For many of us, September is the least relaxing month of the year. There’s the chaos of back to school, getting into a routine, and saying goodbye to the unscheduled days of summer. So, to make your transition to fall as smooth as possible, try these steps for simplifying your life, so you can really relax!
The first step to make time for a breather is to actually plan for one. This might sound strange, but if life is busy enough, you might have to literally schedule that hour in your day to leave the house for a solitary coffee break or a quiet walk, the same way you schedule lunch with a friend.
Try to occasionally disconnect from your phone, whether its during the one hour at the gym, or ideally, at least an hour before bed. Checking your phone constantly can increase stress in all areas of your life, and setting aside certain time periods to answer texts and emails and then disconnect for a little bit can help you stay calm.
Occasionally say no to social engagements that are actually inconvenient for you to attend. The hosts will understand, and it will help to clear your schedule.
Write It Down
Sometimes keeping track of everything that you have to do in your head gives the illusion that there’s more to do than there actually is. Keep a to-do list and a detailed calendar so you never forget a task or appointment, and have a realistic grasp of what you actually have to do.
This means planning ahead for everything. Create routines for carpools, menus, chores, or even weekly dates with a spouse, so you never have to think about it.
Cardio is good for calorie burning, but try some yoga for one of your workouts this week to get in the mode of deep breathing and relaxation.
Try to occasionally take some time away from family and friends, and clear your head. This will help you realign your life with your goals, and recharge before returning to the craziness that is everyday life.
Lazy days spent by the pool, long weekends exploring new towns, and afternoons interrupted by the mailman delivering camp letters – we’re all going to miss that summer haze that has us sighing with relaxation. But before you become utterly overwhelmed thinking about life getting a bit more hectic, here are five quick fixes that can tremendously simplify your life.
Learn to say no! We all want to be completely immersed in every event involving our family and friends, but we can’t. When every child invites the entire class to their birthday parties, it’s not necessary to attend them all. Decline parties that are not truly important to your child or just simply inconvenient. Similarly, don’t overextend yourself with volunteer jobs. Pick wisely. Determine which event is your child’s favorite, and take on the task of planning that one event every year. The event will be more meaningful because your child really cares about the celebration. Plus, there is no need to reinvent the wheel – you only have to plan the event once! Save the decorations in a box so next year’s celebration is a no-brainer.
Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today. Never leave the mail on the counter for later, because we all know later never comes when we get bogged down with other tasks. Immediately flip through the mail so it doesn’t grow into an exploding pile that takes over your counter. Junk mail and envelopes should have a one-way ticket to the recycle bin; letters, invitations, and bills should be placed in a designated “inbox” to be addressed when you have extra time. Emails can be simplified as well. Instead of deleting spam, unsubscribe to the website’s mailing list so you don’t receive any more emails from the site. A twenty-second act can save you up to five minutes daily of deleting unwanted advertisements.
Technology is your friend…as long as it’s used for good, not evil. As you simplify your life, your smart phone should be no different. Purge your app list of addicting battery drainers such as Candy Crush and Angry Birds. Also, remove the myriad of unopened apps that you downloaded per friends’ suggestions. Replace these with apps that will do what technology is meant to do: enhance your life. Use the ‘Reminders’ app to alert you when an appointment or birthday is nearing. Applications such as LastPass and One Password keep all of your passwords in a secure app so you don’t need to remember every password to your different shopping logins, and bank websites. For those of you who are technologically challenged, a friend can easily teach you to streamline your phone calendar with your computer calendar so you never miss an appointment – even if your phone dies.
Keep celebrations stress-free! Store various gift cards in different denominations for every caliber of friend so you don’t have to spend time finding a gift for every birthday party. Likewise, keep generic cards in the house to avoid a rushed trip to the card store. When it’s your party, keep the after party just as simple. Open gifts with a notepad in hand to prepare for thank you notes. When it’s time to write them, have a set template so the writing process takes half the time! Thank you notes should be completed within the week so your guests receive them within two weeks of the event. While opening the presents, create two piles: gifts to keep and those to return in the next few days. That way, all of your post-celebration obligations are completed by the next week, and you can bask in the glow of a party well done.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Many of us rely heavily on to-do lists; however, consider rethinking the effect of your list on your well being. For example, if you put the bank, grocery store, and organizing your house on the same list, that list will take a month to accomplish, and you will get into bed each night feeling discouraged. Form two checklists instead: short-term tasks and long-term goals. On your short-term list, write smaller tasks for your lengthy goals. Instead of “organize the house,” try, “organize kitchen drawers.” This is a realistic goal that can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. “Organize the house” is daunting, seemingly never-ending, and will usually be pushed aside for quicker options like going to the bank. Choosing to tackle small tasks within your larger goal, without losing sight of the big picture (specified on your long-term goals list), will help you to accomplish both your short-term and long-term goals without feeling overwhelmed.
While fall is still weeks away, implement some of these ideas, so you’ll be more relaxed when summer ends. Before you know it, school will be back in session, sports practice will begin, carpools will be a way of life, and homework and tests will be dominating your children’s evenings. And until then, take a deep breath…summer is yours to enjoy for another month!
