There are three things that we get right when we are on vacation that we somehow forget when we go back to living our regular lives. If we could just carry some of these things back with us into our daily routines, we would all benefit in a big way. This is a three part blog series focusing in detail on each of these. The first thing we get right when we are on vacation is that we go into VACATION MODE and slow down.
Do you want your life to be simpler? Practice living in VACATION MODE even when you are not on vacation...
Have you ever noticed that we move at a different pace when we are on vacation? We move slower, we stop watching the clock and most importantly, we do it guilt free. When we are not on vacation, many of us are so used to hurrying all of the time that we aren't even aware that we are doing it. We are stressed out and exhausted on a regular basis but this is the pace at which we have been running for so long, that it has become the new normal, the new faster speed of life. Most Americans today are so over committed that at the end of each busy day, we are not even sure what we did all day. Most of us would agree that our vacations come to an end all too soon, and we dread going back to our normal schedules. I believe that part of the reason we all yearn for more vacation time, is because we spend the rest of our busy lives trying to do too much. One week a year of not hurrying just isn't enough to rejuvenate us when the rest of our lives are so hectic.
What if we could hold onto a fraction of this "vacation mode" when we are not on vacation? What if we could at least change our focus from, "How much can I possibly get done today?" to "What can I get done at a comfortable pace today?" and "What can I leave for tomorrow?" What if we could let go of that incessant need to try and squeeze one more thing into each day? Imagine how different things would be if we all functioned somewhere between our normal crazy lives and vacation mode? Still getting things done, but working at a reasonable pace. When we are on vacation, we purposely don’t over schedule our days, because we want to avoid the rigid schedule we have when we are at home. We intentionally schedule down time, because on vacation, rest is a priority for us. We may even do nothing other than read a book or take a nap for an afternoon. But our bodies also need rest when we are not on vacation and we should not feel guilty about taking time for ourselves to refuel on a regular basis.
Americans have become so progress oriented, that our society as a whole is over stressed and sleep deprived. I know there are many justifications for why we overextend ourselves; working those extra hours pays for the new car, and our kids are eager to participate in a new activity, even though they are already too busy, but that’s where we get snagged. Practicing moderation in what we purchase and in what we commit ourselves to is key. But saying no to more of something is challenging when everyone around us is spinning out of control. Scaling back has to be a conscious endeavor, because very likely, if you are living in a world like mine, everyone around you has their minds set on having and doing it all.
There is comfortable place somewhere between our pace while on vacation and our regular life, that offers peace and contentment. Figuring out where that place is, and fighting to stay there is well worth the effort. For starters, just making sure that we have some unscheduled personal and family time each day, will move us closer to this goal. Regular life is so much more enjoyable and less exhausting when we mindfully move at a slower pace. Stopping to smell the roses should not be restricted solely to those who are on vacation.
Written By Laura Coufal
Owner, Clean & Clutter Free
Professional Organizing Services
We have made it to January, and it is that time of year when many of us begin to think about lightening our loads and purging what we are no longer using.
For some of us, light is on our minds because we have just accumulated more possessions as a result of Christmas and with the incoming of the new, we yearn for a throwing out of the old to make room for it all. For others, it’s the new year that inspires us to take action. A new, fresh start is just what we need to kick off the new year and start off on the right foot.
January is the month of Oosouji in Japan. To observe Oosouji means to clean the clutter, the dirt and the dust of the past. The purpose being to banish any old problems or ways of thinking and to welcome a new start, with a clean slate (and home). The word Oosouji literally means “big cleaning,. Additionally, January’s foreboding cold weather leaves us with no choice but to stay indoors and think about improving our surroundings, making our home more comfy, clutter free and cozy. With the bustling holidays behind us, there is nothing to distract us from doing just that.
