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Boxing Up A Life

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on August 17, 2014 in Family, life, Moms |

As I prepare to pack up my middle son and send him on his way to college 250 miles away, I am reminded by some advice a friend of mine gave me when I did this two years ago, if I was to cry, it could only be tears of pride and joy. I am trying my hardest but it is not working as well this time around. The tears are being shed in greater frequency and I have taken to wearing my sunglasses in the house so nobody sees my tear stained face. I have warned my son that I will be crying, but it is only because I am happy for him. Please don’t get me wrong, I am so happy for the adventure that he has lying before him. I am so proud of the young man that he has become. However I am grieving the change of our family dynamic. I remind myself that when I moved from home I moved 370 miles away, 250 miles is nothing! But sometimes I wish he was going to school over a bridge and only 5 miles away.

 

I get that my son is alive and healthy and not going off to war and that I am lucky and that this is what we raise our children for. But it is still not easy. There still is a grieving process that we need to go through. Nobody explains this to you. Nobody has written the book, “What to Expect When Your Child Moves Away.” Nobody prepared me for this. When I sent my oldest away, I was blissfully naïve. I was excited for him and his new adventure. But when I got home I had to close his bedroom door as each time I passed his room it reminded me of his absence.

 

But you may wonder what this all has to do with organizing? You see, I not only pack them up for college but I also pack up their rooms. I know, I am probably a crazy person. But what I have learned from my clients is that if I don’t do it now, I may never get around to it. It is like ripping a band aid off. I just want to do it and be done. So we are going through every drawer and every nook and cranny and cleaning his room and packing everything up. We vacuum and wash walls. Everything goes into four different piles.

 

1. Take to college: This contains all of his clothes he wears or intends to wear again. He has books that he wants to keep as reference. Small mementos and decorations like his mini zen garden and his toilet coffee cup.

 

2. Donate: Clothing that no longer fits or interests him. He was able to purge most of his graphic t-shirts with logos on it. A belt that no longer fits is going to be taken to the consignment clothing place.

 

3. Garbage: Sometimes there is no salvaging something and it needs to go. When we moved his bed from one area of the room to the other we found a pack of gum under his bed from our dog that we put to sleep in March. He would sneak in my purse and grab my gum and snack on it. We all paused for a moment of silence as we saw that pack of chewed up gum.

 

4. Save for your future life: This is a large rubber maid tote that I will store for him for when he lands in a permanent place. He has placed in here the t-shirts of his high school that mean something to him. His graduation party guest book. I have limited this to one large tote. I am hopeful that we don’t need to expand this.

 

It is important to sort this stuff now before they leave home. Why you may ask? Well we come to resent the room and the clutter. Most teenagers have messy rooms. I am not wanting to go in and clean and organize once they are gone. I don’t want to close the door and ignore the space. This is a project for us to do together. If I wait for some school break it will be a chore and not exciting. He will want to hang with his friends not clean his room. And I do not want to be that mom who nags. I have been that organizer who has helped parents organize the young adult’s room who has left home. It is very difficult. Most of the room is in a pile called “ask the young adult” and we don’t get much done. By doing it now, they are excited for their new adventure and this is not seen as a chore.

 

Added to my anxiety is the fact that he has a chronic disease that he needs to give himself an injection every two weeks. He has to line up the delivery of this drug and make sure that it is stored properly. He has all the numbers to call and line this up, but part of me wants to visit every two weeks and hand him the drug to inject.

 

His bedroom is now our first guest room. I will not paint the walls and I will leave the guitars hanging up but he has sold his drum set. The dresser is empty. The closet is void of his clothes. The room is more spacious now that the drums are gone. The sheets will be washed and clean for our first guest to arrive. Extra bedding will be placed in the closet as well as a guest basket with towels and toiletries.

 

My kids all know that when they move out there is no coming back. They are more than prepared for life and I am proud of them. I keep on chanting, ”only tears of pride and joy….only tears of pride and joy.”  So if you pass me in the grocery store in the next few weeks, I will probably still be wearing my sunglasses, but please don’t judge as I am a work in progress.

 

To Joyful, Organized Living,

 

MS. Simplicity

 

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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Lack Of Time Getting In Your Way?

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on August 12, 2014 in Family, life, Moms |

There is a proven fact out there that we all have the same 24 hours a day in a seven day week. This is where it becomes interesting, we all have the choice to decide what to do in those 24 hours. My biggest pet peeve, and I mean biggest, is hearing people say they are “too busy” {bang my head.} Busy is not a badge of honor that you should be proud of wearing. Busy is for people whose lives are out of control. I see these same busy people spending time on Facebook or watching hours of TV.

