Posts tagged #Organization

Conquering Summer Without Losing Good Habits

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School year schedules and routines provide us with great opportunities to create foundational habits in our children. But what happens when summer rolls around? Schedules become much looser, therefore less routine is needed and habits begin to fall by the wayside. How are we supposed to get through the summer without losing everything we have built with our child during the school year? My hope is to help you conquer the summer with some healthy habits and tips we have put into practice.

Creating good habits for summer activities is something we have been trying to fine tune this summer and we have now started to see some success!  Believe it or not my girlies start back school the 24th of July; that’s right my friend, the 24th. Our summer break is almost done! Since we live in Arizona and it’s so HOT here in the summers, a lot of the school districts have year round school. Our summers in AZ are like most midwest winters, you can’t really be outside too long. And everyone says, “but it’s a dry heat!” Let me tell you, 120 degrees regardless of the humidity is no joke, and by July all the pools begin to feel like bath water too. (Don’t feel too badly for us though, when the weather is beautiful we have a two and a half week fall break, almost three week Christmas break and a two and a half week spring break.)

Getting back to summers, just because school is out and there’s not quite as much to do, doesn’t mean good habits should go out the window. So what does it look like to maintain those good habits over the summer months? How much TV do we allow? Does it start first thing in the morning? How many minutes should they read? How much playtime together is expected? Should they review math over the summer? How long should they play outside? (applies only if you don’t live in the desert).

Here are a few guiding principles:

1. Expectations. Setting up expectations for your children is probably the most important thing. My girlies do so much better when they know what to expect. It’s one way for us as parents to help them succeed. First though, you’ll have to establish what priorities and habits you want to lay down for the summer months for your family.

2. Summer Rules. Our summer rules are a combination of things we already had in place and those of others who have gone before us on this journey! They consist of a list of activities that must be done before they get any screen time of any sort. Our girlies didn’t initially love the system we put in place but quickly adapted to our rules. So again, it’s all about expectations. Our rules are as follows and can be done in any order:

  • Read for 30 minutes
  • Play piano for 30 minutes
  • Make your bed and clean up your room
  • Eat breakfast
  • Brush your teeth and get dressed
  • 20 minutes of writing/coloring
  • Make/build something creative
  • Clean up one room
  • Play for 20 minutes with siblings
  • Help someone in the family
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Remember every family looks differently so adapt to what activities and habits you want to build and instill into your sweet kiddos.

3. Follow through. Don’t lose heart, it might take some time to build those habits but with continued encouragement and dare I say, even a reward system, you can create some great habits. Don’t forget, habits also lend a hand in creating character in our sweet littles so keep pressing on!

4. Grace. As with everything in life, when something is being taught, there needs to be room for growth. And with growth come mistakes. So, give your kiddos some grace as you are establishing the habits you want to cultivate over the summer months. One of our points of grace is that Saturday and Sunday they get a break from summer rules. Now this doesn’t mean they don’t have to do their normal chores such as making bed and cleaning up after themselves, it just means they don’t have to check everything off their list for those days.

Blessings as you continue to grow as a parent and find what works best with your sweet littles in this journey of parenting!

Posted on July 19, 2017 and filed under Building Your Family.

House Hacks: Quick & Easy Tips for Managing Paper Clutter

House Hacks: Organizing Paper Clutter by Entrusted Ministries

I’ve always wondered how people conquer the influx of papers that come into a home. I know that normal people struggle with this. Single, family, retired, it doesn’t seem to matter. We all have bills, catalogs, to-do lists, things to file, things to shred...on and on. And when you throw three school-aged kids in that mix and the incessant deluge from their backpacks every night, you’re just buried.

Right now, the piles of paper at my house are overwhelming (as in, taking up kitchen floor space at this point), and I’ve been wanting to get some counsel on this topic for a while.

