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!

Author: Angie FiccoCar organization General Organizing Seasonal

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

September is well under way which means the kids are back to school and its time to get ready for fall.  Part of being a NAPO Organizer is helping our clients be prepared for the crazy predicaments life throws our way. I have compiled this comprehensive list to give you a jump start on fall home maintenance so that you and your family have more time for apple picking and pumpkin carving!

1. Wash exterior windows.

2. Clean gutters and down spouts.

  • HACK: Try using a plastic spatula; it fits perfectly, won’t scratch gutters and is easy to clean.
  • While your up there look for loose shingles and debris. HACK: binoculars help magnify loose shingles.

3. Sweep off front porch and put away summer décor: Don’t forget cushions, outdoor furniture, kid’s sprinklers and kiddie pools.

4. Create or reorganize space in the garage for summer tools & toys.

5. Put out new fall mat and add fall décor.

6. Clean, cover and store grill.

7. Water your lawn. You may think it’s time to put the sprinklers away but watering your lawn in the fall is actually a great way to help it recover from the stress of the summer sun and strengthen it for winter.

  • If you fertilize your lawn in the fall it will need the H2O to help it soak up the nutrients.
  • In a few weeks you can drain garden hoses and shut off water supply to spigots.
  • Additionally, fall is the perfect time to aerate soil.
    • It relieves compaction and allows air, water and nutrients to penetrate your lawn.

8. Order firewood or get choppin!

9. Get your chimney cleaned and inspected.

10. Winterize air conditioning unit or remove and store window units. Bring out the space heaters.

  • To properly store your window units you will need to clean it first. After its been cleaned, remove the filter and with a soft brush clean it with warm, soapy water then rinse and allow it to air dry. Do a visual inspection of the filter and if the cleaning didn’t do the trick, then you should replace it. Once it’s dry, place the clean filter back in the air conditioner. Place the unit in its original box or a plastic storage tote.
  • Store in a warm, dry place.

11. Check weather stripping on doors and caulk around windows.

  • In a few more weeks it will be time to winterize.
  • Check with your township or local community center to see if they are distributing free winterizing/energy-saving kits.

12. Dust fans, light fixtures and reverse direction of ceiling fans. Running fans in the cooler months can actually save on heating costs! Fans have slightly angled blades that when turning counterclockwise move air down. Warm air naturally rises so by switching the rotation of your ceiling fan it pushes the warm air down. Most fans have a small switch to reverse the direction.

Clockwise = Winter        Counterclockwise = Summer

13. Vacuum couch cushions, collect change and lost snacks and display some cozy throws blankets.

14. Give your oven a thorough clean inside & out as well as BEHIND it to get it ready for the holiday cooking season.

15. Pack summer clothes and bedding; wash and store.

  • Consider keeping swimsuits and towels handy in case you plan a winter vacation.
  • Pull winter clothes, flannels and heated blankets from storage and air them out.

16. Check car for shovel, ice scraper, blanket and refill or create an emergency kit


Author: Naomi CookFamily General Home Seasonal Travel

Staycation (all I’ve ever wanted!)

So, everyone wants to go on a vacation, even the band, the Go-Go’s, as heard in their song, simply titled…”Vacation”!

However, with gas prices and flight costs rising, taking a simple summer vacation has gotten to be a lot more expensive. Add in paying for meals and entertainment and say goodbye to even more of your hard earned money.

Oy vey…what a headache! Why not forgo all that stress, save some money, and instead have a Staycation in your very own home!

Merriam – Webster defines a Staycation as “a vacation spent at home or nearby”. Turn your home and backyard into an outdoor oasis that everyone in the family will enjoy. Think about how a hotel is set up and organize your home as such, for the whole summer or even for just a week!

Start in the kitchen:
Set up an island or part of a countertop for a breakfast buffet/snack bar like you would find in a hotel chain. Set out those single serve cereal boxes, some fruit and granola bars; maybe even whip up a large amount of pancake batter. Buy an inexpensive waffle maker and you can have fresh waffles every morning! Since you are saving money by staying at home, splurge a little here. Find melamine dishes and bowls and acrylic cups, and stash your everyday dishes and cups up on a higher shelf. Tie them together with a bright tablecloth and you have a fresh new look. When you decide to eat al fresco, just take those items outside!

Head into the great outdoors:
After a nice breakfast head outside for the next phase of the day. If you are in the mood to relax then set yourself up on your patio or lawn. Put on some music, bring out your favorite books and/or magazines, and even work on a hobby that you’ve been neglecting. Keep a cooler filled with your favorite beverages and you’ll be set! If you are in the mood to get out of the house, then use those at home days to figure out where to go. If you don’t have a pool at your home or community, consider a membership to a local pool. Or maybe you’d rather go shopping; an outlet center is a great way to spend a day and most offer coupons for additional savings. Another idea is to become a tourist in your own city. So often, our lives get so busy that we can’t appreciate the historical areas and landmarks that our own city has to offer.

End in the bedroom:
Use as a sanctuary to rest and recharge after a busy day outdoors. Put crisp linens and a light comforter on the bed in soothing beach colored neutrals. Try to keep it as a technology free area, which shouldn’t be too hard, because most TV shows are on reruns! Keep a book on your night table and read that instead.

However you decide to spend your Staycation, take the time to savor every minute of the day. Push aside obligations and expectations and put the focus on you. You deserve it!


Author: Vali HeistGeneral Organizing Seasonal

Organize Your Gardening and Enjoy the Process

Finding the time and energy to garden has been a challenge for me in the past few years. Our property seems to be getting bigger or am I getting older? Regardless of the reason, I’m not willing to give up the great exercise and satisfaction I get from planting my garden, so I need to get more organized to get it done. I also have to be satisfied with an hour or two here and there instead of a full day of gardening. After I planted my garden last year, I took pictures of the planters and the gardens and made a list of the plants I bought at the local nurseries. Next year, it will be much easier to start the process!

