Design Your Summer

The halfway mark of the year is always hectic in our home. We have a month long celebration of birthdays, the end of another school year and the pressure to wrap-up work projects before we can take our much-deserved vacation time. While it may be difficult to reduce all the to-dos, it would be a shame to sweep over these milestones in the mad dash to start the summer. Fortunately, a bit of pre-planning and organization can get us over this hurdle with less stress and keep us in the moment.

That’s not to say I haven’t been thinking about our summer plans, in fact, fantasizing and compiling a thing’s to do, eat and see this summer. In fact, a study in the Netherlands shows that just anticipating a vacation or trip can increase our happiness levels. So while preparing for your trip may be stressful – from suitcase packing to planning, to shutting down at work – you can counteract this stress with daydreaming about what you plan on doing.

You can take this one step further and “Design Your Summer.” In Gretchen Rubin’s podcast Happier (episode 67) she shares listener’s ideas of making their summer more memorable. One listener has decided to eat lunch at a particular spot every Friday. For a period of eight weeks, she will invite all her friends to join her, no RSVP necessary, there is a book in her bag in case no one shows, but by planning this way she can anticipate meeting up with those she doesn’t often see or having some well-deserved solo quality time.

My “Design My Summer” plan is including a special day out individually with each of my daughters. The entire school year we spend as a trio, we are long overdue for some one-on-one time. I’ll suggest a few options, including lunch, and they can design the day they want to have with me. I’m still working on some ideas for quality time for myself, which includes Beach/Pool reads and a new Summer only exercise regime.

How will you “Design Your Summer”? Share them with me by email or on Facebook.

Learn more about how a professional organizer can help you find more space, focus and time for a richer quality of life. Contact Melissa.



It is rarely quiet in my household. Even when the children are at school my phone pings and buzzes with alerts, the dryer sends out a loud BUZZZZZZ  to alert me that its work is done, and often a delivery guy leans on the doorbell (a hybrid bell/buzzer I’m convinced was designed by someone on crystal meth) usually with a package for a neighbor. These interruptions wear me down, disrupt my flow and leave me continuously asking myself, “Now what was I just doing?”. Some days I get so jittery and unfocused it even feels like I’m suffering from the side-effects of electric shock therapy. Must every machine we humans create constantly clamor for our attention? These electronic demands can feel relentless, like a house full of toddlers all crying for something from you simultaneously, or a police interrogation with questions you can’t answer fast enough flying at you from all directions.

I’ve suffered from these onslaughts for years, knowing the source of what was wearing me down, but never giving them enough of my attention to just say STOP:  ”I’ll get to you when I can, everything in due time, but hold your horses, buddy!”

And then one day…

  • I turned off the vibrate/alert function to my phone.
  • I disconnected the power to the doorbell.
  • I de-programmed the buzzer function on the dryer.

And then, in the words of Bjork,
It’s. Oh. So quiet
It’s. Oh. So still
You’re all alone
And so peaceful until…

Peaceful? Alone? Well, that’s all relative with young children, but I was certainly more relaxed, I wasn’t constantly being jolted out of my work flow, or interrupted when spending time with my children, or distracted while cooking, tidying, or doing any of the other things I do all day.

I certainly don’t miss the constant notifications and more importantly, I’m not actually missing anything! The alerts and mails keep on arriving on my phone, I eventually remember the laundry should be done, and some of the other neighbors are taking their turns collecting packages for the block. Miraculously, I’m also beginning to focus more, be more effective in my work hours, and spend more quality time with my children. The emails get answered when I can sit down, the dryer is emptied when I manage to get upstairs, and the doorbell, well, some days it stays plugged in and some days I keep it disconnected.

Are you also longing for the need to stay focused, productive, alert and energized? Take it from me:  it’s time to KILL YOUR BUZZ!


Better Habits, Better Resolutions

scrabble-resolutionsAsk my husband and he’ll tell you I never drive the same route twice. I argue with the navigation system about alternative (and in my mind faster) routes. My nature is to rebel against the idea of routine, which when driving around locally can become monotonous. The truth is if I would drive the same route repeatedly I could predict how long my journey would take, I wouldn’t have to worry that I might arrive late at my destination or become stressed when road works send me off-course.

Routines, and their subsequent habits, are necessary for our brain to predict our future actions. These repetitive actions allow us to process information faster and maintain low stress levels through their predictability. When we have a daily routine and create healthy habits for ourselves we achieve more without demanding extra energy from our mind and body.

If you have ever admired another for their ability to be organized, ask about their routine. Most often they have implemented a set of habits to their routine that keep them on task and up to date; they empty the dishwasher before breakfast, lay-out their clothing the night before, and sort and action the mail when it arrives. These habits, built into their daily routine, help them stay level-headed, stress free and organized.

This week we celebrate the end of another year and usher in 2016 filled with promise and new possibilities. It is a time of self-reflection, recognition of our achievements and making resolutions for the coming year. Experts will tell you that in order for your resolution to succeed define a realistic habit to your daily routine. Top those habits up with realistic milestones and soon those habits will become second nature. It is easy to say I want to run more in 2016 but you are more likely to succeed if you say I commit to running 30 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday and to sign-up for a 5K run in April.

So what resolution does a professional organizer make for the New Year? What would I like to have better organized? – Our family photos. We have thousands of digital photos from the last ten years, all stored on an external drive, sorted by year and month. Sound organized? Yes, but what good are they doing on a device in a closet never to be accessed, viewed and enjoyed. What is the point of capturing memories in photographs never to be viewed?  I’ve talked about printing photo albums for years, yet the digital photos increase by the day and I haven’t printed a new album in years. Therefore I have made the following commitment to myself for 2016: 1) I will reserve maximum two hours every week to back-up all new photos, delete duplicates and make a selection for printing; and 2) I will commit to creating and printing an annual photo book each month. Since I am about 10 years behind I aim to be caught up by October.

If you have being better organized in 2016 is on your resolution list begin by looking at your routine and habits. Start small, don’t say I am going to organize the whole house, rather commit to tidying for 15 minutes before bed every day. Set a realistic and obtainable goal and share it with someone that can hold you accountable. If you need extra guidance structuring your resolution, Gretchen Rubin the author of the Happiness Project has written a new book on habits, Better Than Before. According to Rubin “when we change our habits we change our lives”. Here are six questions she poses you to ponder when creating your resolutions.

To make it even easier for you I have created a FREE printable calendar for a month of tidying, organizing and de-cluttering. Download, print and make a fresh start in the New Year to be sorted.

Whatever habits you look to change and resolutions you promise to make I wish you health and prosperity in 2016.

Happy New Year!