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.


Five “Real Simple” Organizing Ideas for the Not-So Simple Holiday Season

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giftsI turned the page in this month’s Real Simple magazine and read this:

“100 Inspiring Surprising Time-Saving Jolly-Good Ideas to Make Those Holidays the Happiest Ones Yet.”

Yes, this is the actual title of the article – “100 Inspiring Surprising Time-Saving Jolly-Good Ideas to Make Those Holidays the Happiest Ones Yet.” Kind of sums up the frantic nature of the holidays doesn’t it? Not really that simple!

Spurred on by the promise of time-saving ideas, I plowed through the list. It took two days, but I managed to read and consider all one hundred.   For the most part, it was as promised – a festival of merry options. Contributors offered mini-blurbs about their own holiday traditions, recipes, and offered mugs of good cheer.

Within the trappings of the 100 blurbs, I discovered a few organizing gems. I have shared five below to help make the holidays a little simpler, while maintaining the jolly. Perhaps you do one of them already? Or perhaps you will become inspired; not only during the holidays season, but into the New Year and beyond!

  1. Group decorative objects on trays to help holiday accents look deliberate and put-together

We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our home, so I have always displayed our modest Hanukkah décor in a grouping. I would agree that it looks more put-together, is easier to clean around, and I can make an impact with fewer pieces. I tend to display the Christmas items in cheerful groupings too – all the Santas together, or snowmen, or certain shades of red.

On a practical note, I am a fan of using trays for a put-together look organizing everyday objects. Try one for those random items on top of a dresser, kitchen counter, or desk in the home office!

  1. Number holiday storage boxes in the order you need to bring them out

I don’t really need to do this in our home because there are so few containers (yep – real simple!), but outdoor lights would be my #1. I start decorating after Thanksgiving – as soon as there is an unseasonably warm day. The Christmas tree is small and less of a focal point in our home, so ornament containers would be last.

This year, I will make sure the lights are the last back on the shelves so they can be first out next year! Next November I will be patting myself on the back. If you do not already have your holiday collection contained and labeled, make this the year you do it before you put it all away for the season.

  1. Have a re-gifting party

My side of the family has a re-gifting “White Elephant” tradition on Christmas Day. We gather, open re-gifted gifts, trade ruthlessly, and have a few laughs along the way. Recycled wrapping paper is encouraged and wrapping gifts from largest to smallest works great because scraps from large gifts can be used to wrap the small ones. Last year, I received a wonderful book, “The Language of Flowers” and never-worn (I hope!) holiday socks!

Host a “Swap Party” any time of year and ask guest to bring excess home décor, DVD’s, sweaters, and/or accessories. Thrifty and entertaining!

  1. Ship presents on ahead unwrapped, then wrap when you arrive

Clever tip! No need to lug wrapped gifts while travelling. Something always rips, doesn’t it? I use several laundry baskets to organize gifts when travelling in the van, but it would be easier to wrap once we arrive. Or at least wait to put the finishing touches on. Definitely inspired to pack the wrapping and trims separately and try this one!

  1. Kids too young to read? Put their photos on their gifts to make them easier to find

Aww…we have done this. Highly recommend for those special kiddos on your list! Heck, why not do it anyway for anyone using goofy old photos from the piles you have in that back cabinet. Maybe it will inspire you to sort, organize, and contain your old photos!


Serve caramelized bacon as an appetizer

Searched back up the 100 list for this one. I know, it is not an organizing tip, but – bacon. With brown sugar. I have yet to make a successful batch as compared to a friend’s version, but this reminded me to attempt it again. Because, bacon.

Wishing you a Simple Jolly Holiday!

The National Association of Professional Organizers is Doing a Survey!

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Please help!  The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) wants to know – “What does the general public think about organizing and productivity?”  Click below to take this easy, 40 question survey now!

“It’s been a while since NAPO has asked the general public about its organizing behaviors and attitudes.”  Data collected from this survey will help our industry learn more about things like current “organizing behaviors,” “thoughts on professional organizers,” and “developing trends.”  For example, technology is constantly changing and is being used as an organizing tool on a regular basis.  Are you using apps to keep organized?  Let NAPO know!

