Create & Cultivate shares how to Motivate Your Monday, Sunday Night!

Anybody else get the Sunday Blues? Even though I enjoy my work, I still sometimes get that little twinge come Sunday evening. I ran across this great article, 8 Ways to Motivate Your Monday, Sunday Night on Create & Cultivate last night with 8 great tips for battling that sinking feeling with weekday prep action items and a few fun ideas, too.   My advice: bookmark this article for next weekend, choose an action item (I love the declutter idea – just choose one little space to tackle and set a short timer!) and one relaxation item (meal with friends or read a book!) and ease into next Sunday evening.

NY Times: Want to Be Happy? Buy More Takeout and Hire a Maid, Study Suggests

This NY Times article has received a lot of attention in the news and on social media recently and posits that,“People who spent money to buy themselves time, such as by outsourcing disliked tasks, reported greater overall life satisfaction.” From all of my years as a personal assistant and professional organizer I can anecdotally confirm this has been true for most of my clients, whether it was using my services, utilizing grocery delivery, taking Uber, or, most especially, hiring a cleaning person. Many people who have worked with me likely remember my gentle chant that hiring a cleaning person (if your resources allow) makes your home more livable, gives you time back for your family, supports small business ownership and can be a saving grace to a relationship! ; )

Our Favorite Organizing Ideas from Pinterest

We love getting new organizing inspiration from Pinterest. There are so many excellent pins from organizing experts around the world and it’s an easy way to source new storage and organizing solutions for unusual spaces. Here are some of our latest favorite ideas:

Behind the Door Cleaning Product Storage: Get your cleaning products out of valuable cabinet space and onto the back of the laundry door for easy access and organization.

Side of Fridge Pantry Storage: Utilize the rarely used space next to the fridge to create a pull-out pantry. This is perfect for cans, spices, and other thin items.


Organized Pots & Pans Storage: Who wouldn’t want this model of organization for their pots and pans. With a place for every item it’s easy to put things back where they belong.


Ceiling Mounted Garage Storage: Maximize your storage space, by mounting storage bins on the ceiling of your garage. These bins are perfect for holiday decorations and other infrequently used items.

Silverware Trays for Bathroom Drawer Storage Organization: This is a fantastic idea for keeping toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss organized in a family bathroom.

Organized Menu Planning

Menu planning is a great way for individuals to save both time and money on their weekly meals. Whether you’re looking to implement the system for a new diet, to be more cost conscious in groceries or simply to improve your weekly organization the process can be beneficial. We’ve gathered our 5 favorite tips for helping you to be successful in your new menu planning system.

1) Calendaring: To begin, get a paper or digital calendar that you will use to design your menus. Immediately mark off the days of the week where you routinely eat out. From there, decide how many meals per day and for how many people you will need to purchase for. Are you including lunches or just dinners? Are you cooking for just you and the family or are you hosting a large dinner? Factor all of these things into your schedule and determine how many meals you need.

2) Plan Smart: The goal of menu planning is to maximize the potential of the foods you buy and ultimately save you money. For some, the easiest way to do this is to start with the protein. If you plan to have chicken, steak, and shrimp for 3 meals, coordinate another 3 meals using the same meats. This means you’ll purchase less variety, but can make up for it in the types of dishes you create. The same concept is true for other specialty ingredients, sauces, veggies, etc. It is also important to take into account the freshness of the items vs. the planned meal date. For example, if you’re buying frozen veggies for one dish, but fresh ones for another, the latter dish needs to come first in the line up.

3) Shopping List: When organizing your shopping list, write out items in terms of their placement in the store. For example, group together all fruits and veggies in the same area of the list. This way you are less likely to miss something while you are shopping. In the store, you should also allow yourself to be flexible. If you have one veggie on your list, but another looks fresher or cheaper, feel free to swap them.

