Ah, new relationships! They can be fun and exciting, right? You love being together every day, you fall deep into the honeymoon period, and you feel that your partner is the best thing ever…
Hmm…do you remember mid-March, and a certain technology that blew up? Read the sentence above replacing Zoom with your partner…still works, right!
Yes, Zoom! I remember that gut wrenching feeling of being alone when we first learned that much of the world had shut down. Add living alone to that and it can really throw you for a loop.
My networking group started moving onto the platform that many of us were just starting to learn about. Working through kinks, like Zoom bombers, the leaders of our group helped us navigate through our new normal and suddenly I was with my friends again! It felt SO good!
I was on every day for a while, either networking, with friends, or with family, going to Zoom birthday parties and gathering for Zoom trivia nights. On my birthday in May, my friends threw me a surprise Zoom birthday and more friends appeared flash mob style to one of my favorite songs.
I loved Zoom! I couldn’t get enough of Zoom, until the day came that I could. Just like the honeymoon phase in a relationship, my relationship with Zoom peaked, and I reached the level of Zoom Fatigue, which many of us are facing today.
I just didn’t want to be on it anymore and faced that alone feeling again. I learned to fill my days in different ways, and after a while, as the world was starting to open up a bit, I started new routines with more balance.
Zoom is still a part of my new normal. I became a part of an accountability group with a few friends, go to a few networking meetings a week and even started virtual organizing with clients.
If you are still in the fog of Zoom Fatigue, here are some things to try to make being on it fun again:
So, learn to love Zoom again, but try to keep a life balance, and leave the honeymoon period for people, not the latest tech craze. Wishing you, your family, and your friends, a happy and healthy Fall!
As parents face the annual back to school routine this year, perhaps we need to revise the standard preparation for the first day of school. Rather than discuss how to organize your physical “stuff” for school, we are going to discuss the ABC’s for organizing a plan to address stress during this challenging time.
Many parents experienced the challenge of online learning (aka – distance learning or at-home learning) with their children this spring. As school openings fast approach, it is a good time to stop and assess how that online learning experience went for your family. What worked well? What did not work well? And most importantly, why didn’t it work? The best way to find a solution to a problem is to understand the root cause of the problem. If your child was too distracted or had difficulty paying attention to online sessions, think about why he or she was distracted and do your best to address that distraction. Was their sibling doing their lesson in the same room? Were toys in the room that caught their attention? Was background noise a disturbance? Perhaps switching the room for their online learning or putting away some toys may lessen the distraction. Wearing ear buds might reduce the background noise. There is no one size fits all answer to this issue or any other issue you may have encountered. The key is to figure out why the situation did not work so you can identify a solution that will work for your family. And, for those who have not been through online learning as of yet, reach out to family and friends who have experienced it and get their input on what worked for them to see if it can work for your family.
Dealing with our children can be challenging in general. So, having to deal with online learning or blended learning, in addition to normal daily stresses, can be overwhelming for some. Many parents are also trying to work from home which compounds that stress. Finding balance amidst the chaos may be beneficial. Take time before school begins to identify ways to balance the hectic environment that may exist during the school day. A quick 5 to 10-minute stress-reducing activity should provide relief. The list below is in no way all inclusive.
Also, our children are not immune to the stress that online learning may create. They may find some of the items above useful when they encounter a feeling of anxiety. Here are a few additional suggestions:
Figure out what works best for you and for each of your family members.
Creating a productive environment for both you and your kids is a goal for many parents. Open communication can contribute to that goal. Does your spouse know you have a 10am conference call and he or she needs to handle any issues that may pop up during that call? Does your son have a test tomorrow and needs quiet time to study? Is your daughter struggling with a lesson and needs additional tutoring? Having open discussions about the needs of each family member can go a long way to reducing stress during the day. The discussions don’t need to be formal. While clearing the dinner table ask a question like “Do you need anything from me to prepare for tomorrow?” or “Are you stressing about anything and, if so, how can I help?” Speaking to someone about their needs can help ease their tension. And don’t forget to let your family know of your needs as well. If they don’t ask you what you need, you can bring it up to them. Let them know that you have that conference call at 10am and ask that you not be disturbed for that hour. Remind them that the dog needs to be walked at lunchtime and ask who can help with that task. Communicating effectively will let each family member know you are all there to support each other.
Using the ABC’s above may not eliminate all the stressors you will face this school year. However, utilizing Assess and Communicate as proactive steps to help prevent stress, and incorporating Balance when stressful situations arise, may help you get back on track and allow you to have a productive day.
Your Tasks – Our Time, Inc
Ahhhh, can you hear it? Stop. Listen closely. Is that the sound of an empty house? Oh my goodness! Are you actually at home – alone? That’s right folks. The kids are back to school and that morning cup of coffee hasn’t tasted this good in almost longer than you can remember.
Thank you Fall for showing up – right in time to save us from completely losing any semblance of sanity! While you sit for an extra 5 minutes, enjoying the sound of silence and taking another sip-o’-joe, you may begin to look around.
What you are looking at is the aftermath of summer:
Amidst everyone else’s debris, there are some of your own items that need attention, yet it’s hard to know which and where they are. Here are 3 suggestions from a Professional Organizer and mom of three grown children:
Take these three small steps and enter Fall confidently prepared to harvest the rewards of the season.
I saw every day as both an opportunity and an obligation to teach them about the world and life. From their first day home, I started talking to them about the beauty of nature, moral values and behavior, how to treat others, and why we lived the way we did.
Since I am wired to be the kind of person who becomes a professional organizer, I found life to be more messy and chaotic than I would have liked, and I had a sixth sense that it was only getting worse. And because I assumed my kids were wired at least somewhat like me, I knew they would one day benefit from knowing things like how to:
I wanted to teach them to enjoy and beautify the necessary activities of life instead of resenting them as an evil to be avoided until the last minute. Since education was a top priority, getting ready for school in an organized and happy way was part of that set of values.
