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Author: Amanda JeffersonFamily Goal Setting Seasonal Travel

Make a Summer Fun List

Photo by Stefan Widua on Unsplash

One of my favorite productivity experts, Laura Vanderkam, published her summer fun list this week, and it spurred me to create my own list. She encourages us to make time for “effortful” fun, ie things that require a little planning. That way, we don’t whittle the summertime away, wishing we had done more when Fall comes around.

I also wanted to view our summer fun list through the lens of saving money. Using Julie Morgenstern’s 4D approach, I thought about how we could “diminish” something, ie find the minimum effective dose. For example, should we pay $150 to see fireworks at Longwood Gardens or watch them for free at the local high school? Do we need to do the Phillies or would a minor league Blue Rocks game be just as fun?

So, here goes … my summer fun list!

  • Do a picnic at the awesome Havre de Grace Tydings Park playground. It’s only about an hour drive from us. Our daughter plays for hours on the top-of-the-line playground overlooking the marina, and then we can take a walk on the boardwalk and grab a bite at The Promenade Grill.
  • Watch an outdoor concert at Bellevue State Park. Bellevue is a hidden gem. Their outdoor concerts are a blast. Kids can run around and adults can lounge.
  • Have a date night at Media’s Dining Under the Stars.
  • Make a solid fireworks plan. I LOVE fireworks, but for some reason, every year on the 4th I find myself scrambling to figure out where and how to watch them. This year, following Vanderkam’s advice, I put some effort into it. We’ll be camping in good ol’ Slower Lower Delaware that weekend, so we’re all set to watch the Lewes fireworks from the Cape May Ferry terminal.
  • Hit up a Member Night at the Philadelphia Zoo. These run from 6-8 pm, once a month, and they’re a great chance to explore the zoo with less crowds and less heat.
  • Walk on the beach. I may have grown up on the beaches of #slowerlower, but I’m not a beach lover. I just can’t deal with all the schlepping and the stickiness. BUT I do love a good WALK on the beach, especially before sunset. So I’ve gotta figure out a way to make that happen, likely without my lovely but impatient daughter in tow, saying “Moooooooooom, my legs are tiiiiiiiiiiired.”
  • Sit in a pool on a float.
  • Read a novel next to a campfire.
  • Camping. Lots and lots of camping.

I’ve already done the work to schedule most of these things, so now I can just sit back and let the fun happen. Happy summer everyone!

Author: ellentreucohenFamily healthy living Holidays Home Seasonal Shopping

HOLIDAY GIFT-GIVING

I used to think I was very clever whenever I advised people about gift giving for special occasions and holidays. I would always suggest that when selecting gifts for people who actually have material plenty to give beautiful “disposables.” I observed that wonderful self-destructive options abound: wines, beautiful candles, delightful oils, luscious baked goods and candies, elegant lotions, fancy soaps…You see what I mean. And they don’t last forever! What a great idea!
Then, I started to discover that many of my clients – people who were trying their best to de-clutter – were given so many of the very disposables I routinely suggested that I couldn’t imagine how many lifetimes would be needed to use up all these treasures. It is possible to overdo absolutely anything.
So, what to do?? Depending on the closeness of the relationships, perhaps some frank discussions are possible. Can your entire extended family happily agree to pool money and go somewhere really special? Would treating someone to a lovely dinner or show be a delightful novelty? Someone else might love a membership or a day at the zoo or a favorite museum. Maybe the whole family would chip in to hire a chef or caterer to create a marvelous holiday dinner, so no one has the stress of cooking, hosting, or cleanup.

 

This year, really think about and talk about your gifts. So many of us are truly overloaded with objects, but would benefit from a certificate for a manicure, a massage, dog-walking services, baby-sitting, or perhaps a lovely outing to a tea shop for a long talk with you.

There are also gift cards and certificates for companies where your friend or relative will truly benefit from some extra freedom to choose something they need. One of my clients was actually given a generous check made out to her Professional Organizer! Moved by the friend’s thoughtfulness, the organizer (me) gave the client extra time.

