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June 29, 2008

have you seen itso?


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June 27, 2008

clutter-free souvenir ideas

Travel season is upon us! And you know what that means—souvenir buying season is in full swing. If there's one thing I've noticed (over and over again) when working with's that sentimental items like souvenirs are oh-so hard to let go of. So...this month my newsletter article is all about "Avoiding Vacation Clutter."

Now, avoiding vacation clutter doesn't mean you can't bring home mementos from your trip. No siree, that would not be the creative organizing way. A vacation can give you the rare opportunity to find items that will serve many purposes in your home and life...

from serving up the daily cup of Java...


to organizing business cards...


to corralling medicine in a medicine cabinet...


all while providing you an ongoing reminder of your vacation. How great is that?

The trick is to find something inspiring that you'll put to good use when you get back home. For more ideas on finding travel mementos that will not only prevent clutter...but help you be more organized as well, just check your in-box for the newsletter. (You can sign up here if you don't yet subscribe...or if you're already a subscriber, check your in-box tomorrow. She'll be on her way real soon!)

Oh, and if you don't have travel plans this summer, no worries. (I don't either.) But you could go on a day-trip to a local antique shop or thrift store and hunt for your own creative organizing finds. Not convinced that you'll find something good? Just check out this last gem that I found (for one dollar!) at a Utah thrift store. You just never may find something so great at your local thrift store that you'll feel like you've been on vacation!

Souvenirideas3_2 it just me? Or do you like to find the perfect, non-traditional souvenir when you travel, too? I'd love to hear your finds or your approach to clutter-free vacationing.

June 21, 2008

organizing + storage finds at World Market


Can you just see the organizing possibilities?

Sure, you could used the rectangular galvanized bucket for plants (as intended) but why not use it for corralling important files...a cheerful, little, file-bucket? (I like the sound of that.)

Sure, you could use the small, melamine bowls for dipping sauces and other small condiments, but why not use them to corral small scrapbook supplies in a drawer?

Sure, you could use the serving tray for carting drinks or dinner to the deck, but why not pick up a second and use it for toting scrapbook supplies for a night of cropping in front of the T.V. ? That last nugget I learned from Kelli Crowe when we were putting together "The Organized & Inspired Scrapbooker" and I have to confess I seriously love the brilliant simplicity of this trick! Saves me from running up and down the stairs a million times when there's a project I want to work on and my family's up for a bit of T.V.

The best part of all...World Market is having a clearance it's organizing fun and goodness at a discount! Hurry fast...because these little gems are priced to move.

Have a great weekend...whether your plans call for shopping, organizing, scrapbooking, hanging out with the family or something else altogether. I'll be away from the computer for the next few days tending to some personal have fun, be safe, and give your loved one's an extra squeeze this weekend. See you soon.

June 16, 2008

summer schedules + chores

***warning...long rambling blog post ahead. If you want to just "get to the point" look for a series of ***.

So it's official: summer is in full swing. Luckily, the itch is gone (woohoo!) thanks to the good stuff: prednisone! The nights are simply delicious right now—perfect for open window sleeping to the lullaby of the crickets. Love this.

Baseball season is also in full gear. I spent last week writing (working on my next workshop) between trips to the local University for baseball camp and basketball camp. The telecommuting schedule, it seems, worked much better in my mind than in the real world. Although I have to admit, it was glorious to sit alone in the baseball stands writing even though I would have gotten more done in the office. have to try things to find out if they work. And if they don't work out as planned, so what? You simply collect the data, take in the pros and cons, and tweak going forward. That's my strategy anyway. The net of it all was on overloaded email in-box (if you're waiting for a response from me...I am happily digging out...slowly but surely) and one happy little (sports) camper. For me, foregoing just a notch of productivity for the higher cause of a happy was well worth it.

My most recent experiment, coupled with a few emails and comments on prior blog posts, has me thinking about summer, schedules, chores, and how to balance it all. Most weeks this life is much simpler:  one drop off and one pick up to a local day camp. We're doing this all but three weeks this in fact, during the summer my schedule is (usually) a bit more predictable, and my kid's schedule is quite consistent.

For the three weeks when the kids are home, it will be a juggling act. And then, I'm pulling out the big guns:  a list. :) See I feel way worse about the quality of my parenting, when my kids spend the day playing video games and watching T.V. (which they would quite happily do 24/7 without intervention from me) than I do when my kids are playing with other kids, swimming, skating, doing crafts, and other fun summer camp activities.

How will this list work? Well, in the week before the first "stay home for a week" extravaganza, I'm going to ask both kids to make a list of all the things they will do to occupy they're time...that doesn't involved electricity or remote controls. Then, we'll use this list as to keep them refocused away from the electronic devices, as needed throughout the day. Sounds a bit unstructured...but honestly, that's one of my goals. I look at my kid's life, and it's loaded with structure. And while I find this to be really, really healthy, I also think back to my own childhood summers and they were filled with three months of NOTHING to do.

