It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

I still giggle every time I see a Back 2 School commercial, flyer, or advertisement.  Thanks to Staples and their creative advertising department.

Of course it looks so easy and relaxing.  Only that is TV and we live in reality.  Back to school can be a hectic stressful time. Take a trip to any middle school, junior high, or high school on orientation day.  The mind is swarming, fees to be paid, money on a lunch account, gym shorts, planners, band, schedules….. Oh dear!   

It doesn’t help that in our area, kids are back to school for 3 days and then you get to enjoy a long weekend.  How is one supposed to celebrate the end of summer and still remain on a schedule? 

Number one:  Try not to stress out too much about back to school.  If you find yourself tense, figure out what has your stressed.  Is it the financial concerns, schedules, or just hectic morning routine?

Morning routines can be stress free with a bit a pre-planning.  My theory is….5 minutes at night, adds 30 minutes in the morning.   Before bed, set out clothes if you have a child that can’t make a fast decision on what to wear, place your packed and ready to go book bag and shoes near the door.  Add a coat and your are on your way out the door.  Make lunches the night before and have them ready to go in the fridge.  Also take advantage on occasion of the lunch menu the school offers. 

Menu plan breakfasts.  Instead of on the spot decisions for breakfast create a weekly menu.  You and your child will know what is being served each day.  Weekends can be your pick meal times.   Don’t forget to plan what’s for dinner as well. 

Post a list of basic hygiene and chores on the child’s door.  This is items that need to be done either before breakfast or before leaving.  This could include shower, brushing teeth, making bed, even feeding a pet.

If schedules are the stress trigger, purchase a planner, calendar, or use an online service to coordinate EVERYONE’S schedule.  Add everything.  It will look very busy and hectic but it will help in the long run.   Finding the right system will help, too.  I personally prefer a calendar on the refrigerator.  I can look at it whenever I am fixing meals, grabbing a snack or just cleaning finger prints off the door.  This is also an area where everyone can look to see what is happening.  For ideas on different styles and systems check out amazon.com.  I recommend www.busybodybooksorganizers.com

While we are talking about schedules, make sure you are not over-scheduled.  Try to create on evening of no activity.  Schedule it on your calendar just as you would for any other appointment.  This is a great time to do pizza night, movie night or an evening of games.  For some people it could be an entire Sunday.  Find a time that works for your family and the many activities you are juggling.

Back to school can bring about financial stress.  New clothes, school supplies and fees to pay at school are getting more and more expensive.  Try to buy items throughout the year.  Watch for sales on school supplies and clothes and stock up.  As far as fees, estimate what needs to be paid during the back to school rush and divide by 10.  This is the amount you need to put in a saving account for the next 10 months.  For example:  if fees are $200.  then you would need to save $20 a month for ten months.  When you break it down, it does sound so scary.

Back to school can be the most wonderful time with a bit of pre-planning.  So who wants to meet me at Staples where we can dance down the isles while our kids drag their feet in misery.  And if you need help with menu planning, scheduling or any just a support group during back to school do not hesitate to contact me!

Share how you are dealing with the back to school madness.

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A cure or two for a back to school hangover

This was shared with me in an email for BusyBodyBook Organizers. It is too funny, but oh so true! I ordered my organizer for the fridge! I can’t wait to get a handle on the chaotic school schedule that is just around the corner!

Thought you’d appreciate a chuckle, a reminder, or a download to cure your back to school hang-over.

How many:

* trips back to the stores for school supplies? What d’ya forget this time? Protractor?

* school forms (multiple sets?) to fill out?
* PTA groups will you sign up for? Just say,”No thanks. I’m already on the”Ways & Means Committee.” Whatever that is?!

* open school nights will you attend? Send the grandparents?
* lunches to prepare? Feel like a Ford assembly line?
* coaches names to remember? Just call them all Rick.
* times will you eat pizza for dinner?
* reminders to breathe (deeply) do you need?

PHEW!!! That’s just for back to school.

What about:

* dinner??? Don’t forget to defrost.
* dentist appointments?
* ironing (bring back the rumpled look, I say!)
* banking – deposits (HA!)
* remembering your passwords
* walking Max, your new puppy (What the …. were you thinking?)

