Keep “Picnic” in Your Picnic!

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“Picnic,” as defined by dictionary.com is, an excursion or outing in which the participants carry food with them and share a meal in the open air.

But also remember the informal definition, “an enjoyable experience or time, easy task!”

This Fourth of July holiday, keep the process of toting that outdoor meal enjoyable and Fourth of July tinyeasy – make sure your picnic is a “picnic!”

If you google, “Picnic Essentials,” the first pass offers items to purchase for an Instagram-worthy picnic. Vogue, Lauren Conrad, and La Crema all weigh in with products and, I have to admit, the bamboo wine table for the sand is actually super-cute! There is an endless parade of “must-have” picnic gadgets and linens of red, white, and blue. Pinterest is practically exploding with festive inspiration!

The patriotic product possibilities and recipes are endless! For easy outdoor fun this summer you are going to want to narrow down your options. But how?

My advice here is simple. For every decision you make while preparing for your Fourth of July Picnic, you will ultimately be better organized if you remember these three things from the definition of the word, “picnic”:
1. Carry food
2. Share a meal
3. Open air

As you set about shopping and preparing for your picnic this holiday weekend, keep reminding yourself – your delicious fare is to be carried, shared, and eaten outside – with ease.

1. CARRYING THE FOOD – Most importantly, you will need something to carry the food. How far will you be carrying it? You have my permission to dispense with the traditional wicker basket in favor of a cooler on wheels, or a wagon and backpacks, especially if you will be toting heavier drinks, bags of ice, lawn chairs, and blankets. Use Instagram-worthy “picnic essentials” to tote smaller fare. As you decide on your menu keep thinking, “How are we going to carry it?”

How you carry your food also involves whether dishes need to be kept at a certain temperature to be eaten safely. Select a sweet, savory, crunchy, variety of foods, but simplify by choosing less delicate options. It is much easier to pack and carry picnic food if you aren’t fretting about it getting crushed or cooling off too fast. (Frozen water bottles keep food cold, but condensate as then melt, so be sure to wrap them! Prevent 7 Food Picnic Safety Mistakes)

On the back end, remember you may also be carrying leftovers back out. Anticipate the end of the night. What will you wish you had to help protect the insides of your bags for sloppy leftovers? A few garbage bags? Will you be packing up in the dark? Yes, you can use fireworks-804838_1280the flashlight on your phone, but it might also be better to keep that safely in your pocket and have a sturdy flashlight on hand as you wrap things up.

SHARING A MEAL – A picnic is about eating and drinking together, so whatever food and drink you are toting, keep in mind that it should be in shareable form. As you consider what to serve, anticipate how it will come OUT of the containers for more than one person! Make sure you pack enough serving spoons, forks, tongs, cups, etc. because you won’t be able to reach in a drawer or cabinet and grab them!

If possible, pack the food in the order it will be eaten, so you don’t have to take everything out at once. Keep the lighter pre-meal snacks on top and sturdy, simple desserts on the bottom. Think about where you will “stage” the food. Will picnic goers be filling their own plates? Do you have options for those with food allergies?

Also consider how much mess and sticky can you tolerate. For example, if you are doing watermelon, you may be better off cutting it up ahead of time and packing it into a container to avoid dealing with all the drippy rinds. However, this could lead to having to deal with drippy containers, so consider placing the cut watermelon container inside an extra plastic bag to catch spillage. Perhaps you will decide to forgo watermelon altogether and share grapes instead!

ENJOY THE OPEN AIR – Consider food that is comfortable to eat outside. From your lap! Skip the recipes that call for raspberries, spaghetti-type cold pastas, and runny sauces – stick with sturdier options.

What impact will the weather have on what you are carrying and sharing? Have a plan for keeping food cool and dry. Grab enough blankets to sit on and consider waterproof options. (Perhaps lay blankets on top of a tarp?)

