Reduce the Stress in Your Home TODAY!

Monthly vlogs and blogs on what to declutter seem to be “trending” these days so let’s talk about what you can do in September. Now that the kids are back in school it is important to put structure and routines in place to reduce the stress of this transition. No matter what your “pandemic” situation has been, this is a chance to get back some normalcy. That often starts with decluttering.

Where did this clutter come from? Was it impulsive buying for that quick shot of dopamine – felt good in the moment and now you trip over it every day? Was that what you wanted? Or was it to quiet the kids you had to take to the grocery store? Look around – what is this costing you? And I don’t mean moneywise, but emotionally, socially, psychologically, physically and in your relationships with your loved ones. Clutter makes you grumpy.

WebMD says, “Researchers have found that being around disorganization makes it harder for your brain to focus. It can be especially tough for people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).” “Some people who live in cluttered homes have a poorer “working memory,” according to research. Your brain is wired to be able to keep track of only a few details at once for a short period, so it can get overloaded when there’s too much going on.”

Clutter causes stress and conflict and undermines the lessons you want to be teaching your children and worst of all it takes up your time and mental bandwidth even if you do nothing about it. Constant stress reduces your lifespan according to researchers at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare by 2.8 years.

More research: Children who live in homes that are “chaotic,” that are noisy, overcrowded and have a lack of order, have significantly more challenges than kids who don’t.  Research has found that kids who had homes like this, “tend to score lower on tests of cognitive ability and self-regulatory capabilities, have poorer language abilities, and score higher on measures of problem behaviors and learned helplessness than do children raised in less chaotic environments” (Jaffee, S., Hanscombe, K., Haworth, A., Davis, P., and Plomin, R., 2012).  They also have, “lower expectations, a lack of persistence and a tendency to withdraw from academic challenge” (Hanscombe, K., Haworth, C., Davis, O., Jaffee, S., and Plomin, R., 2011).

So, can we agree clutter is bad?

Let’s start by clearing one category of toys – baby toys. By baby toys I mean all those toys, books and games that are no longer age appropriate for your children. Electronic toys that make sounds or have lights but otherwise don’t do much were meant to help stimulate a baby’s brain while it was in its early developmental stage.  It is through play that children learn, explore, use their imagination and problem solve. (If you don’t have kids, then look around at your own “toys” and hobbies – what have you outgrown?)

Start collecting the baby toys and those odd little things that have been randomly picked up while out or only served their purpose for a short time. Anything that your children played with before kindergarten and no longer play with REGULARLY. Things that are not really toys but mementos from events. Really how many foam fingers and blown-up superheroes do you need? Push or beginner ride on toys, chubby crayons, finger paints and stuffed animals are in this category as well. Legos and building blocks are not.

Are all the pieces together? (Puzzles, games, stacking rings, etc.)
Is it in good shape to donate? (Cradles to Crayons, Big Brother Big Sister)
Was it a gift? (No obligation to keep it)
Is it sentimental? (Create a time capsule to save it out of the mainstream)
Is it broken?
Can it be recycled?
Is it really just trash?

Once you have collected all of these and decided what you are going to do with them – get them out of the house. Not in a closet or in your trunk but delivered to their final destination. According to Joshua Becker of, with fewer toys your kids may ” learn to be more creative, develop longer attention spans, establish better social skills, learn to take better care of things, become more resourceful, and less selfish. He also says, “True joy and contentment will never be found in the aisles of a toy store. Kids who have been raised to think the answer to their desires can be bought with money have believed the same lie as their parents.”

Wouldn’t you rather spend time playing a game, then clearing a space to play?

  • Collect and remove all age-inappropriate toys
  • Trash, recycle, repurpose or pass on
  • STOP the inflow of new toys and trinkets
  • Spend more time with your children
  • Help children put toys away before bed
  • Make a space for storing like toys together
  • Contain what you can


Pandemic Paper Purge Part 1

Last week we gathered together all the papers needed to fill out the tax organizer we received from our tax accountant for filing our Income taxes. You know the property tax receipts, the charitable giving receipts, the tax documents that come in the mail, etc. All of it pretty well categorized and easily accessible. Then it happened….I needed one receipt from a purchase two years ago that I hoped was in the supporting documents from that year-but it wasn’t.

The Search Begins

Being somewhat organized I first searched Quicken. If it had been charged, it would have shown up there – but it didn’t. Not in the receipt file either and that got me thinking (and fuming) about all the places I tend to keep “important papers.” How about you; do you keep papers “just in case” or “to read later?” Take a look around, how many different places do you have for those papers? Often, we tend to hold onto papers just in case we might need them later. I don’t believe we will ever be totally paperless but I am sure if you took a look at the papers you are saving – you may find some that can go.

