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Author: Darla PompilioBack To School Education Family General Goal Setting healthy living Home Home Office Organizing Room Transformation Time Management Tips

The ABC’s of Back to School

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. 

ASSESS

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.

BALANCE

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. 

  • Take a few deep breaths
  • Step outside for a breath of fresh air
  • Take a walk around the block (if your kids are old enough to be alone)
  • Do a short meditation, yoga or prayer session 
  • Turn on music you enjoy and listen, sing along or dance
  • Write down your feelings
  • Reflexology – press the pressure points in the hand and foot to relieve tension
  • Squeeze a stress ball
  • Brew a cup of tea
  • Chew gum
  • Guided imagery – picture yourself in your “happy place”
  • A hug from your child (my personal favorite)

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:

  • Hold a stuffed animal or toy that brings them comfort
  • Let them run a couple laps around the house to release some pent-up energy
  • Draw their feelings on a piece of paper (especially for younger kids who may not have the words to express what they are feeling)
  • Play with the family pet

Figure out what works best for you and for each of your family members. 

COMMUNICATE

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.

Karen Kabara

Your Tasks – Our Time, Inc

Author: Kelly GalfandEmergencies Family General Goal Setting healthy living Home Organizing Procrastination Productivity Project Management Time Management Tips

Stressed Spelled Backwards is Desserts!

While sheltering-in-place we’ve been spending a lot more time baking. And wouldn’t you know: Stressed Spelled Backwards is: Desserts!

I saw that catchy phrase after delivering my 5th batch of muffins in April. To avoid gaining the dreaded Covid-15 (think Freshman-15) I delivered Tupperwares to my neighbor, who appreciates my zero-sugar recipes.

With my last delivery of cranberry-sweetened pumpkin millet muffins, I wrote “sorry for dumping my stress-baked goodies on your doorstep.” She texted back “TY” with a link to  “Stress-baking is a real thing!”

My 3 favorite therapeutic benefits to baking:

  • On the surface, baking’s sweet “aroma-therapy” is a lift to the senses.
  • It’s a form of mindfulness forcing us to stay in the moment and be present.
  • Baking offers proof of progress; it lets us see a project through from beginning to end.

This “proof of progress” is where I want to focus. 

I don’t know about you, but I am:
•  losing a sense of what day it is
•  not as productive as I was before Covid-19
•  feeling less accomplished despite feeling almost as busy

So I reflected on the tools I used before Covid-19:

  1. Planning out my day the night before factoring in daily exercise
  2. Setting timers before ANY screen tasks and computer-related work
  3. Setting self-imposed deadlines
  4. Rewarding myself for meeting those deadlines 
  5. Taking breaks to free my mind and open myself up to creativity

Here’s why I’m returning to these habits:

  • Planning always makes me more efficient. When I predict how long something will take—I challenge myself to get it done before the time is up. 
  • Timers build in accountability for being “on” and give permission to be “off.”
  • Set self-imposed (and realistic!) deadlines: they offer us an amazing boost to our sense of self and inner confidence. They also give us a healthy look to the future and make us more aware of time.
  • Earned rewards are the essential “pat on the back” that we can gift ourselves. While all rewards should not be caloric, a little baking—no stress involved—can pay off.
  • Breaks are essential to productivity, healthy living, and…when else can we bake?

I can’t take credit for figuring out…stressed spelled backwards is desserts!

Author: Rie BroscoEmergencies End of Life Planning Estates Family General Goal Setting healthy living Home Medical Organizing Productivity Safety

What do you think of when you hear the words: COVID-19 or Corona Virus?

A recent RieOrganize! poll on Facebook came up with the following: Stay at home. Boredom. Facebook. Zoom meetings. Gratitude for front line workers. Frustration about having to wear a mask. Death. Telecommuting. Homeschooling. Social isolation.

Until recently, I knew of only a handful of friends who were dealing with COVID-19. Most were friends who live out of town or who were dealing with their friends/family members who were dealing with the virus. Yesterday, I was told that a friend is in the ICU with novel coronavirus. While we were not close friends, we did keep in touch over the 30+ years that I’ve known him and his husband.

What I realized today, however, was how much I did not know about them. For instance, who is my friend’s next of kin? My immediate answer would be, of course, his husband. But his husband died last week of a non-coronavirus-related illness. I don’t know if he has a health care directive or, if he does, who is listed as the alternate proxy because his husband just died – or where this document is located. I know that his husband took care of most of their financial, legal and daily responsibilities. I don’t know who will be responsible for all of that now and, more importantly, nor does anyone else. Everyone is scrambling to try to figure out what to do!

While this is indeed stressful and sad, I have to ask myself and you…

·        How many of us or our friends or family members could find themselves in a similar situation?

·        Have we taken care of our own medical, legal and financial paperwork? If we have, does anyone know where it is located or have easy access to it? 