 

Here are some tips to help your 24 hours count!

 

1. Limit screen time: Yes this means in front of the computer and television and now add your smartphone to the list! Schedule your time that you will do these activities. Or find ways to share the screen time with something else. For example my husband will watch a show on Netflix while cooking dinner or folding laundry. And once we got rid of cable with stopped watching TV as much and with less time in front of the TV I was able to get other things done.

 

2. Wake up earlier: This was a huge game changer for me! Waking up even 30 minutes earlier allows me to start a load of laundry and throw something in the crock pot or start something marinating for the grill. I can fill out paperwork and have everything ready for the kids when they leave the house for school.

 

3. Make a list: Write down what you need to do in your 24 hours and play a game of seeing if you can get everything done. If your list is huge, circle your top 5 to complete today. Feel good that you got those done.

 

4. Enlist helpers: Start looking around your life to see what can be done by someone else. In our home it meant that the dishes were done by the kids. The dishwasher may not be loaded to maximize space, but it was done and not by me, so I was okay with that. This also falls in line with car pooling. Share rides with other parents and kids. This can be a huge time saver when you have other children that you need to be running. It is ok to ask for help!

 

5. Find your families top 10: Gather your families top 10 favorite meals and the recipes and have them all in one space. So when you are at the grocery store you know that you need tomato paste for the spaghetti recipe.

 

6. Eliminate caffeine late in the day: I know some of us have to have coffee the first thing when we wake up. I find that if I have caffeine too late in the day I do not fall asleep and that makes for a horrible morning.

 

7. Find time to exercise at least 30 minutes a day: this could be as simple as going for a walk around the block. This added activity will help calm your mind and focus on your day. I always feel like I can kick a little butt after I have a good workout in. I feel more productive and I am able to tackle more things on my list.

 

8. Start saying NO: This is huge. This lesson took me years to learn. But I have found that if I don’t want to do something with my whole heart, it is a painful activity. So I have started saying no. I even turn down paying jobs if they don’t feel right to me. Now when I say YES it is much more powerful as I am able to engage with my whole heart.

 

9. Surround yourself with doers and positive people: They say that you are most like the people that you surround yourself with….so make sure that those are people who are getting stuff done with a good attitude. My big irritation is with people who are complainers. Stop complaining about something and take action. I want to be a person of action. I have ended friendships because they are negative and I simply don’t have time to hear them complain. They were toxic and they had an impact on my mood and how I treated other people.

 

10. Have regular date night: Yes you may need to have it scheduled for every Wednesday night. I have found that when my husband and I are in the same room for an uninterrupted time we are able to focus on our dreams and what needs to get done in our family. Being on the same page is important in running a household. Connecting is an important part of that. I have a friend who has had a standing Wednesday lunch date with his wife for 4 years and he has never made it. How happy do you think their marriage is? I also will schedule one on one time with my kids as well. It is important to get to know them outside of the house where their typical answer is yeah….fine….good. I have found that the more quality time you spend with them the more they open up to you.

 

What can you do today to add more time in your 24 hours?

 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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To Multitask Or Not Multitask That Is The Question

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on August 4, 2014 in Family, life, Moms |

“Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.” Steve Uzzell

 

As women, we pride ourselves with being able to do a million things at once, but can we really? It seems to me that we have been sold a bunch of lies when we were told that multitasking is good for you and makes you more efficient. That is a lie that we need to stop believing. I am reading the book “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan where you focus on just one thing for 66 days. This book has been very eye opening! They focus on one thing for 66 days but I think we could break it up into simply focusing on one thing at a time as we go about our day. The chapter on multitasking hit home with me!

 

When I work with clients I have a rule that they can not leave the room that we are organizing. What happens when they leave the room to put something away they suddenly find something else that needs to be done. I call this the “If you give a mom a cookie” phenomena after the popular children’s book “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.”  For example, if I were to go and check my mail I would see that a bill needs to be paid, I would reach for my checkbook to pay the bill only to find out that I am out of checks. Then I get on my computer to pay the bill online and I see a funny cat video one of my friends posted and then I decide I better go on Pinterest to see what to make for supper. Three hours later no bill has been paid and my morning has been sucked away. I lost track of my one thing, paying that bill. What should have taken me two minutes took me three hours. I think I can do it all at once; I can’t.

 

Some people say that they can multitask, I am hesitant to agree. I am the girl who can’t even walk and text. My husband makes fun of me when I stop to reply to a text. Hey I have seen those videos of girls walking into holes on the street, I don’t want that to be me! I admit that I am bad at walking and texting, so I will not do it.

