It’s upon us. Love it or live with it….the holidays are here.
With that comes the onslaught of guests, full calendars and gifts. Here are some sanity saving tips for surviving the season.
Prep in advance for houseguests so you aren’t scrambling the day of their arrival to have everything ready.
- Take stock of bed linens and towels and see if you need to purchase any freshies before your guests arrive.
- Stock a nice canvas bag or a basket with towels, toiletries, etc so when guests arrive, you just pull it out and they’re set for a comfortable overnight.
- Ask in advance about any food allergies or preferences and see if you can prepare and freeze in advance a meal or two so you have more time to visit with your guests versus spending the whole time in the kitchen.
- Make room in guest room and coat closets for visitors to store clothing.
- Time is precious. Reserve some for yourself and your family so the holidays don’t become a stress-filled marathon.
- Block out some me or family days on your calendar that you will not accept invitations or schedule outings.
- Talk with family about what they really enjoy doing over the holidays and choose wisely when adding items to the calendar.
- Instead of buying your best friend or sibling a material gift, how about the gift of relaxation. Schedule a spa day, movie, hike, sit by the fire and drink hot toddies day.
Stop the madness. You know…the mad rush to find the perfect gift or just any gift because you know someone always gets you one. We’ve all been there but do we have to keep going there?
Have a frank conversation with family and friends with whom you usually exchange gifts. “Do we really all need more stuff?” Lead by example by telling gift givers what you really want.
As you make your gift list, think about what you would really like a loved one to have more of in their life.
- More time
- More exercise
- Better health
- A good laugh
- Can you find a way to gift that to them?
- Give them a coupon for babysitting. Or if you’re short on time too, just pay for a babysitter for them.
- Make them some dinners for their freezer.
- Send them to a healthy cooking class.
- Buy them tickets to a comedy club.
- Take them shopping for new walking shoes.
- Sign them up for Khan Academy or an Online Class.
- Wash their car or buy them a book of car wash coupons.
- Give them a coupon for you to help with a home organizing or cleaning project or The Best One Yet…..buy them a gift certificate for a Professional Organizing or Interior Design Consultation with Housewarming. Nothing better than a beautiful, comfortable and organized home heading into the New Year.
For information on gift certificates and packages, please contact Housewarming at 206-719-1662 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Holidays! I hope your home is filled with joy, your calendar is filled with fun and relaxation and your stocking is lovingly filled with comfort, health and happiness!!
With the end of Daylight Saving Time upon us, first of all, you must watch this video: Daylight Saving Video- You Tube. And then when you’re done laughing, and changing (or shooting) all your clocks, you may want to focus on light to get you through the dark days of winter.
Take inventory of your lighting.
Start with your exterior lighting and determine if porch and walkway lights are working properly. Are exterior stairs well-lit? Can you see your house number in the dark?
Then move room by room through the house, checking every fixture and lamp to make sure the bulbs are working properly. Remove all globes and shades and clean them well. Wipe down lightbulbs. You won’t believe the difference it will make.
Add task lighting to commonly used areas. Do you find yourself squinting and struggling to read in your comfy chair? Add a floor or table lamp near where you like to read.
Even though you’re faced with bright light when you’re staring into your computer screen, you should still pay attention to the ambient lighting. The best lighting for a computer work area is indirect diffused light. You want to avoid something that will make your eyes dilate when you look at it. It should be gentle, “spread out” light. An overhead fixture or a wide lamp with several small bulbs works best.
Natural light is always the best light but with the onset of winter, this can be tough to find. If you feel like the darkness affects your mood and emotions, you may want to consider changing out some of your bulbs to full spectrum, which most closely mimics natural light. You can also invest in a light box, which is recommended for people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
If full spectrum bulbs are too harsh, just try focusing on layering your light. Instead of relying on a single ceiling fixture, add lamps and lighting at varying levels around a room. Look for shadows and work on eliminating them by placing varying height lighting.
