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5 tips for moving your child out of the college dorm

Categories: Organization, Tips and Tricks

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It seems like it was just a few days ago that I was writing tips about how to pack for college as I was sending my first child away, and now it’s time to think about coming home? Time certainly does fly as she’s just a few weeks away from finishing her first year.

Since she’s several hours away and doesn’t have a car this year, this is going to require a little planning. Even though it hasn’t happened yet, here are a few things I’ve learned so far:

1. Know the rules and the dates of move-out - My daughter has to be out of her dorm 24 hours after her last exam and, after looking at the exam schedule I noticed her last exam is on the final day of school, so it’s not going to leave much time to pack. Also, you have to check out with the RA and there’s a room inspection, so we need to be sure to leave time to clean, too.

2. Check your own schedule - School is several hours away from home, so moving her out will mean an overnight stay for us on a weekday, so vacation time is required on my part, and I even remembered to request it early!

3. Make hotel reservations early - Plan your trip as soon as possible, I’ve discovered that the trip to move her out also coincides with the university’s graduation and the nearest hotel I could book is 45 minutes away! Even if I could have gotten a room in town, the prices were all sky high, so I imagine it pays to reserve early.

4. Ship boxes to your student ahead of time - Since she’ll be in exams, it’s not going to leave a lot of time for packing. I’ve sent boxes to her so (crosses fingers) she can pack a little at a time. If school is a long way from home, have your student ship the boxes back packed with things they can spare before school is done.

5. Bring back a little at a time - If it’s an option, bring back a little with you when you visit since move-out day may be crazy and vehicle space is limited. I’ve already brought some winter clothes of hers home, and I’m going to visit next week and I hope to bring back things like unused kitchen items, shelves and other miscellaneous items.

I hope planning ahead a little pays off, I’ll let you know how it goes!

5 accessories to keep your electronic gadgets working on the road

Categories: Organization, travel

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With a kid 4 hours away in college, and other kids in sports, we do a lot of traveling. And, like it or not, traveling these days often involves a lot of electronic gadgets, and the gadgets require their own gadgets to keep them working when you’re on the road.

Over the years, we’ve perfected our travel electronics routine and have learned to have certain accessories on hand to keep everything going, and everyone happy. I keep a bag I call (oddly enough) the “electronics bag” with these supplies in it, and it has saved our sanity on the road more than once:

1. Car lighter socket splitter - when everyone’s in the car, there’s never enough sockets to plug things in. so we keep a 3 way splitter in each car. (Shop carefully and be sure to get a quality one for safety, though.)

2. Extra ear phones - Self-explanatory. Someone is bound to forget theirs and blame everyone else for it. Preserve your sanity and theirs by producing that spare set when you’re 100 miles from nowhere.

3. Spare phone charger - Just like the ear phones, someone is bound to forget a phone charger. Occasionally, that someone is me. Fortunately, we all have the same phone, so we just have one kind to keep a spare for.

4. Inverter - This gadget can provide a handy 110V outlet to power small gadgets (again, be careful and buy quality, test it out to be safe) that don’t have a car adapter.

5. FM modulator - If I’m driving kids by myself, once I get everyone settled in the back seat, I like to listen to podcasts. My car is older, and doesn’t have a line-in jack or a place to connect an iPod, so this gadget that uses an FM radio frequency to play your stuff can be handy. They’re not always the best sound quality, but they serve their purpose for me.

What kinds of things do you take on the road to keep your electronic gadgets going? Tell us in the comments below.

Organize under the kitchen sink

Categories: Organization

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The other day, I reached under the kitchen sink to get something and I realized there was a lot of stuff under there, but I wasn’t sure exactly what was under there. It seems that we’ve really only been using about 1/4 of the things under there because it was hard to tell what we had.

As a matter of fact, there were even a few things in there that we’ve had since we moved in 20 years ago. There were also a lot of duplicates under there because it was hard to know if we were out of something, or not. (Note to self: you can lay off buying dishwasher detergent, we’ve got enough.)

When I couldn’t find something I needed that I knew we had in there, I decided it was time to do something about the mess under the kitchen sink.

