Fighting the Urge of Excess

This season of quarantine has brought out different sides in each of us. Sometimes I feel as if I have even gone through some sort of emotional episode. I’ve been on a roller coaster. We.all.have. The ups and downs, the unknown, life has been entirely too much. But let’s celebrate the success of life. We’ve made it (almost). Here in Texas, people are jumping at the bit to get back to our normal life. Well, everyone is, we are ready.

Before we do, I think we all need a reset.

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What we’ve gone through is nothing short of traumatic. Hoarding and overbuying are classic responses to stress. Gathering as much as you can without reason, is equivalent to becoming a packrat. It’s not healthy. One of the problems with overbuying is mainly that most of us cannot store the excess that we have purchased. 20+ rolls of paper towels sounded like a great idea until you brought it home and have no place to put it. Excess causes stress. Whether you keep your home in near perfect condition or don’t mind the “we live here” look when things start piling up, it creates significant stress.

Three tips to stop overbuying:

1-Make a list for the grocery store:
Be specific, and only buy what you need. Cancel the auto-ship of your grocery items until you actually need them again.

2-Be creative:
If you don’t try to use up what you’ve purchased, it’s going to expire and be such a waste. If you overbought rice or pasta, work those items into your weekly menu. Don’t just push it to the side. Be smart and think about the items you’ve already purchased; it will save your family some money and will help to get things back to normal at home.

3-Resist the urge to continue:
It’s easy to get sucked into buying excess. It becomes a way to feel ‘safe’ and feel like you have control over an uncontrollable situation. Did we buy extra toilet paper when all this started, yes, absolutely. Are we still buying it? Nooo! We all have enough toilet paper. Lol. I’ve started adding a “Do not buy” list on our shopping list for the week. I add items that we buy on impulse but don’t need it at the moment. “Don’t buy toilet paper, rice, great beans, etc” This may help you and your partner stay on track.

As you venture back to some semblance of everyday life or try to, take stock of your stuff. Are you overbuying? If so, why? Do you need to talk to someone about it? Handling your emotions is hard, but it is so worth it. Spend some time today taking care of you, and let’s all put an end to overbuying.

Love y’all!

~Steph

Clearing the Mental Clutter

I’ve been reading this book, and it caused a significant epiphany this week. It’s called, “When Less Becomes More,” and the author talks about how simplifying your life is so much more than throwing your stuff away. We know this, obviously, but some of her points helped me pinpoint some areas of opportunity within my own life. I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately and wanted to share some insight.

What is mental clutter?
I believe mental clutter looks almost precisely like physical clutter. Your house gets “messy” when you are too busy to perform routine tasks, like picking up toys or staying on top of the laundry. When you are rushing from task to task or have too much piled on your already full plate, clutter starts to control your life. I believe it’s the same with your brain. When you have a thought or a mental task to complete, it stays at the forefront of your mind until you complete it. Thus it’s similar to the pile of laundry that needs to get done. Your brain reminds you to do it throughout the day, but you may be too tired or too busy to complete it.

Why does this matter?
It matters because when your mind is cluttered, it’s almost impossible to relax and unwind. I may be alone in this, but I am betting I’m not, and when you have an endless list of things that you need to get done, shutting that part off takes a toll on you whether you realize it or not.

So how do we deal with this mental clutter?

I believe the answer lies in analyzing what is causing the mental clutter and tackling it one by one.

Keyboard keys on gray surface.

Email:
There are two types of people in this world: people who like to have an empty inbox and people who are okay with having thousands of emails. lol 🙂 I see my email as a to-do list and clear it regularly throughout the day as I handle each incoming request. I have many friends who are completely fine with NOT doing this and would rather scroll through their inbox, looking for vital tasks only and leaving the rest unopened. I am not here to say one is right or wrong, but I do think both sides could benefit from clearing some of the excesses. I’ve been working on this all week and have made a considerable dent in my inbox. You know when you accidentally sign up for emails and don’t realize it? Like the time I bought something small off of Wayfair, and now they email me three times a day?!? Put an end to it! Unsubscribe from all of the promotional emails you delete daily or don’t need. It takes a little time, but it is so worth it! These emails, whether you read them or not, add to your mental clutter. Spend some time clearing it this week.