As we grapple with what time it is this week, spend a little time focused on your lighting. Your home can be a bright spot through the dark days of winter.
I recently had the pleasure of presenting to a large group of seniors and senior service providers at the Park Shore, a wonderful 62+ community in Seattle’s beautiful Madison Park neighborhood. www.parkshore.org
My co-presenter, the Director of Sales & Marketing for the Park Shore, shared information about the different types of senior communities including buy-in, month-to-month and the varying levels of care and services offered across the industry. He discussed the importance of not just thinking about what you need now but what you may need in the way of support or care in the future.
This got me to thinking not only about planning for senior transitions, which is always top of mind for me, as it is a large part of our business, but about everyone preparing for life’s what-ifs. Having recently experienced personal tragedy, I’m here to tell you that there’s no preparing for many parts of the loss of a loved one. But taking care of some business can really mean the world of difference when something unexpected –bad or good—crops up in your world.
If you became infirmed or worse, would anyone in your life know where to find important papers and information that may need to be accessed quickly?
Designate a safe place (preferably a fire safe) for important papers: Wills, Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directive, Insurance Documents, Deeds, Titles, Copies of Birth, Adoption, Marriage and Death Certificates and then tell someone trusted and close to you where they are located and how to access them. If you don’t have any of these items, PLEASE put it at the top of your priority list to get them. Trust me: the loss of a loved one is hard enough without having to cope with digging through paperwork or worse, legal wranglings in the midst of coping with your grief.
Make a list of passwords for important accounts and either keep that in a secure place with your important papers, save to your computer or send to a trusted friend or relative in a password protected file. Make sure the password is somewhere safe but available to your trusted person.
To make sure that you have the paperwork that you need, you should consult an estate planning attorney. Here are a couple of links that will give you a general overview. Everyone’s situation is different so I’d highly recommend investing in legal advice to make certain that you and each of your loved ones over the age of 18 have their paperwork in order.
CB Data is software program that helps to collect every bit of important information about your life and your business. The system may not be necessary for you but there’s some good information on their site and they offer a free emailed list of recommended documents and information to gather. CB Data’s Website
Gathering these papers is not a fun thing, by any means, but it’s definitely a sleep better at night thing and a scratch it off the worry list thing not to mention, it could be a gift that you give to a loved one when they are faced with a very difficult life event.
If I were face to face with you right now, I’d ask you to shake my hand and promise me that you will put the following item at the top of your to do list: Gather and Organize Life Documents.
If you don’t do it for yourself so you can scratch it off the worry list and sleep better at night, do it for your loved ones. The holidays are coming. Consider it the gift of a lifetime!
Now that summer is over (boo) and you’re getting into the busy routine of Fall, are you feeling overwhelmed by clutter and general disarray at home? Do you find yourself skipping the walk with Fido because you can’t find his leash? Are your mornings spent running around looking for lunchboxes and missing permission slips? If this sounds familiar, try these 10 simple tips to cut the clutter and calm the chaos.
- Employ a Household Calendar
Whether electronic, paper or white board, keeping a family calendar helps keep everyone in the loop and reduces entries in a work or personal calendar. Separate work and household calendars can work together nicely with blocked out time on the work calendar and details on the household calendar. Outlook and Google have good options for shared calendars. Cozi is a great app to manage the household schedule and to-dos. Cozi.com
- Create a Chore Box
Color coded index cards in a index card file work great with the colors representing how long a certain chore should take. For instance:
Yellow cards = 15 minute jobs- spray and wipe down bathroom mirrors and counters.
Blue cards=30 Minute Jobs-sweep or blow leaves off of sidewalk and walkways.
Purple cards+ Big jobs (2hours+)- organize the shed
Household members may be required to grab a yellow card each day and a blue card or purple card on the weekend. Move the cards to the back of the colored stack when a job is done and have the do-er initial and date the card. This way fairness can be evaluated every so often.
