Tossing Tips

To Treasure, Toss or Trash ~

That is the Question!

So what is the answer?  Here are some ideas to help!

  •  Toys: Broken items that cannot be fixed, haven’t played with for over a year or so, or no longer age appropriate.
  • Magazines/Books: If they are no longer interesting, have expired over a year, damaged or just no longer need. Also you can tear out the pages that you need and file them and toss the rest of the book or magazine.
  • Movies: no longer age appropriate, damaged etc…
  • Board Games: Pieces missing or no longer age appropriate.
  • Stuffed animals: Multiples multiply so decrease.  Ex. if you have 4 dogs…decreases by half, or at least one.
  • Papers: if not art work or something work keeping, trash right away. May can transfer information on calendar or notebook then toss the paper. Take photos and put them on disk, then toss paperwork.
  • Educational Items: Unless you are a teacher, look at the age on the container. If there are no children within 6 mths of that age, then toss.
  • Art supplies: Dried up, broken, caps missing, no longer working –toss.  Anything damaged.
  • Puzzles: toss if pieces are missing.
  • Clothes/Shoes: too small, too big, torn, worn or faded, have more than 5 (toss out oldest or the one that is not as new looking as the others.  Use tossed clothing for siblings or donate asap.
  • Sentimental items: Toss out items that are no longer needed. Use clear storage bins to store items to pass down. LABEL. Take photos of things and put them in a scrap book or photo book and toss the items.

Rule of thumb:

Make a decision today for today. Simplicity is best!

Other thoughts:

~Think logically and not “but one day……”

~Don’t get overwhelmed on what you do keep. Keep like items together, find homes and enjoy!

~Donations are wonderful gifts to others. Churches and donation drop offs,  are great places to start.

~If you are really still uncertain about an item…put it in a box. Label it as “THINKING.”  Put them away for 30 days and see what you feel about them on day 31.  You can continue this process until all items have a place or as you de clutter and clean other projects.

Good luck and know that every thing you do is progress!

School Stuff (Part 2 of 2) Papers

Here are some really neat suggestions to help with Papers and other items for School!

At The Beginning Of The School Year Designate A Large Envelope For Each Child’s School Papers

School papers are most useful for the school year they are issued, so start each school year off fresh with a big folder or binder, or something to keep each child’s school papers in.

I suggest getting and setting up these envelopes or folders at the same time you buy your child’s school supplies.

If your child brings home lots of stuff, you may even want to create a new one each semester or quarter. Whatever suits your needs, but the minimum is each year.

Go Through Your Child’s School Papers Daily As Part Of Their Homework Habit

As children get older they will have to do some type of homework, even on days when they don’t bring a specific worksheet home.

If nothing else, have each child show you their backpack, which they clean out to make sure there are no papers that need to be reviewed.

Then put all graded homework in their folder for that year, once you review it, to get it out of the way.

Put All Dates On The Family Calendar

Other school papers that I review have information on them, such as assignments or dates to remember on them.

All tests, quizzes, homework assignments, projects, library book return dates,Also try to write on the family calendar the dates of everything involved. School closings, school vacation or holidays, field trips and special events. All notes and newsletter info too.

Once written on the family calendar, which is in a central location, unless the school paper is really important it should be typically thrown away.

If it is important, you can place it in a folder in that childs school notebook.

Just be sure, if you do this, that you clean out this folder regularly, or you will soon have now useless information from two years ago cluttering up your home but most important you could miss something really important.

Also keep the detailed instructions about projects, because the space on the calendar nay not big enough to write all the details, just a summary.

Once the project is done, and graded, you  can generally throw the instructions away.

Every day, while your child does homework, you can look at the family calendar together to make sure you are on track for all assignments, such as studying for the spelling test tomorrow, or beginning the big assignment due next Friday to be able to do a little each day.

This crucial habit also allows you and your child to figure out if  your child is ready for the next school day, such as putting all library books in their backpack to be returned by their due date.

Put All Contact Information In Your Address Book

Each year your child may get new teachers and/or a new bus driver. I periodically need this information, which is generally passed out at the beginning of each school year.

I take the time when I get this big stack of school papers each fall to put all the information in the right locations for future quick reference when I need it.

If I didn’t do this, I would never be able to find the paper with the bus driver’s name on it, to know her phone number when I need it, for example.

And trust me, if I need to call the bus driver, it is some type of important reason, so I need that number, and I need to be able to find it quickly without a lot of hassle.

Fill Out All Paperwork Promptly And Return It To School.

I have no idea if all schools do this, but my child’s school has Friday Folders. These folders are used to bring home the majority of information for the week, on you guessed it, Friday.