 

However I think I can multitask at household chores that I find enjoyable. I can cook a five course meal while juggling the different components of the meal and not break a sweat. My friends who have watched me says it is like watching a cooking show as I move from recipe to recipe. But put me in front of my desk with 20 things to do and I’ll flounder from one to the other doing a bit here or there. When in reality I should simply go down my list and don’t take a break until my “one thing” is done.

 

While working with clients I have them create a distraction free zone, no family, pets or phones. We work solid for three hours. I need to take my own advice and start doing that as well. Too often my mind is jumping from one thing to the next, really not completing anything. But they have completed studies on multitasking and it doesn’t work. Sure there are some multitaskers out there, but for the majority of us, it does not make us efficient.

 

So today I am taking my list in hand and systematically working my way down it. I didn’t sleep last night because I knew how much I had to complete today. Today I have to bring my “A” game and I have to be efficient. Today I am not going to bounce from project to project, oh look a squirrel! Here are some tips that I am using to get my projects done today.

 

1. Leave my phone in another room. I can go without hearing a text come in. Better yet is to turn off your notifications on your phone. I use to have email notifications on my phone that would ding each time an email came in. I really don’t need to see the latest sale at Pottery Barn. So if you are one of those email notifications people, please turn them off.

 

2. Turn off the social media. Yes it is sometimes hard when our brains are looking for that hit of dopamine to see how many people liked our Facebook post or Instagram photo. But everything in moderation. Turn it off for a period of time. Learn to wean yourself off of the social media hit.

 

3. Make a list. Too often I have a mental list that I try to keep track of. It doesn’t work. Having a list and brain dumping everything I need out on a good old fashioned piece of paper makes sense. On days where I am not feeling very productive I will do the hardest thing first on my list. Taking the one hard thing off my list seems to make everything else go smoother.

 

4. Take care of other distractions. I work at home and my kids are home for the summer. Some days I simply need to close my office door. If you work in an office setting and need quiet, create a system that people know to leave you alone. Maybe it is to place a red piece of paper on your door that signals stop and only come in if you are on fire or bleeding. Once you are distracted, it takes several minutes to get back the work groove you were in.

 

5. Set a timer. Yes this really works. Work on your one thing until the timer goes off. I have used this trick on tasks that I am really dreading, like paperwork. But I know I can quit when the timer goes off so I keep on going. Sometimes we need these little tricks for our brain to get things done!

 

What would happen if you focused on one thing in regards to your daily tasks and said no to multitasking? Is this something that could make you more productive?

 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

 

MS. Simplicity

 

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

 

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Would You Buy This Again?

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on July 29, 2014 in Family, life, Moms, money |

The reasons that we have clutter varies by person to person. Just like the ability to get rid of it varies from person to person. For some it is easy and they can rid themselves of sentimental items without a blink of an eye. My husband could donate my wedding dress with no problems but if I asked him to get rid of his comic book collection, that request would be responded to with divorce papers. All right, maybe not that extreme. My point being we all have different triggers and we all need to ask different questions. That is why buying organizing books and reading 300 pages may not be your solution. We are not a one size fits all society when it comes to clutter.

So when I work with clients I ask a variety of questions until one resonates with them and they are able to start sorting the clutter in meaningful ways. So let us start with a basic questions, “would you buy this again?” Seems simple enough, but it isn’t. My husband just made the comment last night on the car he purchased last year, as he was wishing he would have bought the one with blue tooth. I should have told him that if he had, I would be driving his new car as that is the one feature my vehicle has that his doesn’t!

I can kind of be ruthless when it comes to getting rid of stuff. Years ago I got rid of our family room furniture with no plans on replacing it. It bothered me that the couches had holes in two of the cushions created by too many monkeys jumping on my couch! So a neighbor had a garage sale and I told my husband to just get it out of the house. All I knew was I wish I hadn’t bought them and they had served their purpose. I wish they had lasted longer, but each time I passed them they made me mad. I was mad that I paid so much for them and I was mad that it didn’t pass the toddler test. Would I buy these couches again, no I would not. So out they went into some happy college students home! After I got rid of the couches I could once again go into my basement without feeling the frustration.

But what happens when we buy something on impulse and we come to have regrets. Buyers remorse is huge! Maybe we paid too much for it. Maybe it has never fit right. Maybe it has never matched like we thought it would. But because we paid too much for it we hold out hope. We have hope that it will someday fit. We think that if we paint the walls then it will match. We hang on. We keep hanging on hoping that something will change to make it just right.