·        Will you or someone you know find themselves sick or dying alone with no one who knows what you would want to happen medically or, if you should die, with your belongings?

According to our informal Facebook poll, not everything in our world today is discouraging, heartbreaking, disheartening or grim. Looking at some of the memes on Facebook or Instagram can make you smile or laugh out loud.

There is little wrong with cooking or baking too much, using Zoom or Facetime to be connected to friends, relatives and colleagues, binge watching Netflix or taking naps. There is much kindness, laughter and sharing. Neighbors are helping neighbors.

This can be a time of transformation – interpersonally, socially, economically and globally. It can be a time to focus on the people and things that are important in our lives.

And this is where we all come in to transform our world into a better place in which to live. Thinking about medical and financial preparedness is not high on most people’s lists of things they want to do, but, especially during this time, it is essential.

First, we should examine our own paperwork. How prepared are we? Then, we should take a look at our contact lists. Who do we know who may need help?

Few people want to talk about the possibility of being sick or dying. In this age of COVID-19, it is imperative that we do so and that we talk with those whom we love and help them to prepare as well.

This is something that cannot wait. Please take steps to ensure that someone will know what you want to happen if you are unable to speak for yourself.

Stay well, stay safe and stay home… and if you are one of the many who must go to work to keep us safe, healthy, fed, informed or otherwise (relatively) sane, thank you.

Author: Janet BernsteinEmergencies Family General Goal Setting healthy living Home Organizing Procrastination Productivity Project Management

How to Stay Emotionally Healthy During Quarantine

First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with those who have contracted this virus. We wish you a speedy recovery. For the rest of us, we face several weeks of home confinement. I don’t know about you but when I stay home for longer than one day, I tend to become lethargic and unmotivated. This time I’m determined not to let that happen. Here’s my plan of action:

  1. Make a list. Create a list of all the projects you can do at home. Tasks you’ve wanted to tackle but previously never had the time to accomplish. (Mine includes de-cluttering my home office and organizing my digital files.)
  2. Make a second list of all the fun activities you’ve always wanted to do but for which you’ve never had the time. (My list here is significantly longer and includes several books I want to read, working on a jigsaw puzzle with my college-rebound daughter, and catching up on several TV shows.)
  3. Schedule Your Tasks. Just like you would schedule a meeting or an appointment, start scheduling these tasks on your calendar.  Make sure there’s a mix of both tasks. The items you’d rather not do (those you’ve been putting off) and the fun activities. I intend to use the fun activities as a reward for when I’ve accomplished a task from my first list. Also, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start with a just a couple of small dreaded tasks, then reward yourself.  The satisfaction of accomplishing tasks plus giving yourself a reward can be highly motivating!
  4. Use the same strategy for your kids.  If you have kids at home, sit down together and draft a similar list including fun and obligatory activities.
  5. Create a new “At Home Timetable.” We all function better when we have a routine. Now that our regular lives have been disrupted it’s up to us to create new, temporary routines in order to preserve our and our family’s emotional well-being. Consider purchasing a large whiteboard. Draw up a weekly calendar then write in each family member’s tasks, chores and schoolwork etc.
  6. Get Organized with Virtual Organizing. If you are self-motivated and able to do the hands-on organizing independently, this is a wonderful option to keep you accountable, productive and organized during this time. Many professional organizers are currently offering virtual organizing at discounted rates during this time.
Author: Clemence ScoutenClutter Downsizing Family General Home Keepsakes Organizing Photos Seniors & Aging Tips

Honor your Family History without Drowning in Clutter

Sentimental objects are one of the most challenging categories for professional organizers to help clients with. This is especially true with objects related to family history, such as:
 Photographs,
 Newspaper clippings,
 Family history documents (letters, journals, diaries, invitations, etc.),
 Education related (book reports, college papers, graduation diplomas, etc.),
 Civil records about family members (marriage records, immigration records, birth/death certificates, etc.)

No one will benefit if family history materials are kept in disorganized cardboard boxes

Photos, diaries, papers, trophies…these are all critical elements of your family legacy. They tell the story of important family members, and are the fabric of what binds families together. Personally, I am not an advocate of throwing this all away. On the other hand, how can anyone benefit if these materials are stashed away in the attic, basement, or closet?

Where to start?

The first step to any family history project is taking an inventory of what you have. Even if your project is simply tidying your family history boxes, you will be happy you did it. And I promise, your children will thank you!

Take some time to go through each box carefully and understand what is in them. It’s almost always the case we find things we had completely forgotten about. And it’s not at all uncommon to find objects we thought were lost. Once you know what you have, it will be much easier to figure out what to keep, and how to organize it all.

Organizing these materials will give you peace of mind

One complaint I hear frequently is that people don’t really know what to do with these materials. They accumulate and accumulate, taking up more room than you ever would have wanted. The fear of the materials being damaged, and frustration that nothing productive is being done with them, causes most people to feel anxious, along with a good measure of guilt.