No structure.

No camps.

No place to be.

Every day was a new adventure, and often the adventure consisted of finding something—anything to do that didn't lead me to complete stir craziness. We played cards. We dug huge holes to "China" in the empty lot next to our house. We bounced on the pogo stick. (My heavens, does that make me sound like I might now need a walking stick to get around?) We rode our bikes. We played in the sprinkler. I'd walk down to my friend Vicky's house, and we'd hang out at her house or in her back yard...doing nothing. We'd roller skate. We'd do whatever. And the best part of all...we used our imagination.

I realize times are different now...and I also know that as an organizer, one might expect that I'd run a more structured ship on these off weeks. (And perhaps after the first experimental week...I could be singing a new song.) But...I'm going for three weeks of unstructured bliss and down time, all guided by a simple list of possible ways to pass the time. We'll also be making a few calls to friends to set up some "scheduled" play dates, and take a family vacation-in-your-(almost)-home-town day to the local water park. But all in all...we're striving for no structure and total down time. I'm hoping the contrast will do them a number of ways. I hope it will stretch their creativity and maybe they'll appreciate the busyness and structure of the day camp plan we carefully crafted for the rest of the summer.

Now...I'm certain that not everyone will embrace this flexible, no schedule, no extra chores approach to summer with the kids. are some ideas for those who crave a bit more structure .

make a list. Start with a simple list of things you'd like to do (or get done) this summer. Just brainstorm. This can be a list of big events (fire works, water park, etc.) or it can be simpler...things like read, practice guitar, or other routine things. If you're interested in having your kids help out with chores over the summer...make a list of things that get done around the house each week: laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, washing the car, take out the trash, etc.

assign the list. For events on your list, assign them to a date on the calendar. For example, pick a day (and perhaps a rain date) to go to the water park. This is the best way to make sure these events happen...and don't stay forever on your wish list.

For routine chores, or activities to pass the time, decide who will do them. If you're assigning chores to kids, start with the youngest first, giving them the chores they can reasonably do on their own. Be sure to think of and assign the various steps involved. For example, laundry can be broken down into sorting (which a young child could help with), and loading (appropriate for an older child), and switching over from washer to dryer (older child) to folding and sorting (which, depending on the type of garment, could be done by children of various ages) and putting away.

ease into it. I have found with my own kids, gradual works better. Sure, I'd love them to clean the whole house for me with absolutely no intervention from myself...but that isn't going to happen just yet. It has worked better to add a new chore occasionally, once we've gotten used to the current responsibilities. So for example, you could start with making the bed, and then once this is a habit, add a chore of putting away clothes.

communicate the system. This is where it can get fun. I seriously drooled over this fabulous schedule that Tara Whitney put together for her kiddo's last year. Or you could post the schedule / task list on clipboards or a bulletin board. For pre-readers, creating photo cards of the chores to do can help your child remember what he or she is responsible for, without having to ask you. Gives your child a feeling of autonomy and you one less interruption. :)


For more on these cards, visit this prior post.

At long last, it's your turn! Please share. Do you thrive on schedules in the summer...or avoid them like the itchy plague? What's your favorite solution for kids' chores and to keep track of who needs to do what? I'd love to see and hear your ideas!

June 11, 2008

summer: the good, the bad, and the itchy

I am still feeling a bit out of place, right smack dab in summer. How did this happen? Why wasn't I more prepared? Perhaps it was that spring completely skipped out this year...remember that Easter that looked and felt more like Christmas? And what happened to actually having weather comfortable enough to sit out in the evening and enjoy...before mosquitoes hit?

So it's get myself in the mode, with this year's post on summer. So here goes:

Summer: the good

  • Crickets. I love the sound of crickets and katydids. In fact, I was delighted to hear my first crickets tonight!
  • The circus. And that reminds me...need to order tickets!
  • Sun. It feels so good to be out in the sun again. (It's been really rainy here...very rare for summer around here. Perhaps another reason I'm feeling lost in summer.)
  • The pool. The water's still a bit chilly for this girl who grew up in the north where all the pools were heated...but I'm looking forward to some evening family swims coming up real soon. 
  • Fireflies. There's something so fun about kids enthusiastically catching fire flies and collecting them in a jar. We let them go at night...but enjoy the fire fly lantern until it's time to go in.
  • Margaritas and Guacamole. (Or forgo the guac and just enjoy the margaritas.)
  • Cul-de-sac parties. (With Margaritas and Guacamole.)
  • Longer days.
  • Sleeping with the windows open. And hearing the crickets at night and birds in the morning.
  • Flip flops + tank tops. (A whole season of far fewer socks to sort and match up on laundry day. Love that.)
  • A container garden of fresh herbs + potted tomatoes.
  • Potted flowers.
  • The hammock.
  • Water-fights.
  • Giving the dog a bath - outside!