And ending each year was a time for blissful relaxation: cleaning up together without hurry or deadline, purging and re-beautifying anything that was left in a mess. No matter what else might have been planned for the summer, down time to regroup and re-organize was also built in. No getting up and dressed in a rush. No obligations to any one or anything, just restful down time. We would snack and shop and play and bake at leisure. We would watch TV and clean up no-longer-needed schoolwork. We would update wardrobes and clean out drawers and closets.
Files would be created for any materials that might be needed the next school year. This was a time to take stock of materials and decide which products and systems worked well and might want to be repurchased in advance. We knew lists would be sent from school outlining what each teacher wanted for the next year, but we purchased whatever we could in advance to minimize time in the last-minute crowds. The girls and I did it all together in a spirit of leisurely family bonding and creativity. School, work, home-maintenance …these were all the ongoing art projects of living, enjoyed in an atmosphere of “eat dessert first.”
We always planned more private down time again before the beginning of school to gather focus and shop for remaining materials. We didn’t just race home from out-of-town the night before school, hoping someone would lend them a pen. We had been all but ready long ago!
There was nothing punitive about it; it was presented and experienced as a form of relaxation. To this day, when my daughters and I visit and want to relax at home together, we find something to improve. We joke that nothing tops a beautiful organizing product or system, or the joy of getting things done in advance.
OK, folks…it’s August. Any day now, the mail will arrive with teacher assignments and the excitement (and anxiety) of the new school year will start to bubble up!
While the kids won’t go back to school for a few more weeks, we all know the
planning for the FDOS (“First Day Of School”) starts much sooner, behind the scenes… The work done here will set you (and your kids) up for a successful transition from summer to school! Check out my Do’s & Don’ts…they save me the first day headaches…every year!
The relaxed bedtime routine during the summer can be a FDOS killer! One small adjustment, each day, in the week or two leading up to the start of school can ensure success. Start rolling back their bedtime by 15-minutes each night. Continue until you reach your desired school year bedtime. Later, when it’s time to get up at 6:30am, they are already adjusted. Bodies and brains are ready to go, move, learn!
Don’t sit on those must complete school and medical forms. Save yourself the 11th hour scramble…If your kids require ongoing medical monitoring (think daily meds or allergy related epi-pens), contact your school nurse at least 3-4 weeks prior to the start of school. There will be forms that need to be filled out by your physician before the start of school.
Summer clothes rule on the first day of school. Look back through your FDOS pics…most likely shorts, skirts, dresses, tanks and tees…I only buy a few things and then buy clothes when they do need them, closer to October. Give yourself a break and put Fall shopping on the back burner for now.
Create a homework station. Quiet, calm, comfortable and consistent is what you want. Pick up some extra supplies for your kids’ homework station…items you might not have around the house. For my twins, I purchased extra protractors, rulers and a dictionary. I knew that they would need them at home as well as school. Bonus: it eliminates the, “I left my protractor at school” excuse. Set them up for homework success with a “homework caddy”. Stock it with pencils, glue sticks, crayons, rulers and anything else they may need to get their homework done. I also make a color coded file for each of them that stays at the homework-station. When they come home, they put any important papers, that need to be reviewed, in their folder. Everything they need….is within reach.
School makes kids hungry! And they need good fuel to keep their bodies and minds moving. Give them easy access to healthy snacks (for lunches and after school) by prepping your pantry. I prefer to use clear bins so they can see what’s inside and they can grab and go. The clear bins make also make it easy for me to see what’s inside so I know when to restock. I can also see what they are eating and what they aren’t.
Take some time to enjoy the last days of summer leading into the first day of school. Plan ahead and save time, every day, for good quality family time. Remember that all of the emotions that you are feeling….the stress, excitement, anxiety, fear….well, your kids are feeling that too! Make your home and the days leading up to school a safe, calm, comfortable space to quell the Back To School nerves. Talk to your kids about how they’re feeling, spend quality time and enjoy each others company before the craziness begins!
Need more inspiration? Want to see these tips & more in action, at my own home? Click the link below for a sneak peek video into this professional organizer’s back to school setup:
At the end of the school year, there are three things that are a given.
Here’s help for all of those papers:
Just because your kid’s papers come home in one bag doesn’t mean there is just one single type of paper. There are a few different types of papers, and each one needs you to do something different to them. Let’s break it down.
Can you think of any other types of paper that you need to keep?
Don’t bother keeping school papers to pass down to the next kid. When their time comes, their teachers will have their own way of presenting a learning concept.
I recommend keeping recent school directories with #2 above and older school directories in #3 as keepsake items or not at all.
The half-pile I mentioned? I also end up with summer workbooks or skills packets. These might be things you buy or things that the teachers send home. They might include summer reading lists and reading tracking charts. Do yourself the favor of telling your kiddos about them, setting goals, and letting them work through them at a regular pace during the summer. We’ve had a routine of doing a couple of workbook pages each day. This year, we’re giving our kids a weekly packet to complete at their own pace. Either way, I’m grateful for the unused learning resources that the teachers sent home.
How long does it take to get through all the school paperwork? Realistically, it can take less than an hour per kid to sort into these categories and purge. It might take up to another hour to select and digitize the artwork that you’ve saved all year. If it takes much more time, you might be overthinking it. Your child — even elementary school children — can help you with this task. They’ll love telling you about all the amazing stuff they do at school.
If you haven’t unpacked that backpack yet, now is the time to dive in, sort the papers into the categories above, and reclaim your kitchen counter from school papers that have built up all year long.
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