The survey is anonymous and the more people who take it, the more relevant the data will be.  Please take the survey and share the link with others!  Thank you for your sharing your thoughts with us 🙂

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


Random Acts of Tasking: A Task Rabbit Tale


Task Rabbit - Leslie G.

A young widow with two small children was planning a birthday party. It was mid-January, and her Christmas tree was still up. She had shopping to do and Christmas decorations to put away – all before the weekend. She had challenged herself to push through the grief and make her daughter’s third birthday a real celebration, but the logistics were overwhelming…

Meanwhile, an urban couple acquired a rental property in west suburban Chicago. Exciting, until the snow kept falling…and falling…and falling…It was difficult to battle out to the suburbs week after week just to shovel in a -5 degree windchill. Brrr…

Additionally, there was the busy family with mom and dad about to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, they were wracked with guilt because they never scrapbooked their wedding photos! With a house, two kids, and work, well…good luck with that.

What do these folks have in common?  I helped them all!  It wasn’t about the money. It was about “neighbors helping neighbors.” I took down the Christmas tree, addressed “Happy New Year!” cards, and bought balloons. I shoveled driveways in bitter temperatures. I spent hours tastefully blinging out a wedding scrapbook – for someone I met only once.

How did I find these folks? By occasionally scrolling for tasks on a website called, “Task Rabbit.” But I am not doing that anymore.

I recently removed my profile from the site. The company changed their business model and I could not be “on-call” for “invites” as the new platform required. Additionally, I could not provide service within the pre-set blocks of time the site required.  Finally, I refused to be subjected to e-mail threats to pause my account if I forfeited tasks that the algorithm required.  All these requirements.  <<shudder>>

My husband used to tease me because I would swear off driving into the city for tasks, and then turn around and do it again. How could I not? There they were – the urgently pregnant nesting mom, the guy with 1000 unlabeled beer nut bags, even the chronically disorganized 70 year-old painter – I loved them all! And we had fun!

With the new format, I cannot “see” any of them. There is no longer a “feed” to scroll. Tasks in tidy categories are matched to Taskers (not Rabbits) with tidy schedules via invisible algorithms. And that is that.

I was fairly (ok, really) over-qualified for many of the tasks I ran, but that was the fun of it. I hate to be bored. People interest me. And stuff needs to get done.

I don’t begrudge the company for changing the platform. Algorithms and efficiency are where the money is, right? To be honest (as they say), I was not really even scrolling for tasks anymore. Business is going well and I volunteer my time on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers and doing occasional room makeovers with Special Spaces Chicagoland. Once I removed my profile, however, I discovered the need to grieve my bunny days – just a little.

Was I an errand runner for a living? Nope. I was a wife, suburban mother of two (that’s me in the silver Honda Odyssey mini-van), a Professional Organizing Entrepreneur, and a seeker of stress-reduction for interesting folks. When I started running tasks, I was in transition. It was So. Much. Fun! that I continued…Not for the money. For the joy of helping others.

So…I guess this post is a little “shout-out” to the posters I worked with, and the Rabbits I met along the way. You can’t find me on the site anymore, but I am remembering you all fondly – even the hoarder across the border in Michigan who only gave me four stars. And I probably learned valuable lessons from you all too.

It was fun while it lasted…


– Leslie G.

Define, “Task.” According to Merriam-Webster, a task is “an assigned piece of work to be finished within a certain time.” Tasks are the work of life – household chores, business demands, and brief obligations. Tasks are light duty – picking up dog food,   or heavy exertion – moving a sofa bed down three flights of stairs. I make lists of my tasks then categorize, prioritize, and (hopefully!) find time to complete them.

It’s Best to Keep Busy, but – “Crazy Busy?”

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In recent weeks, I have been considering the notion of, “busy.”  How is it that in a world of convenience, people always seem to be so busy? Even, “Crazy Busy!?!”  What are we whizzing to achieve?

Please check out my post, “It’s Best to Keep Busy, but- Crazy Busycrazy busy?” over on Support for Special Needs!  Thank you for clicking through!

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