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August 31, 2011

Organizing with Your Kids: How to Get Kids to Let Go

When I launched my Organizing with Your Kids workshop earlier this summer, some great questions were asked in the comments. As we get ready to start the next session of this workshop, I thought it would be fun share some ideas and answers to some of the most common questions people have about organizing with their kids. Sound fun? Okay…here we go.


Questionmark_copyright_simplify101 Question:  How do you get kids to give away or throw away things they no longer use or love?  
I love this question because, just like with everything else organizing, there really is no one-size-fits-all answer. I have two kids, and I’ve worked with a number of kids in my one-on-one organizing, and what I have found is this:  every child (just like every adult) has different motivations when it comes to getting organized. The trick when working with your own child is to try different things until you pinpoint what motivates your child to let things go. 


My two kids are terrific examples. One of my kids is like me in that he likes things to be organized. He has very little trouble letting go of things. Along with his natural inclination toward order, he is also very entrepreneurial. He loves to earn money. So he is very motivated to let go of things he doesn’t use anymore, especially when he can earn money on these items. He is very practical when it comes to his room, and only wants to keep the things he uses and loves. Plus, the money he makes off of old stuff he doesn’t use any more can be put toward new things he does want and will use. 


Donate-bin-simplify101 My go-to solution for letting go of things is to donate them, which doesn’t play in to my son’s natural motivation to make money. So when my son was younger, I would pay him by the pound for items he let go of. This worked great. And you can bet when I do have a (rare) garage sale, my son is the first one to get in on the action. At last summer’s sale, my son sold a bunch of stuff…and he made close to $100. With my son, however, it isn’t just about the money. (At least not anymore.) He now also really loves how an organized space looks and feels. He will rearrange and reorganize his room and closet on his own now, and he is also in the habit of handing me items that no longer fit so I can donate them. For my son, it has been a combination of starting with his primary motivation (making money) and then, talking to him about how great an organized space looks and feels. Now he is as motivated to let things go simply because he likes the end result of an organized space.  


Bucket-animals-simplify101 With my daughter, it has been a different journey. She is a naturally sentimental person and she isn’t motivated by money. She loves her stuff (especially her stuffed friends) and if it were up to her, there would never be a reason to let go of any of it. Finding her motivation has been a bit trickier. But here’s one thing that works really well. She enjoys spending time together doing things—even organizing her room. Because of this, it has been mission critical that I make the organizing process fun and enjoyable for her. Since organizing together is fun, we organize and declutter her things rather frequently. Using this little and often method, over the years, she has gotten better and better at letting things go.


As with my son, I always have made it a point to talk my daughter about the organizing process and the end result. And my little stuff-lover does admit that she likes her room much better when it’s organized. (Although it truly doesn’t bother her when it’s not.) 


So how do you get your child to let things go? Here are some things to try: 


1) Try different approaches until you figure out what motivates your child. Don’t be frustrated if your first attempt doesn’t work great…just try something different next time. 


2) When your child’s room is organized, ask him what he likes about it. How has it helped him? For example, maybe now he can find and reach his favorite toys more easily. Or maybe now he can get dressed on his own. Does he like how it looks? Help your child connect the dots between letting things go and an end result that he likes.


3) Take baby steps. Don’t set out to organize the entire room in one sitting and don’t set out to transform your child into an organized person in one day. Instead, give it time. Work on just one area of a room at a time and for a short amount of time. Work on helping your child create new habits…one habit at a time. 


4) Make it fun. Set a timer and see how much stuff your child can let go of in fifteen minutes. Can she fill the donation box? Can he let go of ten match box cars? Can she let go of five stuffed animals?


5) Maintain a long term focus. I’ve been organizing with my kids and involving them in the process for seven years. And over those years they have learned so much about getting and staying organized. It didn’t happen overnight, but it has been well worth the time and energy we’ve all invested in the process. 


So that’s what has worked for us. I’d love to hear what has worked for you…or what isn’t working for you and your child. Thanks so much for sharing!  (By the way, check back soon for more questions and answers.) 

New Workshop + New Workshop Instructor

I am jumping-out-of-my-seat-excited to introduce to you the newest simplify 101 workshop AND our new workshop instructor! Woohoo! 