Summer: the bad

  • Road construction. The road out of our neighborhood is closed. This has nearly doubled my trip to Target (and summer camp!) Which do you think is a bigger crisis?
  • Skinned knees. (I still run like a mad woman every time one of my kiddo's goes down for the count. Ouch!)
  • Mosquitoes. (Maybe that falls under the itchy.)
  • Humidity.

Summer: the itchy

  • mystery rash. So the real reason I know summer is here is because my annual "mystery rash" is here once again. Oh joy! Just about every summer I get my annual mystery rash. And just about every summer, it's source is unknown. Was I around poison ivy? Not that I know of. A round of 100 questions later, and still the rash is deemed a mystery. The medical term for mystery rash is dermatitis. If the mystery seems to have come from contact with an itchy form of plant life, it is called "contact dermatitis." This year's rash was deemed to be the garden variety dermatitis and not contact dermatitis. Which frankly, makes the mystery rash all the more unsettling. I didn't even romp around in an itch inducing plant for all this itchy fun.

And I share this why? First, because I enjoyed the title, "summer: the good, the bad and the itchy" and the only way I would quit saying it to myself over and over is if I actually used the blog title in a real blog post. And second, so next year when the mystery rash comes around I will remember that mystery rashes remain mystery rashes even when shown to a medical professionals. The way to treat a mystery rash* is with benadryl, 1% hydrocortisone cream, stress reduction, minimal use of soap,colloidal oatmeal baths, and other fun stuff like that.

*Note: this blog post is not to be taken as medical advice. It is just an itchy woman ranting. If you have your own mystery rash, please, by all means, end the suffering and see a medical professional. ;) let's share. What's your take on summer? Is it good, bad, itchy...or all of the above? I hope you noticed for me it's mostly good. I do love summer...and now that I've spent ample time dwelling on it's arrival I can simply sit back and enjoy. Hope you will, too!

June 08, 2008

and the winners are...


Earlier tonight, from this orange basket, two winners were pulled at random...

Collin drew first, selecting the winner of the signed copy of The Organized & Inspired Scrapbooker. He drew #81. The winner is the 81st person to comment which was Amanda D, who said:

My biggest obstacle right now is that I need to print pictures. Desperately! And, I am also out of my favorite adhesive. 

Posted by: Amanda D | June 06, 2008 at 08:28 PM

Yay, Amanda D!

Kailea drew second, and selected the winner of the seat in the Quick & Simple Clutter Control workshop. Kailea drew #12. The 12th person to comment (and therfore the winner!) was Jennifer who said:

where to begin? i can't keep up with organizing three kids' clothes. the ones they outgrow or are too big are in the attic and aren't convenient to get to. plus, girls don't have dressers, so where to put their clothes they are wearing.

and of course, the paper trail three children brings...

oh, wait...meal planning...the list goes on and on!

Posted by: jennifer | June 06, 2008 at 03:05 PM

Yay, Jennifer!

Please email me ladies to claim your goodies!!

Congratulations to you both! And thank you to everyone who played Freebie Friday! Woohoo! That was fun. :)

June 06, 2008

Freebie Friday returns…

…out of absolutely nowhere! Just when you thought the good old days of Freebie Friday were gone forever, poof! Freebie Friday returns with a vengeance.

What’s up for grabs this time? Two things!

The first is a signed copy of the Organized & Inspired Scrapbooker—signed by not just one of the coauthors but by both! That’s right. Wendy was in town recently and she signed a copy of the book! So this rare, limited edition signed copy could be yours just by playing along!


“How do I win,” you want to know? Well, it’s quite simple. Just leave me a comment sharing your greatest scrapbooking obstacle. Is there anything that prevents you from scrapbooking as often as you’d like, or with as much joy as you’d like? This could be an organizational struggle or anything else for that matter.

So what if you don’t scrapbook or you scrapbook without a single struggle? No worries. I’ve got a separate blog post for that.

But first, to enter this particular Freebie Friday, post a comment by this Sunday, June 8th, 2008 at 8:00 PM central time to be eligible. Winner will be drawn randomly from a hat (or perhaps a galvanized bucket) and announced shortly there after!

Freebie Friday – part two

The second give-away is a complimentary seat in my Quick & Simple Clutter Control workshop. That’s right—the workshop is now in session but there’s still plenty of time to join in on all the de-cluttering that's going on right now without you!


For a chance at this free seat in the workshop, all you have to do is share your greatest household organizing challenge in the comments. Is it paper? Kids shoes? Photos and memorabilia? Just share your biggest organizing challenge for your chance to win a free spot in Quick & Simple Clutter Control.

