Parents: It’s Back to School Time. Make Sure Your Kids Read This!

Back to school is a time for your kids to meet new challenges and take on new responsibilities. Whether they are going to school or home schooling due to the Covid Pandemic, organization is so important.

Organization is a skill that will help them not only in school but at home and in every aspect of their lives. An organized routine will lay the foundation for academic success.

The following information and tips will help them get organized & stay organized throughout the school year and hopefully throughout their lives.

There are many different ways to organize anything:
-Everyone organizes in his or her own way. You have to decide which way of organizing is easiest and best for YOU!
-The goal is be able to find what you need when you need it without spending time looking for it.

ORGANIZING BASICS:
-Always keep things in the same place so you know where to look for them. For example, put your backpack by the door where you will see it on your way out.
-To keep your space clutter free, put away your things when you finish using them.
-Make sure everything has a home that makes sense.
-Don’t rely on your parents or teachers to keep you organized.

ROUTINES:
1. Create a morning schedule:
-Set up a schedule in the morning that will help you stay organized. A sample schedule might be: Wake up at 6:45. Shower and get dressed by 7:15. Eat breakfast by 7:30 and leave at 7:50.
-Make sure you allow extra time in case something goes wrong (ie. you wake up late).
-Follow the same routine every day.

2. Mornings in most households are busy. To leave yourself enough time, make these part of your routine:
-Set out your clothes to save time the night before.
-Also set out any sports equipment for the next day’s extra-curricular activities.
-Pack your backpack the night before.
-Make sure your homework is in your backpack.
-Also make sure you have papers that need to be signed, gym clothes, etc. that you will need the following day.
-Don’t forget to grab your lunch or lunch money before you leave.

HOMEWORK:
1. Always do your homework!
-Keep phone numbers of two people in each class so you can call them to get information about homework assignments if you are absent.
-Visit your teachers’ websites to check homework assignments.

2. Set a designated time to do all of your homework.
-Limit distractions until study time is over
-Close the door, turn off the TV, cell phone, etc. so you can concentrate.
-Prioritize your assignments
-Some assignments are given a day or two before they are due. But, be sure if time allows, that you do everything on the first night assigned. For instance, if on Monday, one assignment is given in math that is due Tuesday and a short composition in English due Wednesday, do both. Because, on Tuesday, you could get several more assignments due Wednesday- Monday was a light day, and there would have been time. If you wait another day, you face the possibility of being inundated with more work.
-If you have sports or other extra-curricular activities that might conflict with your homework schedule, plan accordingly.

3. Do your most difficult homework assignment first so you can get the hard stuff out of the way.

4. Designate a study space, preferably a clean and well lit area.

5. When you’re done with your homework:
-Place it in your backpack in an area by the door.
-Keep completed homework assignments in the inside front pocket of the binder for that subject so you will always know where to find it.
-You don’t want to lose homework and possibly suffer a lower grade because you can’t find the work to submit to your teachers.

The bottom line is, everything will be MUCH EASIER when you are organized.

Recycling, Reusing, Re-purposing. What’s the Difference?

Recycling, Reusing and re-purposing. They kinda seem like the same thing right? Well, technically they’re not! They have some similarities but they’re also quite different. Here’s the scoop.Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects.  Recycling can prevent the waste of potentially useful materials and reduce consumption, thereby reducing energy usage, air pollution and water pollution. Wikipedia

Recycling is great. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about recycling as an option. But, its not necessarily the best option. While it’s great that we have found ways to turn our waste into something else, or even the same thing with recycled materials, it still requires a lot of energy. In other words, it’s better than sending things to the landfill, but recycling should be a last option, just before the garbage can and ultimately landfill.

For those of us who are environmentally conscious or looking for ways to better care for the planet, we need to get back to reusing and re-repurposing. Many commonly discarded items, the most common being clothing, are readily reusable in their current form.  So, instead of tossing an item in the trash can or recycling bin, consider other ways it might still be usable. If not to you, perhaps consider donating so that someone else can use it. 

When items can’t be reused, for example something that is broken and can’t be fixed for its original intended purpose, we need to find ways to re-purpose them. Re-purposing is the process by which an object with one use value is transformed or redeployed as an object with an alternative use value. Wikipedia

Here’s a few reasons why we all should reuse or re-purpose whenever possible:

1. It’s less expensive: We can reuse items like grocery bags, paper (use the other side), boxes, ribbons, wrapping paper, and packaging “peanuts”.  In the process, we save ourselves the cost having to buy these items. If you still want to/have to buy something, consider buying used items and save money. This too, will conserve resources and prevent them from winding up in the landfill.

2. It uses less energy: When we recycle, things have to be heated up, melted and reconstituted into whatever it becomes. So, a lot of energy is used when we recycle. That said, if items aren’t particularly useful to us anymore, we can find other people, who could use them. That’s when donation is a good option.