If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you’ve heard me talk about my friend, professional organizer Janine Adams who owns Peace of Mind Organizing. Janine and I met about six years ago at a National Association of Professional Organizers meeting in St. Louis. Janine is one of those super friendly people who just draws you in—you want to spend time with her doing just about anything…shopping, organizing, eating lunch, being her email and gratitude accountability partner, volunteering at festivals, and so on. Over the years Janine and I have become great friends. She is someone I know I can always count on. She’s there for me when I get in a pinch (okay, panic) because I need a new outfit for a big event and when I need someone to cheer me on and get to the bottom of my email in-box. 


When we had the idea to introduce a new workshop instructor at simplify 101—I instantly thought of Janine. Not only would I get to spend time with Janine working on the workshop, but (even better) all of you would benefit by learning from her. Janine is a super talented organizer with terrific ideas to share with you.


Routines_150x150_copyright-simplify101So what’s Janine’s workshop all about you? I’m so glad you asked! As you know, I firmly believe that being organized is a combination of two things: getting organized and creating the habits to stay organized. Janine’s workshop will teach you about the second part of that equation—how to create new habits. Whether you want to create better eating habits, better financial habits or habits that will help you keep your home clutter-free—the ideas in this workshop are for you. Janine’s workshop, Simplify Your Life with Habits and Routines is an excellent complement to the other workshops offered by simplify 101. Her workshop begins October 4, 2011. Sign up by September 8, 2011 to take advantage of early bird savings. 

August 30, 2011

School Lunch Organizing Tips


This post has moved to our new blog. Go to School Lunch Organizing Tips now.



August 29, 2011

And the winner is...

Thanks so much, my scrapbooking friends, for sharing your biggest challenges when it comes to getting organized for scrapbooking. I'm excited to incorporate your ideas into my class at True Scrap. This morning the winner of the coaching package was chosen via And the winner is...


Jenn Guymon who posted on August 24, 2011 at 10:50 PM.  Jenn said: I have a small office space that is slowly being overcome by my children and all their things. My biggest challenge, besides keeping the kids out, is storing and using my scrap pieces of paper. I have them in ziploc bags by color, but it's not really working for me.


Jenn, email me at aby @ simplify 101 dot com. I am so excited to work with you and share ideas that will solve these organizing challenges for you!

August 24, 2011

Scrapbook Organization: What are your biggest challenges? (And a chance to win!)

I am super excited to be a part of Spawn of True Scrap. You may recall that I participated in the first True Scrap...or you may be thinking “What is the Spawn of True Scrap?” Well if you're in that second group, Spawn of True Scrap is an amazing online scrapbook event happening this October that allows you to take live classes from expert instructors all from the comfort of your own home! (Click here to view more details.)


In my new class I’ll be sharing tips, secrets and a simple process that will show you how to make the most of your scrapbook space. If you scrapbook in small space, a shared space, or at a temporary space like on your kitchen table—this class is designed with you in mind. I’ll be showing you how to find hidden pockets of storage space for your scrapbook supplies. Plus, you’ll learn how to make the most of your area with space-stretching storage solutions. You’ll also learn how to create a functional and inspiring scrapbook area that will make you a happy and productive scrapbooker. 



As I’m putting together this class I wanted to reach out to you and find out your biggest challenges when it comes to scrapbook organization. I’d love to share solutions to your challenges in the class content. And…as a way to say thank you for taking the time to answer, one lucky person will be drawn at random to win a signed copy of The Organized & Inspired Scrapbooker and a One-Room Organizing Plan Coaching Package with me (value of $125.) With this coaching package you and I will work together to solve your scrapbook organizing dilemmas and put together a plan to create an organized, functional and inspiring scrapbook space. Sound fun? 


Here’s how to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of the Organized & Inspired Scrapbooker and a One-Room Organizing Plan Coaching Package:


1.  In the comments answer this question:  Where do you scrapbook and what’s your greatest organizing challenge that comes from scrapbooking in this particular space? OR…

2.  For a second chance to win, like simplify 101 on Facebook AND post a comment on this blog post that says “I liked simplify 101 on Facebook.” OR...

3.  For a third chance to win, tweet this giveaway with a link on Twitter AND post a comment that says “I tweeted.” OR...

4.  Do all three for three chances to win! Make sure to leave a separate comment for each thing you do—answering the question, liking simplify 101 on Facebook or Tweeting. 