Organizing family history materials allows us to honor family members and declutter. As I mentioned, I am not a fan of throwing these materials away. BUT, you’ll be surprised how much space is being taken up by duplicates, damaged papers/photos, old frames, and photos of people you don’t know—all of which can all be thrown away.

And watch out for newspaper clippings! Newspaper paper does not last. Not only that, it can damage other materials it comes into contact with.

Imagine the incredibly meaningful things you can do with family history materials

The advent of online publishing has made printing books in small print runs very affordable. Imagine having a book of all your parents’ correspondence, and giving a copy to each of your children. Or imagine assembling all the civil records about your ancestors so the whole family can have a richer understanding of its roots and history. All you need is a scanner and a little patience. If you don’t have the time, there are many scanning services which can do this for you. The Association of Professional Photo Organizers is also a great place to find someone locally who can do this.

Once scanned, it’s time to select an online book publisher. There are many to choose from. Two of my favorites are Blurb and Mixbook. Mixbook in particular has some great layouts just for family history projects. Be sure to wait for a sale! Both these sites frequently offer significant discounts.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that these books become instant family heirlooms. They make terrific gifts for important birthdays or around the holidays.

If you run into a hiccup while organizing, scanning, or making your book, feel free to give me a call. I’m always happy to answer questions. Good luck with your family history project!

Author: Erin CovoleskyEmergencies Family General Goal Setting healthy living Productivity Spiritual and Holistic Tips

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

As we head into a new month, continued stay-at-home living in most states, with the kids out of school, and a large percentage of the workforce working from home, most of us are starting to wonder just how much longer we can survive through this pandemic. This downtime has been a blessing for some and a curse for others, and right about now, I bet most of you are struggling with staying busy, maintaining a routine and downplaying anxiety. If you have kids, you might be pulling your hair out amidst boredom, complaining and fights. In my house, we have had high highs and low lows. We have moved almost daily from amazing family moments of laughter and warmth to stressful bouts of fighting and discontent. This rollercoaster might look a bit different for each family, but I think there are some things we can do right now to combat the negatives and approach each new day with a sense of accomplishment and hope. None of this is new, but I know that I personally enjoy the timing of a good reminder when I need it the most.

The main thing that I have been working on lately is to be intentional and own my perspective. We all get bad thoughts occasionally, and with the scary things that the media is sharing, it’s no surprise that most of us are being hit with thoughts of worry, anxiety, and fear. It’s human to feel these things, and we shouldn’t necessarily fight them off when they show up. They are sometimes there to warn us against a real danger or protect us from something that might be about to happen. On the flip side, they can also be brought about or intensified by our imaginations or fears, generated from negative experiences in our past. Owning your perspective involves allowing all thoughts to enter and float by, analyzing them to obtain any useful information as they move, and letting them continue their journey out of your brain. Follow up with a positive affirmation, take a step forward anyway, and change the dynamic. The key for me has been to let the thoughts go. Don’t hold onto them, don’t brew over them, and don’t go to bed at night thinking about them. Instead, read a good book, listen to a motivational podcast, pray with intention, or call up a friend or family member to talk about something else. Simply dismissing a thought can feel easier said than done, but I have found that the magic is just as simple as distracting yourself and replacing the thought.

For the first few weeks after the schools closed, my family and I were all sick, so our lives resembled something like those of a pack of wild dogs, scrounging for food and doing whatever needed to stay alive. I joke, but it felt a bit like complete chaos. As we are healing, we are picking up the pieces, getting the laundry done and assessing the inventory of our pantry. Now is the time to reassess the state of your own household and determine things like what supplies are needed, how schedules will change, and who will be responsible for required household tasks. Reinventing and implementing a routine is key for feeling like you have some control over your situation. If you use a family command center or large calendar, erase the scheduled soccer practices and instead schedule a time for things like school or professional work, exercise, chores and free time.

As you acclimate to your family’s new routine, don’t forget to relax and give yourself some grace in this process. Most of us have never lived through a pandemic like this, and it has literally upheaved our lives in a matter of weeks. Most of us have never been trained to navigate in this time, and we are all in the process of figuring things out as we go. If the dishes are dirty and the laundry is piled up, it’s okay. If the kids are not yet in a home school routine, they will survive. If you are using tissues because the toilet paper ran out, everyone will still be fine. Take a deep breath and remember that you are smart, capable and blessed. If a routine or schedule doesn’t work out as you envisioned, change it. The sky will not fall, and you WILL go on to live another day.

I certainly don’t claim to be a therapist or guru in the art of living, but I can confidently claim the title of a real wife, mom, neighbor and professional who is also learning to navigate this strange time right alongside the rest of you. I am finding that readjusting my perspective to focus on the positive, continuing forward momentum, resuming a routine for my family, and giving myself the grace to show up in whatever capacity that I can bring to each day is helping to make great, slightly sweetened lemonade out of this batch of sour, slightly bruised up lemons lying in front of us.