3. It causes less, or no, pollution: As I’ve already said above, recycling requires so much energy that it creates its own share of pollution. Reusing and re-purposing doesn’t create pollution. Items can be used as, perhaps for another purpose or by someone else without causing any further issues for the planet.

4. It encourages quality over quantity: When we know that we aren’t going to throw something away and buy a replacement, we are inclined to buy something of higher quality, something that will last and something we actually need. So when buying something new, make sure its made/built to last a long time.

5. It’s more responsible: Reusing and re-purposing gives us more control of the waste we create. It’s not just being tossed away and eventually going into landfill. This, in turn, makes us more conscious of having to deal with our stuff. More importantly, when we reuse and re-purpose, we are reducing our consumption.

6. It’s environmentally friendlier: Reusing and re-purposing is one small step toward creating a healthier environment. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t ever recycle, but we could all do a lot better. Shopping at secondhand stores is a great way to reuse and re-purpose. Donating those items you no longer need or want is a also great way to avoid creating unnecessary waste.

7. It’s a lot of fun: Re-purposing can be fun. Step out of your comfort zone and think of new ways to use old things. It shakes things up and gives things new life.

The options are limitless. Get creative and have fun. 

To Be Or Not To Be (Organized)? That Is The Question.

After working as a Professional Organizer for the past 9 years, it seems that everyone has a different idea as to what being “organized” is, what it means and what it looks like. I think that being organized is in the eyes of the beholder.  Everyone’s circumstances are different and, therefore, what works for one person may or may not work for another.

While there are hundreds of different definitions for the word “organized”, here are the two that resonate the most with me:

“Having one’s affairs in order so as to deal with them efficiently”

and

“Having taken something that is messy, chaotic, or unordered and rearranged it logically, into a structured or coherent layout, or into specific and/or defined groups”

A search on thesaurus revealed some adjectives to describe what “organized” means.  Here are a few: orderly, prepared, systematized, logical, planned, well-thought-out, structured.

No matter what your definition is (or isn’t), if you want life to be organized, here are 5 helpful tips:

Write it down. Whatever it is. It can be something that needs to be scheduled, something that you need to do, something you need to get. If you’re not old school, instead of writing it down, get the information on whatever device you use, ie., phone, computer, app.

·     If you run out of something that you need regularly (ie., milk or ketchup), put it on a list so that you don’t forget it.

·     If you have an appointment with someone, put it on the calendar.

·     Make sure to check your list and calendar either at night before you go to bed or first thing in the morning so you know what you have to do and when.

Make sure that everything has a place and then make sure to put things in their place.

·     If something doesn’t have a place it will always be considered clutter.

·     Find a place that makes sense for that particular object.

·     If there’s no room, it’s time to purge.

Have a plan.

·     Put a day/time on your calendar to go and get what you need or do what needs to get done

·     Batch things together.

·     When you need to run errands, get as much done in one area as possible. Then, on another day, go to another area (ie, the mall) and get other things done. Pay attention to drive time/traffic, etc. to make the most of your time.

·     If possible, schedule the same things on the same day each week so it becomes part of your routine.

·     For example, go food shopping on the same day each week

Ask for help. It takes a village.

·     Try and get everyone who lives with you on board so everything doesn’t fall on your shoulders.

·     Even young children can and should help. If you show them how at an early age, they can help. It might not get done perfectly but it will get done.

·     Again, make it a routine

·     Each night before bed, your children should be picking up after themselves

Maintenance is sooooo important.

·     Keeping up with whatever systems you have in place is very important.

·     It’s easier to maintain a space than to do it over all of the time.

·     If you know where the dishes go, put them there. Don’t just find any place that has room. That’s how systems fall apart.

How To Deal With Sentimental Clutter

We all struggle with sentimental clutter. However, if we’re being honest, objects are just objects and their value doesn’t magically change just because you have a history with them. Try to remember that the value you’re assigning the object comes from your memories, not the object.

Whether you’re having trouble letting go of old love letters from your high school sweetheart, your children’s artwork or struggling to let go of countless items following the death of a loved one, purging items that have sentimental value is extremely difficult.

Making decisions about emotionally charged objects is tricky. It may bring up emotions, good and bad, reminding you of happier times with family members or memories of those who have passed away.

Then, there are times when you’re forced to make decisions. For example, when you’re moving to a smaller home and have to downsize or if you have to sort through the belongings of a loved one who has passed away.

Whether you’re ready to purge or forced to make decisions,
striking the right balance between how much to keep and how much to let go of can also be difficult.

If you keep in mind that you can’t keep everything, then you’ll be able to part with items that are truly clutter and keep the ones that mean the most to you.