Don’t forget the bugs! Because you will be carrying and sharing food outside, the bugs will be along for the ride. Have lids or wrap to cover food to keep those curious flies and bees away.

Also important about eating in the open air is COMFORT! Pack hats and umbrellas to keep off the sun while you eat and extra sweatshirts, blankets in case the evening air gets chilly. Pack mosquito repellent, moist towels for clean-ups, and even a small “first aid” kit.

I hope organizing your picnic is a real “walk in the park!” Please share your own tried and Hey+there+boo+boo+we+gota+steal+dat+picnic+basket+_f915f227aa49ce20918b687a7f67da32true “pic-a-nic” tips and recipes in the comments! Yogi Bear and Boo Boo will appreciate it🙂

National Moving (de-clutter) Day!

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The day after Memorial Day is the busiest day of the year for moving. Known as National Moving Day, it also jumpstarts the summer moving season.  ~ SpareFoot.com

Every once in a while, I am hired by a client who is already highly organized.  It is often due to a life transition that has pushed the client beyond his/her comfort zone.

Moving is one of those times!

Even with checklists, supplies, and ample time, starting off in a new home without getting bogged down in a myriad of stuff is super challenging.  The logical thing to do is go through every single closet, drawer, and nook and cranny in the home before packing it all up.  But who has time for that?

  1. Make time to go through your stuff!

Seriously.  The less you have to pack, the less you pay to move it.  The less you pack, the less there is to un-pack.  The less…well, you get the idea.  Moving is the perfect time to de-clutter.  And less is best.

It can be difficult for a highly organized person to live in the unsettled environment of a home in transition.  The key is to recognize that it is temporary.  Keep in mind that the goal of the mess on the front end is to be able to settle into the new home more efficiently on the back end.

  1. Start as soon as you can!

Start well in advance and start easy. Go through the closets, drawers, and nooks and crannies.  Look only for obvious “do not want to take to new home” items.  Keep at it as often as your can until you have been through every space.  Donate, discard, recycle and (if you have time) sell.

On the second pass through, it is time to start boxing up.  If it is summer, pack up the winter clothes.  Keep in mind what you will not need for the next few months.  Label it clearly.  As you go, really consider what is going in the boxes.  Does it deserve the time and energy spent to box it up, move it, and find space for it in the new home?

  1. Moving is the perfect time to de-clutter, so you may as well go for it!

Stop thinking of the home as a home.  It is now a staging area for the movers.  If you do not start disrupting the settled environment, you will be in for a rude awakening on the last day!

If you can, start emptying out entire closets, and then entire rooms!  Notice how often you have been saying, “I’ll do this one the last week.”  That is how items get lost in a move.  Waiting until the last minute to comb through too many things results in items getting shoved into boxes without proper labels.  Emptying out a refrigerator takes longer than you think!

  1. Consider Storage

Inventory your furniture.  As you do, move it out from the wall.  Look at it from another angle.   Do you really want it in the new home?  How many lamps will you need? Not sure?

One option is storage.  The following is from SpareFoot.com, “Each year, about 50 percent of SpareFoot customers book storage because of a move. It’s the number one reason people look for storage.”

What you may not know, is that storage has become an on-demand, service oriented industry.  If you are making good headway and do not have a need for an entire storage pod, or storage locker, on-demand storage may be an easy for those “in transition, tough decision items.”Spare Foot pic

Box or bin up those tricky items, or undecided furniture, schedule a pick-up, and get them out of the way!  When you are settled into your new home, schedule a time for the items to be returned.  You will have better perspective when things are settled and decisions should come easier.  Who knows?  You may even decide that storing your collection of holiday decorations off-site is a better solution!

  1. Hire one of NAPO’s Professional Organizers!

If you are feeling overwhelmed, hire a Professional Organizer!  Even if you are highly organized, a move can be overwhelming – even with checklists.  A Professional Organizer can fill just about any role:

Packing boxes

Assisting with decluttering decisionsbox

Taking inventory

Sharing tips and tricks

Removing donations

Keeping checklists on schedule

Being on-site the day of the move

And, of course, unpacking and breaking down boxes in the new home…

 

Now – get moving!

