guilted into accepting it?
Options for creating more space by removing things things that no longer fit into your life include selling on Ebay, Craig’s List, local online and newspaper classifieds, garage sales, consignment stores, or simply donate and use as a tax deduction. Remember that other people will get more satisfaction from the items than you will.
If you’re having trouble with over-flowing clutter in your house, then maybe you haven’t adequately defined the function of your rooms. Every room, closet, nook and cranny of your home needs to have a well-defined purpose. When I go to a client’s house for the first time, I ask what the room is currently being used for. Then I ask what they WANT and NEED the room to be used for. My job is to get the room from it’s current state to the clients desired vision. As I’ve mentioned before, everything needs a home. But do you have well defined “homes” set up?
Often, the rooms in our homes are multi-functional. For example, a kitchen’s purpose is for food preparation but may also be used for eating, homework, socializing and mail sorting. Kid’s bedrooms are for sleeping but may also serve as a play area or study area depending on the age of the child.
The guest bedroom tends to be our “catch-all” space. Stress sets in when house guests are expected and the bed and floor are taken over with clutter. Define the purposes of this room and set it up accordingly. Ask yourself if you need this room to serve as storage. If so, then create desirable storage solutions.
Another consideration is under-utilizing a space. We don’t use the room for it’s intended purpose such as formal dining rooms and living areas. This isn’t a problem if there’s enough space in the rest of the house. If not, consider breaking away from the traditional use of the room and converting it to serve a different function such as a home office or a play room if you have small children.
Ask yourself these questions: What do I want this room used for? What activities do I want/need to take place in this room/ area? It’s important to assign the purposes to a room. Keep this vision and don’t allow the defined areas become over-taken by clutter that belongs elsewhere.
If you walk by a typical teenager’s room, you’re lucky if you can see the floor. It may be covered with clothes, books, backpacks and electronics. The goal of organizing your teen’s room is having a “home” for all of their belongings. It’s very important to involve your teen in this process. LIsten to them and get their input. Ask them how they best study. If space allows, create different areas for the various functions such as studying, reading, sleeping. Consider the 5 tips below to help in the process of organizing your teen’s room.
1) Designate a charging station for cell phones, Ipods, etc.
2) Set up a desk top file for school papers that need to be kept for year-end exams and paperwork for extra-curricular activities they’re involved in.
3) Designate a study area with a clear work space and school supplies.
4) Sort clothing by like items, teach kids how to hang properly. Use baskets and organizing containers for flip flops, hats/caps.
5) Encourage teens to keep a calendar/planner whether on paper or on their phone.
Getting your teen’s room organized may be relatively easy. Keeping it organized is the tricky part. Make a checklist of tasks your child needs to complete daily and weekly to maintain their organizing systems. Most importantly, articulate the advantages of being organized and be a role model for them by respecting your space and belongings.
With summer here and kids out of school, it’s a great time to get the kids' rooms organized. This is an opportunity to teach your kids a necessary life skill of organizing! The extra time this summer will allow for new habits to be developed and in place before life gets crazy again in the fall. I’ll divide this blog topic into two parts. This week, the focus will be organizing strategies for younger kids. Next week, I will discuss keeping teens and pre-teens organized.
-Rotate toys rather than have them all out.
-Use containers that are easy for the kids to use, clear and easy-off lids.
-Little toys fall to the bottom of a large bins or toy boxes so put little items in small containers or in over-the-door shoe organizers with clear pockets.
-Label containers, drawers and shelves using words and pictures of the items that belong there so even pre-readers will be able to put away belongings.
-Place in season clothing within the child’s reach. Store out of season clothing on higher closet rods or shelves.
-Use boxes or small bins for underwear/socks whether you keep these in the dresser or on a shelf in the closet.
-Hang outfits together on the same hanger or sort by pants, shirts, dress clothes, etc.
-Laminate a checklist with responsibilities, eg-make bed, brush teeth, put dirty clothes in hamper, hang up towel. Create separate lists for morning, bedtime and “Clean your room”.
-Keepsake box-Each child needs a box to store their keepsakes. When the box begins to get full, it’s time to weed out to make room for more. Scan artwork and make into photo books. An under- the- bed storage box is great for this.
-Maintenance - Have kids pick up their toys and clothing each night before bed. Each weekend, have your kids do a more thorough clean-up. This task is much easier if they have something to look forward to after the clean-up is complete.
Remember that we must be good role models. Show your kids exactly what you mean when you ask them to clean their room. By teaching our kids to keep their belongings organized, we are also teaching them to value and respect their surroundings and their things.