Here’s what I did:

Empty - Resist the urge to scoot things around and just rearrange the mess. Get a trash bag, have a seat and pull everything out where you can see it. Then, clean the cabinet. It’s amazing how dirty a space that holds cleaning supplies can get.

Purge - Put that trash bag to use. Get rid of any trash, items that are expired or rarely used, unidentified items (yes, I found a couple of those) and things that don’t belong there.

Organize - Take what’s left and divide it into like groups. I ended up with groups of polish, air freshener, cleaning tools, cleaning sprays, soaps, trash bags and a fire extinguisher. Be careful not to have too many things called “miscellaneous” because that makes it easy to treat the space as a catch-all.

Plan - Is there room for everything so that you can get to it easily? Do you need some containers? I have to be careful about overloading on baskets and boxes because we’re not always good at putting things back in them and the mess gets bigger than it was before you started. I try to only use them if I have several small items.

Return - Put it all back in the cabinet and make sure everyone in the family knows where to find everything, especially if you’ve relocated items.

While organizing under the sink may seem like a small thing to do, I’ve been surprise at how happy the difference has made me, and how I can actually find things, now:

As always, if you have small children, be sure to safeguard the undersink cabinet and don’t forget a fire extinguisher in the kitchen!

5 items for a great guest room

Categories: Entertaining, Organization

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We’re fortunate to have a guest room, and we really enjoy having people stay with us, and we’ve certainly put it to use, lately. While will never be mistaken for a 5-star hotel, I enjoy making sure it has what it needs to make people comfortable.

Here are 5 items I make sure that we provide for our guests:

A good bed - The guest room isn’t really a great place to put your oldest mattress. Test out your own guest bed and make sure it’s comfortable. If a new mattress isn’t in the budget, consider investing in a good foam mattress topper or even a high quality air mattress to make things more comfortable for your guests.

A place to put luggage - I always try to make sure guests have a place to put a suitcase or a bag besides the floor. We have an empty, low table near the bed that’s a great size for a suitcase, but I’m in the market for a luggage rack.

Guest toom

Clock - While it’s true that most people have cell phones to check the time when they’re on the road, it drives me crazy when I’m staying somewhere without a clock. Sometimes, you just need to glance at the time quickly in the middle of the night. It’s also important to make sure the clock has the accurate time, so be sure to check the guest room after a power failure since a flashing “12:00″ isn’t an accurate time.

Power outlets - These days, people travel with all sorts of electronic gear that needs to be charged. We live in an old house where power outlets aren’t always conveniently located, so I keep a power strip on the guest room table so our guests don’t have to crawl under the table or behind a dresser to plug in a computer. We also have an iPhone dock on the table that several of our guests have appreciated.

Wifi information - We keep a card by the guest bed with the wireless Internet information on it. I know I always appreciate that information when I travel, and I’ve been known to do some “sleuthing” in friends’ houses when I find that it’s late at night, and I’ve forgotten to ask my host for it.

How about you? Tell us in the comments below what guest room touches do you like to provide or receive?

5 tips for packing for college

Categories: Organization, Tips and Tricks

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A while back, I shared my experience with college dorm shopping, and this past week, I got to put my efforts to good use when we took our daughter to begin her freshman year. The time finally arrived and we packed everything and headed south. I’m certainly glad we started gathering things when we did, I can’t imagine having to shop and pack in just a few days time.

She’s all moved in now, and I’m by no means an expert, but I did learn a few things along the way about packing for college:

1. Make a plan - Visit ahead of time, look at pictures (Flickr can be helpful) or read the school’s housing descriptions and outline an idea of which items you’ll keep in dresser drawers, closets and/or plastic storage containers. Packing like things together makes it easier to unpack and planning ahead saves time deciding what to put where.

2. Put everything in a container - Trust me, loose items do not fare well during move-in. Box up everything you can, and make sure it’s sealed well. This makes things a lot easier to get on the moving carts and this will reduce trips on the elevator. You want that. Really, you do.

3. Label all containers -Label the outside of all your containers with a name, room number and cell phone number. There are lots of people moving in at the same time. Things can get mixed up, or your loads can get separated and end up on 2 different elevator trips.