4) Meal Prep: As much as possible, attempt to do double duty in all of your meal prep. For instance, if you have chopped onions in tonight’s dinner as well as tomorrows, cut both at the same time. Store the second night’s onions in tupperware and you’ll have saved yourself some time tomorrow. This is also true for larger preparations. If you’ll be using a specific sauce again later in the month, you can easily make a larger batch and freeze the rest.

5) Execution: Keep the menu planning process on track by actually making the items on your schedule. If your cravings are guiding you in a different direction on a particular night, try to switch the meal for another dish that’s on this week’s schedule. By doing so, you’ll just be swapping days and not using ingredients planned for other dishes unnecessarily.

Happy cooking!

TWOW

Personal Health Record: What Are They & How Do I Make One?

For anyone that has a chronically ill family member or someone that has experienced an accident that has brought upon many medical issues, you know that the amount of paperwork can quickly become overwhelming. Even the average individual will want to keep track of their records and personal information for insurance purposes  reimbursements, health tracking, and for taxes. With much of the Personal Health Record industry moving digital it can be difficult to know what you need, how you should store the information, and for how long. Here are some basic guidelines and tips to follow.

WHAT TO ADD TO YOUR PERSONAL HEALTH RECORD FILE:

  • Personal information (phone, address, birthdate)
  • Insurance cards, discount prescription cards
  • Immunization records
  • Dental records
  • Important test results, especially abnormal ones
  • A list of medical conditions and coordinating health regimens or medications
  • A list of medications and foods you are allergic to
  • Prescription history
  • A list of doctors, specialists, and health providers that you have seen in the past (including contact info)
  • Insurance bills and statements

WHERE TO STORE:

  • Online services such as WebMD’s Personal Health Record system can assist you in storing your information digitally, so that you have greater ease in providing healthcare professionals with access to past history, can access the info throughout your lifetime, and to maximize your health benefits. For more information about storing your personal health information online, visit the Medicare.gov page.
  •  If you feel more comfortable keeping the information in hard copy, create a folder designated for your Personal Health Records and another for Medical Insurance. Keep all of the items, except for the last, from the list above in the first folder. The Medical Insurance folder should keep the bills and statements from your insurance company. You can also add in correspondence from claim negotiations or other related documents. When seeing a new doctor, bring the first file with you, so that they can copy the information.

HOW LONG TO STORE:

  • Experts advise that medical records should be kept for 5 years after the end of the treatment. For insurance bills and statements you can toss records after a year, or immediately if you have access to the digital statement online. Remember to always shred your personal health records for security reasons.

We wish you good health and organization!

TWOW

 

The Challenges of Downsizing Homes: How to decide what to keep, sell, or donate

There often comes a point in ones life where they decide downsizing is a good option. Maybe you are looking to reduce cost of living or maybe you just don’t have use for all of the extra rooms anymore. Either way, the process can sometimes be difficult, as reviewing and deliberating on what to keep and what to get rid of can be emotional. These are belongings you’ve likely had more many years and letting go of them forever is not easy. We’ve helped clients with this process in the past and have found a few general guidelines to be helpful:

1) Give Yourself Time: The process of downsizing, if possible, should be done over the course of several months. Once you decide a move is possible, begin to slowly start reviewing your belongings room by room. Do a little each day or a couple of rooms each weekend until you have made it through the lot. If it helps, use small post-it notes to designate keep, sell, donate or trash.

2) Work with a Friend or Professional: Having a friend or a professional organizer assist in the process can be great. They are able to offer neutral viewpoints on whether to keep certain items, ask questions that will help guide you to make decisions, and organize the process in an efficient manner (if working with a professional).

3) Sell vs. Donate: This is a common question. While selling all of the belongings can result in extra money, it can also be a great deal of work. When deciding if the investment in time is worth it consider the following questions. If your answers to these questions are mostly yes, it may make sense for you to organize an estate sale, a garage sale, or sell the items via Craigslist. If not, donation is likely your best option.