If your family does not purge on a regular basis, I strongly encourage adding purging to your calendar at least once but ideally twice each year to stay on top of controlling clutter. Since we have things coming into our homes on a constant basis, in order to keep our homes balanced, we need to have the same amount of stuff leaving our homes each year. It is a simple Ying and Yang formula. With everything in life there is a need for balance, and even too much of a good thing can do us harm. It is no different when it comes to our possessions and our home environment. January is a “no brainer” time of year to schedule a purging session. July is also a good time for a 2nd purge, and having the kids home on summer break means that they can get involved too.
Our family has just completed our own January purge, as I put away our Christmas decorations this year, I collected all of our heaping full donate boxes that have been accumulating over the last several months from the storage room and placed them into our garage. Since we always have a donate box available and ready to be filled, my family knows to toss no longer wanted items into the box throughout the year. This makes our purging process automatic, and it is shocking how fast those boxes fill up.
I also sorted through our Christmas decorations, and if they did not get put up this year, they got added to the donate pile. This week it will all go a local charity and our family’s January Oosouji will be complete. So bring on the new year!
WHAT TO DO WITH OUTDATED FRAMED PHOTOS
Do you have old framed photos of various sizes sitting on a shelf someplace in your storage area and don’t know what to do with them? If so, then you’re not alone, I have found it to be a common occurrence when working with clients to come across these forgotten photos of yesterday. They once merited a place on a wall or side table in a living room but now they are collecting dust in a dark place somewhere. They usually hold the photos of children or other family members who have long since grown up. These old photos are trapped inside outdated and chipped frames that once sparked joy but have since been replaced by updated photos and frames.
There are several reasons these old photos are often left in frames; the first is simply due to the fact that most of us do not take the time to remove them, and once they get put in a closet or storage area somewhere, they are out of sight and out of mind and several years may pass before we see them again. Another reason old photographs stay in frames is that we somehow feel obligated keep them there because it took time and care to assemble them in the first place. Finally, these photos often stay framed because it is mistakenly believed that this is the best way to protect them long term.
Unfortunately, it is actually dangerous to leave photos in frames, because over the years, the photo can adhere to the glass, especially if they are exposed to any moisture or heat. Once this happens, the photo becomes impossible to remove without causing severe damage and ends up stuck in that frame forever. The other obvious problem with leaving photos framed long term, is that they take up a large amount space in your home, especially if you happen to be a photo person and have a lot of large photos. Your family’s photos deserve better than to be stuck inside ugly outdated frames for eternity, so take the time to remove them and use the following steps to preserve them:
You can visit: https://www.archivalmethods.com/blog/preserving-family-photographs/ to get more tips for preserving your family’s valuable photos. It is well worth the small amount of time it takes to remove old photos from their frames and get them all safely inserted into one photo safe box or envelope. As an added bonus, it will be liberating to be able to finally get rid of all those outdated frames taking up space in your storage room or closet.
Before you make a major life move, such as buying a smaller home or entering assisted living, you have to decide what, exactly, to do with your current estate. There are many options, and the one you choose can have a significant impact on your finances. Keep reading as we answer a few common questions seniors often ask about the buying and selling process and how to keep a property in the family.
I want to sell my current home, but I cannot afford expensive upgrades. What can I do to get the most money at closing?
If you’ve lived in a house for any length of time, there are many small issues that you’ve learned to ignore. Little things like cracked tiles and dried-up caulk are quick fixes that won’t cost more than a few dollars to repair. However, if your home has not been updated since the early 2000s (or before), you might have to sell as-is, possibly for thousands less than you would if it was brought up to modern standards. The good news here is that some dated aesthetics can be rectified without a huge investment. For example, wood paneling is easily paintable, old light fixtures take only moments to swap out, and vertical blinds can be removed.
How can I afford to move if I don’t want to sell?
That depends entirely on your personal situation. If you do not have any savings and are on a limited income, you may not qualify for mortgage. But, if you do have financial padding, a bit of planning can allow you to keep your home in the family and purchase something more senior-friendly. Start by looking at your expenses and income. Redfin asserts that the type of loan along with property taxes and other expenses also factor into how much you can afford. Know what your bank account can handle before you begin your search. This will lessen the chances of looking at and falling in love with something you can’t pay for.