Same as above, post a comment by this Sunday, June 8th at 8:00 PM central time to be eligible.

And yes, you can enter both Freebie Fridays!

Alright! Happy (freebie) Friday to you! (And enjoy the rest of your weekend, too.)

June 03, 2008

teacher gifts

Some of you asked what I did for teacher gifts. This blog post is in response to that request. Luckily, I snapped a few photos...because I had a little suspicion someone just might ask. ;)

Some things to keep in mind. Because of what I do for a living, I have an unusual perspective on gift-giving. I've seen many clients struggle with holding onto things they don't use, need or love, simply because they were given to them as a gift. So my main goal in giving a teacher a gift is to say "thank you" without giving the teacher anything that could become an obligation for her. In other words, I avoid giving something she may feel like she has to hang onto. I err on the side of small and practical.

So here's what we did this year. It's a combination of something handmade, two somethings practical, and something heart-felt.


The first something practical is the gift card to Target. (No surprise, right?) I figure with a gift card the teacher can pick up a little something for herself or use it for her class next year. The second something practical was a couple sets of bin labels. Both of my kiddo's teachers are moving to new classrooms next year, so the bin labels will help them get their new classroom set up (and organized!) in style. We've had teachers purchase these in the past for their we thought with the move and all, this would be a useful gift for our teachers.

The something handmade was glass marble magnets. Collin and Kailea made their magnets (in hopes of starting a little magnet business on etsy.) So we gave some of their first magnets to their teachers. We packaged it all up into a little gift card tin from Michaels, and then put the labels and the tin in a gift bag. Simple.


And here's one for the bus driver. (We didn't give him the labels, in case you were wondering.)


The something heart-felt was hand written notes. We simply cut card-stock sized to fit inside the gift card tin. Then, I wrote a note to each teacher thanking her for all her time and effort this past year. My kids did the same thing. To me...that is the meat of the gift. A simple note saying "thank you." let's generate some more ideas. If you happen to be a teacher, I'd love to hear from you. What is your favorite gift to receive from a student? And if you aren't a teacher, I'd love to hear from you, too. What teacher gifts have you given in the past? Let's put our heads together and create a wonderful list of ways to say thank you to the people who have, in my opinion, one of the most important jobs on the planet: teaching our children. I can't wait to hear your ideas!

June 02, 2008

Online Organizing Workshops Q&A

Answers to your questions…

Q: “Hi Aby, Thanks for doing this workshop it is just what I need at this point of time. My question is what happens if I can't call in on the telecall. I'm in Australia and it would cost me a small fortune, will you write up notes for this or even make a podcast.”

A:  Yes, the telecall will be recorded and made available as an MP3 download afterward. So, if you can’t attend because you live in Australia, or you’ll be out of town on vacation, or your son has a baseball game---no worries. All the info will be made available to you to listen at your convenience. Plus, if you have questions you’d like answered via the telecall (and you can’t attend) you can post your questions in the workshop forum and I will answer them during the call.

Q:  I just wanted to know if you needed to be online for the day the workshop started? Or is it a self paced workshop - as I live in Australia - and the time difference can make it difficult.

A:  The Quick + Simple Clutter Control Workshop is self paced. All the lesson content will be made available tomorrow (!) June 3rd. At that point you’ll have access to all the course materials. Then, you can use the next four weeks to work at your own pace acting on the concepts taught in the workshop. You will have access to the online community (including me) for a full four weeks.

So what does this mean to you?

You can take this workshop completely on your own time schedule. If you’re going out of town for a week, you won’t miss any workshop content or get behind, you’ll simply miss out on a bit of community time in the forum and photo gallery.

The only scheduled, time-specific event is the telecall (and this will be recorded, so you don’t even have to be available for that.) There will be emails each week the workshop is live—to keep you engaged and taking action on the course material...and to help you bite-size the concepts. You can decide which projects to take-on in your home, based on your time schedule and other commitments.

Q: How much time will this workshop require?

A: This is a great question...that’s a bit tricky to answer. But here’s a stab at it. The Quick & Simple Clutter Control workshop includes a 15 page download, and an hour long audio recording of the main course content. In this content are action steps and projects—some of which you will choose to do and some of which you may not do.

To go through the actual course content will take an hour or two, depending on if you just read, just listen or do both. The telecall is another time investment of probably an hour or so. (I’ll keep going until all questions are it’s guess at this point!)

The amount of time you spend taking action on the workshop concepts is completely up to you. I encourage you to schedule hands-on organizing time—time when you’ll be implementing the concepts because the true value in taking this workshop comes from creating change in your home. Sure, I’d love you to learn something new but even better will be to *see* something new—a clutter free area (or two or three or four!) in your home.

Let me know if this Q&A session prompted any other Q's. I'll be standing by ready with A's. And remember, the workshop begins sign up today!

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