September should be the one month of the year that:

* we should be overdraft protected
* there should be a bill pay moratorium (don’t ya think?!)
* a 4 day work week (mandatory)
* you can present your PTA Membership Card to receive 50% off at the gas station (free at BP)

* buy one, get one free of your favorite wine
* a weekly head to foot massage  (yeah,right!)
* everyone wins a blog giveaway of an iPad!

Check out BusyBodyBook organizers at http://www.busybodybook.com/

How are you handling Back to School?  Share your strategies.

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Nature’s Chaos Control

Mother Nature is the ultimate chaos controller.  Yes, she can create such chaos with hurricanes, tornados, and blizzards, but Mother Nature has a gentle calm side too.   I love that after a huge rain storm, there is a time of peace and calmness.  During those moments I love to take the time to listen to the birds chirp in the backyard, the kids play on a nearby playground or just the wind blowing a curtain.  By listening to my environment, I can think clearer and concentration on the task at hand.  Many of us love to listen to the TV for noise, or a radio tuned to our favorite stations, but when was the last time you listened to silence?

When I was growing up, my mom would always ask in the car if we could listen to silence.  I would chuckle and think, “Why would anyone want to do that?” It’s boring, too quiet and I might miss my favorite song on the radio. (You see this was before MP3 players, satellite radio, and compact disks.  It was a big thing to hopefully catch your current favorite song on the radio. And to be able to record without the DJ talking during it was a huge bonus. I’m ancient, I know.)  As the saying goes…Mom does know best.  There are times when I long to listen to silence or nature.  To hear the world around me without the distract of radio ads, kids screaming, or the same question that has been answered at least 10 times.

Since returning from my summer vacation, I have made some profound changes in my daily routine.  I seem to have more energy, mental energy to really think, and can stay focused for a longer period of time.  What have I been doing?  Mostly just hanging out with nature.   As I stated before, our family unplugged from technology for a week.  Now back at home, I am constantly asking if we can turn off the TV.  To me now it is just noise that makes my mind feel scrambled.  Don’t get me wrong, I still watch some TV, it is just not on all the time.  The mornings are filled with a cup of coffee on the deck listening to the birds and neighbors work in their yards.  When it gets too hot to leave windows open, I then turn on some music. 

Nature has a way of showing us peace and understanding.   Mark your calendar!  On August 15 (National Relaxation Day) find a peaceful spot and pursure the sounds of silence or nature. 

Silence strengthens our powers of attention…and helps our brains grow.” – George Prochnik, author of In Pursuit of Slience: Listening for a Meaning in a World of Noise

 

Have lunch in a park, take a stroll after dinner or just work in your yard.  Even the roar of a distant lawnmower can be quite soothing.

I challenge you to take some time this week to enjoy Mother Nature’s sounds and share how it helps in controlling the chaos around you!  I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

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Chaos in a box!

I just spent 10 days confined to a 25 foot space with 4 boys and a dog!  That’s right we traveled cross-country pulling our camp trailer and I have lived to tell about it!  I actually have fond memories and am looking forward to doing it again soon.  

Here is a sample of the  wisdom I gleamed from this awesome trip to Yellowstone National Park.  

Start early:  One of the main reasons I am not in the loony bin, is because of pre-planning and really thinking how things should function.   Start very early (I’m talking at least 2-4 weeks) gathering items, making lists and mentally processing anything you need to do.  Note:  I didn’t say to start packing.  If you do that, chances are you will have children without clothes, toys and other necessities.

Pack Light: The first thing to do is take an inventory of what you have.  Ideally, a practice run to nearby weekend getaway is in order.  If this is not an option, then just rely on your memory of what is needed and what could be taken out.  Keep a small notebook to jot down needed items each trip.  This helps keep a written inventory of what is needed next trip out.

“Did you know a gallon of water weighs eight pounds?”  – Tom Leonard

Fuel economy plays a role in that equation. which in turns leads to finances… So on my husband’s advice I tried to keep it to the minimum.  Pack enough clothes for 1/2 the trip if laundry is available.  This saves space and limits the tendency to over pack. 

Next was Menu planning.  My friend, Maureen,  who was traveling with us, and I devised a menu for the trip.   Take into account time for eating out and very busy schedules.  We had something planned for every night which was a lot of supplies.  Oh well, I am happy to report no one starved or went hungry.  And as a bonus, my menu was planned for the first 3-4 days I was home.  Next trip, I would just purchase groceries for 3/4 of the trip and plan on a trip to the grocery store to get the rest once I reach my destination, if needed.  This would help with over packing, space and weight.