Especially in the midst of all the natural disasters surrounding us, would your loved ones be thrilled (and relieved) if you made a charitable donation in their honor?

You can see where I’m going with this: make this a year of thinking outside the box with gifts that don’t go in a box at all. The key to success with these plans is the gift of intimacy, your shared comfort in discussing your true preferences, ideas, and suggestions.

Happy Holidays!

Author: Naomi CookCloset Digital Apps General Home Organizing Productivity Recyling Seasonal Time Management

Summertime Organizing: Cool Down the “Write” Way

We are in the midst of a heatwave here in Eastern PA. Today for example is 97°, with a feels like temp of 106°…ouch! Not the most conducive weather for organizing, right?

Well, definitely don’t work in the garage, or the attic…basically avoid anyplace that isn’t close to air conditioning or where heat rises. That still leaves some great spaces throughout your home to work in. However, before you even start, grab some ice-cold water or your favorite cold beverage and sit down to write out some to- do lists.

Nothing fancy, a spiral bound notebook from your child that still had useable pages in it will do; you know that they’ll want something brand new for the next school year anyway! I bought myself a fun notebook from TJ Maxx (see picture), in my favorite color, to make it less of a chore.

Professional Organizing Tips

Prefer an app for your to-do lists? Trello is a fantastic app which lets you create endless topics (lists) and tasks (cards).

Start by writing the name of each room in your home on a separate page. The great thing about these lists is that they can be a summer and beyond project…no need to rush it! Next, start your brain dump, where you can write tasks to be done in each room. Write down what comes to mind and add more as you think of it. The tasks should be specific and therefore hopefully less overwhelming. It’s up to you to choose how many tasks you want to complete at a time!

For example:

Master Bedroom Closet Tops

  1. Make a first pass through the tops
  2. For tops that are not your style or don’t fit anymore, start a bag for donation
  3. For tops that are beyond repair (i.e. ripped and stained) and take to a fabric recycling bin like Planet Aid
  4. For tops that were expensive, start a bag for a consignment store

Do you have other things come to mind, that aren’t specific to a room? Write them down too! Getting too much junk mail? Look to catalogchoice.org and optoutprescreen.com. Getting too many spam calls? Try an phone app like, Should I answer?, with a cute little octopus icon, which turns green for a positive call or red, to know instantly if a call has received negative ratings, and block them on your phone! I know, I know, once a company is blocked by using one number, they will move to another, but every little block counts!

Pen and paper or app, the key to dissolving a cluttered mind is to write things down, so that you have space in your brain for more important things to think about, like what flavor of ice cream to get tonight!

Author: Ellen TozziOrganizing Paper Seasonal

How Does Your Garden Grow? How Does Your Paper Flow?

Do you love to see things grow and blossom? Your kids? Your puppy? Your Christmas amaryllis? Your spring flowers? Your summer veggies? Your piles of paper? Say what? What was that last one – paper? No!

If you’re like many of the people I work with, paper is not your thing. You didn’t ask for so much mail, you don’t know what to keep vs. what to discard and you don’t enjoy processing it. I’m going to help you reframe the way you look at paper by comparing paper management to gardening. Stay with me here! It might be more motivational than you think.

So, what are some of the components of both gardening and paper management?

PLANNING
 When planning a flower garden, consider color schemes, the timing of the blooms, the height of the plants, etc.
 Create a plan for where to place paper, i.e. unopened mail, papers to be acted on, papers to be filed, papers going out of the house, etc.

PREVENTION
 Perhaps you use Round Up to prevent weeds (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure).
 To prevent unwanted and junk mail, sign up using an online service, such as dmachoice.org (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of MAIL).

MAINTENANCE
 When gardening, you periodically fertilize, weed, dead-head the flowers, and of course cut the flowers for indoor appreciation.
 Establish daily, weekly and monthly routines to open the mail, address action items, pay bills, file, read, etc.

STORAGE
 You’ve dedicated a place where you store your pots, tools, soil, etc. for easy access.
 Use file cabinets or file boxes to store reference papers and keep papers you need to act upon on your desk.