But we aren’t Goldilocks, or are we? We can get things just right, but we may need to get rid of the clutter in order to make it happen. So start walking around your house and asking yourself the question, “would I buy this again?” If the answer is no, then be ok with letting go of the object. I know that other voice will sneak back into your head and say “but I paid good money for that” or my all time favorite excuse I hear is ”my loved one will hate me if I get rid of this!” Guess what, if they love you they will want you to be happy, so get rid of the clutter! So for this week quiet all those other voices and focus on just this one! Look at your items with a new eye and ask yourself the question of the week, would you buy this again? And if the answer is no, be ok with getting rid of it.

 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

 

MS. Simplicity

 

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead region, North Dakota and Minnesota . Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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Dorm Room Packing Essentials

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on July 22, 2014 in Family, Moms |

 

I have reached that time that another child is about to leave the nest. This child going is much harder than the previous one….because I know how I will feel afterward. With my oldest I was excited and told by a friend to only cry tears of pride and joy. And I did. But then a few weeks went by and family mealtime and so many other things were different. He was a good eater and I could experiment with food and he ate it. His brothers didn’t eat my grand meals and it was no longer fun to cook dinner. Our family had changed forever.

Now another is going to fly away. And I am counting down the days and I am sad. Our family is again going to be changed forever. Our family was changed forever each time we had one of our sons. When we welcome a new baby into our home it was a joyous occasion. We were adding, now we are subtracting.

But I will put a brave face on and make sure that when he leaves he will have everything he will need to have an organized dorm room. I can control that. I can’t control how I will feel. So as someone who enjoys control I will focus on what I know I can do. I can make a list. I can buy stuff. I can make organizing decisions. My friend Geralin Thomas of Metropolitan Organizing, LLC has created a fantastic checklist that we will print off and take with us. I will put this checklist on a clipboard and get to work!

Here is a look at what we have started to accumulate in the last few weeks. We have a box of stuff that I am placing things in as I buy what is on the checklist.

 

1. A good area rug. This is often overlooked but dorm floors are often industrial and they need a soft place to land when they hop out of their lofted beds.

 

2. Bedding. I have all boys…they don’t need anything special. My mom made each of my boys a quilt when they graduated {that is special} a pillow a set of sheets and a mattress pad. My son is getting the sheets from his older brother as he has moved out of the dorm and no longer is in a twin bed. We have an extra twin mattress pad, so done with that category! Sometimes you need twin long sheets, so make sure. If you have a daughter, you have my prayers. They will be coordinating with their roommate and they will plan on having it look like a dorm good enough for HGTV.

 

3. Bath items. A few large towels, wash cloths and a shower caddy as well as flip flops. I think a robe is optional as I bought large towels. When deciding on a robe I think it all depends on the length of the walk from the shower to the room and if they are a boy or a girl. When I graduated my mom bought me several sets of brown towels as a graduation gift. It was the worst gift a girl could get. I wanted pink. She gave me practical. I bought my son green that resemble brown. I am my mother!

 

4. Electronics. Roommates usually try to coordinate who will bring the TV and gaming systems if you have boys. I have an odd child that does not watch TV but listens to podcasts. He also doesn’t play many video games. I know this is a rarity so plan accordingly. We found my oldest had a laptop when he left for college but by his second year he wanted a Surface. A Surface is more portable and easier to take notes on in class. So we will probably skip the laptop purchase with this child.

 

5. Hooks. Take advantage of that vertical space. We should have bought stock in 3M as these hooks are genius. My best tip is to put one by the door to hang the keys. They can be used to hang cords from the walls and along beds. Buy a bunch in different styles as you will thank me later. I also send along an over the door hook to hang up towels and jackets.

 

6. Desk organizers. They are usually given desks and are expected to study there. They never do. I think desks should leave dorm rooms. Most people gather in common areas to get their homework done. But if you have a desk look at ways to make good use of the space. Pencils and pens are sometimes still used, so best to find a way to store a few. For my oldest it was highlighters that he used most as everything is typed. Make sure that you frame a picture of yourself and place it on their desk so they don’t forget what you look like!

 

7. Extra storage. Think TV stands and microwave carts. There is often storage here that should be maximized. When out shopping for one, look for drawers and good use of space. Don’t just buy it because it looks nice, think practical.  They even make futons with drawers underneath for storage.

 

8. Closet storage. I am not a fan of the slim hangers as I think it encourages people to buy more clothes because they have more room. But in the case of a dorm room closet I encourage these hangers. I have purchased two boxes as this son of mine likes clothes. I also have hanging files made for closets with storage in them as well. He can roll of sweaters and pants and place in the pockets. We are all about maximizing that small space. I have locker baskets as well as a set of black quilted boxes with lids for storing items like socks and underwear that can stack.