- Assign Each Household Member Their Own Put Away Bin
Give each household member a small bin or box with their name on it near the main living area. Put anything in it that needs to be taken to their rooms or put away elsewhere. Designate a certain time each day, perhaps before screen time, as “put away time” where everyone empties their baskets. Maybe there’s a small reward for the person with the least amount of items in their basket.
- Create a Donation Box
Keep a donation box or bag in a convenient location and as you see things around the house that are no longer useful or loved, drop them in the bag. When the bag is full, drop it off at a donation site.
- Designate a Going Out Box
Use this for items that need to go out when you’re doing errands—library books, borrowed items, movies to return.
- Categorize Your To Do List
Separate your To Do list items into the following categories and focus on one category at a time.
- At Computer
- At Home
- Set up a simple Action File System for household papers
Create 3 files with the following labels and keep in a vertical file holder where your papers tend to pile up. Sort mail and incoming papers into the appropriate files. Most times you don’t even have to open thigs to know which category they fit into. Schedule time in your calendar every other day or several times a week to manage your Action Files.
- To Do
- To Read/Decide
- To File
- Get in the habit of doing a 10 Minute Tidy Up each evening
Do a quick sweep of the main living areas each evening, placing items in each person’s Put Away bin, things to be returned in the Going Out Bin and papers into the Action Files. Add items to the calendar and To Do List that are associated with the Going Out Bin or the Acton File papers.
- Make a Tolerations List
Walk through your house with a clipboard or notebook and make a list of the annoying little things that you tolerate around your home that are bugging you or impeding efficiency. Lightbulb out in the hall closet, broken gate latch, shortage of to go coffee cups, mismatched Tupperware.
See how many tolerations you can check off the list in a week. You’ll be amazed at how easy and quick most of the items are but how relieved you’ll be when you’re not tolerating them anymore.
- Beautify Your Most Common Clutter Collection Zone
If your dining room table is a dumping ground for backpacks, mail, etc, try setting the table. If your coffee table gets stacked with newspapers and catalogs, try adding a beautiful centerpiece. Most people will be less likely to drop their things on top of something beautiful.
There are about 10 weeks between now and Christmas. If you’re SUPER motivated, you can tackle all of these items right away and finesse them between now and Christmas or you can tackle and perfect one per week from now until Christmas. What a great holiday gift to yourself and your family to have your household under control and running smoothly.
It’s coming folks… THE holidays… with all their glorious prep and planning. Soon enough I’ll jump with both feet into that but I’m not quite ready yet. I thought I might focus on some unofficial special days that may be a little lighter and require less prep but who knows—Brandied Fruit Day could take some special preparation.
Below you’ll find a list from Holidayinsights.com with a host of VERY special days coming up.
I can’t decide if my favorite is Babbling Day or Increase Your Psychic Powers Day. I’m really looking forward to picking out my outfits on Wear Something Gaudy Day and Punk for A Day Day. I’m afraid I’ll be passing on National Bologna Day but certainly won’t look down upon those who choose to celebrate it. There’s something for everyone in October, even your Mother-In-Law.
Here at Housewarming, we are passionate about giving back to our community and really do appreciate Make a Difference Day. We’ve been making a difference this month by offering free design services to the Delridge Neighborhood Development Association at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in West Seattle. www.DNDA.org
The mission of the Delridge Neighborhood Development Association is to “Activate Growth in the Delridge corridor by providing vital resources for our neighbors. These resources include access to affordable housing, green space, healthy food, education and arts & culture”.
We’re helping the executive director of the DNDA to redesign his office so that he can focus on his important work in the community. A well-designed, functional and beautiful space makes all the difference when your job is all about making a difference. Stay tuned for a special blog post about the project including before and after photos.
If you know of a non-profit that’s making a difference in the Seattle area and needs help setting up or rethinking their office or work space, send us an email at email@example.com. We’d like to help others make a difference in our community.