Comments will close on Sunday August 28, 2011 at 9 PM central, and the winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck and thanks for your help!!


**Comments are now closed! Thanks to all who shared comments, tweets, and likes. :) **

August 20, 2011

How to Organize Your Glove Compartment in 15 Minutes for Under $5


This post has moved to our new blog. Go to How to Organize Your Glove Compartment in 15 Minutes for Under $5.



August 12, 2011

The Summer in Review

It’s the last Friday of the summer. And when I say summer, I mean summer vacation from school. Clearly, there are still plenty of hot, summery days ahead of us. But there are just a couple more days of no school and the relaxed summer schedule that comes along with the kids being out of school. 


At the start of the summer I set some just for fun goals. Today…I thought it would be fun to do a check in on those goals…and see how things went. 


Goal 1:  Go with the flow. As I mentioned in the original post, it’s definitely challenging trying to balance it all during the summer. This year was better than last year—by far. One thing that definitely helped was continuing to go to yoga or boot camp as much as I could. I also found that having a vacation to Michigan to look forward to really felt good and kept my spirits high. (Making some mental notes for next summer…)


Goal 2:  Sit on the front porch and listen to the rain. Honestly, this was never even a possibility! Very few rainy nights this summer…but there is always fall, right?


Goal 3: Be a tourist in my home town. We enjoyed our local farmer's market...but never did venture to St. Louis for a touristy outing. Seems our schedule was really filled to the brim with summer camps and a vacation in Michigan.  


Goal 4:  Go on my first ever mother-daughter road trip to Michigan. Yes—we did it, and it was so much fun!


(We even fed giraffes!)


Goal 5:  Run in the Komen St. Louis Race with my daughter.  Check! Loved every single second of it! Must put this one on the list again next summer. 



Goal 6:  Play with my camera more. A bit…I had something more in mind when I set this goal. But that’s okay. :) (See Goal #1...I'm going with the flow.) 


Goal 7:  Create a place to capture daily gratitude. I did this via email with my friend Janine. We’ve been doing this since January (though I have missed a day or two, especially on the weekends when I unplug.) But I highly recommend an email gratitude exchange with a friend. This was Janine’s idea, and it’s a fantastic way to end the day. I love reading her gratitude list as it always inspires me…and it’s fun to have the reminder to really stop each day and think about how great life truly is. There’s always a lot to be grateful for. 


Goal 8:  Take the kids to the pool…and play! Yep!


Goal 9:  Enjoy homemade ice cream. Yep, and yum!


Goal 10:  Watch less T.V. Indeed. Though I must admit we have been enjoying Food Network Star (go Vic) and Design Star


Goal 11:  Create a list of things my kids would like to do this summer. Yes…we did this, but found our days were filled on their own. No trying to figure out “What should we do today...” It was good. 


Goal 12:  Ride my bike. Uh…nope. I must have written that goal when it was still cool! I did take my dog on lots of walks since my daughter set a goal to walk her every day. Now…one would think that goal meant that my daughter was going to walk the dog everyday…but that wasn’t it that at all. Essentially, quite often (like when she went to camp or had sleep over’s) Kailea became the advocate for the dog…as opposed to the dog walker. Oh well…there’s nothing wrong with a happy dog, right? 


Goal 12:  Eat outside as much as possible….on the deck, at the park, etc. Yep…until it got too hot and mosquito-y. Looking forward to more of this in the fall. 


Goal 13:  Enjoy experimenting with fresh, organic fruits and veggies from a local farmer. Yes and yum! We have tried all sorts of yummy things I’ve never eaten before like kale chips and kohlrabi. It has been a lot of fun playing in the kitchen with fresh veggies. Of all the things I will miss about summer…this is right at the top of the list...especially fresh tomatoes and basil. 



Goal 14:  Create something…just for the fun of it.  If Rice Krispies Treats count…I’m all set. If not...there were those camp cards…that was definitely fun. Ready to do some more creating this fall. :)


Goal 15:  Relax in the hammock and read a good book.  Book = yes. Hammock = no. (See number 12.)


Goal 16:  Remember that my family is my number one priority. Yes indeed. 


It’s almost time to call summer a wrap. It was a good one...but welcome new school year. I’m glad you are here. 