Have a system but be flexible:  After you finalized your menu, create a spreadsheet with all the ingredients needed for each meal. The spreadsheet now becomes the shopping list.  Plan on going to the grocery  3 days before leaving.  By doing so, you will  able to marinate, chop and divide all the ingredients before freezing.  This works beautifully, just thaw and you are ready to cook. 

With 3 kids, a system for clothes is essential.  Take a hanging shelves for a closet and mount in your closet.  Each child gets one or two shelves for their items.  A crate for shoes is fantastic.  You can put outside under your trailer, or pull in when it is time to go. No more looking for lost shoes!  An over-the-door hanger will hold multiple towels or coats needing to dry!  Purchase a plate, napkin, utensil holder to help carry items from trailer to table.  Get a pop-up hamper or bag to toss dirty clothes into at the end of day, will keep items off the floor.

Relax and Enjoy:  Once you leave, take a deep breath and starting enjoying your vacation.   Yes, there were moments of chaos, but to maximize our enjoyment of nature, I declared it a technology free zone.  Yes, my kids kicked and screamed but once they were unplugged it was terrific.   We talked, hung out together, and even laughed and were silly.  Isn’t that worth all the work?  Yes, in my book. 

Need help planning a camping trip, vacation or getaway?  Contact me today and I will help you take some chaos out of your trip.  Going to Yellowstone?  I can help you create a fun-filled itinerary. 

 Share what you are doing this summer for vacation, weekend getaways, or people traveling to stay with you….

 

 

Posted in camping, mom, organizing, schedules, vacation | 6 Comments

End of the School Year

End of the school year BBQ’s, field trips, end of sports parties, class parties, award nights…. Eek gads.  Throw in a family with someone graduating and it feels like a merry-go-round spinning out of control. Stop the world I don’t want to participate in the multiple end of the school year activities.

This is certainly a VERY chaotic time.  I would have to say that the end of the school year brings me anxiety just thinking about it. To cope with that end of the year activities my first tip is to breathe.  Take time to enjoy this special time.  Our kids have worked hard and now is the time to showcase their hard work.  You don’t want to be so worked up and stressed that you can’t enjoy the moment.  Remember relax and breathe.

A calendar is a MUST.  You need to get all the fine details out of your brain onto paper.  Not only will this help keep everyone in the family “in the loop” but it will free up mind space  to allow you to concentrate on other details. 

Prioritize…Set limits.  If you have tons of activities, then the housework is going to slip.  As long as you have clean clothes and food to eat you are good.  Plan simple meals during this time.  Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. Spaghetti, or anything in the crock pot are easy to prep and require minimal time in the kitchen. 

Limit your participation.  You don’t need to attend every event tha each child has.  Pick one or two events to attend and then be ready to hear all about the exciting news on those you don’t attend. 

For those of you with someone graduating, Congratulations!  Pre-planning and prep is key.  Make lists of what you want to achieve and create a timeline.  Enlist help with many of the details.  Address announcements as a family activity. Purchase the same gift for each of your graduates.  Delegate food prep and  food service to a friend or relative.  Clean the main areas of your home and don’t worry about spaces people won’t see.  Of course, no one is coming to white glove inspect your house.  These simple steps will free you up to enjoy the day and visit with the many people in attendance to celebrate such a grand time.

The week after school is out, schedule sometime for yourself.  I suggest a massage or a pedicure.  This will be the time to reflect on the fun activities and the many wonderful people in your life.   Before you know it, the kids will be bored….

How are you managing the end of the school year chaos?

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Date Night

Sometimes through the Chaos, we forget to take time to nurture our relationships with our spouse.  This can make your life seems more hectic and out of control.  There always seems to be room in our schedules for hanging out with the girls, taking the kids to another event, but never enough time for just one-on-one time with your spouse.

 At times our lives seem like that of a tranquil island in a sea of chaos. The battle is to keep this sea of chaos at bay and not let it wash us away into utter chaos.” ~Sanjeeva Ananthan

We need to remember that our date nights need to be that tranquil island.  Nurture  it and it will grow.  You will find that your life is less chaotic and stressful. 