What to Look For

Only you know where you have been “storing” paper so look around and check for:

  1. Warranty and Instruction manuals (still own it? Is the manual online?)
  2. Recipes you will never try (If you haven’t made them this year, what are the odds?)
  3. Helpful articles (health, organizational, inspirational, etc.)
  4. Bill receipts (the last year or more is available online – once it’s paid let it go)
  5. Tax records and supporting documentation from 2012 or earlier (CPA told me keep for 7 years)
  6. Kids’ artwork (can’t save it all be selective)
  7. Coupons – be serious will you use them?
  8. Junk Mail and Flyers (immediately into the recycle or shred)

Once you get rid of the backlog of papers you no longer need, you will want to focus on what to do with the important papers. Any system should follow the KISS philosophy of Keep it Super Simple. The first step is to consolidate those papers into categories. Some possible categories might be: taxes, reference, memorabilia, long term storage (birth certs, SS cards, titles, etc.) and of course your “might want this later” pile too. You’ll need to do the same thing with your digital files. Set up folders with specific names so there is no question what belongs in each folder. What can be scanned and kept rather than physically kept?

Look at all the places that you keep paper and try to decide the fewest number of possible places to store them. Just because you have a file cabinet, doesn’t mean it needs to be full. All the important (difficult to replace) papers need to be in one place – just in case you need them in a hurry. So, spend some time purging and grouping and then next month we will discuss how to retrieve this info you are saving.

As for me, I am still searching for that receipt – stay tuned.

How to Organize Any Space in 4 Easy Steps

Less work, more fun.
Less work, more fun.

Summer is coming – that’s the good news! We want to enjoy the summer but with graduations, weddings and bbqs happening every weekend, things can get ahead of us because we don’t have the time but we also don’t want to use what little time we do have on decluttering, so things can pile up- that’s the bad news.

You know that pile of mail (oh that’s right you handled that in last month’s newsletter) maybe it’s the family room or the kitchen that is frustrating you. If your very busy, overscheduled life is causing you to tolerate clutter then it is likely that you are losing valuable time dealing with its effects. The following four steps can be done separately or in tiny pieces depending on the time you have available. It’s easy to crack the C.O.D.E. to an organized life.

Each letter in the word CODE stands for a step in the process. The “C” is for Collect. Collect what needs to be organized or de-cluttered into one space. If it’s video games, cooking utensils, magazines, or laundry it doesn’t matter, just pick one and collect it all. You can get the whole family involved by having each person pick a “thing” and collect it in a laundry basket or plastic bin.

The “O” is for Organize. Now organize the collection into sub categories by putting like items together. In the case of video games it might be by gaming platform, or separate kid’s games from teen games, or like and don’t like. With kitchen utensils it might be those you use often and those specialty items or the ones you use by the stove and those you use at the counter. As you do this with your category, you will notice what can be recycled or trashed, repurposed or removed to a different room. What is left is the important stuff – those things you love, use and/or need in your life.

Now “D” is for Decide. This is often the hardest step of all. Asking yourself questions like, “What do I do with this?” or “Where is the best place for this?” can be difficult. Having the important things close by and the not so important (but still necessary) things away from the every day items will give you more space for the things you use daily. Some things may already have a place but began to overflow into the surrounding area. Now that you have collected those items you can sort, toss or pare down to suit your needs.

Wherever you decide to put things be sure to “contain” them. Things have a tendency to expand to fill all available space and by containing them you can curtail that. Draw dividers, kitchen organizers, bins, baskets, empty jars, storage bags, use whatever fits your need, will contain that category, and keep it from spreading. Now decide where each category is going and deal with them.

Last in the four step process is “E” for Evaluate. After a week or so of using your new organization check the surrounding area to see if it is “contained” and evaluate if it is working for you. If not, then try something else. Keep trying until you find what works for you and your family. In order to maintain your organized home, be sure to evaluate each drawer, cabinet, closet or shelf periodically and use the C.O.D.E. to get it back under control. This is the key to staying organized – maintenance. It’ll also give you more time for summer fun. Enjoy!

Top 5 Things To Do This Week To Get Organized for School (2)

Good grades start at home
Good grades start at home

Don’t wait until school starts to think about getting organized. Do you remember how you felt during the last school year? Is there anything you would like to change for this year? Let’s reduce the stress and make sure you start this school year off organized and ready for anything.

1. Since this is the last week before most schools start, plan a special “end of summer” celebration. It could be a special all day fun event, or a dinner out. Whatever it is, celebrate the end of the summer and the beginning of a great school year. Talk with your child about the positives of going back to school and be honest with them if they have concerns. Having fun together is a great way to keep those communication lines open.