A Friday Folder typically includes lots of graded homework and tests, field trip permission slips, class or school newsletters, and a menu for the school cafeteria.

I suggest going through your child’s Friday Folder while they are doing their homework and dealing with any paperwork as soon as possible.

I try to go ahead and immediately fill out permission slips or sign report cards, so I do not forget.

This habit also makes it easy to place it right back in the Friday Folder on that Friday for delivery back to the teacher by your child.

Please note that another reason that you need to check your child’s backpack at least quickly daily is because they are being entrusted to turn information back in to their teacher.

All children will occasionally forget to turn something in, such as a homework assignment or other paperwork. When you and your child check their backpack daily you can generally catch a problem before it is too late.

At The End Of The School Year Clean Out Your Child’s School Papers Folder of Non-Essentials

At the end of the school year your child’s folder will likely be stuffed with school paperwork and completed homework assignments, because of all those graded worksheets and other information.

You can use their folder as a keepsake of their school year.

I like to keep my child’s report cards, and representative homework assignments in several areas of study from various points during the school year.

I also like to keep not just the A+ work, but I also like to keep some things which show them struggling and then improving in various areas of study.

That is more like real life and what really happened then just the perfect scores.

You don’t need to, and in my opinion, shouldn’t keep all the school papers that your child brings home once the school year is over. It just becomes a big pile of clutter once the school year is over. So cull out the repetitive parts and just keep the gems.

I hope these few ideas have helped you spur some of your own for to stay organize and help track of the mountains of school paperwork.

So now it is your turn. My way is not the only right way, and maybe your way will work better for another person reading this. Tell me below how you keep track of your child’s school papers.

May your life be full of information!

~Assorted Sources

School Stuff (Part 1 of 2) ~ The Basics

Is paper taking over your home? Do you groan each time you check the mail? Are the contents of your children’s backpack waiting to take over your dining table? Help is available to control paper, and it may be simpler than you think.

1. Create a command center.

Create a regular place where all paper is kept. Mail is sorted here. Backpacks are emptied here. Receipts are deposited here. To make it a great command center, you’ll need a shredder, trash can, and at least a temporary filing system. In just a few seconds, you’ll be able to sort paper into the shredder, the trash, or an action or archive file.

2. Store digitally.

Keep digital copies of what you can. Storing things on a computer takes up less space in your home, so when possible, store items digitally. I’ve tossed out my recipe box in favor of storing recipes online. The things I need are easier to find and they don’t take up additional counter space.

3. Toss right away.

Throw out paper that isn’t needed right away. Whether you recycle it, shred it, or trash it, throw out unnecessary forms, receipts, and letters right away. The command center comes in handy for this. Instead of moving piles of junk paper around, you’ll throw it away and forget it.

4. Have a filing system in place.

Take the time to create a filing system that works for you. I have a set of temporary files, and a set of archived files. When paper comes into my command center, I can right away choose whether it’s something that should be trashed, archived, or requires action on my part. It’s filed accordingly.

5. Use a shredder.

Before I had a shredder in my command center, I always ended up with a stack of papers to remember to shred later. Often that stack would get moved around and piled up with other papers, forcing me to re-sort. Having a shredder available is a huge time-saver. Just shred it and be done.

6. Go paperless.

If possible, go paperless with as much of life as you can. More and more companies offer paperless billing options. Even schools are beginning to communicate through email and webpages more frequently. Take advantage of paperless options wherever available and you’ll have less coming into your home.

7. Set a time/date to file and clean files.

Depending on the size of your household and how much paper you receive, you’ll need to have a set time each week to file. I do mini-filing daily when I sort the mail and after school papers. Then weekly, I go through my action and archive folders in my command center and take care of those papers. Doing this regularly has gotten me into the habit of taking care of paper daily, and it’s made all the difference.

8. Teach the kids.

Teaching your children how to file their own items will save you time. My children are already learning how to evaluate the paper that they bring into our home. They can make decisions on whether those papers need an action for me, need to be archived, or can be thrown out.

9. Put it on the calendar.

Just like anything else you schedule, filing needs to be written as part of your daily plan. This is to help remind you that it’s an important part of your day. After awhile your routine will become…well, routine. But for now, writing it down in your daily planner will help keep you honest about keeping up with the influx of paper.

10. Multitask your sorting.

Sorting paper can be a great chore to multitask with. I love going through files while I watch TV. It’s a great way to get something done and not feel guilty about spending time catching up on your favorite shows.

Back to School-Basic Organization

Move over, summer–a new school year is coming!