Did you set any "just for fun" goals this summer? If are things going? I think the most important thing with these just for fun goals is that they help make your summer more fun. It's not about getting to check them all off at the end of the summer...but rather, it's about helping to make sure that when summer ends you can say "Yep, it was a good summer." So how is it going for you? I'd love to hear from you!

August 04, 2011

Summer Camp Organizing Tips

July was our big “send the kids to camp month.” All of us were first-timers for overnight camps, so the whole experience was new for us. But it went great—both kids had a blast and loved going away to camp!


Sending your child to an overnight camp for the first time is a really interesting experience. Kailea went to a traditional summer camp complete with a lake for fishing and swimming, and a cabin full of bunk-beds and other girls, most of whom she had never met before. Collin’s camp was a basketball camp, so he was inside the whole time (no worries about being too hot) and he stayed in an air conditioned dorm room with one friend he knows from school. I’m not sure which was harder…leaving Collin in a dorm room with just one other friend (and no adult) but a cell phone to keep in touch, or leaving Kailea in a cabin in the woods with no means of communicating with us for six whole days! 



Regardless of when and where your kids go to camp for the first time, you’ll sleep better at night if you feel like they have everything they need to get through the week comfortably. So while it’s fresh on my mind, I wanted to share a few tips and lessons I learned this year as a first-time camp parent. If you have kids heading off to camp later this summer, or if it’s on the horizon for next year, tuck these ideas into your back pocket. 


Use the camp checklist to pack and then, pack the checklist in your child’s bag. The camp checklist provided by our camp included a space to note how many of each type of item was sent to camp. It was simple for Kailea to do a quick count while she repacked her bags to come home and make sure no belongings were left behind.


Involve your child in the packing process. That way she will know what she’s bringing and where it is in her bag. It was fun packing with Kailea. She had clear ideas about where she wanted various items stored in her bag and how she wanted things grouped together.


Know the camp’s dress code. Our camp had a no short-shorts rule…which we knew about. What we didn’t know was the criterion for how short is too short. Some of the shorts we sent along didn’t make the cut. (And just so you know…they were anything but short-shorts!) So make sure you have specifics about any camp dress code. It will help ensure your child has enough clean clothes for their entire stay at camp.  


Send along a couple of small backpacks or drawstring bags. Our packing checklist included one small backpack for the child to use each day for outings away from the cabin. Kailea used this first backpack for her water bottle, sunscreen, camera, etc. We sent along a second drawstring bag to serve as her “in the bunk” bag for nighttime and siesta time in the afternoon. (This was simply quiet time in the bunk where you could read, write letters to home, take a nap, or send notes to fellow cabin mates.) We packed her “in the bunk” bag with a book to read, a clipboard to make it easier to write, her tin full of letter writing (and reading) supplies, a flashlight, and other nighttime essentials. Kailea reports this worked great.


Drawstring bag-copyright-simplify101

Plan something fun for the week after camp. If your child loves camp the way my kids did…the week after camp can be a big letdown. (So expect to pick up a tired and potentially grumpy or sad kiddo.) We found it really helped to have something fun to look forward to for the next week. For Kailea this was a trip to Michigan, and for Collin it was an over-night stay with Grandma and Grandpa. 


Keep in touch. We really missed our kids while they were away—much more than they missed us, I think! But that could be because they heard from us a lot. While we couldn’t talk to Kailea I sent along cards and notes with her and I mailed cards and letters a week ahead. In addition, her camp made it possible for parents to send emails, so Kailea could get daily updates on what was going on at home. I made sure to talk a lot about all the fun we were going to have in Michigan, so she’d have something to look forward to after camp. For Collin we were able to keep in touch via text messages, which was great. It was nice to know each night that he had made it back to his dorm room and was in bed for the night! 



When sending your kids to camp, find out how you can keep in touch with them such as via letters, email or phone / text messages. Also check to see if your child’s camp will be posting photos of the kids at camp. I can’t begin to tell you how much it helped us to see photos of Kailea and her friends at camp, smiling and clearly looking like they were having a great time. 


Send along a camera and tell your child hand it over to her friends! We sent Kailea with a small digital camera…and she took some pretty amazing photos! The one thing I wish we had done was encourage her to let her friends or camp counselors use her camera to take more photos of Kailea. None the less, she did hand over the camera a time or two (and she even snapped a self-portrait in a mirror). She has some fantastic photos of friends, counselors and the camp.  