END OF SEASON CLEAN UP
 Gardens get ‘put to bed’ in the autumn by cutting back plants, etc.
 Purge your files annually. The best time is when you’re gathering papers for income tax. Shred paid invoices you don’t need for taxes and make room for a new year.

I wish you much success in your garden and office. KEEP UP in order to thrive and blossom!

Author: Carla ShipmanGeneral Holidays Seasonal

Tablescape with Love

One of many things I love about the holidays is that it brings family, friends and people together. I’m appreciative of all that I’m blessed with and love blessing others. My most favorite is spending time with those I love and cherish. We hosted Thanksgiving at our home this year. We stood in a circle and talked about what we are grateful for and the importance of leaving a legacy for our young generation. 

Every year we adopt a family in need. It’s so exciting to see their smiling faces filled with gratitude. I tend to notice people are more kind and friendly during the holiday season. Wouldn’t it be nice if we can stretch that kindness all year round?  

This year I decided to be a little more creative with gift giving. When giving a gift I think it’s really important to know something about the person you are giving the gift to. For example, their favorite color, books they read, tech/kitchen gadgets, journal books, spas or help organize a particular space in their home. 

One of my favorite things to do is create a beautiful tablescape. This year I’m creating a beautiful table scape for my sister and best friend.  They are so elated. The best part is that I’m using items they already have and gifting the other items. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that people appreciate and love. 

Hope your holidays are filled with love, joy and peace. Be Creative. Be Grateful. Be Kind.

Author: Denise MacMurtrieDocument Management General Holidays Meal planning Organizing Paper Productivity Seasonal Time Management

Making a List, Checking it Twice—Not just for Santa

The holidays are upon us! There’s so much to keep track of and so many things to do! How can this wonderfully busy time of year feel less stressful? Make a list! Or several!

I love lists! Just the act of writing a list helps me to feel like I have a clearer direction. A checklist is a concrete tool to help you empty your brain of all the things you need to remember…and then to prioritize them.

There are even more things to do and to remember than usual. I use different lists for each facet of the holidays.

If you like writing lists out on paper, keep one folder or notebook as a central location to record your plans. If you prefer going paperless, keeping documents stored on a computer or in a note-keeping system like Evernote is a convenient way to keep an ongoing record over the years.

The following are types of lists to help you stay better ordered as the activities and tasks fill your schedule:

Menus: Write out a list of the entire meal from appetizers through desserts, including those items being provided by other guests. That way, you have a comprehensive overview of the full meal and can fill in the gaps if there are any. Don’t forget to include drinks, paper products, flowers and table centerpieces.

Shopping list: Go through all the recipes you will be preparing and write out every ingredient into a grocery list. The key here is to write the food items according to sections in the grocery store. It helps dramatically when your list is ordered so you don’t have to revisit different sections of the crowded store.

Tasks: Write out all individual tasks required to prepare for the holidays so you can clearly see the extra demands on your time such as: cleaning the house, decorating, shopping for gifts, wrapping, and mailing gifts (by a designated date).

Holiday cards: Keep a master address list that you can update each year. Many people keep it in a format on their computer to print address labels. I like to sort names according to groups:  family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.

Gifts: Keep a list of all gifts you plan to purchase according to each person. In the margin, record the store or online vendor and price. You can plan your shopping route according to the stores listed.

Accessory shopping: While shopping for gifts, there are often other details easily overlooked. Designate a master list for details. For example, as you decorate your house or plan your holiday party, keep one list for all those particulars such as a replacement string of lights, a new set of holiday placemats, etc.

A Final Step
Your Calendar: Look through your lists regularly and write tasks into dates on your calendar in order to keep track of what is being accomplished. Write in your planner in pencil to make easy alterations or use an online calendar to easily move tasks around.

Remember:  this is a busy time of year. Everything takes longer than expected. In the end, we may need to let go of a few tasks.

The ultimate goal is not to feel harried by the time the actual day arrives so you can enjoy the celebration with those you love!