How do you decide what stays and what goes? Here are some ideas for how to keep sentimental items from getting out of control:

Keep the best and let go of the rest.
• Save heartfelt letters, not every card everyone ever sent you

Only keep items you want to display/use.
• Then…display/use them.

If you must have a keepsake chest, limit it to one box and only keep things that can fit inside that box.
• When your box is full, you’ll need to remove something when adding something new. DO NOT ADD ANOTHER BOX!

Be sure the keepsake chest/container is sturdy, pest and water resistant.
• Once you decide to keep an item, take the steps necessary to store it the right way. Do a little research to determine which containers to use to preserve the items. Please note that just storing items in plastic bins is not enough to keep things safe from the elements. All plastic bins are NOT equal.

Keep the memories and let the objects go.
• Photograph or take a video of the objects you want to remember but don’t want to keep. One digital photograph saved on your computer (and backed up in the cloud) is all you need.

Don’t feel obligated to keep something just because it was a gift.
• There’s no obligation to keep things you don’t like, don’t need and/or won’t use.

Avoid feeling guilty.
• It is your home and you have the right to make room for what matters to you most.

Share heirlooms with other family members.
• If you inherited something and no longer want it, ask your family members if they might want it.

When saving items for family members ask yourself these questions:
• Will they want this?
• Do they have room for it?
• Is the item valuable only to me?
The answers will help you decide to save or let go.

Repurpose a keepsake into something new if you’re crafty.
• For example: You can repurpose your children’s baby blankets into a quilt.

Keep one if there are multiples.
• If you know that you won’t use all the holiday wreaths your mother gave you, just pick one that you’ll display during the holidays.

Don’t keep anything you wouldn’t want anyone else to find.
• If something were to happen to you, your friends and family will eventually sort through your things. Don’t keep anything that you wouldn’t want them to see or that would cause them pain or embarrassment or damage their memories of you.

If you need help with this process, give us a call. We’d love to help!

Hoarding: What It Is, Categories & Levels

Nearly once a week I get a call from a prospective client that says… “my INSERT BLANK is a hoarder and they need help”. What they are trying to tell me is that that person has a lot of stuff and, in their opinion, more “stuff” than most. That said, although I know what they mean, often, that person is probably not “hoarding”. I hope this information helps clarify some of the misconceptions about hoarding.

The following information is from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (www.challengingdisorganization.org) and from the American Psychiatric Association:

What Is Hoarding:
People with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces.

Hoarding is not the same as collecting. Collectors look for specific items, such as model cars or stamps, and may organize or display them. People with hoarding disorder often save random items and store them haphazardly.

The Institute for Challenging Disorganization, aka ICD, has devised The Clutter-Hoarding Scale which is an assessment tool to help determine what hoarding is and how to identify the level. This tool helps professionals determine what kind of help is needed. The Clutter-Hoarding Scale is not used for diagnostic purposes or for any psychological evaluation of a person(s).

There are 5 categories and 5 levels of the Clutter-Hoarding Scale:

The 5 Categories are:
1. Structure and Zoning: Assessment of access to entrances and exits; function of plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems, appliances and structural integrity.
2. Animals and Pests: Assessment of animal care and control; compliance with local animal regulations; assessment for evidence of infestations of pests (rodents, insects or other vermin).
3. Household Functions: Assessment of safety, functionality and accessibility of rooms for intended purposes.
4. Health and Safety: Assessment of sanitation levels in household, household management of medications for prescribed and over-the-counter drugs.
5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Recommendations for PPE (face masks, gloves, eye shields or clothing that protect the wearer from environment health and safety hazards).

The 5 levels indicate the degree of household clutter with Level I being the lowest and Level V being the highest. Below are the criteria regarding two of the above categories: Structure and Zoning and Household Functions. I chose these two as they are the ones that most people can relate to and/or identify with. The others can be found at https://www.challengingdisorganization.org/clutter-hoarding-scale)

The 5 Levels are:
Level I – This level is considered standard.
• All doors, stairs and windows are accessible, plumbing, electric and HVAC are operational; fire and CO detectors are functional.
• No excessive clutter; all rooms properly used, appliances functional; good housekeeping and maintenance.

Level II – Household environment requires either Professional Organizers or related professionals who have knowledge and understanding of chronic disorganization.
• One Major exit is blocked; 1 major appliance or HVAC device is not working for longer than one season; some plumbing or electrical systems are not fully functional; fire or CO detectors are non-existent or non-functional.
• Clutter beginning to obstruct living areas; slight congestion of exits and entrances, hallways, stairs; some household appliances not functional; inconsistent housekeeping and maintenance.

Level III – This Level is the pivot point between a cluttered household and a potential hoarding environment.
• Outside clutter of items normally stored indoors; HVAC devices not working for longer than one season,;fire or CO detectors non-existent or non-functional; one part of the home has light structural damage which occurred during the past 6 months.
• Clutter obstructing functions of key living spaces; building up around exits, entrances, hallways and stairs; at least one room not being used for intended purposes; several appliances not working; inappropriate usage of electric appliances and extension cords; substandard housekeeping and maintenance; hazardous substances in small quantities.

