Interesting facts that may increase your child’s productivity this back to school season

by Tina ~ September 24th, 2014

Increase your child’s productivity this back to school season

Not so long ago there was no way of bringing music to the library.  Nowadays students can bring their noise and music with them anywhere they go. As a parent, you may be concerned that using headphones will be a distraction.

Did you know?

  • A recent study by Clinical Psychologist Dr. Emma Gray revealed that listening to music can put students in a better frame of mind to learn and remember new facts. (Source: Listening to music while you study makes you smarter, Scoop Media)
  • A 2012 study showed that university students scored better on tests in difficult subjects when listening to music of their choosing. (Source: Music & Studying, Bankstreet College of Education)
  • For many students, listening to music can be an effective way to block out unwanted noises. (Source: How to Block Out Noise while Studying, Residential Acoustics)
  • Background music with acoustical variations can interfere with short-term memory performance, and listening to music with lyrics while reading can hinder comprehension. (Source: Don’t Listen to Music while Studying, Spin Education)
  • A student who listens to their preferred type of music while studying is more likely to be distracted, calming music is less distracting than arousing music, and introverts are more likely than extraverts to be distracted by background music. (Source: The Impact of Listening to Music on Cognitive Performance, Student Pulse)

Since there’s no clear right-or-wrong answer, you’ll need to monitor your child’s performance before you decide to allow him or her to listen to music while studying.

Kumon Learning Centres recommend 11 ways to help your kid stay focused this season:

  1. Set expectations early.
  2. Manage distractions.
  3. Establish rules for homework time.
  4. Do “homework” at the same time as your child.
  5. Create a designated place in your home for independent study.
  6. Restrict texting and phone calls during study time to homework-related questions.
  7. Offer incentives for completing assignments on time and without complaining.
  8. Use positive reinforcement and verbal praise.
  9. Communicate homework expectations to after-school caregivers.
  10. Work with teachers and instructors to establish short- and long-term goals.
  11. Learn what work style works for your child – including whether he or she studies better with or without background music.

For more study tips, be sure to read my last post, Organizing Kids for Back-to-School.

To learn more about what we do here at Spot on Organizing check out  our website at spotonorganizing.com or our profile at houzz.com.

Photo ©stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos

Organizing Kids for Back-to-School

by Tina ~ September 10th, 2014

Organizing Kids for Back-to-School

The back-to-school season is here in full force, and your kids are jumping back into their daily routines of school schedules and homework assignments. But how can we help our kids focus this season?

Organizing isn’t just for physical spaces  ̶  mental clutter can have a huge impact on productivity. This back-to-school season is the ideal time to start organizing your children’s mental clutter.

Encourage your kids to start with these general study tips:

Make good use of daytime hours. Physiological “freshness” of your brain means 1 hour of daytime study may be as effective as 1 ½ hours at night.

Approach studying as you would any exercise. Warm up your brain by reviewing notes and assignments just before class; you will take in more information during lecture. Reviewing your lecture notes shortly after class as a “cool down” activity helps to solidify learning.

Vary your study activities. Don’t follow reading with reading. Instead, review art history photographs, review biology terminology flashcards, practice French with a study partner, or find a physical activity to get you going.

Get enough sleep. An alert brain takes in much more information than one that is fatigued. Pulling all-nighters is useless in the long run, and will interfere with your concentration.

Learn how to organize your time. People who are involved in many activities generally make more efficient use of their time and get better grades.

Note: This list was sourced from Globe University’s Guide to Improving Concentration.

Need help learning more about the physical side to organizing your kids? Read our last year’s blog: Organizing ideas for back-to-school.

To learn more about what we do here at Spot on Organizing check out our website at spotonorganizing.com or my profile at houzz.com.

How to Pack for March Break

by Tina ~ March 12th, 2014

With this being Toronto’s coldest winter in 20 years, you probably can’t wait to go away for March break! Be careful though, and don’t be in such a hurry to get away that you forget any essentials or take more than you really need.

 

: packing list for vacation
Photo ©Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos

The specific items you should pack will depend on your destination, accommodations, method of travel, and the ages of your family members, but Real Simple has travel checklists for all types of trips, including beach vacations, international trips, and travelling with a young family.

There are also SmartPhone apps for keeping and saving packing lists, which are really handy. Taking your list with you (whether on paper or on your phone) is a great way to make sure nothing gets left behind when it’s time to come home.

Once you’ve made your list, go through it with a fine-toothed comb to see how you can pare it down. This will translate to less effort carrying your luggage as well as less time spent at baggage and security checks, contributing to a more enjoyable vacation.