With the start of school, families face new organization challenges. School bells ring–and so do early-morning alarm clocks. Shorter autumn days bring a hectic round of sports, activities and events, and calendars fill with cryptic notes. Can the holidays be far behind?

Get organized now for the best school year ever! Use these ideas to prepare your home and family for the busy days ahead:

  • Create Calendar Central

Each school year floats on a sea of schedules. School functions. Lunch menus. Scout meetings and music lessons. What do you do when you’re drowning in paper?

Nothing calms school year chaos like Calendar Central: a centralized site for all family calendars and schedules. You’ll need a family event calendar to track after-school activities, school programs and volunteer work. Add specialized calendars and schedules, and you have it: a one-stop shop for family time management.

Form is less important than function. A paper calendar with large squares lets you enter information easily. Pre-printed white board calendars are easy to revise when necessary. Color-coding entries by family member helps keep busy lives straight.

Planner users dedicate a planner section to serve as Calendar Central, while tech-savvy  store the info in a smart phone and sync with multiple computers. Choose a calendar format that works for your family.

Post the family event calendar in a public place near the telephone. Use magnets to attach the calendar to the refrigerator, or tack it to a bulletin board.

Add other calendars to Calendar Central: school lunch menus, class assignment sheets, sports practice schedules. When the room mother calls for field trip volunteers, you’ll know at a glance whether you’re free to join the group on the bus that day.

  • Ease the family into a school year schedule.

The first day of school is no time for a drastic adjustment of household sleep schedules. Instead, ease children back into a school year routine gradually.

During the last two weeks of summer, re-introduce a school year bedtime. Begin waking late sleepers earlier and earlier, closer to the hour they’ll need to rise when school begins.

Don’t neglect mealtimes! Younger children, in particular, need to adapt to new meal routines before the school day demands it of them. Plan meals and snacks to accustom little ones to rituals of the school day before the school year begins.

  • Check before you shop

August is the second-biggest sales month for clothing retailers. Back to school clothing sales begin as early as July! Are you prepared to run the school clothes gauntlet?

An informed shopper is a savvy shopper, so prepare before you shop. Take an afternoon and assess each child’s clothing needs. Empty drawers and closets of outgrown or worn-out clothing, and either store or donate the discards.

Working with your child, clean and organize clothing storage before new garments are added–and cut down on school morning calls of “Mom! I don’t have any clean . . . . ”

Develop a wardrobe needs list for each child. Check for possible hand-me-downs from older siblings as you make your list. If you discuss the needs list and the family budget with your children before you shop, you’ll avoid in-the-store tantrums.

Similarly, ask the school for classroom supply lists before shopping for school supplies. Forewarned is forearmed … and helps protect the family budget.

Do shop early! With back-to-school sales beginning in mid-July, tardy shoppers have a tough time locating needed supplies among September’s Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations.

  • Gather your papers

School entry may require documentation from immunization records to report cards from the previous school year. A little preparation can prevent frantic last-minute searches.

Call your child’s school beforehand to find out what paperwork will be required–then find it! You won’t be sorry come registration day.

  • Take aim on morning madness

How are school mornings in your home? Crazed and chaotic, or calm and cheerful? Plan ahead to send your schoolchildren out the door in a happy mood.

Each evening, think ahead to the following morning. Set the breakfast table as you clear the dinner dishes. Lay out children’s clothing the night before.

Multi-child households may need a bathroom schedule so that everyone gets equal time before the mirror.

What do you do about books and papers, lunch money and permission slips? Make a specific place for each so that no one will be without.

  • Spiff up household systems

A new school year quickens the tempo of family life. Sports activities, music lessons, church programs and volunteer commitments tap parental time and put new mileage on the mini-van.

Get organized! Spiff up your household systems to meet autumn’s faster pace”

Take a stab at speed cleaning and whip through household chores in record time.

Cut time in the kitchen: create a menu plan and never again wonder “What’s for dinner?”

Try a session of freezer cooking and stock the freezer with prepared meals for stress-free dinners on sports nights.

Whatever you do, just know that if you make your family a priority…then everything else will be GREAT!

Enjoy your last few Summer Moments and Make Back to School Simple and Super!


Children’s Room-Some Basic Tips

Decluttering, Organization and Cleaning

1.  Take a child’s eye view.

Get down to your child’s eye level to help him or her get organized.  Look at your child’s space, storage, furniture and possessions from his or her vantage point.   The view may surprise you!

Adult furniture and organizing systems don’t translate well to children’s needs.   Sticky dresser drawers are hard for small hands to manage.  Folding closet doors pinch fingers and jump their rails when pushed from the bottom.  Closet hanging rods are out of reach, while adult hangers don’t fit smaller clothing.    Traditional toy boxes house a tangled jumble of mixed and scattered toy parts.