My spouse always handled money. How do I make (and stick to) a budget when I will have a house payment?
Many seniors choose to move out of their longtime home after the death of their spouse. When your spouse was the one that paid bills and earned the majority of your income, learning how to budget can be a challenge. Tiller Money, a budget-tracking app that works with Google Docs, notes that keeping an updated spreadsheet with your financial transactions is a great way to understand your incoming and outgoing funds. Write down how much you spend on housing, transportation, food, and other necessary expenses. Try to find information on these expenses for the last three to six months so that you know exactly what you can expect to spend. Your local bank branch should be able to pull all your transactions and help you sort them into categories.
What do renters want in a house?
If you’re thinking about renting your home for added income, you likely will have to make some repairs and updates. Most people in the market for a rental want a place that is clean and that shows minimum signs of wear and tear. Safety is also a priority, so make sure that all the windows and doors lock and that there is plenty of exterior lighting. You can look online for homes similar to yours to get a better idea of how much you can charge. Keep in mind that there are expenses that you, as the homeowner, must incur, including maintenance and, in some cases, utilities and lawn care.
Remember, what you do now affects both your quality of life and what you leave behind to your heirs when you pass. If you sell your home, you will have the equity to spend on housing, travel, or other interest/needs. On the other hand, you may not have real property to leave behind. If you keep your home and use it as a rental, you’ll have money coming in each month but will also run the risk of having bad tenants that damage the property. Before you make a decision, take the time to evaluate your financial state, and talk it over with your family. They may have other ideas about how you can afford and enjoy retirement without making any drastic changes to your life.
Today, families are busier than ever, and its easy to get overwhelmed with keeping up with it all. The following is a list of helpful routines that can make all the difference in maintaining order and reducing stress at home as the weeks roll by.
1. Daily & Weekly Routines
We all function better once a system is in place. Routines are especially important for children, so forming habits that take place daily or weekly, like having set times for homework, and chores and having consistent bath and bedtimes can be soothing for both parent and child. Parents having set weekly routines for getting things done, like paying bills, filling the dishwasher and doing laundry are also helpful. Routines not only help keep families organized, they reduce stress and enable us to feel more in control.
2. The 15 Minute Family Huddle
Every week, have a short family meeting to discuss the weeks upcoming appointments, activities and other details. Use this planning session to go over all of the upcoming weeks to-dos, this is when details can be added to the calendar, like errands, deadlines or phone calls that need to be made. These meetings help families feel more in control as the week progresses and forgotten details are less likely, ensuring that stress levels stay low and last-minute emergencies are avoided.
3. 10 Minutes Each Night
Have each family member take 10 minutes before bedtime to get ready for the next day. Choose outfits, prepare lunches, pack everything that needs to go to school and set it by the door. Also, gather together after school supplies for activities. Doing this will make the mornings run smoother and will prevent items from being forgotten.
4. Delegated Household Tasks
This should never be a one-man job even for a stay at home parent. Each family member should be engaged in this process and can be assigned age appropriate household tasks. Even if your kids are busy, making them responsible for completing scheduled chores, will teach them valuable skills that transfer to adulthood. It takes teamwork to Keeping a family running smoothly, reinforcing this fact when kids are young will solidify this attitude as they grow older.
5. A Place for Everything
Having permanent homes for everything ensures that clutter is kept at bay and time is not wasted looking for things. Assign homes to everything you own and make sure other family members know where things go. Reinforce the rule that things need to be returned to their permanent homes when they are not being used.
6. Clutter Cutting Habits
By teaching kids helpful tidying habits like making their bed each morning, hanging up their back packs every day, cleaning up one toy or project before bring out another, etc. they learn valuable skills that will carry over in to adulthood. Reinforcing these important habits will go a long way not only in keeping the home organized now, but in helping kids develop automated organizing skills that will last a lifetime.