Encourage your child to send letters home. Our letters from Kailea didn’t arrive until after camp ended…but they are simply precious. They’re keep-forever keepsakes that will remind her of her special first week at camp for years and years to come.


All in all, camp was a great experience for all of us. And with these lessons-learned, next year we'll be even more prepared—and organized!  


Did your child go to camp this summer? Do you have any lessons-learned or tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Thanks for sharing. 

August 01, 2011

Your August Get Organized Checklist

I don’t know about you, but for me July just flew by! Both of my kids had overnight camps, and Kailea and I took our first-ever, girls-only trip to Michigan. It was a fun-filled month…which tends to make the days fly by. Don't you think?


Here it is August first, which around here means just two short weeks until school starts! So there’s a whole lot to get done in the month of August around the Garvey household. How about you? Is August your back-to-school month, too, or is summer just winding up where you live? I’d love to hear what’s on your to-do list this month. If you’re looking for some ideas and ways to get organized this month, here’s your August checklist.  Hope you enjoy!


August-checklist{see below for a printable pdf version of this checklist.}


Checklist-copyright-simplify101 August Get Organized Checklist

Set your goals for the month. It’s a monthly habit now, right? If not, start this moth and simply write down a few goals you'd like to accomplish this month. 


Check your monthly tickler folder. If you use a tickler file, today is the day to go through your monthly file folder and distribute the contents into your daily folders.


Get ready for back to school.  See this blog post for a downloadable checklist of things to do to get your kiddos ready for the upcoming school year.


Clean, declutter and organize your car. If there’s a break in the heat, this one is on my to-do list for August.


Create a fall sports mini zone. If your kids are involved in fall sports activities, now is a great time to corral the gear together, check and see what fits, and carve out a spot to store all the sports gear, uniforms and equipment together in one handy spot. A bin, hook or shelves in the mudroom or entry way is a terrific spot for a sports gear mini zone.



Visit your local farmers market (or your own garden) and preserve some fresh fruits or veggies to enjoy this winter. Our garden is overflowing with cucumbers right now…so I’m giving pickles another try this month. Wish me luck as last time the results were a bit, well, unfortunate. ;)



Declutter your basement or another storage area in your home. This past weekend Jay and I did some basement decluttering. A cool basement is a great place to organize when it is hot, hot, hot outside. And creating space in a storage area gives you space to move items from other areas of your home when you organize. For example, I have been storing some out of season items in my laundry room…now that the basement has a bit more breathing room, I can move the seasonal items downstairs.


If the thought of starting on a basement organizing project is daunting, start with the easy clutter, things you know for sure you’re ready to part with. Work in short segments of time and focus simply on making progress. Don’t try to tackle it all in one organizing session, but take small, fifteen minute bites out of the project. With this approach, over the course of the month you'll make terrific progress!


Start planning and preparing for your fall yard sale, or list a few big ticket items on Craigslist or Ebay. This past weekend, as part of our basement decluttering project, we listed a few items on Craigslist. It’s always feels so good to get things out of the house that you no longer use and need…and making a few dollars in the process can certainly sweeten the deal. If you’re not up for a full-fledged yard sale, try listing a few of your big ticket items on Craigslist or Ebay this month.  


Sign up for a fall class on a topic of interest like yoga, cooking, crafting, or organizing. Around this time of year I get a slight twinge of jealousy as I get my kids ready for back to school. I miss the excitement of the new school year, new friends, new things to learn. If you’re feeling that way, too, why not sign up for a class just for fun and just for you? Maybe you’ve always wanted to try yoga, or you have friends who have gotten in on the Zoomba craze and you really want to see what it’s all about. Or maybe you’ve wanted to sign up for a class at your local scrapbook store, or a cooking class at your grocery store or local community college. Or maybe you’ve had your eye on one of simplify 101’s online organizing workshops. Why not get in on the back to school fun and sign up for a class just for you?  


Fix something broken, or decide you never will and let it go. This month would be a great month to go through your mending basket and repair holes or sew on some missing buttons. Or if you decide an item is beyond repair…now is a great time to let it go.  



Here is the PDF for this month's checklist:  Download August-checklist. (You will need Adobe Reader to open the file. You can get that here:


I hope you have a terrific month! I'd love to hear what you have planned for the weeks ahead. Thanks for sharing!

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