 

How to Whittle a Wardrobe Rotation

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Declare-Order-Logo-Concept-500px miniI get a lot of questions about how I maintain my whittled wardrobe rotation.  Here is a three-step synopsis!

Whittle: to reduce the amount of, as if by whittling; pare down; take away by degrees (Dictionary.com)

When I first started keeping fewer clothes in rotation, the process of whittling down involved PILES and PILES of clothes – so fret not.  You’ll get more efficient at it too!

Because I have been whittling for five years now, I realized I can fit all my options in ONE PHOTOGRAPH!  In fact, most everything will make the cut, because I own so few clothes these days, but I still take the time to think it through.

It is a little weird for me to place everything on the floor and not the bed, but I wanted to capture it all together.  Disclaimer: Some items were pulled from the laundry basket, so they look a little worse for wear!

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What you are seeing are the tops, bottoms, and dresses that I will be choosing from to wear for the next month.  I prefer to start with an empty closet space and hang only the clothes that I will be wearing in the closet.  Everything else I own fits into a six drawer dresser and one under bed storage bin!

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Ready and waiting!

Here is my three-step Whittling thought process:

  1. What will I be doing professionally in the month ahead?   

This month, I have a NAPO-Chicago chapter meeting, my current Declare Order clients, my current position with local elementary school kids, and the National Association of Professional Organizers Conference!  I want to keep this in mind so that have appropriate options for everything.

  1. What color story is emerging?

Based upon what colors I am seeing in magazines, on colleagues, etc. I have an idea of what I might want to be wearing, but it also depends upon what is revealed as I look at the options.  I am pretty sure that I will be using teal and tomato, but navy and white is appealing as well.

Sure enough, the tops divide pretty evenly into these two camps. I see “navy and white” and “teal, tomato, and olive.” So…

 

  1. How can I layer and combine what I have chosen?

Now the trying on begins.  Because of the crazy Chicago weather, as well as air conditioning vs. being outside, I have to consider layering.  I try various combinations to arrive at a decision.  I am going to eliminate any light blue, but keep teal.  I will keep one

clothes whittled.jpg

Process of elimination…

of the two trapeze neckline tops (the black because I have a Black and White party to attend).  I will keep the lighter weight of the two navy and white striped options because I can layer and still get the desired effect.  And I am not generally a “print” person, so I will remove two “print” tops.  My goal is to wear everything by the end of the week and have minimal laundry as a result.

In the end, my whittled rotation that has earned closet space for this month or so contains:

1 navy and white print dress

1 navy blazer

2 cardigans (navy and tomato)

2 long sleeve tops (teal and beige print) that have a ¾ sleeve roll-up option

4 short sleeve tops (2 black (not pictured), 1 navy and 1 navy print)

4 no sleeve/strappy tops (olive, navy and white stripe, black, beige and tomato floral print)

6 bottoms (3 navy, 1 dark navy and 1 beige)

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20 basic items TOTAL

The overall color story for the month worn on real people (courtesy of Ann Taylor Loft, Limited Express, and the Gap) is something like this.

unnamedtomato

Black Lightweight Wool Two-Button Blazer - Black

Black Lightweight Wool Two-Button Blazer – Black

 

This rotation does not include the two sweaters I decide to keep handy for when I am cold (always) around the house.  Nor does it include pajamas or clothes to wear when doing yard work or walk/hiking.  It also does not include the two long sleeve cotton tops and two tank tops that I might need for layering.  Those live in the drawer.

Think you can do it?  You may have to start by just doing one type of top at a time if you have waaaaay more clothes than I do.  But just becoming conscious and considering the idea of keeping few clothes in rotation can change habits for the better in the long run!