Subscriptions:
Many of us have been home, taking advantage of the free subscriptions available. I know we are as well…free Beachbody workout for 60 days? Sign me up! The problem is the “free” subscription will end. Lol And it will end probably right when you get to go back to work or resume your somewhat regular schedule. Put in an alarm or a calendar reminder to cancel the subscriptions before you get charged. Having a pending task like this adds clutter. When you handle the job, even if it’s by knowing it is something you will do later, it clears it from your current to-do list.

To-Do Lists:
Speaking of to-do lists. Let’s be real about them right now. There’s another excellent book called “Eat That Frog,” and the premise of the book instructs us to tackle the hardest task first. There’s a similar proverb: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” If you are a to-do list person, there’s likely a task or multiple that you don’t want to handle. In my case, sometimes, these items end up carried on from one day to the next (maybe even for multiple weeks)! Both the proverb and the book suggest tackling the hardest task first. Get it done and out of the way. The mental clutter caused by the big or unpleasant task outweighs the actual job. Are you and your kids struggling to get schoolwork accomplished? Try to do it first thing in the morning and see if that impacts your mood. It may not work for everything, but getting things done, clears your mind for rest and allows you to think more clearly about other tasks.

Screen time:
Lastly, I wanted to point out a major time suck. Screens. I went to a networking brunch earlier this year, and they suggested time blocking your screen time. I know it seems silly, and you may even think that you don’t spend much time scrolling, but ohhh, the time wasted on these little things. I can lose hours of my day on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. HOURS! I know that I am not alone in this. It’s so easy to get distracted. Here’s the problem: scrolling time is not rest. It’s adding more mental clutter. You are distracted by each post, and it fills your mind with information. In the book, “When Less Becomes More,” Emily Ley points out the power of our phones and how the distraction adds stress and comparison to our lives that is utterly unnecessary. Be true to yourself and spend some time thinking about your phone habits. If you put it down for a while, would it help you focus more on what is happening within your walls? Would it free up some time? These are questions I ask myself too.

I hope this helped you think about what mental clutter may exist in your space today. What can you do about it?

Message me if you need more suggestions!


With love always,
~Steph

Tips to handle the mail more efficiently!

Handling the mail can be a huge issue. It can be even more significant if you don’t have a routine for how to process it. Here are a few simple tips to help you get a hold on how you handle this daily task. 

First of all, we are all different, and all process our mail in different ways, and that is 100% okay! I strongly suggest spending a moment thinking about the routine you already have in place. Is it working? Does it pile up in areas it shouldn’t? I can’t tell you how many bedrooms/bathrooms I’ve been in that have stacks of mail piled up. Your bills should never go into your bedroom. Think about how that could negatively impact your nighttime routine! Nobody needs to be thinking about bills while they are trying to wind down and rest. 

Here are some tips to help calm the mail burden. 

  • Have a routine. You don’t have to get the mail daily, but when you do, immediately process through it. 
  • Throw away the junk mail.
  • Keep only coupons that you KNOW you will use. 
  • If you pay bills once a month, create a space for the invoice. Label it: to do, bills, invoices, etc. 
  • Assess whether or not you need the actual paper invoice. If not, go online and sign up for paperless options. It helps to calm the paper storm and may make it easier for you to remember to handle the bills when they are due. 

My mail routine: 

I get the mail daily. On my short walk back to the house, I sort through and immediately throw out the junk. I then open the important items and update the balance due on my phone. I have a notes tab with each due date and amount and update it when I pay the bills. This system works for me because when the water bill comes; for example, I update the amount due and THROW AWAY the paper bill. I don’t need it anymore. 

Paper bills add clutter in your home and your mind. They represent todo list items that need your attention. Handling them and having a system, help clear your mind of the stress from the task. 