To organize a child’s room, solutions must fit the child.   For younger children, remove closet doors entirely.  Lower clothing rods and invest in child-sized hangers.  Use floor-level open containers to hold toys, open plastic baskets to store socks and underwear.  Devise a simple daily checklist for maintenance.  To organize a child’s room, tailor the effort to the child.

2.  Bring the child into the process.

Resist the urge to wade into the mess alone, garbage bags flying.  Gritted teeth and threats of  “You will keep this room clean!” don’t touch the root of the problem:  teaching children organization skills and maintenance methods.

Instead, look at the organization process as a learning activity, and put the focus on the child.  I recommend that you view your role as that of organizational consultant to your child. As his or her guide, survey what’s working, what’s not, what’s important to the child, what’s causing the problems, and why the child wants to get organized.

Partnered with your child, you stand a better chance of devising an organization scheme and system that makes sense to him or her.  If they’re involved in the effort, children are better able to understand the organizational logic and maintain the new, organized room.

3.  Sort, store and simplify.

It’s a conundrum!  Children’s rooms are usually small, often shared, and generally lack built-in storage.  Yet these rooms are host to out-of-season and outgrown clothing, surplus toys, and even household overflow from other rooms.  Kids can’t stay organized when the closet is crammed, the drawers are stuffed, and playthings cover each square inch of carpet.

The solution:  sort, store and simplify.  Begin with clothing:  sort it out!  Store out-of-season or outgrown clothing elsewhere. Finally, simplify!  Does your son really wear all 27 T-shirts crowding his drawer?    Remove the extras so the remainder can stay neat and orderly in the available space.

For younger children, a toy library is the answer to over-abundant toys.   Using a large lidded plastic storage container, large box or even plastic garbage bag, entrust a selection of toys to the “toy library.”  Store the container in an out-of-the way place for several months.

Some rainy day, bring out the toy library, swapping the stored toys for other playthings that have lost their savor.  The stored toys will have regained their interest and freshness–and they won’t have been underfoot in the child’s room.

Older kids can utilize higher closet shelves to “store” some of their belongings.  Clear plastic shoebox storage containers hold little pieces and identify the contents.

4.  Contain, corral and control.

Toy boxes and open shelves are no place to store children’s possessions, particularly those involving many tiny parts.  To organize toys, think “contain, corral and control.”

Contain toys and other belongings before you store.  Use plastic shoebox containers for smaller toys (Barbie clothes, Happy Meal give-aways), larger lidded bins for blocks, trucks and cars, light-weight cardboard records boxes for stuffed animals.    Use specialty organizers to corral magazines and comic books, video games, or CDs and cassette tapes.

A bonus:  containers help parents control the number of toys out at any one time:    “Sure, you can play with the farm set, just as soon as the Matchbox cars go back into their home!”

5.  Make it easier to put away, harder to get out.

The premier rule for efficient children’s storage?  Make it easier to put something away than it is to get it out.

For example, store picture books as a flip-file, standing upright in a plastic dishpan.  The child flips through the books, makes his selection, and tosses the book in the front of the dishpan when he’s done.   Compare a traditional bookcase, where little fingers can pull down a whole shelf faster than they can replace one book.  Build the effort into the getting out, not the putting away.

6.  Organize bottom to top.

Befitting a child’s shorter stature, start organizing from the bottom of the room, and work to the top.  Most used toys and belongings should live on lower shelves, in lower drawers, or on the floor.  Higher levels are designated for less-frequently-used possessions.

Working bottom to top, the best-loved teddy bear sits in a small rocker on the floor, while the extensive Grandma-driven bear collection is displayed on a shelf built 6 feet up the wall.

7.  Label, label, label.

Labels save the day!  Use a computer printer to make simple graphic labels for young children.  Pictures of socks, shirts, dolls or blocks help remind the child where these items belong.  Enhance reading skills for older children by using large-type word labels.

Slap labels everywhere:  inside and outside of drawers, on shelf edges and on the plastic shoebox storage containers that belong there, on boxes and bookcases and filing cubes.  Playing “match the label” can be fun–and turns toy pickup into a game.

8.  Build a maintenance routine.

The usual peaks and valleys approach to room cleaning can vex and frustrate children.  Their room is clean, they play, and suddenly, their room is back to messy normal.   Help children stop the cycle by building maintenance routines into the family’s day.    “Morning Pickup” straightens the comforter, returns the pillow to the bed, and gets yesterday’s clothing to the laundry hamper.  “Evening Pickup” precedes dressing for bed, and involves putting away the day’s toys.