Please comment below with questions and will be happy to help you!

 

Solving the Unwanted Gift Dilemma – With Love

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Several years ago, my family solved the problem of unwanted gifts…Declare-Order-Logo-Concept-500px mini

As is customary, we would gather at my sister’s house on Christmas Day to eat, enjoy each other’s company, and exchange presents. With the addition of new babies, the list of who to buy for was long and ever-expanding.  We amended the gift policy, deciding to draw names and buy for one adult, but still purchase for all the kids.

A few Christmases ago we further amended that policy and as a result, have solved the “feeling good while getting rid of unwanted gifts” dilemma.

Our gift exchange for the adults is now a festive pile of creatively wrapped “White Elephant” gifts!  We actually put as much effort into selecting which items make the cut as we would shopping for new stuff.  And it is an eclectic little pile.

For example, my husband is an Assistant Principal at a middle school.  At this time of year, he receives a lot of random small gifts. This year, amidst the little boxes of Turtles and Starbucks Gift Cards, he received a Karate Post-it Note dispenser.  We wrapped it with care (with  previously used holiday paper and saved up ribbons of course) and added it to our laundry basket of gifts to tote to my sister’s home Christmas Day.  When my brother-in-law picked that gift to open, my nephew went crazy for it!

My elderly mother wrapped a patterned black and beige cotton scarf someone had given her that she found never matched her wardrobe.  My daughter traded for it, put it on, and declared it perfect. It was!

My son, a budding fisherman, also traded over for a gift.  My mother had opened a cheap little pocket knife that my sister confessed to adding to the mix because she thought my son would want it.  She was right.

As these unwanted gifts and household items are opened, exclaimed over, and traded around, merry laughter fills the air.

In addition to recycled gifts, we have also been adding gently used clothing to our gift exchanges.  This year, I brought a tastefully wrapped red cardigan from Eddie Bauer that felt outdated on me.  I presented it to my mom who became quite excited, saying she really needed a cardigan like that.  I also brought a sparkly black Ann Taylor shell top that just does not fit me properly.  It think my sister grabbed that one.

The idea is that the items have new life.  If even just for Christmas day.  Yes, that re-gifted book might go unread, but it can be passed along in the next AMVETS donation box, or added to a Little Free Library.  It seems the guilt is reduced, because the original recipient is not the one doing the actual donating.

In addition, we are modeling for the next generation that there is already enough to go around.  You just have to look for it.  And present it with love.

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A white elephant, “White Elephant” gift!

 

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Raising Responsible Kids: Tips for Helping Your Kids Manage Homework and Housework

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The holiday season also marks an approach to the half-way point of the logodokidsschool year.   Use this winter break as an opportunity to look at what habits your kids have formed – good and bad!  Need to tweak a few things?  Please refer to this post I contributed to the Organizing Tutor at the beginning of the school year for some helpful advice.  Happy Holidays!

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Parents!  Raise your hand if you have been feeling guilty about barking, “Clean your room!” at your children now that the school year is in full swing.       continue reading

 

The Three Best Ways to Equip Your Kid for College – That Will Not Cost You A Thing

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resilienceYes, I am a Professional Organizer. No, this is not a list of what to purchase to organize a dorm room! The best ways to prepare your kid for college are not about “just right” closet containers.

Equipping your kid for college USED to be all about purchasing supplies. It was a rite of passage requiring special trips and careful planning. These days, everything your college student needs is probably already in your house! Or a quick Target run away – even after 8pm on a Sunday night.

For those things, load up your student’s debit card and tell them to have at it! They know their way around the store. They have been shopping with you for years.

No, the best way to prepare your student for college is by CHANGING YOUR OWN HABITS. And it starts with the phone…

1. Cut the “Text Me” Umbilical Cord

What are your Cell Phone habits with your student? At your home, would I hear the following phrases?

a. “Text Me when you get there.”

b. “Text Me when you need a ride.”

c. “Text Me if you forgot anything.”

Breaking the “Text Me” habit starts now, before your student is away at school. My own kids know I trust them to leave me. And they know I am not waiting around to hear from them. If plans change and they need a ride at a different time, or the pick-up location has changed, all I ask is they let me know about fifteen minutes before our agreed upon time. (Any sooner than that and the plans may change again.)

Try instead:

a. “Drive safely!“

b.  “About what time should I be available to pick you up?”

c. “Have a great day!”

When you hear yourself about to say, “Text Me,” consider how you can empower your student to manage the situation a different way. If you don’t, you and your cell phone will still be your student’s first line of defense for solving problems away at school. Getting used to you not being connected to EVERYTHING gives your student the confidence to plan and prepare – important organizing skills for navigating a college campus!

2.  Slow Your Response Time

We live in unprecedented times. Our kids have come of age as the “Immediate Gratification Generation.” Rapid access to money, fun foods, ceaseless on-line entertainment, healthcare, and photos of their friends is expected.

So…what happens when something unexpected happens? Kids expect it to be taken care of. Right. Away.

The Immediate Gratification Generationers actually need their parents to teach them to get comfortable with “discomfort.” And it takes effort. For both sides.

Here are three examples of ways break the NOW cycle:

a.  I need money! Instead of adding money to a bank account with a click, what if you worked out a budget? Help your student fill out a spreadsheet using previous debit card data and teach them to track their expenses. Agree upon an amount you will provide and stick to it. Even if it means passing up that t-shirt, shoe sale, or app download.

b. There is nothing to eat! If your kids are in the habit of ignoring the half-empty bags, change how you store them. Cut off the excess bag and clip it. Shake partially filled boxes into a Tupperware container. Don’t offer to run to the store just because there is “nothing to eat.” There is, they just might have to work at it.

c. I have a headache. Headache? Sniffles? Let it ride. Whatever happened to the common cold? We call it a sinus infection. Teach your student that a few aches and pains are okay and do not require a trip to urgent care. Grab a Kleenex and take a nap. Mild symptoms may persist for a few days, but they are supposed to.

Slowing your response time will give your student time to work through and solve problems for themselves. Yes, you know what they need. No, you do not always have to do something about it. In the long run, self-control and patience are more important life skills than dashing about for a quick fix. Be supportive (of course!), but do not plan to be their virtual personal assistant while they are at school.

3. Let Them Struggle

Uh, oh. Your kid did not text you for help, ran into a problem, and made it worse. Good news! It is okay for your kid to struggle.

The word, “resilience,” is making the rounds, because the IGGers have demonstrated they do not feel they can handle problems on their own. The real challenge is, can YOU handle not stepping in? No one wants to see his/her child uncomfortable, but it is important to separate from their problems, or your kid will always expect you to step in with immediate solutions.

You are inadvertently teaching your student he/she cannot manage without you.

Unless your kid’s safety is at stake, ask yourself, “Will my involvement encourage his/her dependence on me?”

When you take that first step backwards, you may notice your student procrastinate the task at hand. And that will be difficult to manage. But, remember, it is his/her way of forcing you to step in.

Kids are good at the game. Allow them to play a wrong card every now and again and you will be teaching them to play LIFE. Help them enjoy the ride!

mistakes-make-some-more

 

Coming Out of the Closet – Top 10 Reasons I Love My Capsule Wardrobe

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Coming Out of the Closet – Top 10 Reasons I Love my Capsule Wardrobe

IMG_5549Everyone is talking about capsule wardrobes! Included in the conversation are, “personal uniforms.” It simply means more people are wearing the same clothes all the time. On purpose!

I wear the same clothes all the time.

In fact, I have been living with very few clothes for several years. I kind of felt like I was cheating – especially when people didn’t seem to notice! For me, deciding to have fewer clothes in rotation was a combination of efficiency, frugality, and being picky about what feels comfortable. Having a set number of clothes was working for me, but I wasn’t sure other people would understand.

