Tetris is my game. I’m not sure if this is a brag or something I should be embarrassed about, but in college — the late ‘80s Tetris heyday — I was dorm champion. I still play it. In fact, I think the reason my fingers hurt a little right now is not from too much blog-typing, but from too much Tetris. Yikes!
It’s not really a surprise that a professional organizer is good at Tetris: heightened spatial awareness is one of the skills I bring to helping you organize your home. But when it comes to time management, loving Tetris is a definite deficit.
Clearly I need to set some strict boundaries on myself so I don’t waste all my time playing a silly game. Truthfully, I’m pretty productive and can limit the gaming to my downtime. That is, when I allow myself some downtime.
Because, as my husband correctly pointed out, the real problem I have is that I play my calendar like it’s a game of Tetris.
It’s August, so that means time to get ready to go back to school. Sorry, I mean remote learning. No, wait, hybrid. Or maybe a pod?
Wow! And I thought annual school-supply shopping was hard (Why are the supply lists so long?!). Now, we have to contend with shifting school start dates and 11th-hour plan changes.
This year, every decision we have to make around getting our children back to school seems fraught with frightening complications.
What’s a parent to do? Get organized!
At the beginning of every year, there are a lot of ideas rattling around in my head of new things I'd like to do and others I’d like to refresh or revise. The problem is that it can be hard to change habits and make a fresh start, right?
I don’t want to end up next December wondering where my time went and what happened to all those things I’d hoped to get done. So, I came up with a new event to help me achieve some goals.
Are you ready for summer fun? Get organized, and you will be prepared to take off on an adventure whenever the opportunity strikes!
Do you ever feel that you want to take advantage of the excellent summer weather, but there’s simply too much in your way to make it happen? Maybe your house is disorganized, and you feel like you wouldn’t be able to catch up on the housework when you get back?
Perhaps you can’t find the things you need, so you waste time searching—Where did we store the picnic blanket?—or buying things over and over again—I can’t find the sunblock, so we’ll just stop by the store and buy more.
By the end of the summer, when kids are headed back to school, and the warm weather is waning, will you look back wistfully and wish you’d had more fun? This year, say yes to adventure with the confidence that you are organized enough to make it happen.
Grab the Essentials
My friend Rachel is a beachgoer extraordinaire and is also a very organized person. I asked her for her best tips and learned that having the right bag packed with the essentials is the key to easy beach (or pool, or lake) excursions.
The best bag is a roomy tote equipped with outer pockets, so you don’t have to dig around in the main compartment to find what you need. Store larger items such as towels in the main compartment and fill the pockets with easy-to-grab items such as sunblock (reapply frequently!), flip-flops, and sunglasses. Bonus points if the bag has a zip-top to keep contents free of sand or dirt.
Here are some fabulous bags you might enjoy! The mesh versions are particularly good for the beach because the sand will fall right through instead of collecting at the bottom.
Zip-Top Utility Tote by Thirty-One
Shop mesh bags at Target
Dejaroo Mesh Bag from Amazon
NOTE: I don’t get a kickback from any of these products. They are bags my family personally enjoys!
Store the essentials in the bag at all times, so it becomes a ready-stocked kit you can grab on your way out the door. Rachel’s essentials include:
● Bug spray
● Aloe or soothing lotion
● Ear drying drops to prevent swimmer’s ear. (Buy premade drops or mix-up
Rachel’s recipe of equal parts rubbing alcohol & white vinegar into a dropper
One clever trick Rachel has for banishing sticky sand (and keeping it out of your car) is to stash a bottle of baby powder in your beach bag. When you get to the car, sprinkle the powder on sandy feet and legs, then rub with a towel and the sand will come right off
Aside from your main tote bag, I recommend that each family member have a smaller tote or string backpack filled with their personal essentials: bathing suit, flip-flops, coverup, sunglasses, goggles, and a beach read. This way, you don’t have to try to cram everyone’s things into one family bag.
Store all of these bags near the door, in your mudroom, or even in the garage, so they are easy to find when you’re on your way to the car. If you park in the garage and your car doesn’t get too hot, you could even store them in the trunk.