 

Just remember one thing, you have been preparing for this transition for 18 years. They are smart and wise young adults who know how to figure things out. We have been silently showing them how to do things like an adult. They know how to trouble shoot something that is broken by watching a YouTube video. Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have everything on move in day. Whatever you forget they will call you and ask for you to mail it or money to buy it. So forget a few things so that you are guaranteed a call home!

 

To Joyful, Organized Simplicity,

 

MS. Simplicity

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What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on July 15, 2014 in Uncategorized |

I had an interesting conversation with a family friend last week after she pointed out that I “made” my son carry my supplies to my car for an organizing party. She told me that he was mad at me and that I should be able to do it myself. What I saw and heard was my son sitting in my basement all day watching TV and playing video games while I had worked for 8 hours and was running short on time and it was one of those days where I didn’t even have time to shower but I took the time to make dinner only to find out that nobody was going to be home for dinner.

So was I little mad…..yes! I took a deep breath and said we are a family and we help each other out and do things for each other when we see the person busy. I reminded both of them that I will do my son’s laundry for him when I know he is particularly busy. She told me to stop doing that over my son’s objections. Then she threw the ultimate card at me and told me that I have my husband do things for me all the time and I should be able to do things on my own.

I simultaneously wanted to scream and laugh at her logic. Instead I told her that she gave me really interesting material for a blog post all about what are the rolls of members of a family.

Kids these days! I want to be that mom that raises boys who are able to sew on a button, cook a meal and anticipate the need to help someone. I want my sons to realize when I need help (and others as well) and step up and carry boxes to a car without me having to say something. We are a family and we help each other. That is what families do.

My husband’s love language is acts of service. There are five love languages famously written about by Gary Chapman. I have been studying his book for years and it has helped in our marriage. I know that my husband receives love from me when I do projects around the house. These projects go unnoticed by everyone but him, the intended recipient. I don’t shout “hey I swept out the garage today” for everyone to notice. Or “hey I spent my day moving the sprinkler” in order for us to have a beautiful lawn. These are just signs of love that I send to my husband.

Nothing makes my husband more excited than if I leave him a list of things that I need done as this is his way of showing me acts of service when the list is complete. For him it is easy to do and he feels like he has shown me love by getting all the things done on my list. He will even come to me and ask me what is next on his list. This is a special bonus for me is that I don’t have to use my Jedi mind tricks by having him try to read my mind! It is the main reason that we have such an organized house; I create the system and implement them and he maintains them. It works great!

However, my love language is not acts of service but rather quality time. The best thing he can do for me is to spend quality time with me. And he is really good at it and is a good sport about it. I know he would rather be home watching TV, but I push him past his introverted ways. Just like I would rather be having coffee with a friend and not sweeping out the garage. Relationships are a give and take. The better balance you can have the better.

I quickly realized the reason that this was a hot button topic for me as it took me back to 1987 when I was doing laundry in my dorm and I passed a room with girls talking about how my then boyfriend does everything for me. I was mad, but I kept walking. You see, I found a really nice man. I think there are lots out there but I know I hit the jackpot. Others know it too and felt the need to talk about it behind my back. So when this family friend brought up me having my son carry supplies to my car for me, she suddenly was one of those girls in the dorm room talking about me.

What I want to remind all of us out there judging; relationships are between two people and just because you see one person doing all the heavy lifting, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t being reciprocated in other ways. So carry on my wayward son……for there’ll be peace when you are done!

 

To Joyful, Organized Living

 

MS. Simplicity

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Life Will Start When My To-Do List Is Done

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on July 8, 2014 in Family, life, Moms |

For the last three months I have had one long to-do list. It seems like every single day I needed to work through it just to get to the next day. If I skip a day nobody did it for me. It lands right on me and my perfectionistic ways. I know exactly when it started back in April when I was starting to get serious about my middle son’s graduation party. I had the basics of the party set, I just needed to work on the memorabilia. You know the photo albums and the school memories. The things that I had oh so neglected during the previous 18 years. In my defense they were organized but I just had too many pictures and important pieces of art work. To give me clarity I went on a scrapbooking retreat with other moms who had children graduating.

 

I had a big aha while there….I don’t want to do traditional scrapbooking. What a huge thing to check off my list. I no longer need to keep all of those supplies. I could go digital and clear up space in my house. It was a huge relief and I thought now I can live.