Tina’s Top Ten Tips for Travelling Light

  1. As a general rule, you can probably get by with about half the clothes you think you’ll need.
  2. Get more mileage out of your clothes by taking items that you can mix and match.
  3. Select clothing that can be easily rinsed out and left to dry overnight.
  4. Choose shoes that can be worn with more than one outfit (lightweight, if possible).
  5. Try on everything before you pack it – no point wasting space with something that doesn’t fit!
  6. Save space in your suitcase by using Pliio Clothing Filers.suitcase with Pliio Clothing Filers
  7. Ziploc isn’t just for your freezer! Their Space Bags help you fit more in your suitcase while protecting your clothing from odors, mildew, moths and bugs.Ziploc Space Bags
  8. Instead of bringing a week’s worth of shampoo and other toiletries, make use of those supplied by your hotel or resort.
  9. Don’t pack anything “just in case” if you can easily get it at your destination. Tweet this
  10. Choose your luggage carefully. If a piece feels heavy before you’ve even put anything in it, it’s time to replace it with one of the lighter styles that are now readily available.

“He who must travel happily must travel light.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

When you travel, do you typically end up taking MORE or LESS than you need?

Organizing Your Memorabilia

by Tina ~ February 26th, 2014

February is the month of love, and many kinds of love bring up many kinds of memories.  As I mentioned in my last post, here are few tips to help you organize your own memorabilia.

Iris Large Photo KeeperPhotos

It may be tempting to set photos aside until you have time to place them in albums. Don’t make this mistake!

Did you know you can get storage boxes designed specifically for organizing 4×6” photos?  Tweet this

When choosing photo storage boxes or albums, make sure they are acid-free to protect your memories for many years to come.

Children’s Art

If you have young kids, the artwork they bring home from school can mount up quickly, but here’s a way you can keep them under control.

  1. Paint a large bulletin board to match your décor.
  2. Tack your child’s artwork on the bulletin board.
  3. At the end of each month (or each week, if they’re in pre-school) take a photo, clear the bulletin board, save the treasures, and start again.  At the end of the school year, you’ll also have 10 photos of their art ‘collages!’

adjustable shadowboxShadow Boxes

Instead of tucking treasures away in a drawer or storage chest, display them in a shadow box. Lisa Woodruff of Organize365 says, “Keeping a tangible piece of a memory allowed me to let go of the larger items of my heritage.”

Take Your Time

Life is filled with periods of transition, such as the loss of a spouse or parent, a divorce, moving, having a new baby, or sending your child off to college. All of these times of transition are opportunities to sort through and pick treasures.

Going through keepsakes can be a very emotional process, especially if you’re going through the belongings of a loved one who has recently passed. As you go through keepsakes, allow yourself time to honour the memories. Divesting of a parent’s belongings all in a short time can be too much all at once.  Letting go of things slowly over time is totally understandable.

What is one keepsake you have that you can never part with?

Love and Memories

by Tina ~ February 13th, 2014

keepsakes and memoriesMany decisions around organizing and decluttering are based on what is practical and logical. Asking yourself questions like Do I need this? Do I use it? Does it still work? Do I have room for it? will help you determine whether or not to keep something and where to store it.

Organizing memorabilia is a whole different situation. Rather than basing your decisions on practical solutions, you’re more focused on the feelings associated with the items. Mementos may include letters, photos depicting holidays, birthdays, vacations, and family members going through everyday activities at various stages of their lives.  It might also include school papers, including writing samples, report cards, certificates, and so on.

One of my most cherished possessions is the finely curated collection of letters, notes, programs, and tickets that my Mom left for me and each of my siblings. It certainly wasn’t everything I ever drew, wrote or went to – but she picked out the treasures.  I don’t remember what isn’t there – but memories do rush back from the pieces she chose to keep.

A prime example is a note I wrote her when I was a teenager.  We must have had a fight – I went out, and she was asleep when I got back, so I wrote her an “I’m sorry” note on the napkins we always had on our kitchen table.  It wasn’t a big deal at the time, but 40 years later, it reminds me of the close and intimate relationship I had with her, even when I was a trouble-making teenager.

All of these items that my Mom had for us were kept in a “Naches” (Yiddish for “pride” or “joy”) file of the things that she was proud of us for.  I now keep one for my daughter. Well, my Mother L.O.V.E.D. Barbra Streisand.  I mean LOVED her!  So, there, amongst the files for me and my sister and brother, was one for Barbra.  Like she was part of the family!

I still have that file.  Why do I keep it?  Well.  Just, ‘cause.