October 2015 Special Days
12 Columbus Day – second Monday of month
12 Cookbook Launch Day
12 Old Farmer’s Day
12 Moment of Frustration Day
13 International Skeptics Day
14 Be Bald and Free Day
14 Emergency Nurses Day- second Wednesday of month
14 National Dessert Day – take an extra helping, or two
15 White Cane Safety Day
16 Bosses Day
16 Dictionary Day
17 Sweetest Day Third Saturday of month
17 Wear Something Gaudy Day
15 International Newspaper Carrier Day -date varies each year
18 No Beard Day
19 Evaluate Your Life Day
20 Brandied Fruit Day
21 Babbling Day
21 Count Your Buttons Day
21 National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day find a recipe, too.
22 National Nut Day
23 National Mole Day
23 Tv Talk Show Host Day
24 Make a Difference Day- fourth Saturday of the month, neighbors helping neighbors.
24 National Bologna Day
24 United Nations Day
25 Mother-In-Law Day – fourth Sunday in October
25 Punk for a Day Day
25 World Pasta Day
26 National Mincemeat Day
27 Navy Day
28 Plush Animal Lover’s Day
29 Hermit Day
29 National Frankenstein Day
30 Frankenstein Friday – last Friday in October
30 National Candy Corn Day
30 Mischief Night
31 Carve a Pumpkin Day – no surprise here
31 Increase Your Psychic Powers Day
Family preparedness month is happening right now! Don’t wait until a disaster strikes to make a plan!
September is a great month to get ready for whatever Mother Nature has to throw at you. I’ve compiled a few activities and info sheets for you, which you can find at the end of this post, along with some helpful tips on getting your family prepared for a natural disaster.
Tips on what to do when disaster strikes:
- Text, don’t talk! Granted not all of your kids will have a cell phone, but it can be easier for a text to go through in case of emergency than a call. If you need immediate medical or safety assistance, call 911 but to reach a family member during an emergency, texting may be better.
- Have a list of important phone numbers somewhere easily accessible and have a copy with all of your kids! Also have an out of state contact so during a wide-spread emergency when local lines may be tied up, an out of state call may go through when a local call may not. If everyone in your family has the same out of state contact, you can all check in with them and relay important meet up or other information.
- Pick a meeting spot! Make sure your kids know where they should go in case of emergency to wait for you! Make it somewhere safe and easy to remember. Have an on site but outdoors meeting location-like the big tree or the neighbors while at home. If you or your children are out and about, consider a safe public place like a local school or community center where you know there will likely be other people who can help until you arrive.
- Review with your family all of the possible exits from your home and how to get out safely in case of an emergency!
Let’s talk emergency kits! What kinds of items and how many?
Be sure that you have enough food, water and supplies to last you and your family a minimum of 72 hours. If you need rescuing you never know how long it will take for help to find you. You want to be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. Included is a link to the FEMA checklist for your Emergency supply kit, but here are some that we want to stress:
- Prescription medications
- Infant formula and diapers
- Pet food and extra water for your furry friends
- Important family documents
- First aid kit (we recommend something like this First Aid Kit)
- Change of clothing for everyone including clothes for all weather types
- Regular Chlorine Bleach and an eye dropper—just in case you need to disinfect (9 parts water to 1 part bleach) or to treat water (16 drops of regular bleach per gallon of water)
- Battery powered Radio
- Flash light
- Extra batteries
- Thermal emergency blankets
- Waterproof ponchos
Remember these are just a few of the important things you should have in your emergency kit, we recommend utilizing the following lists to ensure you and your family are prepared for anything.
For More Disaster planning resources please check the FEMA website!
The Seattle housing market is booming! Houses are selling within a week and options are limited!
Top 10 things you can do as a seller to get top dollar:
- De-clutter your home
- Minimal is always better. Keeping a tidy home showcases the home’s potential. Too much clutter will make the buyer think there isn’t enough storage! Have all closets and shelves 75% or less full,which shows that there’s space without looking over crowded!