What are you keeping, and why? 

I have many clients who keep records of their bills, and I always ask why. Why do you need a copy of your bills? Spend a few moments looking up your records. Most credit card companies keep years worth of records. YEARS! The water bill is likely to be the same, and so is your mortgage company. Look up your bills and determine what you need to keep. You’ll probably be surprised at what you really don’t need to keep at all. 

Good luck tackling this task, and don’t be afraid to ask for help! I am here to answer questions!

~Steph

The Healing Power of Cleaning

A clean home is a happy home

Everything is crazy right now. Daily tasks that used to seem so mundane are now restricted or illegal. We can’t spend time with friends and family. Even going to the grocery store is becoming taboo.

It’s eye-opening how much I took for granted. Do you feel the same way? If you spend too much time thinking about it, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and depressed. I’m guilty of this big time. I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster. Anyone else feel this way too? I have to apologize to my husband almost every other day because my moods are unpredictable and all-encompassing. I can be super positive and upbeat and literally an hour later, I am crying in the shower. What the heck? When will this be over?

One activity that has been my saving grace is cleaning. Hear me out, I can feel the eye-rolling happening even as I type this. There’s power in turning up some of your favorite music, silencing your mind and all your fears, and wiping things clean. You don’t have to clean everything. You can pick just one room or one activity each day. It’s become part of our daily to-do list. I’ll be honest, sometimes I dread it. That is…until I’m done. Looking around at a task completed…smelling the strong smell of cleaner…seeing the room sparkle because of something I DID, it’s powerful. I can’t help but smile and that is exactly what we all need to do right now–smile.

I decided to make a cleaning rotation because if I don’t, I will spend my time cleaning the same things over and over and nobody has time for that.

Here’s my schedule. Feel free to use it, edit it, or roll your eyes at the fact that I am enjoying cleaning. Whatever you decide to do, remember that your emotional well-being is just as important as your health. Find ways to bring a smile to your face even if it seems silly to others.

Monday: Vaccum and Windex
Tuesday: Counters
Wednesday: Bathrooms
Thursday: Tile (Sweep and Mop)
Friday: Sheets
Saturday: Laundry (Completly done)
Sunday: Rest

I should add that daily I pick up the house and wipe down counters in addition to doing the dishes. I’ve also been posting my five-minute organizing activity each day. Follow me (on socials) to get some easy tips on how to work from one small space to another. My personality is to always be moving. Even writing this blog is difficult because I have to sit and focus for more than one minute. lol. I am NOT good at sitting.

I hope this helps you. I hope you are staying healthy and sane through the mess of the world. If cleaning doesn’t do it for you, find something that does. Search for reasons to smile and stay positive. We will get through this, and I believe we will be stronger when it’s all said and done.

One day at a time, establishing a new normal.

Mommas, life just got hard. Really hard. Whether you are working from home now, suddenly diving into the role of a full-time teacher, or becoming a stay-at-home-mom for the first time EVER, I am here for you.

There’s so much information out there on how to do this the “right” way. Look, there is no right way. We are all in survival mode, so please stop trying to focus on how you can be the best at everything. It’s not possible, and I am an ultimate perfectionist (it pangs me to even write that). We need to change the things we have control over and accept the things we cannot change. I cannot change the fact that you became a 2nd-grade teacher overnight while also maintaining your full time job. I wish I could!!! I CAN help you create a space for this new normal. That’s what we’re talking about today.

Tip #1:
First up, create a space. Your home used to have one function: home. It doesn’t anymore. Now it is “work,” “school,” and “home.” It will make life easier to draw lines on these spaces and create some boundaries. Every homeschooling mom I’ve ever seen or talked to always has a space for where they “do school.” It’s so smart. It tells your brain to connect to that role. Create a space for each function of your day. When the kids are working on schoolwork, have them at the dinner table. Set up a place for your “work.” When you are at that desk or table, it will help the kids to also know what is happening.