I tell my clients about this collection of treasures that my Mom left us to illustrate that you don’t need to keep it all.  In fact, you shouldn’t – all you’re doing is handing down a potential burden to your loved ones.  Instead, pick out the treasures, and be able to leave a real gift.

But that’s enough about me… Check back next time when I share with you a few tips to help you organize your own memorabilia.

 

Fall Organizing for Your Garden

by Tina ~ October 23rd, 2013

As cooler weather sets in, it may be tempting to retreat indoors, but it’s worth taking some time to clean your tools and organize your shed before winter sets in. Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • resin shelving unitOrganizing your garden tools now will allow easy access + a quick start come springtime. Tweet this
  • Your tools, outdoor cushions, hoses, and anything else you use in the garden will last much longer if they’re cleaned and stored properly, saving you money as well as the time it takes to go out and buy replacements.
  • While you’re organizing your shed, you can make sure your snow shovels and other winter tools are in good condition. If not, you’ll be able to avoid the rush by buying new ones before the snow falls.

To get the most out of your shed, don’t just pile everything up on the floor. Here are some innovative ideas for maximizing space in your shed:

Hooks keep hoses from getting tangled up and damaged.

Toilet paper holders are perfect for storing twine and wire.

Magnetic strips can hold hand tools and keep them accessible.

Large canvas totes make great storage containers for your outdoor cushions.

Peg boards can be hung on the wall to hold small tools and other items. Use different colours of paint to map spaces for different categories.

Wooden pallets keep potting soil and other bagged supplies off the ground, away from moisture and pets.

Resin shelves are a good choice for sheds, because they won’t rust or stain like metal, and they don’t need to be painted like wood.

Is there something in your shed that makes it hard to stay organized? What is it?

Everything but the car…

by Tina ~ October 9th, 2013

We ask a lot from our garages. Just think about everything that’s in there!

Depending on your lifestyle, your garage probably holds several of the following:

  • Gardening supplies
  • Extra tires
  • Sports equipment – balls, clubs, bikes, scooters, hockey gear, skates, skis, boards, oh my!
  • Camping gear
  • Tools and hardware, including ladders
  • Seasonal decor – like those giant inflatable lawn ornaments!
  • Paint supplies

garage organization ideas

When you have a busy family, always coming and going from one activity to the next, you need an organized system, or the kids will just leave things wherever they land. Sound familiar?

At this point, the thought of creating a system may seem overwhelming, but trust me; getting started is the biggest challenge. Once you do, a rhythm will emerge and everything will begin to fall into place – literally!

Tina’s Top Ten Tips for Organizing the Garage

  1. Clear the clutter.  Look at everything in your garage & determine whether you use it frequently, occasionally, or not at all. Tweet this
  2. Share the wealth. Don’t hang on to stuff “just in case” you need it someday. If you don’t see yourself using something anytime soon, pass it on to someone who will, or donate it to an organization who’ll ensure it goes to good use.  
  3. When in doubt, throw it out! You’d be amazed how much stuff you’ve got in your garage that you. Just. Don’t. Need.
  4. Categorize while you organize. Storing like with like is a basic organizing principle.
  5. Create zones. Plan your space efficiently, so you have easy access to the things you use most often.
  6. Out of sight, out of mind. Whenever possible, use clear storage containers so you don’t lose track of what’s in them.
  7. Label, label, label. Today you know what’s in that box, but will you remember six months from now?
  8. Use your vertical space efficiently by using one of the great garage systems on the market or creating your own with peg boards, a slat system, or simple hooks and bungees. My personal favourite is from Tailored Living. Even your bike can be stored on vertical wall hooks, like the Schulte Bike Hook available from Solutions.
  9. Don’t forget to use the ceiling! There are all kinds of racking systems available that will allow you to put bins up there – these are perfect for stuff you only need once a year. Whatever your needs, there’s a system out there for you!
  10. Don’t go it alone.  Blast the music and ask your partner, kid or a friend to help.  Or, hire a professional to make the job go quickly.

Get out there and make space for the busy seasons ahead! If there’s a specific product that helped you, I’d love to hear about it!

Photo courtesy of Eric Schmuttenmaer, used under a Creative Commons license

Recycling Weird Stuff

by Tina ~ September 18th, 2013

Perhaps you spent your summer clearing out your garage or basement and are now stuck with some unusual items you just don’t know what to do with. I often find my clients are unsure of how to get rid of some of the items that tend to clutter up their homes… Are they recyclable? Can I donate these? Is this REALLY compostable? These questions can often hold you back from taking that final step to de-clutter.

recycling

Here are some helpful hints to getting some of those trickier items out of your home!