- De-personalize your home
- You love your home, and you want the buyer to love it too but the honest reality is that you need to separate yourself from your home. Make the mental move from “your home” to a house. It’s now a product that is on the market. You want the buyer to envision themself living there, not focusing on how you live there!
- Plant seasonal color
- A nice pop of color can do wonders for your curb appeal. If you don’t want to do full beds, consider adding a nice potted plant for color and interest. Studies show that yellow flowers make people feel good.
- Consider professionally staging your home
- Whether you have someone come in to rearrange your furniture, or in the case of a vacant home, have a staging company bring in furniture, a professional will help showcase the house’s best features and give the buyer something to remember other than an empty room!
- Get it professionally cleaned
- This seems like an obvious one, I know, but having all the nooks and crannies—which let’s face it, is probably not a part of your daily routine—spotless for the potential new buyers who will be inspecting everything (come on, you know you’d look!) will show that you are serious and took good care of your home.
- Do your homework
- Pricing right, and making sure you know your area will help set you apart from the crowd. Yes this is your real estate agent’s job, but having a solid understanding will help you work well with your agent which will allow them to do a good job for you.
- Find the right agent
- Speaking of your agent’s job—make sure you find someone that you are not only compatible with but who knows the area and has a good brokerage backing them!
- Small jobs around the house
- After the major cleaning, you’ll want to make sure all the paint is touched up, all of the plumbing is working (not leaking!), doors open without creaking, windows open all the way, and fencing is in good shape.
- Paint can be your friend! Consider neutralizing your house with a pop. Skip boring old white and beige—although some houses can ROCK a white or beige—and go with more “fun” neutrals. Blues and grays work great for this!
- Replace old light bulbs and clean all fixtures
- Cleaning or replacing light bulbs can help increase light output by 20%. Making your house look great does nothing if the lighting is poor. Lighting can drastically change the feeling of a room.
Explain it to me like I’m a four year old.
If you’re a parent, you know that even in these days of technology, going paperless is not a thing in the school systems especially not in the elementary years. Once that school bell rings, the paper streams in like mud on shoes.
Maybe you’ve started off with plans and promises to create and maintain a killer system that will be the envy of the PTA. “This is THE YEAR. My kid will never have a late library book. I WILL NOT run to the store at 6pm on a Sunday for the poster board. This is THE YEAR!”
As a professional organizer, I’ve spent time with parents at their kitchen desks, their home offices and family rooms sifting through school papers. Remorse and parent guilt have reared their heads as permission slips and un-replied to party invitations are unearthed from the dreaded paper pile.
I’ve also seen color coded files and folders, war-room like white boards and monogramed wall systems. I’ve seen them all, the extremely complicated and the beautifully basic. Over my 12 years of parenting school-aged children, I’ve personally tried a lot of things. I cast no judgement on any system, not the $1000 system from the eye candy catalogs nor the rudimentary hang important papers on the fridge system. If it works for you and your family than…Hallelujah!
I will, however, tell you that the systems with the fewest steps are typically the easiest to sustain. The most successful systems are those that would take less than 5 minutes to explain to a perfect stranger. To quote Denzel Washington in Philadelphia, “Explain it to me like I’m a four year old.” And then go ahead and explain it to your four year old or your forty year old spouse.
Right now, you may be thinking, ‘I’m the only one organizing the papers anyway so why explain it to anyone?’
#1: Most schools do not teach organizational skills to kids #2: You will have a lot more success and less frustration if you are not the only one who can find the reading log or soccer phone tree #3: You don’t really want to be a control freak…at least not over paper.
In addition to being simple, successful organizing systems are natural and intuitive to the user. If the papers always pile up in the kitchen then the system HQ should probably be centered near there. If you have to dig through backpacks in the entryway, then consider carving out a space for the paper management system in that area. Pay attention. Where do things naturally get placed (tossed)?
Here are a few simple systems that have worked well for my clients and my family:
The Kid Binder aka The Coffee Table Book
For each school aged child, purchase a 2” three-ring binder, 50 plastic sheet protectors and a pack of dividers
Label the dividers with subjects such as “Sports”, “School Logs”, “Art” and “Awards”, “To Do”, and any other categories that produce papers.