 

But then work caught up to the top of my list. I had obligations there that I needed to get done. I began to get a grip on them and get a rhythm back and I felt kind of good with where things were at. One more thing to check off my list and I thought now I can live.

 

Oh, but then I had a conference for my team that I had to prepare for. I dived head first and worked like a crazy woman trying to pull off a polished and planned conference. I returned exhausted after I tried to jam pack my days. I even added in my sister coming to visit me during conference because I haven’t seen her in a few years. It all went great. Conference was fantastic and I flew home and I thought now I can live.

 

Hold on, I can’t live yet as I have to take my son to register for college and a big appointment in Rochester. And just to make my life more interesting my body decided I needed to slow down and gave me a cold to make my breathing more difficult. Yes, it was a huge slap in the face of  “you need to slow down”. I got those two big things accomplished and I thought now I can live.

 

But what a realized was there is going to be things on my list all the time. My list is not going away. It is up to me with how to deal with it. I found that in my craziness of the last few months I have forgotten some things along the way….my kids. I had turned into the person that would help them when they needed. But I was missing those important cues of body language that I was a ninja at figuring out. My youngest even said to me how he wanted to go see a play and I quickly said no as I didn’t think I could add another thing to my to-do list.

 

I had also neglected my health in a big way. I use to go to the gym four to five times a week and I enjoyed it. The last month I went zero times. And it showed on my scale, in my clothes, in my energy levels and how I feel about myself. My to-do list was out of sorts and I needed to put exercise back on the top as that fed how I did everything else.

 

But yesterday I threw out the list and bought the tickets to the play to go with my youngest son. I started listening again. I heard when my husband said he had never been to Glacier but had always wanted to. Instead of him just saying it and me nodding my head, I heard him. There is a difference. Because I heard him we are now going to Glacier as a family with two of my boys bringing their girlfriends.

 

This is a trip to unplug our phones and our minds. This is a trip to breathe again. This is not an item on my to-do list because I chose to start living and no longer worry about what I “have to” get done today. I will take time to have coffee with a friend today. My to-do list will always be there, but it is up to me if I decide to let it rule my life. Today I say yes to things and I am living. Now I am going outside for a walk and it isn’t even on my list!

 

To Organized, Joyful Living,

 

MS. Simplicity

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Organize Those Darn Kids

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on July 1, 2014 in Uncategorized |

There is lots of finger pointing when I work with clients. Mostly the mess in the house is blamed on children. I would agree that children create about 85% of the clutter in our homes. But how we deal with the clutter is 100% our responsibility. Children are not born to organize. Well, maybe a few are. But for the most part they need to learn from example. We can’t just tell our kids to go and clean their room. If they don’t have the proper systems in place they don’t know how to do it. Over the years we have taught our boys how everything has a place. We had all the toy bins labeled and my husband would sit on the floor with them at night and direct them to where the toys go. They understood and followed the instruction. Now they are older and know how to organize.

My middle son has been known to raid my organizing supply stash to help his girlfriend organize. He has his favorite organizing supplies, like the tie hanger as he loves to wear ties. I must confess I am a tad worried about when he goes to college this fall that he is going to have to live with a messy roommate. Maybe he can use some of my tips on getting his roommate organized!

I often learn these ideas by listening to tips from my organizing parties. I am always amazed at how creative people are! The latest tip I heard was the $5 bag. The $5 bag is where you place items that you find around the house that are not put in their proper place. You then hide the bag. Once a child needs something they can pay $5 to look in the bag for their lost object. How long do you think kids would leave things laying around with having to pay the $5?

Our go-to organizing trick was the chore and an ice cream treat that was created after I was ready to pull my hair out! We had an issue of the kids leaving their shoes in the entry of our home. It would drive me crazy, and sadly I was usually one of the biggest culprits! I would often leave my shoes but then complain when the kids did the same thing. So we created the strategy of every time I find a pair of shoes in the entry that child needs to do an extra chore for me. But when they found one of my pair of shoes, I had to take them out for an ice cream treat. Implementing this strategy worked flawlessly. The boys quickly learned to put their shoes away and I quickly learned to put mine away as well. Although my husband will still sometimes walk upstairs holding my shoes and tell me that I am taking him out for ice cream!

I am a firm believer in the follow through. If you want your family to change, you need to be consistent and not random. Nothing is more frustrating for a child than the parent implementing a rule and then occasionally following through on it. Or worse yet, the parent expecting everyone else to obey while they are in flagrant violation of the rule.