4. Allow ample time to pack the vehicle - Once you get everything together, it will look like your kid is taking the most of any college student, ever. Take comfort in the fact that someone will always have more than your kid, but you still have to get stuff in the car. I found the whole thing to be like a game of Tetris, but I did get everything in the van, it just took a lot longer than I expected.

5. Separate electronics and valuables - Often, when you arrive at school freshman year, there’s a whole army of volunteers waiting to help you unload the car. The moment you drive up, they descend and start unloading and it can be hard to know which items are in what load. Before you arrive at school, make sure you have all fragile and/or valuable items separated from the load and carry them yourself.

College is an exciting time, and a little advance planning goes a long way to get you started right.

I know many of you are more experienced than I am, what tips do you have?

Organizing and managing business cards

Categories: Organization

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I just returned from the BlogHer conference in New York, and I have a lot of business cards I collected there. This year, I’m determined to save these contacts and follow up as needed, but I’m still experimenting with the best way to save the information.

There are 2 ways you can save business cards: save the cards themselves the old fashioned way, or save them electronically.

Some people store cards in an old-fashioned file while others have elaborate business card notebook systems. I have this complicated system that I like to call, “Two Piles”. The first pile is contacts I need to follow up with for business purposes, and the second pile is new friends, social contacts and blogs to check out. Then I enter them into my contacts as needed.

There are also several digital options for saving business cards. Scanners have made handling business cards easier than ever. There are also smartphone apps that scan your business cards and enter them into your contacts.

I have to confess that I usually save cards from conferences in the paper manner because I like business cards. I love to see the different kinds and some of them inspire me for my next design. However, there are some smart phone apps that store them as images so you can still enjoy them.

No matter how you organize them, using cards from contacts is only as effective as your follow-up practices. Develop a system for taking action by jotting notes on the cards after you meet someone to help you remember details and contact people while they’re still fresh in your mind to get the most out of your efforts.

How about you? Tell us how you organize and manage contacts you meet.

Organizing the pantry

Categories: Decluttering, Organization

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The popularity of visual sites such as Pinterest has sparked redecorating and reorganizing frenzies heard ’round the world. Stores are selling out of basket sets, shelving and chalkboard paint as users race to transform their homes into the beautiful pictures online.

Me? I WANT to be that person with the effortlessly organized and matching house, but I’m…not. I do like to look at the organization boards and I have always appreciated a nice looking, organized and well-stocked pantry. I love the idea of being able to go right to the pantry and always find what I need to put a meal on the table or whip up an appetizer for friends who stop in for a visit.

My pantry is a bit overdue for cleaning out and restocking properly:

Pantry before

Yes, I know.

I’d like to get it done before school begins and I have even less time than I do now, but I’m having trouble getting motivated since I know it’ll never look like all those pictures (mainly because I actually keep food in mine, and many of those super-organized ones don’t seem to have food in them), so I thought if I showed you a picture of it, I’d get motivated to clean it out and see what I have in there.

Even though it would be great, my goal isn’t really to rework the whole space but to do simple things such as toss expired items, find a permanent place for everything, get rid of items we don’t actually use and arrange things where they are easily accessible. Then I can begin to make a pantry checklist and analyze what I should be keeping in there.

I’m hoping to get started tomorrow and show some results soon!

Any pantry organizing tips you’d like to share? Leave a comment below.

School supply shopping at home

Categories: Organization

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I hope I’m not rudely interrupting your summer or anything, but school is only a few weeks away around here and the school supplies are here! Yes, I’m one of those people who LOVES school supplies.

I get excited to plan a trip to the store and get the things on the list. When I was a kid, our mothers used to take my friend and me out to eat lunch and school supply shopping every year after registration. I even tried to establish that tradition with my kids and their friends, but it turned out that girls are much more into it than boys, so we had a few good years with my daughter and her friends.

Going school supply shopping by myself doesn’t deter me, though. I eagerly anticipate heading to the store with my lists ready to collect new boxes of crayons (my favorite), lots of #2 pencils, fun folders and just the right notebooks. Everything’s so orderly and shiny, I love the smell and you can’t beat the prices.