.Tackling the Big Stuff
Now that we have the smaller items organized, create some space for the larger summer adventure gear. Move the snow blower and shovels to the back of your garage or shed, or create an easy-access space in your mudroom, porch, or even basement.
Gather all your outdoor gear (beach chairs, umbrella, cooler, boogie boards, outdoor toys, wheeled cart, etc.) and arrange it in the space. Whenever possible, try not to stack more than two things or to put things in front of others because your goal is to make everything easy to remove and put back. Make use of vertical space by securing utility hooks to the wall for storing folding chairs, boogie boards, or mesh bags of toys.
Sometimes it’s not the gear that’s getting in the way of our being able to say “yes” to a spontaneous adventure, but it’s the lack of organization in our home. You want to say yes, but then how will you make dinner without resorting to a junky fast food meal. You want to say yes, but you already have a mountain of laundry to tackle and the thought of adding dirty, wet towels to the pile makes you want to cry.
If keeping up with laundry is a problem for you, read my “Get Your Laundry Organized” blog to find a strategy that will work for you. For summer adventuring, it’s most important to make sure that your washer is empty before you leave so when you get home you can shake everything out in the driveway, then dump it straight into the washer and run it..
I like to put swimsuits in mesh delicates bags, so they don’t accidentally go into the dryer and ruin the elastic. Now your beach clothes will be washed and ready for tomorrow’s excursion!
For meal prep tips, check out my blog, “Use Your Freezer to Speed Up Your Day.” My top summertime meal tip is to stop sweating at a hot stove or oven and instead, use the slow cooker or Instant Pot for healthy meals that are mostly hands-off. Search “slow cooker/instant pot summer recipes” for dinner ideas featuring lighter, fresher flavors than your winter comfort food staples.
What if your fridge is nearly empty and you have no time to go grocery shopping? Skip the store and fill your cart while you’re at the beach by using an online delivery service such as Peapod or Whole Foods. How easy is that?!
My final organizing tip for summer adventures is to keep an “emergency excursions” kit consisting of a picnic blanket, sunblock, and bug spray in your car. When you see a picturesque meadow, hiking trail, or pond, you’ll be ready to pull over and make some memories.
Do you ever struggle with how to be efficient and productive at work? Do you dread meetings because they're torturously long and nothing ever gets accomplished? My colleague, Maryann Murphy, has written a fantastic book to help you with these common dilemmas: Stop Wasting Your Precious Time. This book should be required reading for any workplace or organization (Hello, schools and nonprofit boards!) that needs to get more done in less time and with less aggravation.
I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of the book and I loved it! I started implementing some of her suggestions right away and was able to clear my “Action” file in record time.
This is definitely not one of those organizing books that I’m going to find among your piles of clutter, where I usually find the Marie Kondo book or another comprehensive “this-will-change-your-life” organizing book. Maybe you had high hopes when you bought those books, but I think they are overwhelming for most people.
Why will Stop Wasting Your Precious Time not get buried on your bookshelf? Because this book is really a handbook or instruction manual that is packed with actionable strategies. You’ll want to keep this out on your desk so you can refer to it whenever you find yourself stuck and unable to overcome a productivity obstacle.
What I love about the book is that Maryann gets right down to business without wasting the reader’s time with a lot of filler and background information. She doesn’t over-philosophize about why you waste time; she just outlines effective solutions that you can implement today to see immediate results.
The best way to use this book is to turn to the table of contents and select the chapter that relates to your worst time-wasting challenge. Are you in information overload, are you forced to sit through unproductive meetings, or do you procrastinate? There’s a chapter for each of those problems and several more. So choose a chapter, select one or two of Maryann’s strategies that you think will best help you, and work on putting them into practice. She guides you every step of the way, making it really easy to develop new, anti-time-wasting habits.
Although subtitle of the book “60 Easy Strategies for Eliminating Your Biggest Time Wasters at Work,” this book would be useful to just about anyone who’d like to be more productive: students, stay-at-home parents, retirees, or volunteers.
So go and grab a copy of Stop Wasting Your Precious Time by Maryann Murphy and then let me know: