Got 5 Minutes?

Time timerTime is our most precious commodity. If we don’t use it, we lose it and it is one thing we can never get back. Sure, we can try to pack more into a day but often that leaves us feeling overworked, exhausted or stressed. Ever feel cheated that you didn’t get to do what you REALLY wanted or needed to do?

Instead of cramming more into our day, look for a few spaces between tasks, errands or transitions. I am sure there are several five-minute blocks somewhere in your day. For today, let’s assume you found 3 blocks of 5 minutes = 15 minutes total. You decide what works for you. Just don’t overdo it  trying to get one more thing done and make yourself late.

Now how will you use those 5-minute blocks? You can decide your three big categories, and then list ideas under each. My three categories are listed below with some ideas to help get you started. Use your imagination and make it work for you. I have seen how having a specific time limit can help motivate us for unpleasant tasks every week during Work It Wednesday when we use 3, 25-minute blocks to get things done (contact me for zoom link to join us at 10am ET). Let’s use these blocks to improve our lives.

Self-Care

  • Drink a glass of water
  • Go outside and breathe
  • Stretch my muscles
  • Call or text a friend
  • Meditate (yes, even 5 minutes is beneficial)

Declutter/Organize

  • Put away the winter jackets and boots
  • Clean out and organize a drawer
  • Remove 5+ things no longer needed or wanted
  • Toss/recycle today’s junk mail and catalogs
  • Declutter a shelf or clear a counter of all non-essentials

Family

  • Spend 5 minutes with each child and listen
  • Plan a family activity for the weekend
  • Make a meal plan for the week
  • Go outside (take a walk, shoot hoops, swing, etc.)
  • Do a 5 minute (maybe longer) reset to be ready for tomorrow

Creating routines and habits that keep the family organized impacts the level of stress in your home. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish in five minutes. Feel free to build onto the momentum as we have seen how clutter and disorganization can impact mood, weight, stress and health.

Let me know what you are most proud of doing in your 5 minutes over on my Facebook page. Let’s get a conversation going.

Calm or Chaotic…What is Your Choice?

As soon as you wake up, what do you see? Is your bedroom space a sanctuary from the stress of daily life where you can easily and calmly start your day or is it a cluttered reminder of all you’re not taking care of and making you feel overwhelmed and frustrated each and every morning?

Now, think about how you would like your master bedroom to function. Do you need it to be a “home office” space as well? Is it a TV room where your kids can go or do you pile the clean laundry on the bed with the hopes of folding it and putting it away? Or is it a place to “hold” your clutter so it is not in the rest of the house? What do you want it to be?

Clutter and Disorganization can:

  • Make getting dressed a hassle
  • Impact your sleep
  • Interfere with romance
  • Waste time
  • Increase your stress
  • Make things harder and/or take longer

What is the impact?

The truth is we cannot expand our spaces to fit all of our things so we need to either reduce how much we own or redefine what is really important to us. By removing those things that you no longer want, need or use or that do not belong, you can begin to free up some space. In the master bedroom, both parties need to share their hopes for the space. In a child’s room, they need to have input as well.

Biggest impact in a master bedroom….electronics! The TV, the ipad and even the phones all impact your sleep cycles and serve to distract you from the true priorities of that room. “A new study from Brigham Young University examined how technology interferes with relationships. The researchers concluded that “technoference” can be damaging not just to a relationship but to your psychological health as well.”

Clutter and disorganization can also interfere with your morning and evening routines. Those routines that are supposed to help you calmly end your day and prepare yourself for sleep can be totally thrown off if you happen to step on a lego. (You know what I mean)

Various studies also mention the effects of clutter on children. Everything from scoring lower on tests of cognitive ability and self-regulation to learned helplessness and withdrawing from academic challenges. Also, being overwhelmed by the number of options can prevent kids from using their time creatively.

Ideas to Help

  • Declutter – seriously….declutter
  • Reduce your clothing so that it fits in your storage spaces when all the laundry is done (dressers and closets)
  • Organize by grouping like things together
  • Hooks for tomorrow’s outfit and things that can be worn again
  • Bins inside drawers to hold things you don’t need to fold (pjs, socks, etc.)
  • Clear off all flat surfaces so only the necessities are there
  • Remove extra pillows and décor
  • Label clear bins in kids’ rooms to help with organization
  • Make the master bedroom inviting (and not kid friendly????)

And lastly, when you get up in the morning, make your bed. It changes the way you think about your room and gives you an automatic win for the day. So, calm or chaotic – the choice is yours.

Photo by Steven Ungermann on Unsplash

Pandemic Paper Purge Part 2

Last month we talked about cleaning up some of the paper piles that you have been collecting and reducing the amount of paper you hold onto “just in case.” I hope that you are feeling lighter by now and can focus on reducing the number of places you keep the remaining papers so you can find what you need when you need it. If you didn’t finish, that’s okay but try to deal with all the paper that is coming into your home each day. Don’t wait until you have cleared out the backlog as that is an ongoing process, not one that can be done quickly.

Three Kinds of Paper

  1. The first group of papers are the irreplaceable ones. The social security cards, the deed to the house, the title for your car, your marriage license, passports, etc. Sure, you could probably figure out how to get a replacement but it wouldn’t be easy. This can include sentimental memorabilia and specialty items. Not photos though, they have their own storage needs.
  2. Then there are the bills – if anyone except me still gets paper bills - that need to be “touched” at least monthly or quarterly in the case of property tax or water bills. These are short term papers. The receipt for those gloves you bought but haven’t worn them enough to know if you really want to keep them. The utility bills, receipts for things you have purchased or papers from school. This category also includes the things you are thinking about purchasing and the fliers you want to review before recycling. Keeping magazines and catalogs in this category avoids the year long pile up that can occur.
  3. Lastly, there are long term storage These papers don’t need to be accessed for a year or more. This is where tax records, and warranty information and manuals live (if you tend to keep that kind of stuff).

Where to Store?

For Irreplaceable Items: These items should be stored in a fireproof, waterproof, portable container in case you need to leave your house in a hurry. You might want to put copies of your credit card information, your license and health care cards, doctors’ names and contact information in there too. Think of the things you would need if you had to leave your home and make sure those things (or copies of them) are in there.

Short term papers: I am sure you have one spot for all the bills – you do, don’t you? It can be wherever you want it to be, but all bills and short-term papers need to go there and no where else. No one wants to scour the whole house looking for that property tax bill that came two months before it was due. Some clients have set up “command centers” using a hanging file box and different folders for action, bills, school schedules, receipts, etc. I have a set of cubbies over the desk in the kitchen – best idea ever! Wherever you decide to keep them, keep all of the papers there so you only need to look in one place. If you are crafty though and keep a lot of ideas for future projects, you might want to set up a space to keep all that stuff together as well. Take the time to label things in broad categories so you don’t need to go through the whole drawer to find one pattern. Magazines and catalogs you want to go through can also be contained in a basket or bin. When the next one comes in – the first one goes out.

Long term Storage: This storage should be out of the way but still easy to get to. You don’t want it taking up valuable space in a closet when it can stay safely in a plastic box in the attic or a dry basement. As your kids grow, this may also be the space you put there most treasured items. Be sure to use an archival box to protect them. I hesitate to even mention warranty booklets – most are available online so there is no need to hold onto them. Think about how many times you have actually had to use one of them. Was it worth holding onto? The biggest problem with long term storage is it mostly likely will not get looked at again. Every year though when you go to put your tax documents away you can take out the documents from 4 years ago and shred them. If you are getting electronic copies, you can delete them too. The records your computer is holding also need to be gone through and/or put into folders that have broad categories with very specific file names. Computer documents are a whole newsletter on their own. I mention them because the push now is to scan copies and shred the paper copies in order to reduce the paper in your home. If you do that, be sure to tag them and use specific file names so you can find what you are looking for.

How Much is Enough?

You will need to decide how much paper you feel you “must” hold onto. Ask yourself can it be replaced, what is the worst that could happen if I don’t have this and seriously will I ever get to this project? Then decide where to keep it. If you have storage already set up, be sure to go through and purge what you can before adding in the new.  (Photos and memorabilia should have their own home). It is an investment in time for sure, but when you need something and can go directly to the cabinet to get it – you will feel so proud of the effort you put in.

Get started now – don’t leave it all for your kids to go through????

PS Don’t forget to shred anything with your name or identifying information on it. Identity theft happens. Good luck!

Clutter Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Stress Level

Anytime during this Covid-19 pandemic seems like the perfect time to discuss stress. On a scale of 1-10 (with 1=lowest and 10=highest) how would you rate your level of stress?

Just so we are clear, “Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts.”1

I cannot imagine all the possible variables that you and your family may be experiencing now but I hope that by providing some simple strategies you can reduce that stress and improve your health.

5 Keys to Reducing Your Stress Level

  1. Create routines
  2.  Get organized
  3. Connect with loved ones
  4. Reduce your work load
  5. Take a break
  1.  Create routines – Have you heard of decision fatigue? It’s real and neuroscience tells us that each day we start off with a set amount of decision-making power. The more we use it – the less we have as the day goes on. Have you struggled to decide what to have for dinner? It’s possible your decision-making power is at its lowest, making even the simplest decisions challenging at the end of the day.

By creating routines and limiting choices you can “save” some of that decision-making power for the more important things. A routine is something that can be done on automatic pilot and doesn’t use much decision-making power at all. Having a morning, afternoon (returning home) and evening routine that works for you and reduces the number of decisions necessary is a great way to start. Having routines around sleeping, showering and eating are great for kids too as they often don’t check in with their bodies to know what they need.

Is it really worth it to use your decision-making power on your breakfast choice, or what you will wear today or when you will exercise? It makes more sense to save it for important decisions at work, helping your child with their homework or deciding where to vacation. Having routines that work, saves the decision-making power for the important things.

  1. Get organized – Along with creating routines that work for you, getting organized can also reduce your stress level. Estimates range from 2.5 days per year to 5,000 hours a year as the amount of time Americans waste looking for misplaced items. What would it be like if you never had to search for your keys or the TV remote again? Tired of paying late fees because you missed the payment reminder in among those 1000+ other emails?

Have a place for everything and put everything in its place, is what my mother used to say. That works for many things like hooks for keys, baskets for mail, and snacks in the drawer. The other thing to watch for is if you have too much of something. De-cluttering and getting rid of excess makes it easier to find what you are looking for. Having less, means it takes less time to “take care of” things, less time to find what you need and saves money because you didn’t have to go out and buy a new one.

Find a way to keep track of important dates and set the reminders on your phone when necessary. Don’t wait for the last minute. As we have seen with shipping delays, Prime has spoiled us, we no longer want to wait for deliveries. Think ahead.

  1. Connect with loved ones – You don’t need research to show that the pandemic and its social distancing has affected our stress levels when it comes to missing our family and friends. The fear/stress of not knowing who might have Covid-19 is keeping many people housebound for safety. We are keeping away from family for fear we could bring it unknowingly to them.

Thanks to advances in technology, it is easy to connect with friends and family via video. It might not feel the same as an in-person hug but sometimes just seeing your loved one’s face and hearing their voice is enough to reduce your stress and theirs. Set reminders to connect regularly for your health and the health of your loved ones.

  1. Reduce your work load – If you’re working from home you may be putting extra pressure on yourself to get “more” work done to keep your boss happy. However, if you have kids or pets or both, it is impossible! Be realistic and set 1-3 priorities for the day. Work in short blocks of time and batch your activities putting similar things together. Stay off social media and email unless your job is dependent on it.

Spend time with your kids throughout the day. This situation is stressful for them as well. They need guidance to get their school work done (or to have some learning time) and in how to use their time for work and play. Kids are used to having others provide the activities that keep them busy (think after school care, camps, etc.) so take time to encourage their creativity and imagination.

Routines and organization are important for work too. If something isn’t working, take the time to figure out why and then fix it. No one knows how long this situation will go on, so it’s important that it “work” for you now. The same thing applies to all the home stuff too. Create a schedule that works for you and the family and keeps things running smoothly. Get everyone involved. Even a three-year-old can match socks. Working and playing together as a team benefits everyone.

  1. Take a break – Everyone needs some “downtime.” Make sure to take time for yourself and provide breaks throughout the day in order to recharge. By creating “margins” around your activities and allowing for time in between tasks you are also allowing your brain to process what you have just done. The brain uses the most energy of any organ in the body and a stressed brain cannot think. Even as little as 5-10 minutes can recharge your brain. Snacks and movement can also help your brain.

Take time for fun too. Fun helps reduce stress and builds relationships. It raises the dopamine level in the brain which makes us feel good and think better. Your kids will be happier too and that can also reduce the stress in your life.

The pandemic has provided each family the gift of togetherness I hope you take advantage of it and don’t let the added stresses of what is happening in the world effect your health, your family or your home life.

1 my.clevelandclinic.org › health › articles › 11874-stress