I can already hear the excuses.. We don’t have time, no money, no interest, don’t want to plan another thing, or lack ideas.  Let’s focus on each area by itself.

  • TIME:  Of course, you don’t have time.  It hasn’t been on your schedule.  Get creative and carve out time.  This could be the same time every week. (ie every Tuesday, Sunday afternoons, etc.)  Or you can plan accordingly to your schedule.  Weekly date nights would be best, but you can start with monthly and work it into your schedule.  Treat date night just like any other appointment you would schedule.  Get it on your calendar and stick to it.  No rescheduling.  You wouldn’t reschedule a dentist appointment that has been booked for months, because you didn’t feel like going would you?
  • MONEY:  This is probably the number one reason why we don’t do a regular date night.  We flashback to when we were dating and all the expensive dinners,  roses, and trips.  Reality is we now have kids, mortgages, and expenses that prevents us from being all fancy free all the time.  Budget one date a month as a splurge date.  Go to dinner AND a movie.  Other date nights could be a hike, doing a hobby together, hanging out in the backyard, or pretend to be a tourist and explore the sites in your town.  This is just to name a few.
  • INTEREST and PLANNING:  These two go hand in hand.  As the major planner in the house, I am not wanting to plan yet another thing, therefore I lose interest.  This subject takes some negotiation and finesse.  Rotate who plans what.  Maybe one week, you are responsible for the babysitter and your spouse plans what you are going to do.  Or you can have a do it all system.  Take turns planning the entire night. (Babysitter, activities, meal, etc…).  Once a month, plan together.  Sit down, text or email what you would like to do.  This gives you such a synergy and excitement to actually be planning something fun together. 
  • LACK OF IDEAS:  Pretend you are a tourist.  Pick up brochures, as you go about your day, look for fun ideas to do that won’t break the bank.  Search the web for ideas or even volunteer.  What could be more reward than helping a good cause and spending time with the one you love.

Now that we are armed with lots information to nurture our precious relationship, I challenge you to act!  And make sure you share your date night ideas and successes.   We are on your way to the tranquil island!

Posted in Marriage, schedules | 1 Comment

It started with Words of Wisdom

Yesterday, I posted my weekly words of wisdom on my Chaos Control Facebook page. 

Drop out of one committee or evening meeting and dedicate that time to family activities.

Sounds easy doesn’t it?   Not if you are doing committees for multiple children, church and other organizations you are involved with.  I must admit over the years, I have learn how to say NO and not feel guilty about it.   It did take time and wasn’t easy.  If you find yourself in the “Always say YES” boat, be patient there is hope and a solution. 

Introducing a 5 step program for overextended, exhausted moms (dads too) who are trying to be an awesome parent.

Step 1:  Write down all your commitments and frequency of each commitment.  That is every meeting, coffee with girls, work, children’s school activities, church, sports, etc…

Step 2:  Either alone or with your spouse, or even better yet, your entire family, sit down to dinner and discuss your commitment list.    On a side note, this happened to me about 5 years ago when I was super busy with another business I was running.  It was encouraging to hear what my kids wanted versus what I thought we needed.  That was the start of my being able to say NO without guilty. 

  • If you aren’t passionate…drop it!   If you dread attending the meeting then it isn’t for you anymore. 
  • Can you delegate meeting to someone else in your family?  I am passionate about the Boy Scouts, but that is a meeting my husband takes care of.  I will show up to events for Boy Scouts if they fit into my schedule. 
  • Do it as a family.  Many church activities or sporting activities, the entire family can get involved.  And who wouldn’t want more volunteers?
  • Can you help without attending a meeting?  Bake sales, charity yard sales, and other charity events are excellent example on how you can contribute without taking precious time away from family.  Volunteer to send cookies, donate items to a yard sale, or correspond by email.
  • In regards to school activities, pick the few activities you really enjoy and volunteer for that.  I am not a fan of helping in the classroom but I am the first one with my hand up for a bake sale or sending a meal for teachers during conferences.  Again, something I can do to contribute but not take me away from home.  This counts for attending the never-ending  list of school activities as well.

Step 3:  Make a plan to scale back.  I am not stating you cut all meetings.  Just see what you feel comfortable dropping.  Maybe you can’t quit immediately but you will have a plan for next week, next month, or next year. 