7. Twice a Year Purge
Families today have a substantial amount of stuff coming into the home on a regular basis. For this reason, it is important to take time twice a year to de-clutter and purge items that are no longer being used. By moving unwanted items out of the house on a regular basis, you balance what is coming in with what’s going out. Establish a box labeled DONATE and communicate with each family member so that everyone knows where to put their unwanted items. Then make it a priority to move it all out twice a year.
8. Practice Saying No
Today, many families overbook their days, not wanting to miss out on activities and opportunities. We also struggle with saying “no” to our kids and to requests for commitments because we feel pressured. But learning to say no when we have reached a limit is the best thing that we can do for ourselves and for our kids. Limit the number of activities you and your children participate in. This will ensure that your family has time to get important tasks done and stay organized on a daily basis. It also it will allow you to build in “down” time into each day. Scheduling “down” time where nothing is going on will ensure that every family member including yourself has time to unwind and refuel.
9. One Family Calendar
It is helpful to have one central family calendar that everyone uses, whether that be a paper calendar or a digital one that everyone’s phones are synced to. Having everything on the calendar and having only one that everyone uses will ensure that nothing is forgotten.
10. Don’t Put Off the Predictable
Just as it is much less stressful not to wait until the last minute to do a homework assignment, it promotes peace to get predictable, scheduled activities out of the way ahead of time rather than waiting until the last minute. For Example: Shopping for Saturday nights’ dinner party well in advance rather than waiting until Saturday morning allows extra time for any unexpected surprises that might pop up.
There are some things you can’t change about your house. Its location, the school zone, and the size of the yard are a few features that come to mind. Chances are, you aren’t willing to change the layout or add a new bedroom if you’re moving either. The good news is that buyers already know this information about your home before they walk through the front door, so if they are there, they’re not looking at the floorplan.
So what are they looking at? Buyers are there to see the condition of the home. And the very first thing they will notice is if it is clean, since this is a good indication of how well the home has been cared for. But you’ve got kids, and clean has taken on a whole new definition, and it’s time to take a new look at what clean means. Your sale just might depend on it.
Here’s how to get things in shape when you barely have time to get yourself ready each morning.
Start with “the great purge”
The most challenging aspect of cleaning when you have kids in the house is getting rid of all the stuff you don’t need. Kids tend to form an emotional attachment to everything. But, now is not the time to provide asylum to stuffed animals and armless Lego men. Talk to your kids about the move, and let them know they can’t take everything with them. If they are resistant, it might help to decorate a few moving boxes with “Toy Retreat” signs and let the kids know their stuff is ready for a permanent vacation. Set a good example by cleaning out your own closet, craft room, and garage. Set limits on what you can keep and don’t hold on to multiples. If you do not have time to host a yard sale, contact the Salvation Army, Goodwill, AMVETS National Service Foundation, the ARC, or Habitat for Humanity, which Moving.com explains are all charities that pickup.
Plan to bring in extra hands
When you are getting ready for showings, it needs to be all hands on deck, but sometimes that's easier said than done. First things first, hire a maid service to come in and give your home a deep cleaning, getting into all the nooks and crannies. Next, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to hire a housekeeper to come in once a week to help you keep your clean home maintained. The right person will help you keep toys and clothes put away, beds made with fresh linens and the yard tidied, all ensuring your home is ready for those last-minute showings. This does not mean that the members of your family can sit back and relax – create a chore chart for the daily must-dos so you're housekeeper isn't doing all the heavy lifting.
Provide visual aids
One simple way to ensure your home stays clean is to give your family a clear idea of what you expect. But telling them is not always enough. Plan to take photos of the interior once it’s clean. Print these out and stick them where they are visible within each room -- or each section of room. You may also want to color code the toy bins to facilitate organization. Yellow might be set aside for dolls while green is sanctioned for Nerf guns. You don’t have to stop in the kids’ bedrooms, this colorful cleaning and organization hack can easily apply throughout the house.
While cleanliness is not the only thing your buyers will look for, it’s the first thing they will notice. A clean home looks – and smells – like it’s ready for its new owners, and keeping it that way may put them in place sooner than you can say, “home for sale.”