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(affiliate link)

Tip #2:
I think there is also something powerful to actually sitting at a desk. Maybe it’s all those years of my own education, but if I am seated behind a desk, work gets done. Trying to accomplish the same work on a couch or outside, it takes some intense effort. It can still get done, but it takes much longer. Think about where your kids are trying to get their work done. Are they in an area that is conducive to learning?

I purchased this table and chairs from Target awhile ago and have recently created a “school” area in my office.

Here’s a link to a similar one available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WYsqj8

(affiliate link)

Tip #3:
Explain and set boundaries, “we are at the table doing our work for the next 30 minutes.” “Then we can do __.” Teachers do this all.the.time! Children are used to hearing the idea of performing an activity for a short time and then knowing what is coming next. Try it and see if your student responds well. I know this is a tad more complicated if you are also on a three-hour conference call. Do your best, sweet friend. That is all that you can do.

There are many timers available and that may help as well. Here are some simple ones available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2wOFvku (affiliate link).

Please know that these are all suggestions, and revert to my original statement of survival. If something is not working, try something else. We will make it through this one way or another. Trying new tactics could possibly make your current world a little more manageable.

Tax Prep from the daughter of a CPA

My dad owned his own tax business and LOVED getting the most money possible for his clients. Growing up I remember him working tirelessly for each of them and never raising his rates because he loved them so much and considered each one a member of the family. This has taught me so much as a business owner. Yes, everyone wants to make money, but clients should be the focus—treating each person as if you would like to be treated. The other lesson I learned was about organization! Many of my dad’s clients would send him BOXES of receipts and find themselves in a mess year after year.

This is what today’s post is about…starting the year on the right foot by developing a system that works for you and is sustainable throughout the entire year. You may have other systems or ideas that work for you, but I am going to share what works specifically for me and my business.

At the beginning of the year, I separated my receipts into categories and came up with these:

These bins are from Target and are only $5 for 5!

I know it seems excessive and a tad OCD, but if you’ve met me you know that basically describes me. Lol

Throughout the year, I add receipts into the bin category and don’t have to worry about it anymore. No boxes of receipts mixed together…all of them separated by category in an easy to use system. Yes, you can use file folders for the same purpose, but I had so many receipts for clients that this worked for me.

By the end of the year, here is what I ended up with.

It looks a tad messy even for me, but I loved that they are accessible and easy to find.

At the end of the year, I transfer all of them do this:

After prepping for my taxes, I can store this easily in the attic. The items in the box and this box are both from The Container Store and were not too pricey.

Good luck organizing your receipts and reach out to me if you have any ideas of your own!

*disclaimer-all of the ideas in this post are personal suggestions and should not be solely used to make tax decisions. Please see your tax professional for further advice.

Tips to tackle the ‘kid’s stuff’ before the holidays

Every year before the holidays I do a purge of my children’s stuff. For such tiny humans, their possessions seem to accumulate quickly! The holidays bring family gatherings, extra outfits, and extra toys! Lots and lots of toys.

The key to controlled chaos is to periodically assess the elements that become part of it. I suggest doing this seasonally, but your Winter Purge should be the biggest of the year.

Areas to work through:

Clothes:

  1. Go through each drawer and closet (it’s okay if you need to separate this task throughout the week).
  2. Ask yourself three questions:

  Does it fit?

  Is it free of stains/damages?

  Will my child wear it?

3. If the answer to any of these questions is no, donate or sell it. Be realistic and know that you are not wasting money by selling or donating items, you have already spent the money. You are adding value to your life and your children’s lives by making their environment more simplistic and limiting some of the excess.

Next, move on to toys.

Ask yourself similar questions for this space:

Do they play with it?

Is it complete (nothing missing or broken)?

Do they own multiple? (Multiples of toys can be pared down to the most complete set).

  1. If the answer to any of these questions is no, donate or sell it. Be realistic and know that you are not wasting money by selling or donating items, you have already spent the money. You are adding value to your life and your children’s lives by making their environment more simplistic and limiting some of the excess.  You are also making room for the toys they are about to receive. 

