Keep “Picnic” in Your Picnic!

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“Picnic,” as defined by 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 🙂


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.

white elephant

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!


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


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!



Simplify – I Dare You

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Simplify – I dare you!

In theory, simplifying sounds easy. Get rid of the stuff you don’t need. Reduce your number of activities. Create a weekly menu plan. Take technology breaks. Budget. Get rid of MORE stuff you don’t need…

In his book, Simplify, author Josh Becker states: “Since becoming minimalist, we have saved money, reduced clutter, and removed distractions. Our home is cleaner. And three-day weekends are spent together as a family, not cleaning the garage.”

Sounds idyllic, right?

But it is HARD.


We live in boundless times. The internet connects us to more information than we can possible use. With access, we can read, learn, shop, share, hire someone, meet someone, browse, work, stress over, and entertain ourselves at any hour of the day or night. We love this access. But, boy, do we have a difficult time managing it!

Errands are boundless too. We run in and out of here, and then in and out of there, swiping cards in a succession of mini-tasks. We eat meals in the car. A store “at the corner of happy and healthy” even welcomes us at 2am!

How, then, is it possible to put a limit on the boundless? The quantity of stuff in our lives, the number of activities we shuttle from and to, the amount and type of “food” we consume, the technology that connects us, the amount of time we work, and the more and more stuff we move from here to there and there to here is HARD to simplify.

So, how do we do it?

By being BRAVE.

By being brave enough to do without orange juice until a planned shopping trip. Even though it is easy to just “run out and grab some.”

By being brave enough to wear the same winter coat for a third year in a row. Even though having “the latest” style is super-tempting.

By being brave enough to admit that you will never actually scrapbook the early accomplishments of your three beautiful children and collect and preserve everything in a box – like your parents did for you.

By being brave enough to establish boundaries with your kids rather than defaulting to, “Text me…”

By being brave enough to say, “No.” to activities for your kids that require late practices.

By being brave enough to turn off e-mail and Facebook notifications.

By being brave enough to have people over.

By being brave enough to resist a sale. Or a discount. Or Kohl’s cash.

By being brave enough to let your kids stay home and complain about being bored – without “finding them something to do.”

By being brave enough to admire the display on the “endcap” without some of it ending up in your shopping cart.

By being brave enough to subscribe to fewer magazines.

By being brave enough to hang and use only a few of your favorite clothes at a time.

By being brave enough to purchase fewer clothes for your kids.

By being brave enough to ask for help.

By being brave enough to accept help.

By being brave enough to reduce, and reduce, and reduce, until you can take care of what you already have.

By being brave enough to let simple,

be enough.

Do Your Kids Hate to “Clean Their Rooms?” Try This Fun Tip!

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A young acquaintance of mine (age 10) is passionate about writing.  She is also loves to read – and organize!  When I asked her to share advice for other kids about organizing, her answer surprised me.  It turns out that tracking her progress helps her to stay motivated.

Her full response (written in her own words) is below.  There are so many articles about outdoor Fall Clean-up, she has cleverly titled hers, “(Inside) Fall Clean-up!”

logodokids(Inside) Fall Clean-up

This is about progress. What always helps me clean a messy room, is, I clean certain spots at a time. When I want to start a spot, I take a “Before” picture of the mess. And then, of course, I clean the spot. Once I am finished with that spot, I move on to another area, and take a picture of that mess. Once I am finished doing that with every spot, I take an “After” picture of each area. Then, I compare all of the pictures, and see how much I cleaned up.  

There you have it!  Great tips from the trenches – written by a kid!

1.  Taking photos of the different sections breaks the task into manageable chunks.

2. ‘Before” pictures always look terrible, so your kids can have a little LOL before they begin.

3.  Staging “After” pictures actually requires a little extra fine tuning, so the room will be even cleaner!

Please let us know what other organizing challenges your kids are having and we will collaborate on more advice.

Now, go clean YOUR room 😉

Whose Day is It?

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Did anyone feed the dog?”
“The table should be set for dinner.”
“Who has time to hang the cloth napkins to dry?”

Managing the day-to-day household responsibilities can be a chore.   How to divvy it all up?

When I was a classroom teacher, we assigned jobs by the day: Line Leader, Paper Passer, Attendance… Whenever a need arose, the designated kiddo popped up to help.

Though older kids are less likely to “pop up!” at home, assigning responsibilities by the day has proven effective in our family.  My son has Monday and Tuesday.  My daughter is responsible Wednesday and Thursday.  Hubby and I take Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (because we eat out on Friday and Saturday – lol!).

The dog is scratching her bowl.  Whose day is it?
Time for dinner, but the table hasn’t been set.  Whose day is it? 
A load of cloth napkins is ready to be hung to dry.  Whose day is it? 

This system is also helpful because it teaches a variety of skills.  When the designated family member is unavailable, I might get a volunteer chirping, “It’s not my day, but…I’ll feed the dog.”

Don’t call them chores.  Call them, “responsibilities.”  🙂set table


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