Friday, June 24, 2011

Travel Tips: Part 1

I recently had a great opportunity to go to Orlando with a friend. It was the first...perhaps only time...I had traveled away from my immediate family for several days. I enjoy getting out of town from time to time and, since it is a popular travel time right now, I thought I’d share several travel tips over the next two or three posts. Here is the first set, in random order.

  • Bring a garbage bag to hold dirty clothes. When packing up to leave, put the dirty clothes in the bottom of the suitcase, lay the garbage bag on top, and put unused clean clothes on top of that.
  • Consider getting an audio book from the library to listen to on long trips.
  • If traveling alone and you have smart phone, consider using the Google "Latitude" app so that a family member or friend can track your trip. At one point my husband called to check why we had gone on a particular route. The GPS had "told us" to go on that road to get around a city, but he would have been able to re-direct us if we'd gone the wrong way.
  • Have a variety of activities for kids so they can switch between games, "screen time" activities, and car friendly crafts.
  • When you stop at a rest area, make everyone use the facilities even if they "don't have to go right now."
  • If you travel frequently, keep a separate bag of toiletries "on the ready" at all times. This way you can just grab it instead of thinking about all the miscellaneous items you'll need. If flying, make sure to follow TSA guidelines for such items.
  • Along with number 6, you might pack a suitcase with underthings, bathing suit, etc that go right back in the suitcase when you return from your trip.
  • Have a little recreation bag with puzzle book, coloring (even for adults) card game, etc to while away the time in a car or on a plane.
  • Be aware of how certain drinks or snacks affect you and plan accordingly, especially if there is a long distance between "pit stops." I think you can figure this out!
  • Your digestive system can be affected by non-familiar water. You may want to pick up some bottled water to use en route and at your destination.

What are some of your best travel tips?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Getting Organized at Home: 12 Steps to Peace, Part 2

In last week's post, we introduced the first six of twelve concepts about getting organized at home. Here are the next six:

Getting organized requires workable systems. You have to develop routines that work for YOUR family. For example, look at the traffic patterns in your home. Does everyone drop their coats on the floor by the garage door? You may need to put up some coat hooks there.

Getting organized invites flexibility. Once you have systems set up, you need to allow for adaptation. You could have a week that is slammed full and thus you won't be able to go to the recycle bin that Friday. That's okay! You'll just have a little more to recycle next Friday!

Getting organized is helped by strategic teamwork. Find fun and rewarding ways to get the others in your household involved in getting organized and more will get done, faster.

Getting organized requires pruning and purging. Yes, you will have to get rid of some things, but you'll breathe easier when your clothes aren't stuffed together.

Getting organized means we will have to be aware of obstacles. We each need to develop a unique strategy to handle setbacks. For example, if you receive a phone call every morning from a particular person, and morning is your best time to clean up, get an earpiece or let the call go to voice mail. Call back when you are finished.

Getting organized demands maintenance. Once a system is in place, you will have to maintain it reasonably well, or you will fall back into traps. You’ll need simple plans to keep things going smoothly. Example: have a practice requiring yourself to get rid of two pieces of clothing for every one you buy. This allows you to maintain adequate space and continue purging.

There is no perfect way to maintain order and be organized all the time. Sometimes, the most organized people are the most tense and stressed out because of their fear of falling behind. You have to find what works within the unique created “you” that God created. It's a journey you'll be on for a lifetime, but it's worth taking the trip.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Getting Organized at Home: 12 Steps to Peace, Part 1

“Where ARE those keys?” 

“Argggh…I forgot my lunch again!”

“You need me to bring you your homework?”

Sound familiar?

Do you wish you were more organized at home? I sure do. Even though I am considered to be an organized person, you might be surprised if you came to my house. You’d see a lived-in--not pristine--home. There are spots where it appears we've gotten a handle on organization, but there are just as many that need de-cluttering and order. So why am I writing a book, with my friends Stephanie Baker and Karina Whisnant, on getting organized at home, if my home is not a shining example?