So I sat down to interview my friend and organizing expert, Holly Herrick. She is a former paralegal, mom of two (a 2nd grader and a preschooler), and trademark owner of what I have dubbed “Herrick Clean.” It’s not that her house is always impeccable...she’s human for sure...but she has this way of keeping organized that is remarkable. For instance, she always knows where her Band-aids are — purse or house! She never has stray papers on her desk. She knows where her tupperware lids live. All of them. When she runs out of something, she puts it on the grocery list in her phone — immediately. She’s stressed if she has 5 emails in her inbox. (In case you’re curious I have over 75,000 unread emails in my inbox. Yet somehow we’re friends). She even folds her socks. Shocking!

Listen in to our conversation about how Holly “stays on top of things” so diligently. I definitely had some a-ha moments and I hope you will too if you’re in my shoes! And if you’re more like Holly and have this all figured out, then please, I need all the help I can get...e-mail me your tips!

House Hacks: How to Organize Paper Clutter by Entrusted Ministries

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LI: What is your system for incoming mail?

HH: Mail comes in and is set on the kitchen counter. It isn’t allowed to stay there longer than 1-2 hours. All junk mail is immediately recycled. Bills are opened and put in a letter sorter on the desk in the office.

LI: Then do you pay the bills on a certain day of the month?

HH: I usually pay them twice a month. Whatever is due before the 15th in the first half of the month, and anything after the 15th in the second half.

LI: Once they’re paid, do you file the bills, or toss them?

HH: I file them. We have a file drawer in the same desk where I sit to pay bills (our office is right off the kitchen), and I have a folder for each utility company. Once it’s paid I just put it in the file drawer right away since it’s within arm’s reach.

LI: What about catalogs?

HH: That is tricky because I am not much of a catalog junkie. Chad [my husband] has a couple subscriptions that I put on his nightstand. The kids have one that goes in their special bin. Any newspaper-type catalogs are put in a drawer to use in our guinea pig cage at a later date.

LI: So you don’t subscribe to any magazines? And you don’t get too much mail that you want to “read later?”

HH: No. Not since having kids. But if I did, like I know that you do, I would probably purchase either one of those pretty magazine files or else a flat shelf system to organize magazines within the office.

LI: Because I know your house, I know that Chad’s nightstand and the kids’ bins are all the way upstairs. Are you just really disciplined to get them to their spots in a timely fashion? Do you ever leave them on the bottom stair to “take up later?” I ask because I think that’s the hard part for me. I’ll have a “go upstairs” pile in the kitchen, but it’ll be hours or days before I actually take it up there.

HH: You are kind to call it “discipline” — more like some sort of mental weakness where I can’t tolerate clutter. ESPECIALLY downstairs. So yeah, it gets moved to a better spot by the end of the day.

LI: Is there a pill I can take to make me more averse to clutter?

HH: Ha! I’ll look into that…

LI: Well it’s interesting how a lot of this comes down to your personality and tolerance levels. I can obviously ignore the clutter (to an extent), but you’re saying that you’re totally compelled to deal with it right away or you can’t relax in your house.

HH: Exactly.

LI: How do you handle coupons that come in the mail?

HH: I have a mini accordion file that I keep in my purse and have all store coupons organized within it by store. Every so often I go through it and throw away the ones that have expired.

LI: So every time a coupon comes in the mail, within a certain time period (but definitely on the same day it comes), you either throw it away, or clip it and put it into your accordion file?

HH: Yes, usually at the same time I am unpacking backpacks. I do not like how high-strung I sound in this interview. Make me sound more interesting and less uptight!

LI: Ha! Well, I do not like the fact that your paper management system all comes down to personal discipline and there is no magic trick that automatically sorts and declutters your house.

HH: The truth is, like most other things, once you start from a clean slate it is actually very quick and easy to maintain. It sounds horrible to you because you have a metric ton of paperwork threatening to become self-aware and kill your whole family. But really, on a daily basis I literally spend 3 minutes going through mail.