Our garden shed was built on top of an old outhouse and frankly it could withstand a hurricane. It has a waist high counter and wooden shelving. We used leftover linoleum flooring from the kitchen for the floor. Mice and other critters frequently visit the shed in the winter, so I need to be mindful of how I store items.

My garden shed is just the right size to hold the following:

  • Gardening gloves and ball caps in a closed plastic container
  • Small gardening tools-store in plastic carrier or basket with a handle
  • Gardening planters
  • Folding lawn furniture stored under the counter
  • Gazing ball and stone statues for the garden
  • Rod iron poles for hanging baskets, plant and tomato stakes, and long tools (small shovel, rake, edger)-all stored in 5 gallon plastic bucket with metal part up
  • Items to decorate my screened-in porch
  • Leftover flower seeds and bulbs in a metal container
  • Leftover potting soil in 5 gallon plastic bucket with a lid

In the spring:

  • Pull everything out of the shed and sweep it out (mice and chipmunks have made their winter homes in my shed
  • Take plants out of the garden that died over the winter
  • Throw out older seeds and bulbs that didn’t make the winter
  • Divide perennial plants if too big and share with your neighbors or replant in other parts of your garden to save money
  • Move other plants around to fill in where plants died or didn’t come up
  • Use a planting scooter or seat to sit on for all weeding and planting to save your back
  • Use 5 gallon plastic bucket with handle to pull out weeds
  • Using pictures from last year, I bought plants and vegetables and planted the planters and the gardens

In the fall after the first killing frost:

  • Buy perennials on sale and fill in where plants didn’t live
  • Don’t forget to call 811 before you dig too deep to prevent damage to electric lines and natural gas pipelines
  • Wash out the planters and store in shed
  • Store leftover seeds and bulbs in metal containers to deter critters
  • Donate any ceramic planters or recycle plastic containers you didn’t use

After plants have been hit by frost, I like to fill in with fall décor so it doesn’t look so empty. I use some of the more colorful pots I emptied and place them upside down to hold mums. I fill in with straw bales, pumpkins, cornstalks and gourds. Organize your gardening so it’s a pleasure, not a chore.

Author: Danielle OBrienFamily General Organizing Seasonal

5 Steps to Organizing Your Family’s Summer Calendar

5 5 Steps To Organizing Your Family’s Summer Calendar

1. Print a three month calendar for June, July & August. Click this link to see if this one might work for you:

2. Add holidays, birthdays, party invitations and vacation days. You can attach any information about these events to the back of the calendar.

3. Add any camps your children are signed up for.

4. Cherish the downtime. The lazy days of summer are important so be sure to cherish the downtime! Leave them blank for spontaneous fun.

5. However, if you feel incline you can create a loose timeline for the downtime. For instance:

9:00am wake- eat breakfast, wash-up, make your bed
▪ Noon- have lunch, swim, play
▪ 3:00pm- snack, read, rest
▪ 5:00pm- help with dinner prep
▪ 7:00pm- family time

Author: Sue FrostGeneral Organizing Seasonal

It’s Just Past Halloween So Merry Christmas!

TrufflesDoes your stomach clench just a little bit when you see holiday decorations popping up in stores before Halloween? Is it my imagination or do retailers rush the season just a little bit more each year?

We all react differently to the first signs of the holiday season. Some look forward to gatherings with family and friends, baking cookies and relaxing at home. Others hear a starting gun for a race full of tasks they can only hope to complete in time.

Many things can add to this sense of overwhelm. Seasonal tasks like decorating, writing cards, shopping, baking and hosting – added to a busy work schedule, school activities and volunteer obligations – can cause the need to breathe into a paper bag!

Fear not, my friends. Here are a few things to simplify your holidays.

  1. Create a budget and a list

Shopping without a plan often leads to overspending. Starting early is great, but avoid last-minute sales that entice some to spend even more. Having a list reduces the odds of forgetting co-workers, hostess gifts and, if necessary, a last-minute dash for a new holiday outfit. (In my experience, the less time available to shop, the more I am willing to spend. Desperation = $.) Simply start by creating a plan: total budget = $___, number of people and gifts for each, are you having a party, do you need a new dress?

  1. Consider giving experiences instead of stuff

Take a moment to review the things you treasure most in life. Are they things at all? Toys and sweaters come and go, but experiences become memories. My parents and grandparents were people of modest means but they were creative enough to fool us: house parties with cousins, ice skates with a few homespun lessons, tickets to a show at Radio City and, once, the whole family went to see the Nutcracker! As an adult, it’s still the time spent with the important people in our lives that far outweighs anything bought in a store.

  1. Control

As a recovering perfectionist, realizing the words need to and should only existed in my mind was an epiphany. Therefore, I feel obligated to share this with others. Think of sending cards, baking, hosting parties and so on as a menu. Pick some or all. You don’t need to do everything. (OK, the kids usually appreciate a tree, but the others are optional.) Annual cards can be sent on St. Patrick’s Day if your family celebrates this holiday or on the 4th of July if you celebrate patriotism. If you show your friends and family love throughout the year, there’s no need to make it up at Christmas time, unless it’s your choice.

  1. Parkinson’s Law

If you are not familiar with Parkinson’s law, this is a good time of year to learn its original meaning. It’s a simple one: work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Therefore, you can plan a party a la Martha Stewart with place cards, silver service, homemade favors and signature cocktails or, if pressed for time, you can host a potluck dinner. You make the rules.

The most important thing is the reason for the season and the people in your life!

God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

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