2. Hold a family meeting. A family meeting allows everyone to voice their opinions and concerns in a nonjudgmental setting. You might want to have an agenda the first time so that you stay on track but some topics typically covered are: responsibilities, routines for school, sport schedules, what’s coming up and any complaints anyone might have. Let only one person speak at a time and let the youngest be in charge now and then. Use this time for updating the calendar for the next week and be sure kids put their responsibilities into their agendas each week as well.

3. Use one family calendar. Whether you prefer electronic or paper calendars there should be one family (paper or whiteboard) calendar that is posted where all can see it. Update it during your family meetings to show each family member’s schedule in a different color. This teaches kids the concept of planning and also provides an easy visual for them to check each day to see what is coming up. They should have the same information in their own agenda/planner that is given to them by the school. This helps them to know how to plan their homework time in between soccer practice and a dentist appointment, be prepared for gym day and is the first step towards understanding time management.

4. Handling paper can be a challenge for anyone, but if you have a child or children in school it can easily get out of control. Have you ever “misplaced” an important form that needed to go back to school? This year set up a paper management system. Simply put, create an “in box” for each member of the family and have your child put papers that need to be signed, seen or read into your in box. Then when you have signed them, place them in your child’s inbox where they will pick them up and put them in their backpack each evening. If all papers go in one spot then they are not being moved for dinner (if left on the table) or piled in with the mail, etc. There are magnetic pockets, wood, metal or fabric wall pockets that hang or desk or counter top models that stack, find something that works for you and has at least a pocket for each family member. If there is an extra pocket, you can use it for incoming mail. Having one place for all mail to land until you have time to deal with it, will save you time and energy daily.

5. Create a launch pad and launch into an organized day. Do you leave things near the door so you will remember to take them with you? Then you are already using a launch pad or drop zone. If you create a specific place that is large enough for all family members, then everyone can start their day organized. I recommend packing backpacks, gym clothes and whatever else can be ready ahead of time (your stuff too) and placing them each evening, in the launch pad area. It makes it so much easier if everything your children need is all ready to go rather than trying to get them to get things together when they are half asleep. Give it a try and have a calmer morning.

If you have found these tips helpful and would like your child to receive daily email organization and study skills strategies to help them get and stay organized this year, then check out our e-learning course called End Homework Hassle and help your child start this year off organized and in control.

Keys? Keys? Where are my Keys?

keysWhen was the last time you had to hunt for your keys? Were you late or just frustrated with yourself when you finally found them? Out of all the organizing tips I first learned (yes, it’s true I wasn’t born organized) this is the tip that has saved me the most time and aggravation – hang your keys on a hook near the door you use to go out. Sounds simple doesn’t it? What used to happen is that I would leave them in my coat pocket or pocketbook or drop them on the table which would then get covered with the mail and although they are a fairly substantial bunch of keys, they had the ability to become invisible. How else would you explain the fact that one minute they are not there and the next time you look in the same place – there they are?

Here’s what I suggest: create a launch pad area near where you exit the house that is large enough for all the important things you need when leaving. Place either a hook on the wall or place a specific basket there for your keys….and only your keys. You can also set up a charging station for your cellphone as that sometimes has stealth abilities also. The idea is to have a place for everything you need to head out the door. When you come back home, place things there, especially those keys and you’ll save yourself some time and aggravation.

I know the research says it takes 28 days to change a habit but “my research” says it’s more like 56 days. Oh, and set things in your launch pad area each evening so that you are ready to go in the morning without any hassle.

Here’s a flash from the distant past that adds a bit of humor to the drama of not being able to find your keys. Credit goes to Paul Peterson.

Spring into Action!


Spring is officially here according to the calendar. Seeing the flowers start to peek out of the ground gives me the urge to finish up my winter projects so that I can get outside as soon as Mother Nature allows. One of my least favorite activities is “spring cleaning.”

As soon as the calendar said it was spring, I can remember my grandmother would start her spring cleaning. I don’t know how long she spent spring cleaning but she did things like washing walls, windows, and curtains, as well as, polishing the woodwork and furniture.

Spring cleaning dates back to the time when heating systems used coal and were not as efficient as today’s systems. The black soot that covered everything made it necessary to clean things each spring to get rid of it. I am sure that is when my grandmother started her little ritual. I happen to have a different idea of how to “spring clean.”

