Archive for the ‘Organization’ Category

Travel Tips For Long Car Ride With a Toddler

November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving is upon us which means long car rides to grandma’s house. This weekend is the busiest travel weekend of the year.

“AAA estimates that 38.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday.”

OK, so I’m going to be on the road with nearly 39 MILLION other people. This requires planning. Luckily I’m experienced in traveling with a toddler since we’ve taken several long car trips with our now 2-year-old son. Here’s what I do to make the trip go easier:

  • Travel during nap-time. This will easily cut 2-3 hours of having to entertain the child.
  • Back seat is best. Sit in the back with the child. This seems so “Leave It to Beaver,” but I find it’s easier to entertain my son if I’m next to him. When I’ve tried sitting in the front seat, I just end up turning by body around as if I’m playing a game of Twister.
  • Plan frequent stops. If your journey is longer than 3 hours (we’ve maxed out at 10 hours), plan to stop every two hours: Even if it’s only for a 10-minute potty break. While one parent is “occupied” let the other parent change the diaper, then let the child run around. By simply stretching and getting a clean diaper, you will elongate the happy mood back in the car.
  • Pack things to do. Bring a portable DVD player. I’ve mentioned before that we don’t really watch TV with our son. The main exception to this is on car trips. While he’s yet to watch a full-length movie, I do pack several short DVDs. On our 10-hour trip, however, I was wishing for that full-length movie DVD. Bring books – lots of books. We read and reread all the books that I bring.
  • Pack food – very important. Pack a cooler that sits in the backseat with you, but out of reach of your toddler. I pre-pour sippy cups with milk, juice and water so that I’m not in a position to become a bartender in the back of a moving car. Snacks are key too. – things that your child will eat. On our last trip I made the mistake of bringing a box of iced bakery cookies and putting in the sunny front seat. When snack time came, I grabbed a cookie from the box, the icing had melted and dripped all over me and my seat. Of course, my son had to have a cookie since he saw me trying to eat one. It was a mess. Note to self: pack only non-messy snacks like pretzels, goldfish and teddy grahams.
  • Stop to eat meals. It’s a great excuse to get out of the car. If you eat fast food, you can go to a place that has a play place to let your kid run around. If you pack your own food, go to a rest stop that has a big open field. Toss a ball around or just play chase. Get that energy out.
  • Pack his favorite things. Blanket. Check. Teddy bear. Check. If your child uses a paci, by all means put that on the top of your list.
  • Install sun shades before you get on the road. I’ve tried a couple different varieties of these and prefer the ones that clip to the top of the window. I just can’t get the suction cups to stick to the windows. And, don’t get me started on the plastic ones that “stick” to the window. You’ll be thankful for shade when your child is happily sitting in his chair when the sun would otherwise be blasting him in the face.
  • Forget the “rules” and just go with the flow. Do what works. It’s a car ride. Enjoy the time. Look out the window. Point out the trees, the clouds and all the trucks you see. Plan to get to your destination when you get there, leave the clock watching behind.

Clutter Control Your Home By Respecting Your Favorite Items

November 16, 2007

Yesterday I watched part one of “Oprah’s” two-day episode on hoarding. The show features a woman who lives in a 3,000 square-foot house, filled to the brim with stuff. It’s not filth, but stuff. Everywhere. In every corner, everywhere you turn around. One of her grown sons hasn’t been inside the home, where he grew up, in five years. He’s mortified. You really have to see the episode to understand the severity of this woman’s problem. It’s tragic.

It takes a team of 100 people, 8 weeks to clean through the house — it’s no longer a home. The importance of a show like this isn’t for to be a voyeur, but to see how clutter can take over anyone’s life. Yours. Mine.

I’ve been a fan of Peter Walsh, organizing expert, since I first saw him on TLC’s “Clean Sweep.” He understands that’s it’s an emotional journey to get rid of stuff. We all have that junk drawer, or the out of control closet. For some of us it’s a garage, but for many it’s worse. I’ve seen episodes of “Clean Sweep” where families can’t get to the dinner table because it has so much junk on it. Or entire rooms with so much stuff in them that the room is unusable, it’s a storage unit.

My favorite part of Peter’s advice is that if you really love an item, especially those that contain sentimental value, then you must give it a respectful place in your home. He finds objects that people claim they can’t give away, but he uncovered it from layers of dust. Not respectful. It really makes you think. If it’s that important, it needs to be taken care of.

We purge items from our home about every 6 months. It’s an emotionally draining exercise, but gets easier the more we do it. I have to admit that we do it from necessity, not because I’m anxious to get rid of stuff. My house just isn’t big enough to keep everything that comes though the front door. I keep Peter’s advice in the back of my head so that I don’t loose sight of what’s important: I want a home, not a house full of stuff.