One thing I like to do is buy a lot of duplicate items from the lists. I buy extras of things my kids use a LOT of and we store it in the “school supply bucket” in the closet. My kids are really tough on things like pencils, markers and 1″ binders and they inevitably remember they need more for school at 11pm on Sunday, so I try to keep them on hand. The school supply bucket is also a place to keep things from the previous school year that can be used again such as pencil boxes and scissors.

It’s nice to be able to “shop” for school supplies at home and you know I don’t hate buying extras. Contrary to what the picture looks like, I do keep it in order and weed out the things that don’t get used for a couple of years.

What school supplies are you always replenishing? Do you keep extras on hand or do you just run by the store as needed? Talk to me about school supplies in the comments!

What’s in your travel toiletry bag?

Categories: Organization, Uncategorized, travel

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I’ll start this out by saying, I have a bit of a travel-sized item disorder. I spend more time perusing Minimus than I probably should admit, and I have only recently thinned out my hotel soaps and shampoos collection so I may think about these things more than the average person.

Since it’s summer and travel is on the agenda, I’m using my toiletry bag a lot. While I’m not really a minimalist, I pride myself on packing an efficient, yet well-stocked bag to be prepared for a variety of situations. I rarely carry full-sized versions of anything unless I’m going to be gone for quite a while, yet my daughter has never met a super-sized version of anything that didn’t accompany her everywhere she goes. It’s like we’re not even related or something.

I carry a bag with 2 compartments, it measure about 12×8x4. In one side, I carry the items I will use every day, and the other side contains spares and items you don’t want to be without when you’re away from home.

The things I will use every day on a trip include such items as: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, make-up,  makeup remover, shampoo, conditioner, face wash etc.

The other side contains spares of things I’m prone to forgetting such as a hair brush, toothbrush, toothpaste and a razor. It also contains items that may or may not be provided at the destination such as lotion, soap or cotton balls as well as items that I may or may not use, but don’t want to be caught without such as nail clippers, medicine, spare contact lenses, a small flashlight, dental floss, band-aids, some change and a pen.

I go through that side occasionally to check the stock and to think of things I may need to add.

What kinds of things do you carry in a toiletry bag? Are you a minimalist or do you have special luggage just for your shampoo? Any ideas for unusual, yet handy items to have? Do share!

5 tips to get your kids ready for camp

Categories: Organization

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My kids have gone to camp for years. While I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world, packing kids for 3 weeks can be a challenge. This will be my first year packing 2 at the same time, so I really have to concentrate on what I’m doing so one doesn’t end up with 24 pairs of shorts and the other with none.

The challenge is to efficiently pack what they need and will use without losing your mind or breaking the bank by re-buying items because you can’t find them. Over the years, I developed a system

1. Designate items “camp stuff” and put it all in one place when camp is done. I’ve learned this the hard way, because somehow the camp stuff always ends up spread across the house and I can’t figure out where it is when it comes time to pack again and I end up buying more (see also: 4 single bed mattress pads).

2. Check the camp’s website or mailing materials for a suggested packing list. As a former camp head counselor, I know first hand that you’d be surprised how many people don’t look at it. It often contains valuable information that can save you time and space, and notes things you shouldn’t bring as well.

3. Create a master packing list - Like the reusable vacation list, make a reusable camp list based on the suggested packing list so you can remember the little useful odds and ends. Be sure to update it (both additions and deletions) right when camp is over while things are fresh in your memory.

4. Make sure your camper knows what they have packed - Even when kids are old enough to do most of the packing themselves, it never hurts to go over what’s in their trunk and what it’s for. Last year, one of my kids (who was plenty old enough to know better) assumed I’d only sent 1 pair of shoes for 3 weeks because he never looked in the other bag he had.

5. Pack socks and then pack some more - There are never enough socks, period. It’s also helpful if you can find distinctive socks and send all the same kind, it makes clean laundry sorting for the cabin much easier, and your camper may even bring some of them home!

Do you have anyone headed to camp this summer? What tips do you have?

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