Now, if you’ve been following me for a while you know I often use the term “baby steps” because I believe that even baby steps in the right direction will still get you where you want to go. So in keeping with that theme, we are about to launch a month long action plan that will provide ideas for simple organizing projects that can be done in 20 minutes or less. Each week we’ll tackle a room together in short bursts. Check out my facebook page for extra tricks and tips during the week.

Organize your kitchenThe kitchen is often the busiest room in the house so we will start there. Take a look around. Is your kitchen a calm, organized gathering place, or is it a chaotic, cluttered mess? No matter what the state with a few helpful hints you can get it under control. Some common kitchen dilemmas are things either do not have a place or are not stored in a logical place. For example, do you have the things you use for cooking near the stove or do you need to walk across the kitchen to get them? Countertops are valuable “real estate” and should be occupied by things you use daily. Other less frequently used things such as the waffle iron, breadmaker or mixer should be stored in a cabinet or area away from the things used daily.  Dishes and glasses should be stored close to the dishwasher so that you can quickly unload them directly into the cabinets.

This week’s 20 minute action step is to clean out the refrigerator. Depending on the size of your family, clearing out the shelves in the refrigerator may take longer. Set a timer and work for the 20 minutes, if you choose to continue, fine. If not, no guilt. You did your 20 minutes. Check expiration dates and the state of condiments you don’t use very often. This is great to do the night before your trash day (just in case there is food that needs to go out). Wash down each shelf and then the sides and bottom of the refrigerator. Try to group things together when you put them back in. Make an area for the drinks, the condiments and the leftovers. If you are losing things in the back of the fridge there are plastic bins that will contain things and are easy to pull out.  Change the box of baking soda or whatever you use to keep it smelling fresh and you are done. There’s a short video on organizing your fridge at the Container Store. Check it out. Then join the conversation, what would you like to tackle this spring? Use the comment box below.






Too Many To-Do's?

            Time has a way of creeping up on us. As you can see this blog is two weeks overdue. I apologize for that but it has led me back to technology (I have previously used) for a solution.

            With our heads full of so many things we want to do, should do, and have to do, it is no wonder we feel stressed.  David Allen of Getting Things Done (GTD) fame says that we “only have so much psychic RAM” and (I’m summarizing here) if we don’t find a way to put some of those things into another form of storage we may run out of “RAM” and crash.

            Think back to the last time you felt really overwhelmed by all that you needed to do. Did you sit down to write a new “to do” list? I often end up using a mind map form (looks like a circle in the middle with other circles connected by lines and then tasks under each of those). It helps me focus and determine which tasks go with which part of my life. Business, Personal, Family are a few of my subcategories. One thing is for sure, while I am doing it, I feel better. Yes, it looks like a lot but at least I am not forgetting anything important. I can then break down the big “tasks” (really they are projects) into the next action steps. That gives me a better of idea of what is really involved in getting that (“biggie”) crossed off the list. When we try to hold it all in our heads or move it from one to do list to another one, we run the danger of losing something.

            Enter Hiveminder. There are other free programs out there that do the same things, like Remember the Milk but Hiveminder has the Brain Dump function I like (and the Bee theme is cute too). I type a list of everything on my mind and it will create a task list for me. Then I can add details, set priorities and reminders. I can delegate tasks to others using it and even create a shared task list (great for household stuff that needs to get done). The task review option is a great way to review each task. I can see just how much I really have accomplished.

            My point is there are options out there and using them can save you time, energy and “psychic RAM” so why not use them and save that brain space for more creative endeavors. Let me know what you’re using to handle your to do’s in the comment section below. (PS Just my opinion, I am not endorsing any programs)

Get Organized Plan Week 4: Whip your kitchen into shape

     Now that we’ve handled the papers that invade our lives and our space (see January blogs), it’s time to organize those spaces that we use the most. The kitchen pops into mind for several reasons. If it’s hard to cook or we can’t find what we’re looking for what are the chances that we’ll put in the time and effort to cook something healthy? The kitchen is often a favorite gathering place and a great place to strengthen relationships. Being able to quickly find things and pull together meals takes the hassle out of dinner and that helps lower the stress level in the whole household.

            Start with a menu plan. No one wants to think about what to cook for dinner after a day at work. Do yourself a favor and either plan a week or a month of meals. Then each week shop for the ingredients you will need for the upcoming week and you’ll have everything you need for each night’s dinner. Remember to check what after school activities or late afternoon meetings are scheduled and plan accordingly.

            Here are the things that I think make my kitchen work. I hope you can benefit from these tips and make your kitchen a haven. 