Both of these tips apply to kids of all ages as well as adults. Do you have a spouse who leaves his items all over the house? Maybe you need a $50 bag that you dump his items into and he has to pay you $50 to look? Maybe he has to take you out for dinner when he forgets to put his socks in the hamper?

My best tip is to stop being frustrated….and just take action. You need to have open communication and make sure that they understand what the rules are and then most importantly, you need to stick with them!

 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

 

MS. Simplicity

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It’s In The Bag

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on June 24, 2014 in Holidays, life, Moms |

I don’t know if you are like me, but I can not wrap a gift to save my life. Every holiday when I need to wrap a gift I hand the gift to MR. Simplicity and he takes it and makes the perfect cuts so that he doesn’t have that lop sided section that I then have to cut. He makes the perfect cuts so the gift wrap actually goes all the way around the gift…not too much…and not too little, just right. For me I am the kind of girl who is like hurry up and get it wrapped!

 

I do not have an abundance of gift wrap. However I do have clients that do. When asking them how their gift wrap collection came to be I get one simple answer, it was on sale. There is something about a sale that clicks in our brain and indicates to us to buy as much as we can. It doesn’t matter if we can now wrap gifts till the end of time or even open up a holiday gift wrapping center, we just need more gift wrap.

 

So what can you do if you find yourself with a gift wrap addiction?

 

1. Stop: decide today that you will not buy anymore until your current supply is gone! Avoid the post holiday sales. You may have a problem so it is best to just don’t go to those stores when you know the paper is on sale.

 

2. Select: Select a signature color that is perfect for every occasion. My favorite is chocolate brown. With chocolate brown you can put a white ribbon on it for a wedding gift, red for Christmas, pink or blue for a baby gift.

 

3. Defined Space: What would happen if you had a space that could only fit a few rolls in? You only are allowed to have as much wrapping paper as fits in the space. Once we give ourselves a defined space we no longer feel the need to buy endless supplies of paper. The same thing works for children. If they know they only can have so many toys that fit in a bin they understand that in order to receive a new toy they will have to get rid of another toy.

 

4. Reduce: Time to get rid of your stockpile and not sure what to do with it. I like the idea of contacting assisted living facilities and see if they have a need. Or call a place of worship or a school.

 

5. Realize Paper is Not the Memory: Too often we get trapped in thinking the perfect paper will make the perfect gift even more perfect. I would challenge that notion. Looking back on all the gifts I received the only paper that was really memorable to me was the gift wrapped in the Sunday morning comics. Those were the colored comics, not the black and white mind you. That was paper I remembered.

 

6. It’s In The Bag: Think about making the transition to just gift bags. For me it is so much easier to organize gift bags than the wrap. Gift wrap comes in all sorts of sizes and the tubes take up a lot of room. Gift bags fold flat and are easy to store in a vertical position. I organized a client’s gift bags and it literally took us under 30 minutes to complete the project from start to finish. First I had her gather everything in one spot. After she gathered everything she sorted into categories as well as got rid of the ones that were in bad shape. We labeled each section for each category of bag. We even created a container where she placed gifts to give in.She was thrilled to finally have all of her gift giving supplies all in one vertical container.  The search was over!

 

Before

 

Before

 

After

 

To Joyful, Simplified Living,

 

MS. Simplicity

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Simple In Seattle

Posted by Melissa Schmalenberger on June 17, 2014 in Uncategorized |

One of my favorite places to visit and just relax is Seattle. I have had the opportunity to visit nine times since I started visiting in the fall of 2010. I have read the guide books, I have talked to the locals and I have experienced most of the ”touristy” things to do. So here is my simplified version of my top 10 things to visit along with some tips about grouping things together as well as the timing of things. You do have the ability to purchase a City Pass that will allow you to visit many of the touristy areas at a savings. Check and see if you are going to do all of the activities before purchasing. Also if you are a Microsoft employee and have a Prime membership, you will also save some cash using your membership card.

 

1. Kerry Viewpoint on Queen Anne Hill: On a clear day head to this park as you get views of Mt. Rainier and The Space Needle. Only go on a clear day and go the first chance you get as the views are breathtaking.

Where you will find it:It can be hard to find as there really isn’t an address to put in your GPS. Simply head on Queen Anne Ave. North and turn left on West Highland Drive. You will know when to pull over. This is a residential neighborhood so parking can be tricky. It is also a hidden gem and most people don’t know about it so you won’t be fighting crowds.

Cost: Free

2. The Underground Tour: This is a tour that I have now done twice, one with my kids and one with adults. There is a bar to have an adult beverage or two while you wait for your tour which can add to the fun. I have boys so they loved the humor and crude jokes. You tour a lower level of Seattle before the current city was built on top of it. Full of history and fun for the whole family. There is also an over 21 tour that my husband and I have gone on, it was ok but not as funny as the original tour.