I perform most of this act with my children to help teach a lesson in giving and need vs. want. Yes, they are little. But if you teach them the ‘why’ behind the action, they get on board quickly. I say phrases repeatedly to help them understand the process and know that when they are done, that’s 100% fine. Some of their toys can disappear without them being aware, but I do want them to know that giving is very important.

These simple questions help.

“Let’s pick some toys to give to kids that may not have as many toys as you.”

“What toy do you not like anymore?”

“Do you have any broken toys?”

“Do you have any toys you’d like to give to someone?”

Do what you can. Do as much as you can. Whatever you end up selling/donating is at least better than not doing it at all. You also may have taught a valuable lesson in giving. 

Happy Holidays, Friends! 

~Steph

3 Methods to Tackling Laundry

It’s time to talk about every mom’s nemesis: laundry. Why, oh why is there so much? It even starts before the kid makes their grand entrance…you must wash everything. Maybe this is prep for the mountain of laundry those tiny, little people produce. Am I right? I can honestly say that I never had a problem keeping up until the littles came along. 

As a professional organizer, I feel it is my duty to attempt to master the clothes. Almost all of my clients share the same problem. How do we keep up? I have attempted to look at this problem as a science experiment and am here to share my findings. 

In my opinion, there are three separate methods for tackling the laundry. 

1. The Once-a-Week laundry hustle. 

 This is great for busy moms who do not have time to tackle loads and loads of laundry once or twice a week. The problem is unless you are fortunate enough to have access to multiple washers/dryers, this method takes a freaking day! Literally all day. The other issue is that your living room turns into a makeshift closet while you attempt to sort and fold in the midst of the chaos that some people refer to as the weekend. Also, let’s be honest, you most often DO NOT finish said laundry on your one-day marathon, and it drags on and on until you eventually wash it again because, well, you’re just not sure if it’s clean or not. Friends, I used to be a victim of this method, it’s not the best. 

2. The Twice a Week Laundry Dread.  

 I call it a “dread” because you fool yourself into thinking that there isn’t any laundry by not looking at it. “If I just don’t lift up the laundry hamper, it isn’t there.” 🙂 Unfortunately, it is there and multiplying like rabbits. The other issue with this method is that it never gets completely done. I tried a Wednesday/Sunday routine and found that my Wednesday laundry was still in a pile when I went back on Sunday. Plus I ended up hating these days. Yes, I had less laundry than once a week, but it was still A LOT of laundry! Too much! Although this method will work for some, I say only do it if you absolutely know you are going to stick to it stringently. 

3. Embrace your stage and just do it daily.

 This has become my new favorite method. Do I love doing laundry, no, I don’t, but do I prefer for it to be done as quickly as possible, yes! So does, um…every other woman! The best part about doing laundry daily is that you already know you’re going to do it. There’s no dread or stress about how big or disgusting that pile might be. You just know, “Well, I did it yesterday, so there can’t be that much.” I promise you it is actually amazing. Well, maybe not amazing…I mean it is laundry. lol 

Simplify Tips: 

1. Throw a load in while you are doing other things. 

2. Set a timer on your phone/watch/Alexa to correspond to the W/D. This way you don’t forget when it is “supposed” to be done with its cycle. 

3. Push it through and know that you only have to do one load of laundry today, but make it your mission to complete it that day. 

The third method ONLY works if you get yourself completely caught up. So you may have a marathon or two, but then NEVER again! Friends…this really has been great for us. 

Yes, I feel like my life consists of doing laundry, but I also know that when it is all completely done I can breathe a sigh of relief. Until tomorrow… 

Good luck! 

Steph 

How do you create a system in a closet?

Closet Systems

How do you create a system in a closet?
Many of my clients are struggling when it comes to closets. They don’t understand where to start or where improvements can be made because it’s difficult for them to see the closet as a whole. I always ask the same questions when consulting for a closet.