Now that the idea has hit mainstream, I no longer have to hide my habit in my mostly empty closet!

Thinking about giving it a try? Can’t even begin to imagine? Check out my top ten reasons and let me know what you think!

The “Top 10 Reasons I Love My Capsule Wardrobe!”

  1. EASY DAILY DECISIONS: I wear what is clean. No time is wasted deciding “what to wear.” The clothes mix and match, I am comfortable in them, and they fit. If I discover I don’t wear something, it doesn’t stay in rotation for long!  My daily decisions come down to  which accessories to use.
  2. CLUTTER-FREE CLOSET: Living without boundaries for stuff creates clutter. Putting a boundary on clothes reduces closet clutter and makes my wardrobe easier to manage. I keep a certain number of white hangers for tops and black hangers for bottoms. If I find I am in need of an extra hanger, I probably have too many items in rotation!
  3. PILE-FREE LAUNDRY: I run out of clean items about once a week. Most everything gets tossed together into a Cold/Cold wash cycle and air dried. Some items air dry right on their hangers. If I wear something for a few hours, I hang it back up inside out to wear again later in the week. No more piles of cast-offs withering on the floor too wrinkled and dusty to be worn!hanger
  4. EVERYTHING FITS: I gained a few pounds over the winter and changed the clothes in my wardrobe rotation accordingly. Experience told me it was a temporary gain, so I pulled my elastic waistband pants into heavy rotation. Now the winter weight has been shed (Whoot!) and my favorite jeans and summer capris are out of the drawer and back in the mix!
  5. CALORIE-FREE CHEATING: When I get tired of the clothes in my rotation, I “cheat” and borrow something – from myself or my teenage daughter. I pulled on a “trendy” cardigan of hers a few mornings this winter rather than purchase something new. Cheating helps to get over the blah days, or times when I need a change and accessories just aren’t cutting it.
  6. I LEARNED I DON’T LIKE TO WEAR RED: I like black. Or navy blue. Most everything in my rotation is black or navy blue. Whenever I have red in rotation, it tends to hang there all week. Over time, I just stopped including it. Even the smart red cardigan I grabbed for free at my SWAP party is back in the drawer and is probably headed to the donation pile. Who knew?
  7. BUYING SOMETHING NEW IS A “BIG DEAL”: I don’t shop for clothes very often and when I do it is with a purpose. Not just “anything” gets into my rotation. For Valentine’s Day, my husband bought what has become my new favorite thing. It is a BB Dakota Oliana French Terry Jacket that has taken me from February to June! I have worn it casually, or more dressed up with slacks and a scarf. My husband is pleased he found such a versatile addition! (Little shout-out to Jill over at Jeans and a Cute Top Shop for hooking him up!)
  8. OLD FAVORITES: Speaking of favorites, I have a pair of black elastic waistband slacks that my sister “donated” to me over ten years ago. I air dry them every time I wash them. These trusty slacks have been in active heavy rotation about four years now because they work with everything! I stitched together a few seams and recently purchased a possible replacement. They deserve to be retired!hanger
  9. THE JOY OF ROTATING: Ahh, rotation day! Rotation days happen about once every two months. I sort through clothes that are not in rotation and make the appropriate seasonal changes. I usually start with too many pieces and spend an hour or so deciding what I will wear for the next two months. I used to select a “color story” so it took longer, but I have become pretty attached to black, navy blue, and grey and my clothing inventory is at an all-time low.
  10. ONE LESS THING: Over time, I have developed more of a “personal uniform” and have purchased two of the same item (sometimes in a different color) when necessary. Not having to spend time on my wardrobe every day, frees up my time and keeps me on schedule. It is one less thing.

Clothes are actually really simple. We are the ones who make them complicated. Time to declare a little more LOVE in your basic wardrobe! Try it with your kids too!

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