Where you will find it: Pioneer Square

Cost: Under $20 per person, less for kids

3. Snoqualmie Falls: This is a quick side trip to take you a bit into the mountains and see a beautiful waterfall that is owned by Puget Power.  There is a lovely resort called the Salish Lodge that overlooks the falls. I have yet to stay there, but for now I have had lunch there. I have probably made a stop to the Falls every time I visit Seattle as I just love the view and the sound of the water.

Where to find it: I-90 out of Seattle get off at exit 27

Cost: Free

4. Mt. Rainier: On a clear day you can see the mountain and you think it is just a short drive when in reality it is 90 miles out of town and can take you about 2 hours. I have visited once and it was a cloudy rainy day when we left Seattle. There are some beautiful spots to stop and visit along the way so give yourself some time.It was like magic as we approached the entrance, aptly named Paradise as the clouds parted and we got a beautiful blue sky view of the mountain. We stayed for about an hour and as we left the clouds covered the mountain back up. Pretty magical if you ask me!

Cost: $15 per vehicle

5. The Duck Tour: We had never done a Duck tour before. A Duck is an amphibious vehicle that can go on land and water. The tours are usually full of fun facts and give you a great background of the area. Our kids loved it and I would have loved it as an adult going on it even without kids. If you have a short stay in the city, this is a great way to see the sights while someone else does the driving! My tip is don’t buy the duck whistle as you will lose your mind with your kids blowing it. Buy your tickets online in order to make sure you get the time you want.

Where you will find it: On the grounds of the Experience Music Project and Space Needle, called Seattle Center

Cost: $28 for adults $17 for kids

6. Experience Music Project (EMP): Before or after your Duck tour take a visit to the brain child of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and designed by Frank Gehry. It is beautiful to look at and it is fun for the kids to explore. Learn about local Seattle musical artists and have fun as this is not your typical museum experience.

Where you will find it: Seattle Center

Cost: $22 to $16

7. The Space Needle: Visit during the day on a sunny day or at night on a cloudy evening. Both views are your best bets. I personally like the views at night. I have also been up at sunset on a sunny day and that was equally as beautiful. It would be great to time this on the day of your Duck tour, Pacific Science Center and EMP visit as these attractions are all in the same place.

Where to find it: Seattle Center

Cost: Starting at $22

 

8. Seattle Science Center: This Center is not just for kids, but your kids will for sure love it. Lots of hands on exhibits as well as room with butterflies, my personal favorite. My older two boys went to a Seahawks football game while my youngest son and I went to the Science Center and they met us there after the game. They both said they would have skipped the game and just went to the museum.

Where to find it: Seattle Center

Cost: Starting at $22 for admission and IMAX show

 

9. Pikes Place Market: My only tip is to go 30 minutes before the market opens. Go to the first Starbucks located across from the market and buy yourself some coffee if there is no line. If there is a line, simply listen to the musicians as there are always some talented groups playing outside. You will see the homeless population at a grassy area overlooking the water which ironically happens to be a great place for a photo. I have seen things that I would rather not see in this park and it seems to be getting more and more gritty as the years go by. I try to arrive at about 9:30 to avoid the Seattle morning traffic and to find a great parking spot. I walk to the gum wall if I want to gross someone out. You will find it in an alley just past the market. I also like to take pictures of the beautiful bouquets of flowers that are being sold. You will not find better prices for flowers! And don’t forget to give Rachel the pig a visit as you will find her right in front of the flying fish. I like to look at the goods that the local artists are selling. I have had good luck purchasing gifts that have a local flair. Avoid the market on weekends or during peak times. If you have a stroller, good luck!

Where to find it: Between Pike and Pine Sts. at First Ave.

Cost: Free

 

 

10. Go on a Ferry Ride: There are so many to choose from. Just find one and go away for the day and explore. My favorite is Bainbridge Island as I feel that I am so far away from the Seattle traffic and is often a much needed break. As you ride you see breathtaking views of the mountains and the cityscape. For most ferries, you can drive your car on or you can walk on and walk around the island. I have also gone north to go whale watching on a ferry. You will need to do your research as to where and when to go as the options are varied.

Believe it or not there are still so many areas that I want to visit, such as the Olympic Peninsula, Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia. I have gone with girlfriends, family and my husband.  All different combinations of people and we have always had a lovely time.

To Joyful, Organized Living,

 

MS. Simplicity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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