After watching part two, last night, I was wrong about the house not being filthy. It’s not that the woman was unkempt, but there was no way that house was livable as a clean space. In the end, they had to remove all the flooring, furniture and even the drywall because it was a health hazard. Mold had taken over and the house was a mess. I’m still amazed that two people lived in this house. It makes me really want to evaluate my “things” even more.

Balance Starts at Home

November 7, 2007

“A balanced home,” these are threes word that I put on my inspiration board; I no longer remember what they are from. To me, it means a home that is free of chaos, mainly clutter, and where you go to rejuvenate for the next day. Our homes should be places we take care of, where we can relax and enjoy being a family.

I’ve seen tons of those shows where people have junk everywhere. You know what I’m talking about. HGTV, TLC and even Oprah, features these people. But, isn’t there a little of them in all of us?

The worse episode I ever saw was one featured on Oprah. There was a woman, I think in her 50s, living alone with dogs. Her apartment was filthy. Poop everywhere. Rotten food everywhere. It was disgusting. I don’t know how she lived that way. Truly, you could smell the stench through the TV. Appalling.

Luckily, most of us aren’t to the point where we have poop all over our house, but they do get messy. It’s hard when we’re all so busy. And, how do you clean your house when the kids are pulling at your shirt asking for something. Asking to be read a book. When you have to wipe your son’s nose for the 20th time today, when you have to wash his clothes because he tossed the cat’s water bowl over his head.

For me, I know I need to get more organized. I think a balanced home will mean:

  • Quite family time every night
  • A place for everything, and I mean everything
  • Time to relax and be by myself (we all deserve alone time)
  • Creating an environment that I want to come home to after a long day at work and be proud of where I live
  • A house full of love

What’s On Your 5-Minute List?

October 24, 2007

People that are being evacuated, 900,000 by some reports, from the wildfires in California are being told to do so immediately. They are told to leave their homes, and everything in them. They aren’t given time to think about what to bring with them. It’s gotten me thinking, what are the things I would bring if I had to pack up and only had 5 minutes to do so. Here’s my list:

  1. People
  2. Pets
  3. Personal objects
  • Wallet/Purse
  • Documents — we keep important papers like insurance information, a video DVD of our possessions, and other key papers in one place
  • Journals – these aren’t replaceable. Simply not replaceable. They chronicle my life and are a really important part of my life as a writer. These are very high on my list.
  • Jewelry — hopefully, I’m already wearing my wedding rings. But I’d also like to take a few other sentimental and/or valuable pieces of jewelry. Pieces that came from my mother, grandmother and one from my great grandmother.
  • Favorite toy — my son doesn’t really have a favorite toy, not yet, but I’m sure he will one day. One that will be worn and loved.
  • Computer hard drive — we backup our computer onto a small, external hard drive that includes all of our work and photos.
  • Wedding album

I think I could grab all of the above in 5 minutes, at least I hope I could. Melody Hobson, “Good Morning America’s” Financial Contributor was on this morning taking about what you should take. Her suggestion for what to take in a disaster can be summarized like this:

  1. Photo ID
  2. Copy of recent utility bill. Hobson says it is the universal proof of residence. Unlike a driver’s license, which doesn’t require updated addresses.
  3. Cash.
  4. One credit card.
  5. Take photos or record a video diary before you leave your home.
  6. Important documents — “birth certificate, wedding certificate, stock certificate or mortgage papers, should all be stored in a safety deposit box at a bank.”

The unfortunate fires in California are giving residents a huge challenge as they not only try to survive the current situation, but as they eventually will try to rebuild their homes and their lives. Let it be a motivator to the rest of us to get our homes in order and prepare for the worst. Ask yourself this question: What’s on my 5-minute list?

Women Carry the Weight of the World — In Their Purses

September 19, 2007

Editors note: I recently moved my blog to a new server. You can find this same post (and all my others) at the new location:, where I post daily.

We already know that women carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, but now it’s proven! Well, sort of. Two of my favorite magazines carried similar stories within one month of each other … must be an important message.

The Oprah Magazine” has an article in the October issue called, “Shop Smart: Is your Handbag Killing You?” while “Real Simple” magazine has an article in the September issue called, “Is your handbag weighing you down? Here’s how to lighten your load.” (Unfortunately, “Real Simple” doesn’t post the article on their Web site.)

Writers for both articles talk about bags that are too heavy and how these purses can be contributing to back and shoulder pain in women. It’s not just the purses themselves, but the contents as well.

“O Magazine” weighed items that women typically carry: iPod, wallet, cell phone, PDA, etc. and came up with a total of 15 pounds (not including the bag).

“Real Simple” sampled purses from women on the streets of New York and found the heaviest bag weighing in at 18 pounds.

I’m pleased to say that my bag weighs just under 3 pounds — which is plenty for me. How much does your purse weigh?

If you’re curious about the contents of women’s purses, visit the photo-sharing site, flickr to see photos.