  1. Are the items valuable?
  2. Are the items estate sale quality?
  3. Are the items in good to excellent condition?
  4. Are the items useful today? (i.e. selling a VCR probably isn’t worth the effort, but a recently purchased iPhone might be)
  5. Are the items unique or potentially collectables?

4) Think Rationally, Not Emotionally: When reviewing items in your home, attempt to think about each item in a rational way. In addition to remembering the emotional connection you have with the item, also evaluate it’s frequency of use. While it may be something you liked years ago, if it hasn’t been touched since then, it probably isn’t going to be missed if you let it go.

Good luck in your downsizing!

TWOW

3 Common Excuses for Clutter & How to Stop Making Them

Many of the individuals we work with struggle with maintaining a clutter-free home. They truly want to have an organized home and life, but when it comes to the execution we often hear the same excuses again and again. While we understand that things do come up and that no one is organized all of the time, there are ways to minimize the excuses and get on a consistent organizing plan.

1) “It’s Not Me, It’s My Partner”: Occasionally this excuse is true, but often times both people are contributing to the problem in some way. With this issue, we recommend several strategies. First, work together to devise an organizing and cleaning plan. Both partners must contribute to the design and it should include responsibilities for each person. If need be, create a physical chart with check marks for completion of tasks each week. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, schedule a meeting to discuss what obstacles are getting in the way and how you can work together to achieve the goal. The second part of this plan is to reinforce when effort has been made. If you see your partner picking up the house, thank and compliment them. Expressed appreciation encourages continued effort more than anything else.

2) “I don’t have the time”: Many people are very busy with work and life, but typically the average person has extra free time that they just aren’t utilizing to the fullest. For example, while watching tv at night you can also be folding laundry or putting items back where they belong. The other part of this issue, is the ability to clean as you go. If you are cooking dinner for the family, try to wash a few pots along the way. At the end of dinner, all you’ll have left are a few plates and silverware, making the clean up process quick and easy.

3) “I don’t have enough space to be organized”: This is one we see a lot! The underlying issue is that for people like this, no amount of space will ever be enough. They accumulate to their max capacity and if they had a bigger home, they would do it there too. To rectify these situations we recommend a few tips. First, doing a major purge two times per year will help keep the possessions to an acceptable and livable level. The one in one out strategy is also great for individuals like this. For every new item that comes into the home, one must leave. This will assist you in maintaining the smaller amount of items after your first purge.

Clutter happens to everyone, but recognizing when you’re making unnecessary excuses for it can help keep the problem from happening in the first place.

TWOW

Childproofing Checklist

Babyproofing your home before your child starts crawling and especially once they are on the move is important for the safety of the child. Here is a comprehensive checklist of what needs to happen in each room of the house:

KITCHEN:

  • Add appliance latches to oven, fridge, dishwasher and all other lower appliances
  • Add child-proof door latches to all cupboards and drawers below counter level
  • Install a stove guard and knob handle covers
  • Move knives into locked drawer instead of the counter top
  • Remove table cloths from tables if there are heavy items on top that could be pulled off and hurt the child
  • Install a safety cover on the garbage disposal

AROUND THE HOME:

  • Add electrical plug covers throughout the home
  • Hide all cords or user cord storage boxes. Ensure that if a cord was pulled, nothing heavy could fall on the child
  • Add baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs and to dangerous rooms (garage)
  • Add locks to all doors and windows
  • Install corner and edge bumpers, if desired
  • Secure all large furniture to the walls
  • Secure all guns and other dangerous weapons in a locked safe
  • Remove all toxic plants from the home
  • Install window guards
  • Secure up high or remove window coverings with hanging cords.