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#1. What is working? It is incredibly important to help the client start positively. Maybe they like where they hang their jackets or how they’ve separated their clothes from their husbands. There is always something to find to boost their appreciation for the space. I like to start with this because it helps set the tone for the changes to come.

#2. What is not working? By looking at the space, I can typically tell immediately what is not working, but I like to help the client see it as well. A client who has tee shirts piled everywhere is lacking a solution. Clothes in piles on the floor show a need for space as well. Sometimes this can just come down to the process for putting away clothes. Do they move them from the laundry room only to be frustrated at where to put them? This means we need to give every item a home. Once all items have a home, they can easily be placed where they go, and the process of putting away clothes becomes something you can do quickly and efficiently.

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#3. How do they get dressed in the morning?
Ordering a closet depends a lot on how they get dressed. Do they walk in and think “I want to wear blue today,” or “I need a short sleeve shirt?” These are essential questions to ask when reordering for a purpose. I personally always think about sleeve length first and if I am going to layer. My closet is sorted by sleeves and purpose (athletic shirts are separated from tee shirts), but I LOVE color coding in closets. It just doesn’t work for everyone. A client can only benefit from a system created specifically for them.

#4. Are there items in the closet that don’t need to be there? It’s crucial to separate by season, but it’s equally important to separate items for seasonal extremes. Do you have items in your closet from the one time a year you go skiing? Or a section of beachwear for when you vacation in the summer? Items that serve only one purpose and season can be labeled, separated and moved to an alternate place. I typically package up large winter coats, Christmas outfits or holiday-looking things, and very heavy clothes. Hats, gloves, scarves can also be moved to a bin and taken to the attic.
Let’s be honest; some items last all year when you live in Texas. Only move what you know they absolutely won’t need. The great benefit of doing this is that these items take up so much space; it will really clear up some room to move these to another location.

Professional Organizing sometimes feels like being a detective. I think that it’s one of my favorite parts about the job. I can walk in and assess the space and see a vision for what it could be once I finish. It is so much fun! I love that I can help people with my gift for organizing.


Top Three Reasons to Use Labels

Labeling is my Jam.

I am so serious when I say that labeling gives me a level of pure joy that is unparalleled. The label itself looks clean and gives instant order to any space. If labeled correctly, it can bring more than just order; it can add understanding to a space and make it easier to keep up with the systems set in place.

1. Systems are great. They create order and allow every item to have a specific place to call “home.” A problem with systems can occur when not everyone in the home follows them. Spouses or kids, for example, can unintentionally disrupt a system set in place if they forget what items are supposed to belong where. Enter the label. They are AMAZING reminders to help anyone know where things go. It’s also a subliminal message to help reinforce the system. If a bin is labeled “lids” and someone is putting away cups, it would go against the grain for them to specifically put something where it doesn’t belong. They would have to think, “I am not going to follow the system,” and do it intentionally, which in my experience is never the case. Typically family members do not attempt to disrupt systems on purpose; we have to figure out how to guide them in the right direction and make it easier for everyone.

2. Labels help create order and teach organization to children. Children need to feel a sense of belonging and contribution to their family. Giving a child a job, or an active role in keeping order in the house will help instill life-long skills for organization and order. Also, the labels act as sight words for younger children. My two-year-old can recognize the

Photo-Mar-03-6-20-43-PM

cars bin from the one for blocks by association even though he is not able to read. Simply labeling their toys and asking them to be responsible for cleaning their space, helps develop these necessary human skills.

3. Labels make cleaning up a breeze. Who wants to spend hours a day or weekend cleaning their entire house? Nobody wants to or has time to do this. The easiest solution is to spend a few moments a day, putting items back where they go. If everything has a place, this is a very easy task. I read an article about the secret to tidy people, and it said that neat people never leave a mess overnight — small moments of tidying up equal a clean and orderly house. Labels can help to create this order and ease of straightening up.

I hope this helped! Let me know if I can come to label some bins for you. 🙂