Pianos:

Luckily, in a city as large as Toronto, there are a few great options for having a piano removed from your house. Depending on what shape your piano is in, it can be donated or (sadly) junked at the city dump for approximately $350.  Here are some great companies that provide that service:

Pens and Highlighters:

Did you know that Staples accepts your empty pens and dried up highlighters? They do!” Tweet this

If you have a few moments, spend some time testing out all those pens in your junk drawer or office to see if they work. If not, chuck them, and set yourself free by dropping them off to any Staples store – they recycle the plastic and make some cool products!

Electronics:

Toronto Recycling Inc. will help you dispose of electronic items such as televisions, printers and iPhones – for free! They are located at 100 Granton Dr, Unit 2 in Richmond Hill and have drop-off hours Monday to Friday between 9am-4pm and Saturdays from 10am-3pm.

Looking for electronic recycling closer to you? Try any Staples store – they accept hard-to-get-rid-of electronics like computer mouses (mice?!) and hard drives as well as ink and toner cartridges (with an incentive of $2 off your next purchase).

Tires:

Extra tires taking up too much space in your garage? No problem! Rethink Tires will accept your tires for free and turn them into recycled rubber products. Just enter your postal code to find the nearest free site to drop them off and make a difference by contributing to community initiatives!

Batteries:

Batteries contain hazardous material, so it’s important to dispose of them properly and not just toss them in your household trash. Check out Call2Recycle and find a drop-off location near you. If you’re heading near an IKEA, you can drop your batteries (as well as compact florescent bulbs, etc.) off at any ground-floor drop-off site.

Check out the City of Toronto’s searchable data base for finding out how to dispose of almost ANYTHING! In general, no matter what you need to get rid of, there’s a safe, convenient, and often creative solution to dispose of it.

We are learning how to recycle more and more materials and that’s good news for the environment as well as your goals for getting organized!

Do you have any recycling resources you’d like to share?

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Cost of Getting Organized

by Tina ~ April 10th, 2013

solution note with pushpinIs getting organized something you’ve wanted to cross off your list? Need help doing it, but are worried about what it might cost? Here are a few facts and figures to help you decide if it’s in your budget.

A 3-hour session ($240) gets most people started with sorting a couple of closets, an entryway and closet, or a kitchen.  I’ve never left a client’s place after a 3-hour session where they haven’t said “Wow, what a difference!”

An office sort and plan creation is usually 3-6 hours ($250-$500).

We just organized a basement for a family of four for $1,200, which had us putting up 10 sets of resin shelves in order to house all of their boxes of files, mementos, seasonal decor, books, school papers, family treasures, gift wrap and gifts, electronics, and hardware.

WholeHome™ organizing can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 – it’s very dependent on the size of your house and how much stuff you have.  The most common areas we do are closets, kitchen cabinets, usually a toy room of some sort, and an office.

We sort, help you identify things you no longer need, containerize, offer a plan for additional storage pieces where needed, and provide a list of suggested items to buy.  We can also source and purchase those products if you like, as well as moving your items out of their temporary containers and into specific bins and so on in order to personalize your space.

My suggestion is to be “in the solution, not thinking about the problem.”  Often working with a Professional Organizer can kick start that process.

If you have any other questions about working with a professional organizer, leave a comment or contact me directly for a personal consultation.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maintaining Your Organized Space

by Tina ~ March 13th, 2013

orange notebook and glassesSo, you’ve just organized your home or office – congratulations!

Now that you have an organizing system in place, it will be much easier for you to stay organized going forward – but you need to stick to your system!

  • You’ve got to book time with yourself, in your planner, at least once a month to take care of office filing and edit the piles that have collected.
  • Embrace the system of using magazine holders to turn your horizontal piles into categorized vertical piles.
  • Setting up appropriate categories allows you to maintain toy storage.
  • And label, label, label
  • Make sure you have the right storage pieces and use the appropriate containers.  When everything is sized appropriately your space will be much more efficient.
  • Having separate ‘zones’ for different activities allows you to keep multi-use rooms organized.

Give yourself time.  You need two weeks to adapt to the changes you’ve made and allow them to have a lasting impact.

Many of our clients book a follow-up session after about 3 months to fine tune and have a look at any seasonal items that need to be re-shifted, as well as a yearly maintenance session to address the natural changes that happen – from kids moving into a different phase, job changes, renovation plans coming up, new family hobbies, and the like.

I’d love to hear from you.  Do you have a tip that you can share that has worked for you?

 

Image courtesy of zirconicusso / FreeDigitalPhotos.net