BATHROOM:

  • Add a child-proof latch to the medicine cabinet (even if it is located higher up)
  • Check the water temperature to make sure it is not above 120 degrees Fahrenheit or have a plumber install an anti-scald device
  • Add non-slip mats or stickers to the bathtub floor
  • Never leave flat-irons or curling irons on when unattended and ensure the cord is not dangling below the counter

LIVING ROOM:

  • Block the fireplace with a cover or gate

CHILD’S ROOM:

  • Purchase a crib approved by baby safety associations and do not use bumpers
  • Install a fire latter outside the child’s window once they are old enough to use it safely
  • Remove any sharp toys or anything that could wrap around a child’s neck

OUTSIDE:

  • Add a fence or safety cover to the pool

Organizing Bills & Payments

Dealing with financial management, including monthly bill payments can be difficult for many people. The may find themselves sending in payments late for no other reason than the fact they forgot. If you are looking to get organized and set up a plan for efficiently dealing with finances and bills, check out our simple steps.

1) Automate: Although this option does not work for everyone, automating payments via your bank’s online bill pay system can save you time and money. You’ll never have to worry about whether or not you sent in the payment on time or if you’ll incur a late fee. This plan works especially well for monthly recurring bills, such as gym memberships, cable service, or cell phone bills, but you can set up almost all accounts to be paid this way. Automation is also a great tool for increasing your savings. Automated savings deposits (especially to another bank account that you don’t see or touch) can ensure you contribute each month.

2) Go Paperless: Requesting paperless bills will help to keep you and your home organized. This allows you to maintain all of the records you need, without having to store a physical copy. In terms of payments, many people like the system of keeping the email reminder in their inbox until it has been paid. Once you’ve scheduled the payment, archive the email and you’re good until the next month.

3) Physical Organization: If you are going to manage bills the old fashioned way, set yourself up for organizational success by creating a system. Store all unpaid bills together in one folder and only relocate them after they have been paid. The folder should only contain one month’s worth of bills. Once something been paid, mark it as paid and file the paper bill in an organized cabinet. You can also shred it, as you’ll always be able to access the information online, should you need it.

4) Schedule Bill Pay Time: Scheduling 2-4 days per month for bill pay can help you keep on track. Mark the recurring days and times on the calendar and allot enough time to get everything paid that’s due before your next bill pay appointment.

5) Management & Tracking Systems: For more tech savvy people, a financial management system such as LearnVest or Mint.com can help you monitor income, expenses, bills, savings, and investments. It can also remind you when things are due, alert you to excessive interest charges and give recommendations for improving your financial situation. The ability to access your entire portfolio of finances in one place or on-the-go is also a nice feature.

TWOW

 

Organizing Your To-Do List

An overflowing to-do list is always a source of stress. We’ve complied our favorite methods for organizing, planning, and executing the tasks on your list in a way that is both efficient and easy.

1) Like with Like: Write out your to-do list in a way that groups like tasks together. Potential categories include: phone calls, computer work, physical errands, personal errands (dentist appt., nail appt., etc.)  and requests from others and long-term projects.

2) Consider Location: When organizing your list, consider the locations of where physical errands need to be completed. If there is a shopping center that contains multiple stores at which you have tasks, get them all done at once instead of making multiple trips.

3) Timing is Everything: When planning the execution of your to-do list, take into consideration the timing needs of the various tasks. For example, calls to vendors need to happen during business hours, while internet research could take place after hours. If you plan ahead you won’t find yourself pushing off tasks due to an inability to complete them during your free hours.

4) Prepare Yourself for Success: If certain tasks on your list involve physical processes, such as returns, prepare for the possibility of getting them done when the opportunity arises by placing the items (including receipts) in your car. This concept is also true for all other tasks that need to be completed while out and about.

5) Enlist Help: If a task on your list would take you twice as long as it would your husband or a friend, hand it off. In the same respect, if your hourly worth exceeds the cost it would take you to outsource the task to a personal assistant, it likely makes sense to pay for it to be handled instead of doing it yourself.

What are your favorite to-do list tricks?

TWOW

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