Guest Blog Written By:
Create A Family Giggle Log
In 2013, coincidentally, the same year that I started Clean & Clutter Free, Family Fun Magazine published our family’s idea to create what we call a "Family Giggle Log" (August Issue). It was so mind blowing, and a tad bit unsettling that we could to go to Walmart and find our family’s photo in the latest Family Fun magazine.
If you have young ones, I want to past this idea along to you. I know these years are busy, but it is during these all too fleeting years, starting around age 2 or 3 that our little charmers say and do things that capture our hearts and make us smile and laugh. I would give anything to live just one day with my children at age 3 again. Nature’s ingenious way of ensuring that we don’t leave our troublesome, tantrum throwing toddlers on someone else’s doorstep, is that they are adorably sweet and funny all the while messing up a whole house faster than a tornado can roll through it. It is during these years that our young ones see things with fresh eyes and ears, so innocent and genuine. They never sugar coat the truth before it comes out of their mouths so what we hear is often interesting and sometimes embarrassing. This stage does not last long though, by about age 5 or 6, it starts to dissolve as their more mature intellect begins to develop.
When our girls were young, my husband and I got into the habit of jotting down things that our girls would say that would make us laugh. We correctly predicted that neither of us would have a keen enough memory to remember every funny or sweet thing they did or said, so we managed to form a habit of getting something down on paper when these moments occurred. We had a notebook that we called our “Family Giggle Log”. The entries were messy and short because we did not have a lot of time, but thanks to this little notebook, we captured memories that would have been long forgotten. Now that our girls are well into their teenage years, they still enjoy our occasional recaps of the past as much as we do. As predicted, out not only did I forget half the things my girls did when they were young but I can’t even keep straight which one did the things I do remember! For this reason, I am ever grateful for the memories that we did catch before they slipped through our fingers like sand. The following are a few of our favorite inserts from our Family Giggle Log hopefully they will make you smile too:
“Mommy what is an earthquake?” Me – “That is when the earth shakes around for a little while.”
Maddie - “Do you go upside down?”
Dad was at the park with the girls, and Maddie was hanging from the monkey bars...
Dad - "Be careful Maddie"
Maddie - “Dad! You’re bothering my attitude!”
“Mommy, Why do women where bras?”
Me – “Oh just to give some extra support.” (I know this was a lame explanation but I couldn’t think of a better answer at the time).
Cassie - “Is it because bras help make men’s love you more?”
Cassie shared a story she wrote at school with her dad....
Dad – Wow, good job, you really like to learn don’t you?
Cassie – “Actually, I just like to impress people”.
"Mommy, if I throw my booger into the fire will it explode?”
“If I put on a whole bunch of clothes, to you think I could live inside the refrigerator?"
And one more from Emily because she was extra inquisitive...
“If everyone in the world blew on my finger at the same time would it fall off?”
I have already managed to copy many of Maddie’s Giggle Log entries into a scrapbook that I created for her when she graduated, and I plan to do the same for the younger two when I get around to making their scrapbooks...hopefully before they graduate. For me, capturing our young children’s special moments in photos and in written form, through journaling, letters and stories, holds greater power to take our family back to this precious time than other kinds physical keepsakes, so I limit keeping larger keepsakes like art work and projects. Words and photos take up much less room in our home and I just take photos of the rest.
Having lived through raising my own children, the best advice I can give to young parents is this; The most special memories made are the ones that they hold in their hearts as the years go by. For us, surprisingly they were not the times that we went to Chuckie Cheeses, instead it was the times that we did seemingly silly things together like having a picnic in the basement on a cold winter day that they seem to remember and cherish the most. So while it is good to try to capture some your child's memories when you can, ideally through photos, videos and written words, don't get so caught up in taking photos and such, that you miss out on being fully present during those precious moments as they rapidly roll by.
Written By Laura Coufal
Clean & Clutter Free Professional Organizing Services
Laura is the Owner of Clean & Clutter Free, professional organizing services.