Step 4:  Take action!  Make a decision and stick with it.  Do NOT let guilt and self-talk make you think otherwise.  Our kids will thank you as well.  Okay maybe not in the actual form of a THANK YOU, but you will notice it in the overall feel of your home.

Step 5:  Start enjoying family activities.  Nothing grand just the family together laughing and sharing their days.  You can always declare one night of the week as family night.  No outside plans EVER.  Growing up, my friend could never do anything on Thursday nights.  It was family night.  At the time I thought that was weird but now that I am a mom, I totally get it.    It could be pizza/movie night, game night or just a night where everyone is at the same address!

Kids spell love T-I-M-E.  ~John Crudele

If you need one-on-one counseling for the 5 step Chaos Control program, give me a call and we can meet. (or email and text) to help you see which commitments you can change your role in.

  Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms.  My wish is a relaxing stress free day.  If that isn’t possible, hopefully you will get some flowers and chocolate!

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You are in control

Please take the poll and let me know what class subjects you are interested in learning about.

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Waiting to be Perfect!

Do you think that you can’t start on your clutter and chaos when you have hours to dedicate to the project?  Does this make you feel so overwhelmed that you just put it off  indefinitely?  I can certainly relate! 

The perception to most is that we need  to get our entire life in order or give a project our full attention to make a difference.  I believe that is true but I also encourage you to break your project into bite size pieces. 

Set a time for 15 minutes. Commit to working on ONE area for the entire time.  It could be your pantry, scrapbook room or kitchen.  Once the timer goes off, step back and appreciate the progress you made.  If you want to continue, go right ahead.  If you are out of time, smile and move on to the next task on your to-do list. 

Another step can be to pick one project a day or week.  Focus your attention on that area ONLY.  You can use 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there to work on your project.  At the end of the week, step back and take notice of the positive progress you have made.

Although we strive for perfection when decluttering and controlling our chaos, it is a unobtainable feat.  We should strive for positive progress and appreciate all the steps we taken to make our life tranquil and chaos free. 

If you are looking for your first step in starting to a chaos free life, we need to talk.  Ask about the Mother’s Day special!  I’m off to set the timer for 10 minutes and organize my linens… Wish me luck and share what you are doing to be chaos free.

Posted in clutter, mind clutter, organizing, systems | Leave a comment

Let’s Talk Dirty!

Do you find yourself avoiding the laundry? With piles in every room, laundry seems like a never ending, unappreciated task. Doesn’t it feel like you just get it under control to find another load screaming for your attention? Now you could just summons your family to wear the same clothes for the entire week, but I am sure your friends and coworkers would not appreciate it. Or stimulate the economy with a daily trip to Wal-mart and purchase new clothes. (That’s what we did in college, right?)

Here is my solution to make your time in the laundry room more efficient and less chaotic:

1. Purchase laundry baskets for all members of the family. I also have one for the bathroom. When my kids were little, I would use one of those dish tubs for them. Each person is responsible for their own laundry. That’s right. All members of my family are responsible for getting the basket to the laundry room and picking it up when it is full.

2. Fold clothes straight out of the dryer. I know that people tend to let laundry pile up and think they will power fold in front of the TV. I have never seen this successful work for those around me. It takes just a few minutes to fold out of the dryer and you just place it in the appropriate basket. This method will almost eliminate the need to iron too. Just hang up your clothes while they are still warm.

3. Do the clothes you hate to fold first. I hate socks! I wish they would magically reunite while in the dryer. I tend to wash whites first, so the rest of the loads are a breeze. Towels are my favorite, so of course, it is the last load. It is just an accomplishment to end my day folding something I like to fold.

4. Do one load a day. This will eliminate the daylong laundry marathon. Nobody likes spending the day waiting for the buzzer to ring to get one step closer to being done with laundry.

5. Have an organized laundry area. Whether it is a room, a closet, or a corner in the basement, having a system with all your detergents, stain removal, and dryer sheets close by will help. I also have a 3 basket laundry sorter to help.  When the kids bring their baskets down, they sort their clothes.  Plus it cuts down on the huge pile in the middle of the floor. 

And to brighten up the job, put a picture of your favorite vacation spot, family photo, or other decorations to help take your mind off the task at hand.

If you need more help getting your laundry under control, give me a call. Of course, you can always drop by and organize my socks for me…

Posted in laundry, organizing | 2 Comments