As a young girl, there was nothing I loved more than going to Jaffee’s, my local stationery store, to shop for school supplies. The promise of new notebooks, pristine pencils, and a set of dividers was all I needed to feel pure happiness. As professional organizer, my adult equivalent of school supply shopping is a trip to The Container Store, a veritable playground of organizing possibilities! You can only imagine my delight when I was asked to host an event at The Container Store for a group of bloggers last week. As part of the program, I walked around the store, sharing some of my favorite products∗which I’ve listed below…
Shoe Box, item 10008759
The Little Black Dress of Organizing, I use these to contain action figures, packing tape, sunblock, and cookie cutters.
Bisley 5 Drawer Cabinet, item 10053877
I’ve recently used these vibrantly colored file cabinets in a teen’s room for electronics and papers, and a child’s room for art supplies.
Large Lacquered Rectangular Box, item 10055485
These high style boxes provide the perfect hiding place for batteries, remote controls, or decks of cards (multiple colors available).
POP Canisters by Oxo, item 10042844
Once you store dry goods such as flour and sugar in these functional, sleek canisters, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them (multiple sizes available).
Dream Drawer Dividers, item 10023483
Drawers stay tidier when they’re divided into sections. Separate your underpinnings or your short sleeve t-shirts from long sleeve t-shirts.
Bigso Stockholm Document Box, item 10049716
Use these boxes to store your child’s sentimental items through his/her school years. You can store all but the current year, but they look nice enough to display (multiple colors available).
Small Duo Bin, item 10057626
For items that you reach for often, these bins are modern and chic. I love the shiny black, white, and green.
Clear Divided Tray, Item 201070
I use this neutral organizer in bathroom drawers, office drawers, and playroom drawers.
Apothecary Jar, item 10029279
The inside of your medicine cabinet should look just as neat as your bathroom counter. I use these for hair ties, cotton balls, Q-tips, and grooming implements (nail clippers and tweezers).
Landscape Letter Tray, Item 10047418
These stackable letter trays can be labeled in the front, so you know at a glance which one is holding lined paper and which one is holding white paper.
*I have not been paid or asked by The Container Store to endorse any of these products. They are products I use frequently with clients.
The first year I sent my children to camp, I began preparations several months in advance. I ordered the camp logo items, purchased horseback riding boots, and soccer cleats (for a child who hates soccer and thinks horses are smelly), and had labels sewn into every last sock. Now, five years later, I pack two days before the trunks leave, and it couldn’t be easier. Here are some of my tips for organizing for camp without the hassle.
- Forget ironing or sewing on labels. Arm yourself with a Sharpie laundry marking pen or stickers that affix to the label of any item of clothing.
- Go light on the toiletries. Remember there’s a fully stocked infirmary with band aids, Neosporin, ibuprofen, or anything else your child might need.
- Buy extra socks and underpants. When you’re purchasing the 18 pairs of socks and underpants required for camp, buy an extra dozen of each. Have these in your child’s drawer for when s/he returns from camp. Whatever makes it home after the summer will be ripe for the trash bin.
- Use plastic travel bags to contain clothing. Put socks in one, bathing suits in another, t-shirts in another. When things aren’t strewn around the trunk, it will make unpacking easier for your child.
- If it fits in the trunk, it’s not worth the fight. Your adolescent girl will want to take a hair dryer, flat iron, nail polish, and most of the clothes in her wardrobe. Let her.
- Keep camp specific items separate. Camp towels, linens, clothing with the camp logo, “bunk junk” (small games, flashlights, canteens) should not be integrated into the linen closet, utility area, or playroom. When packing next year, you’ll have it all in one place.
- Sneakers don’t come home from camp. Tell your child not to bring home any sneakers or shoes except for the ones on his/her feet. They’ll be so vile, you’ll just be tossing them the minute they get home anyway.
- Schedule the lice check. When your child gets off the camp bus, take him/her for a lice check before s/he enters the house.
By Guest Blogger Rebecca Reich, age 12
This blog is about packing for camp. Unlike my friends’ moms, my mom doesn’t start a month in advance; she does everything in two days (for me and my brother). She packs in one afternoon. Here’s how she does it.
- Any clothes we want to take to camp are piled in our playroom. I want to take all of my clothes, and my mom wants me to take only what the camp says I need. I bring more than the list says, but not as much as I want.
- Using stick on labels from LabelDaddy.com, my mom sticks a label on each article of clothing. She uses a Sharpie to write initials on socks.
- She types a list of every single thing I bring to camp. I’m not sure why she does this.
- She separates t-shirts, pajamas, sweatshirts, socks, and every category of clothes and puts them in soft, plastic zippered bags. She folds everything perfectly which is a waste of time.
- All non-clothing camp supplies are stored in a separate closet in our playroom. She takes this stuff out, labels it, and puts it in a second trunk.
Once I get to camp, I’m not that neat. But, here are a few of the things that I do:
- I fold my clothes, so I can see what I have and fit more in my cubbies.
- I pick a spot for my stationery, my flashlight, and books. I put things away, so I can find them.
- I put my laundry away as soon as I get it, so it doesn’t get dirty before I wear it.
- I write down what my friends borrow from me, so I can make sure everything gets returned to me.
- I spray stain remover on my clothes before putting them in my laundry bag.
- I don’t put wet clothes in my laundry bag or cubbies. Otherwise, everything will smell.
Even though I do all that, when my mom comes into my bunk on visiting day, she can’t help herself… she rearranges and refolds EVERYTHING! And when I come home, she washes everything and folds it again!