When papers come in the door, they either get delivered into an inbox near the binder or put directly into the binder.
The cool thing about this system is that it’s the current reference book and important paper keeper with the added bonus that at the end of the school year, you have a scrap book of what life looked like for that kid during that year. With young kids, I call it your Coffee Table Book. They can look back at it and see a snap shot of life in the 2nd grade. It may also be a way to explain that not every little piece of art can and should be kept. A coffee table book only features a sampling of an artist’s work during that period of their career otherwise none of it can really be appreciated.
Having employed the Kid Binder for many years in my own family, I found it to be incredibly helpful when my son was applying to a magnet high school and needed to create a resume and prove his ongoing success and interest in math and engineering. In his case, it was really a portfolio from which we were able to pull awards, accomplishments and activities that he participated in that were applicable to his application process.
Another great system is The File Box.
For each school aged child, purchase a 5 ½ x 10 ½ “ file box that’s open at the top, 10-12 dividers and 10-15 file folders.
Label the section by school subject or categories like the binder categories listed above. In the front, you may want a folder that’s for time sensitive items such as permission slips or party invitations. Tip: whenever possible, deal with things like permission slips and rsvp’s as soon as you see them. It’s worth taking the few minutes to do it right away.
For a slightly more complicated but still pretty straightforward system there’s The Action Files
This system is a little more closed in that it’s really best run by one person but can work with multiple people if everyone is clear about who is doing/reading, etc. This system may also be employed along with one of the above systems.
Keep a Parent In-box near where back packs are kept and have kids unload any incoming paper into the inbox
Parent checks inbox each evening and files the papers into one of the four files
- To Do
- Things to sign, pay, make a call about
- To Read/Decide
- Not quite ready to jump on, need to read and make a decision, usually not immediately time sensitive
- To File/Scan
- To keep for long term- taxes, reference
- Could be school work or art- mark your calendar for each month to decide which piece from that month will be kept and move that piece to long term archive
Keep an out box for each kid near the backpack loading zone and put the permission slips or whatever else needs to go back to school with the child that day. If you aren’t ready to take the leap by having the kids manage their own out boxes, you can, of course, just go right into their backpack. But I do encourage having the kids involved in the system in some way.
The action file system works well for all papers not just school papers so it might work nicely as an overall paper management system.
However you choose to organize, just remember to keep it as simple and intuitive as possible. As you create your system, ask yourself “Could I explain this to a four year old?”
Happy Organizing and Happy Back to School!
Welcome to Really Pretty Organized, the blog brought to you by your divas of design at Housewarming Home Staging & Design and your fun Organizers at LifeSpace: Home Organization and Transition Support. While we are total suckers for the design and organizing eye candy found in high-end magazines and catalogs, we plan to focus this blog on “real life”; on how to achieve your own attainable, sustainable organizing systems and inspiring, soul-filling homes and work places. That’s not to say, we won’t slip in a few drool-inciting tidbits here and there for the dream file. We surely won’t be able to resist.
To get us started, we must introduce you to this book The Imperfect Perfectionist, seasonal secrets for a happy, balanced life, co-written by our lead funOrganizer and design diva, Karen Pfeiffer Bush. The Imperfect Perfectionist will take you on a seasonal journey through discovering what really works for you and how you can embrace and create your own brand of perfect. The book is hilarious and powerful but focuses on simple ways to:
- flip a switch on how you think about food and dieting
- undo the mind-set that focusing on oneself is selfish
- create a home that is your own brand of perfect
- connect with nature and the outdoors
In essence, the book’s focus is on cutting ourselves some slack by releasing perfectionism so we can truly live our best lives. It’s the perfect beach read!
Enjoy The Imperfect Perfectionist and please join us again here at REALLY Pretty Organized for delicious design inspiration and organizing tips and tools for real life.