We're writing this book because we know that a majority of families, and women in particular, struggle with juggling all their responsibilities. Many are interested in finding ways to streamline their homes, reduce stress, and be able to find their keys! As writers, we are on the same journey as many of these women, and we each have our strengths and challenges when it comes to being organized. We write from shared experiences, not from the dust free ivory tower commanding, "Do what we do." In the process, we’re discovering that:

Getting organized at home is an act of worship. Our first priority is our relationship with God. We honor Him when we bring our lives and homes into order and balance. Have you considered doing a prayer walk in your own home?

Getting organized allows us to serve others more easily. When we are organized and our home is generally presentable, we are in a much better position to spontaneously reach out to someone in need (i.e. provide a place to stay or a meal), create a refuge for our families where they can safely recharge, or even take a last minute trip!

Getting organized is a matter of progress, not perfection. We set a goal to be "finally done," but even if we reach it, it is short lived because there’s always something else to do. So instead, why not enjoy journey of making improvements, rather than a destination of perfection?

Getting organized relates to our personality and body rhythms. You do your best organizing when your energy level is up, and it’s okay to match your personality to your organization skills. For example, if you are a creative personality, you don't have to try to have everything in a specific place like a more detailed individual may want.

Getting organized reflects on our emotions and history. We carry memories, and yes, even baggage from our past, that affects how we keep our homes. This can include modeling after other relatives, positive or negative comments we've received from others (i.e. "I never taught you that way,") or expectations such as how a holiday "always goes."

Getting organized corresponds to our relationships. If more than one person lives in the home, the relationship will have an impact on how the home is maintained. We have to learn to adjust to the personalities of our spouses, roommates, and children. One student was delighted to take a guest room for her own creative space, freeing up the home office entirely for her "everything in its place" husband. It was positive for them individually AND for their marriage!

We'll look at the remaining six next week!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Giving Each Other Space

My student was delighted. Her husband was an orderly, neat guy. She was a creative, easy going gal. They shared space in the home that sometimes caused tension because of the different ways they maintained their space.

One of the decisions she was inspired to make as a result of our "Getting Organized at Home" class was to move out of a shared home office area, giving herself the guest room and "deeding over" the home office completely to her husband. It was a great decision. Each of them could keep "their" rooms as they wished, and there was less tension in their relationship.

One of the best things you can do when getting organized is to allow the people in your life to have at least one small area of the house that is "their space." This is a place that they can organize and keep however they with (with the reasonable understanding of some sanitary expectations.) This is their refuge from criticism, tension, harping and "suggestions."

We forget about the need an individual has for space...particularly husbands. Women tend to forget that men unwind and process things generally by having some uninterrupted time to pursue a hobby (yes, watching football counts) or a space they feel no demands are placed on them. If you polled men, most would probably agree that a space such as a den, garage, workshop, "man cave," etc would be a welcome blessing in their lives.

Ladies, this often means you must release your control over your teenager’s room, or your husband's den. But isn't the resulting peace worth it? It's particularly helpful if the space has a door that can simply be shut, making the room off limits to company.

Women appreciate their own space, too, but sometimes they claim the entire house. When you agree to hand over space to someone else, you have to let go of the desire to clean it, decorate it, or arrange it. Hands off ladies! Find your own space to decorate. Often your husband will be glad to have you decorate the common areas of the house. But unless he asks, don't decorate or arrange his workshop or game room.

This goes for roommates too. Their room is their room. Shut the door and let it go.

Once the tension has diminished because everyone has breathing space, you can have a group discussion about common standards (particularly if, for example, your child's bathroom also doubles as the bathroom guests use, as is our situation.) If such a conversation is necessary, don't nag, and keep it reasonable (i.e. overflow into common areas is not acceptable.) The whole idea of this is to allow each person in your home to have a space they can call their own. It will be worth it was for my student.