  • Set up your zones so you’re saving yourself steps. Keep the most used items with in the closest proximity to where they are used. For example, keep the pans near the stove along with the spatulas and stirring spoons.
  • Drawer dividers in all drawers. Why hassle trying to find a utensil in a drawer filled with them? Divide the drawer and group like with like into each section. Makes finding things quick and easy.
  • I use several tools very frequently. I like to have two of them so that if one is in the dishwasher, I can quickly grab the other one. I have two pairing knives and two vegetable peelers for instance.
  • Add a level. Take a look in your cabinets is there empty space over your stack of dishes? Then add a wire rack and use the available space to store other often used dishes.
  • Use pull out shelves on rollers in lower cabinets so that you can see and reach everything stored under there. These are easy to install and can be purchased at most Home Improvement stores.
  • Avoid having to search your refrigerator and set up zones in there too. Keep all the condiments together, have a space for leftovers so you can find them and eat them before they become a science experiment. It makes finding things easy and you can tell when you are out of something.


Take a look at your kitchen and see if any of these ideas will help make your kitchen more “user friendly.” Add to that a general decluttering of the things you don’t use or that are broken and need replacing and your kitchen will soon be an organized, stress free zone. Let me know how you do.

New Year Organizing Plan: Week 1

Week 1:

Are you ready for lesson one of our organizing plan for 2009? What arrives 6 days a week no matter the weather. Sometimes it is only a small amount and other times it is a pile but each day it continues to grow. If left unattended it can cost you time, money and really add stress to your life. Know what it is?  That’s right it is the mail.

Leaving the mail in the mailbox until you have time to deal with it is NOT an option. Rule #1: You must deal with it EVERY day.  Now that doesn’t mean that you have to handle each bill or invitation on the day it arrives, but it does mean that you have to separate the bills and invitations from the junk mail each day. So by following the next five steps you will be able to separate the important from the unimportant quickly and easily.

Step 1: Toss/shred/recycle anything that you know you do not need.

Step 2: Separate reading materials (including catalogs you want to browse)

Step 3: Separate bills and keep them together in one folder (To Pay)

Step 4: File anything you really need to keep (automobile title, insurance policies, etc.) or put into a TO FILE folder.

Step 5: Put what’s left into an ACTION folder.


There are several storage ideas you can use to house your mail. Vertical hanging pockets, desktop files or literature sorters work to separate and contain the mail until you can deal with it.



The second part is to now deal with the important stuff.                                

Rule #2: Deal with the ACTION items and BILLS weekly. Set aside 20 -30 minutes a week to handle the action items you have set aside and to pay the bills that have come in. I suggest weekly payment of the bills unless you already have a plan that insures all bills are paid on time. This is the time to make that call, reply to that invitation, or send that email, whatever it takes to handle all the items in the ACTION folder. Be sure to mark all important dates on your calendar. Clear out this folder each week and you will never again forget to RSVP, pay a late charge on a bill or have to apologize to your child because you lost their permission slip to the museum.

Here is your assignment: Decide how you want to contain your mail and set it up. Whether you use labeled hanging folders in a desktop file or pockets hung on the wall, or a literature sorter, find something that will work for you. Sort the mail each day as it comes in. Pick one day that you will deal with the ACTION items.

Let me know how you do.


For those readers in the Norwell, Massachusetts area or areas south of Boston you can learn how to Tackle and Tame Your Mountain of Paper by attending our free workshop.


Tackle and Tame Your Mountain of Paper

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Norwell Middle School Community Room

328 Main Street

Norwell, MA 02061

Call or email to register

(781) 659-0513

Rain, rain….come again!

Put a couple of rainy days together and what happens? Outdoor plans change for indoor plans. This past week I had planned to move some flowers in order to get ready for the new front walkway and weed my vegetable garden, trim some bushes, etc. You get the idea. Then the rain came… I don’t mind a little drizzle but this was a torrential downpour with thunder and lightning to match. No hope of getting any of those things off my “to do” list. So while I was reconsidering my plan for the day, I happened to glance at a photo on the wall that was crooked again!  I decided to handle it this time once and for all. So, I used that magic hook and loop stuff called Velcro™ to make sure it never moves again. That felt good! Then I tightened the loose door knob, changed a light bulb and removed a blotch of paint on a curtain (don’t ask). I was on a roll.


These little things had been bugging me for some time, yet I had continued to tolerate them (some for longer than I care to remember). As I took care of each little thing, I felt better and better. So just like unfinished to dos, these tolerances were draining my energy.


Monica Ricci’s blog today mentioned that disorganization is about “TRYING to control what you can’t, and NOT controlling the things you can!” This is something we can control and you’ll be surprised at what a big difference it will make in your life! Let me know what you have been tolerating and how you feel when you take the time to take care of it. I’d love to hear from you. Now I can’t wait for the next rainy day!


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