Level IV – Household environment requires a coordinated and collaborative team of service providers including, but not limited to, Professional Organizers, family, mental health professional, pest and animal control officers, licensed contractors, financial counselors, etc.).
• Excessive outdoor clutter of items normally stored indoors; HVAC devices not working for longer than 1 year; CO detectors non-existent or non-functional; structural damage to home lasting more than 6 months; water damaged floors, damaged walls and foundations, broken windows, doors or plumbing, odor or evidence of sewer backup.
• Diminished use and accessibility to key living areas; several rooms cluttered to extent that they cannot be used for intended purposes; clutter inhibits access to doorways, hallways and stairs; inappropriate storage of hazardous/combustible materials; appliances used inappropriately; improper use of electric space heaters, fans or extension cords.

Level V – Household environment requires a collaborative team including, but not limited to, Professional Organizers, mental health professional, family, zoning, fire and/or other safety agents, etc.).
• Extreme indoor/outdoor clutter; foliage overgrowth; abandoned machinery, ventilation inadequate or non-existent; HVAC systems not working; water damaged floors, walls and foundation, broken windows, doors or plumbing; unreliable electrical, water and/or septic systems; odor or sewer backup; irreparable damage to exterior and interior structure.
• Key living spaces not usable; all rooms not used for intended purposes; entrances, hallways and stairs blocked; toilets, sinks and tubs not functioning; hazardous conditions obscured by clutter, appliances unusable; hazardous and primitive use of kerosene, lanterns, candles, fireplace/woodstove as primary source of heat and/or light.

Although I have provided information regarding the categories and levels of hoarding, this only skims the surface. If you want more information, please go to challengingdisorganization.org where there is a plethora of information on this subject.

Is There A Right Way to Organize?

The short answer is NO. Everyone does things differently and, therefore, there is no one “right” way to organize.

That said, the purpose of organizing is so that things are functional and easily accessible..

A good example would be…when it comes to paperwork, some people like to file papers away and some people like to pile them. Whatever their preference is, if they can find whatever they want, when they want it, then they are organized in that things are functional and accessible. It may be considered organized chaos to some, but, if that works for some people then so be it.

On the other hand, if it takes too much time (which is completely subjective) to locate a document or you can’t remember where something is, then perhaps you should consider getting “better” organized.

When it comes to closet organization, the same rule applies. Some people like to hang everything, others like to fold things and put them away in drawers. Yet, others like to color code. Again, organizing is whatever works for you (as long as it’s functional and accessible)

Sometimes getting organized is a matter of just making a few changes. Sometimes it’s a matter of making more space. Sometimes things just need an over-haul to accommodate your ever-changing needs.

Here are some GREAT tips to get and stay organized, no matter your style:
1. If you take something out, put it away when you’re finished using it.
• Example: If your kids are playing with toys, have them put them away before they move on to the next activity. (NOTE: show them how and help them the first few times so that they understand).
2. If there’s no room, make space. Here’s a few things you can do:
• Purge things you no longer need or want
• Archive anything that is not needed on a daily basis (ie.,put olld tax returns in a bankers box and put it in the attic for safe-keeping
• Add Shelving for additional storage
3. If something doesn’t have a home, it will always be considered clutter.
• Figure out where things should live when not in use and put it there (ie, tools should be in the tool chest which can be kept in the garage rather than in a junk drawer in the kitchen)
4. If whatever organizational systems you’re using aren’t working well, change them.
• Just because you’ve been doing something one way, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Situations change and our systems have to change as well.
5. Keep like items together.
• Examples: towels and sheets not in use should be kept in a linen closet; all Tupperware should be in the kitchen in one location)
6. Less is more!
• The less you have, the less you’ll have to clean, take care of and keep organized.
7. Just start! If there’s an area that needs some organizing love, schedule time on your calendar to get it done.
• If the project is overwhelming (ie, the garage), break it down into reasonable chunks. (ie., consider just getting rid of true trash the first time…true trash meaning anything that is ripped, soiled, stained, missing a piece, broken, expired)
8. Organizing is a Process. Keep going. Organizing isn’t something that you do once.
• It’s something that you do, a little bit, every day.
9. Get others involved.
• Whether you’re organizing at home or at the office, if there are other people involved, show them what you’re doing and ask them to respect your work by helping you maintain the systems you’ve put in place.
10. Ask for help. If you need assistance, CALL US! We will bring our unbiased perspective and humor to help you get “better” organized.
• With the help and guidance of a Professional Organizer, getting organized will be easier and quicker!

We would LOVE to be of service!