How to Manage Paper Clutter: House Hacks by Entrusted Ministries

LI: The other thing that comes to mind is you need a cooperative partner...but that’s a whole other topic. Your husband is on board with the system, I assume?

HH: Yes, for sure, and that really helps. I think if he wasn’t though, that I would still sort the mail the same way I do now. If there were things of his, or that I knew he’d want to keep, I’d start a bin for him somewhere the same way I have bins for the kids. It could be out of sight to me, and he could do with it as he pleased.  

LI: What is your system for managing the school papers that come home in backpacks every day?

HH: I unpack the kids’ backpacks immediately after school (most days). What are school papers to you?

LI: OK that’s interesting. Currently, I make the kids unpack their lunches and water bottles when they first come home from school. Then they put their backpacks in the closet. Later after dinner, when it’s homework time, they will take out their folders and then start handing me their papers.

Sometimes it’s homework, but that’s usually kept in their folders and backpacks. The only things I get are field trip permission forms, advertisements or notices about upcoming school events, and then LOTS of kids’ artwork or tests (bad and good!). They hate throwing away their artwork so I have it piling up in the kitchen. I tried to have a special bin for each kid to keep favorite ones, but those are full now. I also tried taking a photo of each thing to turn into a book, but I’m not very disciplined about doing that.

HH: Yeah, that is hard. This is the drawback of my personality. I can too-often do things for the kids because I want it done right. But I neglect building personal discipline in them. This year I have wanted ownership of their backpacks because it is our first year of school and I wanted to stay on top of what is going on. But that is good to think of implementing for this coming fall.

LI: I should point out that even though the “rule” is they must empty their backpacks after school, it took [my 8-year-old daughter] until NOW to get into the routine, and [my 10-year-old son] still throws his backpack on the kitchen floor when he gets home. I have to call him into the room to remind him to unload it and put it away every day.

HH: That is comforting. :) To answer the larger question of where the paper goes, if it is graded homework I either toss what is not needed any longer, or else keep tests or things with bad grades so we can review again during homework time. There is a pile on my desk of my daughter’s homework folder where I keep those kinds of tests.

Field trip notices or other announcements from school I read right away, put any necessary dates right in my iPhone calendar and then toss the paper.

For artwork, we have two long pieces of ribbon strung across a wall in our playroom which we dubbed ”the art wall.” We keep the kids’ art hung there. Honestly there are some pieces of “art” which are just doodles or whatever and I leave those pieces of art on the kitchen counter “to show daddy” and then once the kids are in bed, they are thrown away! Only ONCE did my son catch me in that, and I feigned innocence on how that got in the recycling bin! In general I find that after 24 hours the kids forget exactly what art they have brought home, and seeing their art wall is a constant reminder that we do care and are proud of all their efforts. But I have seen my mother’s attic and knew from day one that if I kept every piece of “art”, things would get out of control fast. So I am choosy about what is on the wall and what gets “lost.”

LI: That’s a good point. I feel so bad throwing away their stuff now, but it really is doing them a favor in the long run. What 22-year-old wants a box full of their own first grade artwork? All that stuff would be a burden to them down the line.

HH: So true!

LI: Well, I feel like this gives me a good glimpse into how you manage papers. Essentially it boils down to taking the time to stay on top of it every day. When you do that, you’re only working on it for a few minutes at a time instead of trying to dig yourself out on a weekly (or worse) basis. And a huge takeaway is what a favor you’re doing for your kids in not teaching them to hoard papers that will be a burden to you now, and them later! Thank you Holly!

HH: This was great fun to talk about, so anytime!

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I so appreciate Holly taking the time to sit down with us and share some of her insights. I am already putting her advice into practice. Last night when my daughter gave me an invitation to Mother’s Day Tea in her classroom, I immediately put the info on the calendar, RSVP’d to the teacher, and then threw the piece of paper away. It took about one minute and felt worlds better than putting the invitation in a pile of “to do’s.” I hope you found some helpful tips too!

 

Posted on May 4, 2017 and filed under Building Your Home.